March 2000 - The War Has Not Ended
CASI Background Document on Three Kings
most comprehensive sanctions in history"
James Rubin, US State Department spokesman, daily press briefing, 1 December, 1997
"I do not think
it is fair to make the civilian population subject to bargaining
(by) the government of Iraq on the one hand and the other
in the Security Council. The real victims are those who walk the
streets of Baghdad, Basra and Mosul"
Hans von Sponeck, resigning as UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator for Iraq, 15 February 2000
The Campaign Against
Sanctions on Iraq (CASI) is a registered society at the University
of Cambridge. Its members are all volunteers; its committee members
are students. CASI is exclusively concerned with the humanitarian
consequences of sanctions on Iraq. It does not support Saddam
Hussein's regime and does not oppose military sanctions on Iraq.
Three Kings, David Russell's new film starring George Clooney, attempts to portray ordinary Iraqis caught between the brutality of their own government and the indifference of the US government. Nine years after the end of the Gulf War and the ensuing civil war, 22 million ordinary Iraqis remain trapped between warring governments. Sanctions, imposed after the invasion of Kuwait, still reduce Iraqis' ability to meet their needs and to rebuild their country after the wars in 1991. This sanctions regime "is unprecedented in terms of longevity and its comprehensive nature" according to a recent House of Commons Select Committee report [HC 67, 10 February 2000]. US and British air raids have continued over most of Iraq, albeit with less fanfare, since December 1998.
This document provides an overview of the situation in Iraq today. Its sources are primarily United Nations documents as these are the best independent sources of data (wherever possible we provide URLs to the sources mentioned). To guard against presenting too partial a portrayal we often quote at length; to indicate consensus, we often quote more than one source. As these safeguards lengthen the briefing we use bold text to orient the reader.
Reliance on sterile UN data risks adding to the depersonalisation of individual Iraqis. This is a problem as we already tend to regard Iraq as Saddam Hussein supported by a cast of thousands of statistics. Nevertheless, we believe that this approach provides the most neutral overview of the situation. We do, though, conclude with an excerpt from James Buchan's 1999 Granta article on his travels in Iraq in the hopes of balancing the pure data.
We are sending you this briefing not to advocate anything, but merely to provide you with some information on the situation in Iraq subsequent to the events portrayed in Three Kings. It is our belief that the suffering of Iraqis, and our role in it, has been a silent tragedy and that we must make use of any opportunity to draw our attention to it again. Three Kings provides such an opportunity.
IRAQ BEFORE SANCTIONS
On 2 August 1990, sanctions were imposed on Iraq in response to its invasion of Kuwait. On 30 January 1999, out of concern for their impact on ordinary Iraqis, the United Nations Security Council established a panel to "assess the current humanitarian situation in Iraq and make recommendations to the Security Council regarding measures to improve the humanitarian situation in Iraq". This humanitarian panel reported back on 30 March. Some of its findings are outlined below.
11. According to the information presented to the panel, at the end of the last decade Iraq's social and economic indicators were generally above the regional and developing country averages. GDP in 1989 stood at 75.5 billion for a population of 18.3 million. GDP growth had averaged 10.4% from 1974 to 1980. By 1988 GDP per capita totaled 3,510 US dollars. The concerted push for economic growth from the mid-seventies onward had benefited the country's infrastructure. As pointed out by "the Economist Intelligence Unit" (Iraq Country Profile 1998-99), even during the 1980-88 war with Iran, the road and railway network were expanded. UNDP indicates that ... in 1990 there were 126 power station units capable of generating 8,903 ...
12. Up to 1990, domestic food production represented only one third of total consumption for most essential food items, with the balance covered by imports. As highlighted by FAO, at that time Iraq had one of the highest per capita foods availability indicators in the region. Dietary energy supply averaged 3,120 kilo calories per capita/per day. Due to its relative prosperity Iraq had the capacity to import large quantities of food, which met up to two thirds of its requirements at an average estimated cost of 2.5 billion US dollars a year, although in poor production years the food bill could rise to 3 billion.
