The stores in Baghdad's main shopping area are bursting with goodies that many Iraqis have never seen there before: color televisions, stereos, French perfumes, Swiss jams and English chocolates.
But computers at government ministries are going down and not coming back up again because replacement parts can't be obtained. Factories are idled because of shortages of basic items like lubricants for machinery. Motor oil is almost impossible to find.The U.N.-imposed sanctions that embargoed virtually all trade with Iraq are starting to bite in small but significant ways.
The country is undergoing something of a consumer boom in foreign-made products thanks to goods looted from wealthy Kuwait, but it is the little things - the nuts and bolts of society - that are slowly but steadily starting to grind the Iraqi economy to a halt.
"Food is not the issue. It's the industrial infrastructure," said a Western diplomat.
In an ironic example of the topsy-turvy effect the Persian Gulf crisis is having, foreign cigarettes brought from Kuwait are in plentiful supply. But cheaper Iraqi-made brands are hard to find because the Iraqi cigarette factory has closed. So has the Iraqi brewery; Jordanian-made beer has been arriving by the truckload to replenish stocks.
Iraqis are going to work for just a few hours each day and are doing little when they get there.
"There was never very much industry in Iraq, and what there was has effectively stopped," said another Western diplomat.
All 7,000 cows at a dairy farm south of Baghdad have been afflicted with a disease that makes them abort their calves. The serum to vaccinate them cannot be imported, so the cows probably will have to be slaughtered, exacerbating milk shortages.
As of last Tuesday, gasoline is being rationed at 71/2 gallons a week per car. Iraqis aren't given to complaining - it isn't considered safe - but the sudden onset of a gas shortage in a country that has lived off its oil wells for two decades elicited an unusually frank chorus of complaints from frustrated drivers.
In contrast, the generous allotments set by the government when rationing of staple foods, such as rice, sugar and tea, began weeks ago suggest the controls were introduced mainly to guard against hoarding rather than because of dramatic shortages.
The official explanation for the gas rationing is a shortage of chemical additives needed for converting oil to gasoline. But oil sources say they believe there are plentiful supplies of the additives in Kuwait.
But, they say, the rationing could indicate serious maintenance problems at Iraqi oil refineries, at least one of which is said to be only weeks away from complete closure.
Whether all this will be enough to change President Saddam Hussein's mind on the issue of Kuwait is quite a different matter.
It was clear from the outset, diplomats say, that an effective international blockade would have a dramatic effect on the economy of Iraq, which depends on oil for 95 percent of its earnings and on imports for virtually all its food and manufactured goods.
"There are two different questions you have to ask," said one Western diplomat. "First, are sanctions hurting? Yes they are. Second, will they have the desired effect, which is to persuade Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait? I think not."
Iraqi officials readily acknowledge that the sanctions hurt, although they are reluctant to discuss their effects on industry.
"It is hard, it's severe, it's inhuman, it's brutal, it's uncivilized," said Naji Hadithi, director general of the ministry of information.
"But we are mobilizing all our potentialities to foil the objective of the blockage," he said.