Throughout the 1980s, the United States protected Kuwait, which was helping Iraq fight Iran. Then Iraq swallowed Kuwait, and then the United States attacked Iraq. Now the United States and the Shiite fundamentalist regime in Iran, which do not recognize each other, jointly help Iraqi insurgents try to depose President Saddam Hussein. Where will it all end?
The late shah of Iran, who was deposed in 1979 and died the next year, was supposedly a monarchist of the right, while President Hussein is officially a revolutionary of the left. Their similarities are astonishing. The royal shah was actually son of a military usurper who seized power as Saddam Hussein later did in Iraq, and had had himself crowned. The shah ruled by a ruthless secret police who struck pre-emptively at any opposition, as Saddam Hussein does.
The shah conjured up comparisons to ancient Persian emperors, as Mr. Hussein does to Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king who seized Jerusalem, and Saladin, the 12th Century Kurd who defeated the European Christians in Palestine. The shah turned Iran's oil wealth into an incalculable personal fortune. Mr. Hussein has done the same with Iraq's. A financial sleuth employed by the Kuwaiti royal house, which has vast portfolio holdings itself, says that Saddam Hussein and his associates "skimmed" $10 billion off Iraq's oil revenues and enjoy a stock-holding in Western business of at least $1 billion.