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many ways, he like them was still in shock. Tehran and Moscow were all but
gone. So were
Riyadh, Kuwait City, and Tripoli, and cities such as Beirut, Tunis, Ankara,
and Tashkent had fared little better. Aside from Babylon itself, only Cairo,
Amman, and Rabat seemed to have been spared the magnitude of destruction the
other major Middle Eastern Islamic capitals had faced.
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Yet at the same time, Al-Hassani privately found himself relishing the
apocalyptic turn of events. In one single, horrifying, history-altering day, t
he leaders and military forces of all of his enemies save the Israelis had
been wiped off the face of the earth. For the moment he didn't know how or
why; nor did he care. All he knew for sure was that his initial assessment was
as true today as it had been three months earlier.
He had been given a gift, an opportunity unparalleled, perhaps, since the days
of the great Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar. The ancient empire of his
ancestors had once stretched from the mountains of Iran in the east to the
western deserts of Egypt, from
Saudi Arabia in the south to Georgia and lower Russia in the north. And now
events were conspiring in his favor to rebuild it.
Who could now prevent him from consolidating his control over the same
territory, a vast and wealthy region of more than half a billion people and
two-thirds of the world's known energy supplies? The Americans? The European
Union or the Chinese? Not likely. They all saw him as an ally, not an enemy.
Indeed, if he played his cards shrewdly, the U.S., the E.U., and the en-tire
United
Nations would soon all but beg him to take this enormous burden off their
shoulders.
After all, it was one thing to "nation build" in some poor, war-torn, despotic
African jungle. It was quite another to re-build the economic and political
infrastructure of a region as vital to the global economy as the oil-rich
Middle East.
Who else was going to do it? Iraq was the only major OPEC member left
standing.
The industrialized world was desperate to get oil flowing out of Saudi Arabia,
Iran, the
Gulf, and the Caspian Sea once again. And with the price of oil north of two
hundred dollars a barrel since the Day of Devastation, hundreds of billions of
dollars were already pouring into Iraqi coffers. Soon trillions would be. Why
not offer the world Iraq's help in rebuilding the drilling, pumping, and
refining facilities throughout the region needed to bring sanity back to
global energy prices?
For a small price, of course.
38
10
MONDAY, JANUARY 12 - 7:32 P.M. - BABYLON, IRAQ
Al-Hassani suddenly heard his name echo through the hall.
He saw the gathering of dignitaries rise to give him a standing ovation. How
far he had come, he now realized, further than he had ever imagined, and it
was as intoxicating as it was surreal. He basked for a few moments in the
warmth of his colleagues' affection, then slowly rose and made his way to the
podium to share his vision with a people perishing without one.
Without the aid of notes, he greeted each of the visiting VIPs by name and
expressed his condolences for their losses, and then he said, "The Iraqi
people share in your suffering. We have seen the horror that has been
inflicted upon you. We have heard the cries of the suffering. We have
responded as quickly as we could, but this is only the beginning. You have my
word, and that of the people of Iraq we will move heaven and earth to help you
recover and rebuild; you will not be left alone."
The crowd erupted with applause, but Al-Hassani barreled on.
"No nation on the face of the earth not the Americans, nor any of the
Europeans
have done as much as the Republic of Iraq to bring bread to the hungry, water
to the thirsty, clothes to the naked, shelter to the omeless, and medical
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assistance to all those in h pain. We have already paid out more than half a
billion dollars in humanitarian aid and emergency relief. But it is not
enough. I would like to announce right now that the people of Iraq pledge a
billion dollars more, and we will double it again if need be, because you are
our brothers and sisters and we must stand together in this critical hour."
The entire assembly was now on their feet again. There were tears in the eyes [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]