13. According to WHO, prior to 1991 health care reached approximately 97% of the urban population and 78% of rural residents. The health care system was based on an extensive expanding network of health facilities linked up by reliable communications and a large fleet of service vehicles and ambulances. Health care emphasized curative aspects, but a set of active public health programmes complemented it through immunization and control of insect borne diseases. A major reduction of young child mortality took place from 1960 to 1990, with the infant mortality rate at 65 per 1,000 live births in 1989 (1991 Human Development Report average for developing countries was 76 per 1,000 live births). UNICEF indicates that a national welfare system was in place to assist orphans or children with disabilities and support the poorest families.
14. As described by UNICEF, the Government of Iraq made sizable investments in the education sector from the mid-1970s until 1990. According to UNESCO, educational policy included provision for scholarships, research facilities and medical support for students. By 1989 the combined primary and secondary enrollment ratio stood at 75% (slightly above the average for all developing countries at 70%, according to the Human Development Report for 1991). Illiteracy had been reduced to 20% by 1987. While Iraq's indicators were inferior to that of other Arab countries such as Egypt, education accounted for over 5% of the state budget in 1989, above the developing country average of 3.8% (cf. UNDP Human Development Reports).
15. Before 1991 the South and Center of Iraq had a well developed water and sanitation system comprising over two hundred water treatment plants ("wtp's") for urban areas and 1200 compact wtp's to serve rural areas, as well as an extensive distribution network. WHO estimates that 90% of the population had access to an abundant quantity of safe drinking water. There were modern mechanical means of collection and sanitary disposal.
16. The brutal campaign waged by the Iraqi Government against the Kurdish rebels in the North, had constituted the main issue of humanitarian concern in Iraq prior to the events of 1990-91. Aspirations among the Kurdish population of Northern Iraq for autonomy had already resulted in periods of open revolt in 1960 - 75 and 1983 - 88. Landmines had been used as early as 1965. According to figures provided by UNOPS, the conflict and the forced depopulation of over 4,800 rural villages and the subsequent mining of a majority of the villages or their surroundings resulted in a known mined area which would come to reach over 212 square kilometers in the 1990's, with casualty rates of 4 -10 injured or killed per month.
In December 1999 the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) issued a Special Report entitled, IRAQ: A decade of sanctions. Its opening paragraphs paint a similar picture to that in the humanitarian panel report:
Just a decade ago, Iraq boasted one of the most modern infrastructures and highest standards of living in the Middle East. The world's second largest oil producer, it had in recent decades used oil revenues for ambitious projects and development programmes, as well as to build one in the most powerful armed forces of the Arab world. It had established a modern, complex health care system, with giant hospitals built on Western models and using the latest equipment. It had constructed sophisticated water-treatment and pumping facilities. It had an extensive school and university system. By 1990, therefore, Iraq presented some of the features typical of a modern society: reliance on imported food (about 70% of the calories in Iraq were imported in the 1980s), dependence on imported technology and engineering skills, and interdependence of the different branches of the economy - accompanied by an attitude that "the government will do it for you" and "to replace is better than to repair".
IRAQ UNDER SANCTIONS
The humanitarian panel report compared the situation before the Gulf War to that afterwards:
17. After the Gulf War and under the effect of sanctions it is estimated that Iraq's GDP may have fallen by nearly two-thirds in 1991, owing to an 85% decline in oil production and the devastation of the industrial and services sectors of the economy (source: "the Economist country profile 1998-99"). Agricultural growth has since been erratic and manufacturing output has all but vanished (same source). According to figures provided by UNFPA per capita income fell from 3,416 US dollars in 1984 to 1,500 in 1991 and has decreased to less than 1,036 in 1998. Other sources estimate a decrease in per capita GDP to as low as 450 US dollars in 1995 (Financial Times, September 11 1995).
