US troops and Iraqis Share Taste for Israeli Beer

mg class=”picture” src=”/dynmedia/pictures/BEER.jpg” align=”right” border=”0″>A close inspection of photos from inside the Mosul villa where Qusay and Uday were shot dead by American troops last month reveals beer bottles and a candy wrapper with what looks suspiciously like Hebrew lettering. Ironically, Saddam Hussein’s sons and grandson may have spent their last hours consuming the products of the hated Zionist state. In another odd twist, the troops of the US 101st airborne division may have cracked open beer of the same Macabbee brand while laying Saddam’s heirs to siege.
debkafile‘s Middle East sources reveal a thriving, unacknowledged, semi-secret Middle East trade route that has sprung up between Israel and Iraq in response to rising demand. More and more goods are getting through despite difficult and often hazardous conditions.
The sudden demand in Iraq for Israeli six-packs owes much to the dearth of beer manufacturing in the strictly Muslim Persian Gulf region and the dry heat raging in Baghdad, Tikrit, Mosul and Basra, which makes an iced beer a favorite thirst-quencher for the close to 150,000 American GIs and 15,000 British troops sweltering there in full combat gear. Many Iraqis, too, have taken advantage of the new openness to their geographical west and cultivated a taste for the Israeli brew.
To meet the demand, trucks, loaded with beer produced in Israeli breweries working round the clock, roll nearly 1,000 miles east night by night, through Jordan and over two frontiers..
Beer is not the only Israeli commodity heading into Iraq. The convoys carry farm produce, foodstuffs, dairy products, eggs and ice cream, orders for which keep Jordan-based Israeli sales agents and their Jordanian counterparts with full hands and busy satellite phones.
With the national economy in recession and expanding unemployment, Israeli manufacturers are responding with brisk efficiency to any unexpected equipment shortages sprung in American units far from home – from mobile kitchen units to transformers. The US Army Corps of Engineers, the unit responsible for the maintenance of Iraq oil installations, airfields and military landing strips, have found they can obtain pipe sections, pumps or reinforced concrete faster and more cheaply from Israel than by airlift from the US.
There is also a constant flow of military products including spare parts – whether made in Israel, withdrawn from American emergency stores in southern Israel or unloaded under cover of dark from American cargo ships putting in at Ashdod and Haifa ports.
The Israeli supply role usually ends at the Jordanian-Iraqi frontier. Jordanian agents then take over and ascertain that the merchandize is safely delivered to the correct recipients at the Iraqi end, a hazardous and costly exercise in today’s Iraq. Their easternmost destination is Baghdad; their northernmost, the oil city of Kirkuk and the Kurdish town of Suleimaniyeh.
Baghdad has two points of entry: the international airport and overland by heavily guarded trucks through the guerrilla-plagued Sunni Muslim Triangle of central Iraq.
At Baghdad international airport, administered by US forces as a military facility, flying goods in by any carrier entails a bureaucratic runaround for permits and clearance. Even when an infrequent permit is obtained, the airport lacks the handlers and porters for unloading and the products still have to run the guerrilla gauntlet along the route to Baghdad.
But as a rule, the US civil administrator Paul Bremer prefers not to see Israeli transports landing in Iraq. He only makes exceptions for urgently needed equipment or the evacuation of injured American soldiers in urgent need of competent hospital care to save their lives. An injured US troop can be ferried to Israel in approximately one hour 50 minutes, Baghdad-Tel Aviv flying time.
A dire peril facing any road convoy comes from Syrian-Iraqi highway robbers, especially in western and northern Iraq. In the first weeks after the main war battles were over, the robbers were usually Iraqi special forces troops stranded without food or money to feed their families. Since mid-June, Syrian-Iraqi gangs have organized, as in Afghanistan and other war-afflicted regions of the world, and prey regularly and systematically on the lucrative traffic on Iraq’s pitted and scarred highways.
Israeli supply agents on the Jordan-Iraq frontier describe to debkafile how the robbers operate: “They hire Jordanian spotters for advance tips on the kinds of truck convoys heading into Iraq, their contents and the nature of security and protection they carry. If the tip is accurate and leads to a lucrative haul, the tipster receives a good fee in cash or in kind from the looted goods. If wrong, the tipster had better make himself scarce or his body may be found in a wadi near the border He would not be the first.”
Jordanian security escorts for these convoys are extremely well paid for their high-risk assignments. This inflates the market price of commodities many times over, but is considered a worthwhile investment as only Jordanians can be trusted to bring them safely to their end users. Iraqi escort guards are as likely as not to collaborate with the robber gangs. Most are therefore paid only when the goods on order are handed over.
The gangs’ targeting is unpredictable. Sometimes a valuable convoy goes through untouched; others may be destroyed or selectively plundered by these desert predators. Israel agents consigning deliveries from the Jordanian border have learned to tag Israeli trucks onto convoys originating in Egypt or Jordan to avoid drawing attention. Yet, in at least one case, Israeli merchandise in a mixed convoy was singled out for destruction.
Despite these difficulties, Israel’s unacknowledged “exports” to Iraq, which started out at $6 million in May spiraled sevenfold to $42 million in June – not counting the military items on special order from US armed forces.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email