A great scoop in the Sydney Morning Herald today on the Iraqi wheat kickbacks story, which will thoroughly confuse the situation. SMH
correspondent in Jordan, Ed O’Loughlin, reports that the company
involved in the kickbacks is still in business “working for the new
Iraqi Government.”

Now that’s extraordinary. He says, ”Alia for Transportation and General Trade is a sister company
of Teebah Airlines which for the past year has held the contract to
operate international flights to and from Baghdad on behalf of the
state-owned Iraqi Airlines.”

The SMH reports:

Although a Jordanian citizen is listed as controller of 51
per cent of Alia’s stock, the real beneficiary is Sheik Hussein
al-Khawam, leader of a prominent Shia tribe in central Iraq, who is
listed as the company’s signatory and appointed director. Alia chairman
Sheik Hatim al-Khawam – named as Iraqi ambassador to Greece last year
by the US/British-appointed Iraqi ruling council – told The New York Times
last year that his company had a contract to provide services at the
Iraqi port and that passing on the charges was part of its business.

‘It wasn’t my job to say if it was right or wrong,’ he said.

The
fact that the Howard Government hasn’t mentioned this fact is
significant: either it knows about the links to the old regime or it
doesn’t. In either case it exposes the Government’s selective memory on
this issue. It’s something that shall have to be examined in the
commission of inquiry into the AWB kickbacks that’s due to start next
week.

It also raises the question of what the Federal Government
is doing in Iraq. Does it have its eyes closed, or is it merely
ignoring what is really going on and how business partners of the old
regime are now active partners with the new approved mob running the
country.

The SMH report also raises the question of
whether the Volcker report was adequate. It certainly didn’t link Alia
to the new regime in any way, especially the country’s newish
ambassador to Greece.

What we have now is the AWB being
condemned for paying secret commissions or freight costs to a company
collecting them on behalf of the Saddam regime. That company is
working for the new government, it’s controlled by a significant tribe
in central Iraq and one of its leaders is now an Iraqi diplomat.

This
tribe obviously flourished under the old regime and continues to do so.
If that’s the case what was wrong with the secret payments by the AWB:
bad under the old regime but good under the new?