18. ... Low birth weight babies (less than 2.5 kg) rose from 4% in 1990 to around a quarter of registered births in 1997, due mainly to maternal malnutrition. UNFPA and other sources such as the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies believe that as many as 70% of Iraqi women are suffering from anemia.
19. The dietary energy supply had fallen from 3,120 to 1,093 kilo calories per capita/per day by 1994 - 95. The prevalence of malnutrition in Iraqi children under five almost doubled from 1991 to 1996 (from 12% to 23%). Acute malnutrition in Center/South rose from 3% to 11% for the same age bracket. Results of a nutritional status survey conducted on 15,000 children under 5 years of age in April 1997 indicated that almost the whole young child population was affected by a shift in their nutritional status towards malnutrition (Nutritional Status Survey of Infants in Iraq, UNICEF November 7 1998). WFP indicates that according to estimates for July 1995, average shop prices of essential commodities stood at 850 times the July 1990 level.
20. In addition to the scarcity of resources, malnutrition problems also seem to stem from the massive deterioration in basic infrastructure, in particular in the water-supply and waste disposal systems. The most vulnerable groups have been the hardest hit, especially children under five years of age who are being exposed to unhygienic conditions, particularly in urban centers. The WFP estimates that access to potable water is currently 50% of the 1990 level in urban areas and only 33% in rural areas. The absence of basic health education is leading to inappropriate infant and child care and breastfeeding practices. One briefing pointed to the Government's responsibility in the promotion of an ill-advised decline in breastfeeding.
21. Since 1991, hospitals and health centers have remained without repair and maintenance. The functional capacity of the health care system has degraded further by shortages of water and power supply, lack of transportation and the collapse of the telecommunications system. Communicable diseases, such as water borne diseases and malaria, which had been under control, came back as an epidemic in 1993 and have now become part of the endemic pattern of the precarious health situation, according to WHO.
22. School enrollment for all ages (6-23) has declined to 53%. According to a field survey conducted in 1993, as quoted by UNESCO, in Central and Southern governorates 83% of school buildings needed rehabilitation, with 8,613 out of 10,334 schools having suffered serious damages. The same source indicated that some schools with a planned capacity of 700 pupils actually have 4500 enrolled in them. Substantive progress in reducing adult and female illiteracy has ceased and regressed to mid-1980 levels, according to UNICEF. The rising number of street children and children who work can be explained, in part, as a result of increasing rates of school drop-outs and repetition, as more families are forced to rely on children to secure household incomes. Figures provided by UNESCO indicate that drop-outs in elementary schools increased from 95,692 in 1990 to 131,658 in 1999.
23. The accelerating decline of the power sector has had acute consequences for the humanitarian situation. The total remaining installed capacity today is about 7,500 mw, but inadequate maintenance and poor operating conditions have reduced the power actually generated to about half that figure at 3,500 mw. UNDP analysis points out that aging equipment and the continuing effects of war damage have caused deterioration at nearly every level. In spite of a general decline in economic activity, demand currently exceeds supply by at least 1,000 mw, particularly during the peak summer load. Power shortages have consequently worsened to up to 6 hours a day since July 1998.
24. The shortage of electricity has been particularly visible in some parts of the Northern region, where this failure has adversely affected the water supply and health services. Two hydropower stations at Dokan and Derbendikhan, which together have a 649 mw capacity, constitute the only source of power for the Northern governorates. Military hostilities have taken a toll on the transmission system on a countrywide basis. The distribution system has also deteriorated due to poor maintenance and overloading. Almost all automatic control, most remote control and many of the protection devices are malfunctioning.
