Two months into the United Nations embargo, there's little sign the blockade is pinching Iraq. Shelves in stores are brimming with canned goods, colas and cereals looted from Kuwait.
Although President Saddam Hussein says the American-inspired embargo is designed to starve Iraqi children of food, milk and medicine, Iraqis on the street report no one going hungry and only minor inconveniences blamed on the blockade."Life here quiet," said Nebeel Bader, a 21-year-old mathematics student who blames President Bush for provoking a fight with Saddam over the annexation of Kuwait, which is seen here as being a historical part of Iraq.
In the warren of streets surrounding the picturesque Al-Imam Al-Adham Mosque in Baghdad's old Adhamiya district, Iraqis spilled into the square this week to celebrate Mohammed's birthday with traditional celebrations of cakes and sweets.
Because of widespread sugar shortages, a cake store near the mosque had closed, but there were ample supplies of Kit-Kat bars, Pringles Potato Chips, toffees and other sweets to make up the loss. There was also no shortage of 7-Up and Canada Dry colas, all of which carried labels saying they were bottled in Kuwait.
There are spot shortages of products like coffee. At the Sheraton Hotel, there's no orange juice for breakfast, and store shelves are selling a honey substitute.
But it will be months before the embargo will really hurt, and the supplies in the stores reflect only part of the picture because cautious Iraqis have been stocking food as the threats of a military confrontation escalate.
The Aug. 2 invasion of Kuwait came as Iraq was harvesting bumper crops of dates, watermelons and grains, most of which are still being sold in stores.
For the last month, bread, cooking oil, rice and wheat have been rationed. Cooking oil now costs $60 a gallon and the cost of a loaf of bread has doubled.
In theory, the embargo should eventually hurt in a country of 17 million where the people are used to eating well. Iraq imports most of its grains, vegetables and cereals, although the Tigris and Euphrates River valleys are bountiful.
But supplies of drugs are dwindling sharply, said pharmacist Sami Aljabari, who pulled out inventories of his most recent drug purchases to show he's now being allocated much less of a drug supply than he got this summer.