‘It would be different if Australia’s position was in harmony with the rest of the world, but it is one of only four countries against us – the US, Britain, Israel and Australia. Iraq had a right to impose sanctions (on Australia) too‘ these are the words of Hammam al Shamaa, a senior economic adviser to the Iraqi Government in his recent statement.
Australia had more than $10 million dollars trade particularly the export of wheat, sheep and Australian meat with those countries which today are not pleased with Australia’s unconditional support to US. Today, Australian farmers are paying the price of Australian’s amity with US and Britain in the war against Iraq and continuous operation in Afghanistan.
The hostile statements by the Australian government particularly by the Prime Minister and the foreign minister against Iraq and the blind-support to US on her plans to carry out war against Iraq now seems to have destroyed any hope of getting Australia’s wheat trade, worth $890 million a year with the termination of a favored trading-partner relationship with Iraq.
The last month, the members of Australian Wheat Board visited Baghdad to convince Iraqi government to resume the grain deliveries from Australia. No signs of any progress has yet been made instead the recent statements of Iraqi officials against the Australian government ruined the hope of poor (Australian) farmers who have already been suffering badly by the long rain drought.
Dr. A.K. Al-Hashimi, an adviser to Saddam Hussein and the former Iraqi Ambassador to France, warned of the hatred with which Iraqis would kill Australians or the troops of any other country that fell in with a US attack. He said, “Any British or Australian fighters who come here will go home in a plastic bag or on a stretcher“. Dr. Al-Hashimi said that with this attitude of going all the way with the USA, Australia should forget about the Iraqi market now and for a long time to come as this is not a threat; it is commonsense.
Another senior official of Iraqi government, Hammam Al-Shamaa said that it is hard to understand the political and strategic foreign policies of Australia. Australia was known to be the country of peace and harmony but unfortunately, today, Australia is known as US junior partner against the war against us. He said, “Our decision on Australian wheat was designed to inform Australians of a mistake by their government. They need to know that we are ready to eat barley instead of Australian wheat if Australia is the only country from which we can import wheat“. He said that Iraq considers that policies of the present government of Australia particularly the aggression of the Prime Minister against Iraq are not the true voice of the people of Australia. We believe that Australian people are not against the people of Iraq.
Dr. Al Shamaa further added that it would be different if Australia’s position was in harmony with the rest of the world, but it is one of only four countries against us – the US, Britain, Israel and Australia.
Saad Jawad, a professor of politics at the University of Baghdad and an adviser on foreign affairs, said Australia risked the same fate as Japan, which had been prominent among Iraq’s trading partners in the past, but had been punished with the loss of most of its contracts because of what Baghdad saw as the anti-Iraqi bent of its diplomatic activity at the UN.
It is to be noted here that the harsh and arrogant approach against asylum-seekers – coming on boats from Indonesia to the Australian western shores é like the Norwegian vessel Tampa refugee crises in 2001 é in which the majority belonged to the Muslim countries – publicizing them as criminals, people smugglers, terrorists etc had already created much resentments against Australia in Muslim countries particularly in Pakistan, Iran, Malaysia and Indonesian. Few months ago, Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf, replying to a question, said that while Pakistan was bearing millions of Afghan refugees why Australia couldn’t afford to have few hundred.
Indonesia is the biggest and very important neighbor of Australia, politically and geographically. Blindly following US and taking care of US interest has cost Australia’s good economical and trade relations with many countries including the neighboring Indonesia. During last OPEC summit, Prime Minister Howard tried many times to have meeting with Indonesian Prime Minister Mrs. Megawati but her vice president forced her not to see him. The Foreign Minister of Indonesia said in his statement that Indonesia had better understanding with past governments than this government.
The present government seems more involved Australia in the issues which may have least priority then maintaining good relation with those countries whom Australia’s trade export is largely dependent.
The writer is a Sydney-based freelance journalist and a political analyst.