U.S. Seizes Billions in Iraqi Assets

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Mon Mar 24 07:27:48 MST 2003

(This Friday Wall Street Journal article has
spelled out another aspect of the war beyond
the military level. As it did previously to Cuba,
Washington last week seized $1.87 BILLION
in Iraqi assets held in US banks. This is not
a new practice. Washington has also seized
many millions in Cuban resources and does
that right up to the present. This Wall Street
Journal article describes the current seizure
by Washington of $1.87 BILLION DOLLARS
in Iraqi assets, linking it with past seizures of
Cuban assets by the US government.

(Yet another flagrant example recently was
latest Cuban plane to be hijacked and taken
to Florida. It was further seized by the courts
to satisfy legal judgements made against
Cuba. Reports tell us that most of the plane's
non-hijacking occupants were allowed to go
back to Cuba, some are still now being held
in the US, against their wishes, to serve as
material witnesses in the trial in which the
US says it prosecute the hijackers.

(This is one of the most important aspects
of the current war, one which has not been
well-publicized. In the recent past some of
the OPEC countries have begun talking of
moving their massive accumulated money
over from the dollar to the euro because
the dollar has been declining in relation to
the euro. You'll recall that at first the euro
was lower than the dollar. Now the euro is
higher than the dollar.

March 21, 2003 2:57 a.m. EST

U.S. Seizes Billions in Iraqi Assets;
Funds Slated for Rebuilding Costs

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. seized $1.74 billion in Iraqi assets
held in U.S. bank branches and pressured foreign nations to
do the same or face a cut-off of access to the U.S.
financial system.

The Bush administration said it plans to use about $1.44
billion of the confiscated funds to help rebuild Iraq, and
estimated that there were billions of dollars in Iraqi
assets outside the U.S. that could be seized and used for
the same purpose. The remaining $300 million in Iraqi funds
in the U.S. would be reserved for lawsuits by U.S. citizens
who claim they have been brutalized by the Iraqi regime,
such as those who were held as so-called human shields
during the Gulf War of 1991.

Estimates of the cost of rebuilding Iraq range from about
$10 billion a year to as much as $60 billion, so the funds
won't pay for a substantial amount of the bill. The U.S. is
also counting on using some of Iraq's oil revenue of about
$20 billion annually to pay for the reconstruction bill.

But the effort represents a significant departure in U.S.
financial policy toward hostile nations. The U.S. has long
frozen funds of nations such as Iraq, Libya and Cuba. But
this is only the second time since World War II that the
U.S. has actually confiscated any of those assets.

The last time, in 1996, the U.S. grabbed Cuban assets to pay
off claims by pilots shot down near Cuba by the Castro
government. That was seen as one-time event, and was
authorized by specific legislation.

Confiscating Iraqi assets, however, signals the start of a
much broader policy, sanctioned by the U.S. Patriot Act,
which was passed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist
attacks. The Patriot Act's confiscation authority is
broad-based, and not limited to a single country or act.
U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow is using other provisions
of the act to press foreign nations to freeze Iraqi assets
and seize them, too (See related article3). If those nations
fail to comply, the U.S. can essentially block banks from
those nations from doing business in the U.S.

"We are directing a world-wide hunt for the blood money that
Saddam Hussein and his associates have stolen from the Iraqi
people," said Mr. Snow. He said he would be telephoning
foreign government officials and financial institutions to
make an effort similar to the U.S.

The Treasury said that eight nations had frozen a total of
about $600 million in Iraqi assets outside the U.S.,
including $400 million in Britain, $85 million in the
Bahamas, $20 million in the Cayman Islands and $14 million
in Japan. None of those nations have confiscated the Iraqi

But the U.S. believes there are billions more in Iraqi funds
that haven't yet been identified, from sales of smuggled
oil, kickbacks from oil buyers involved in United Nations-
sanctioned oil sales, and from smuggled cigarettes.

With regards to the $1.74 billion in Iraqi assets held
domestically, some of the funds are held in U.S. branches of
banks headquartered in France and Germany, whose political
leaders vehemently object to the U.S. attack on Iraq. A
Treasury official said banks that object to the U.S.
confiscation can sue to block the action.

Write to Bob Davis at bob.davis at wsj.com

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