Friday, September 05, 2008

More word on whether looting of Iraq's sites is over

If it were not already clear that the rosy scenario painted by Dr Abbas is difficult to accept at face value, Mounir Bouchenaki, the Director-General of the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property, writes to say that, although "we have unfortunately no direct information, since no mission can go to the field," the word he is getting is not terribly encouraging:

...according to various colleagues having been to Baghdad (only in the green zone) and one UNESCO colleague having been to Samarra, the situation is not completely under control. To give you one example from yesterday's meeting I had with one official from the Italian Ministry of Culture who was in Nassiriyah on August 10th. He said that the situation is still very tense and there are problems of security. He had to fly with the support of the American army from Baghdad to Nassiriyah. According to him the lack of control by the Department of Antiquities of the archaeological sites is certainly leading to ongoing illegal excavations.

Does this prove that looting is ongoing at sites throughout Iraq? No. Does it prove that the Department of Antiquities is not fully in control. Yes. Does it lead one to suspect that looting is going on at the many places where the Department of Antiquities is not in control? Yes. Does it underline, yet again, the importance of American military support for the efforts of the SBAH? Yes.

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