25. Along with the quantitative input provided by many of the written submissions and oral briefings, other considerations were presented to the panel regarding the cumulative effects of sustained deprivation on the psycho-social cohesion of the Iraqi population. While this information was not necessarily presented in a systematic way, the following aspects were frequently mentioned: increase in juvenile delinquency, begging and prostitution, anxiety about the future and lack of motivation, a rising sense of isolation bred by absence of contact with the outside world, the development of a parallel economy replete with profiteering and criminality, cultural and scientific impoverishment, disruption of family life. WHO points out that the number of mental health patients attending health facilities rose by 157% from 1990 to 1998 (from 197,000 to 507,000 persons).
26. The cumulative effect of the sanctions regime and economic decline on the social fabric of Iraq was particularly evident to the first hand observers who addressed the panel either orally or in writing. While WHO mentioned the extreme isolation of the Iraqi scientific community and its outdated expertise, the ICRC observed that medical training is no longer guaranteed and skills are being lost. UNICEF spoke of a whole generation of Iraqis who are growing up disconnected from the rest of the world. UNESCO commented that children between 5 and 15 years of age were the most affected. According to the Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq, unemployment and low salaries were forcing Iraqis with higher levels of education to abandon jobs as teachers or doctors and to either emigrate or search for employment as taxi drivers or security guards etc. adding to the problems in the areas of health and education.
27. The dependence of the Iraqi population on humanitarian supplies had increased Government control over individual lives to the detriment of personal initiative and self-reliance. Constraints on the performance of the Hadj, added to the sense of frustration, particularly in a context of growing religious fervor, possibly associated with the material deprivations and lack of opportunity of the present situation. The deterioration in Iraq's cultural life and institutions was also noted...
43. The data provided to the panel point to a continuing degradation of the Iraqi economy with an acute deterioration in the living conditions of the Iraqi population and severe strains on its social fabric. As summarized by the UNDP field office, "the country has experienced a shift from relative affluence to massive poverty". In marked contrast to the prevailing situation prior to the events of 1990-91, the infant mortality rates in Iraq today are among the highest in the world, low infant birth weight affects at least 23% of all births, chronic malnutrition affects every fourth child under five years of age, only 41% of the population have regular access to clean water, 83% of all schools need substantial repairs. The ICRC states that the Iraqi health-care system is today in a decrepit state. UNDP calculates that it would take 7 billion US dollars to rehabilitate the power sector country-wide to its 1990 capacity.
The first sentences of paragraph 18, edited out above, addressed maternal, under-five child and infant mortality rates. We removed them as, in August 1999, Unicef produced more recent independent figures. Their press release summarises their findings:
The first surveys since 1991 of child and maternal mortality in Iraq reveal that in the heavily-populated southern and central parts of the country, children under five are dying at more than twice the rate they were ten years ago. UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy said the findings reveal an ongoing humanitarian emergency...
The surveys reveal that in the south and center of Iraq -- home to 85 per cent of the country's population -- under-5 mortality more than doubled from 56 deaths per 1000 live births (1984-1989) to 131 deaths per 1000 live births (1994-1999). Likewise infant mortality -- defined as the death of children in their first year -- increased from 47 per 1000 live births to 108 per 1000 live births within the same time frame. The surveys indicate a maternal mortality ratio in the south and center of 294 deaths per 100,000 live births over the ten-year period 1989 to 1999.
Ms. Bellamy noted that if the substantial reduction in child mortality throughout Iraq during the 1980s had continued through the 1990s, there would have been half a million fewer deaths of children under-five in the country as a whole during the eight year period 1991 to 1998...
The Unicef report itself notes that "the proportion of maternal deaths (31 percent) shows that maternal mortality is a leading cause of deaths in the last ten years among women of reproductive age". This means that roughly one in every three Iraqi women who die while of child bearing age (15 - 49 years old) die due to complications surrounding maternity.
A January 2000 explanatory memorandum on the sanctions on Iraq issued by Human Rights Watch, one of the world's two largest dedicated human rights organisations, added that:
There are no similarly reliable estimates regarding the threat to life that sanctions have posed for other vulnerable sectors of the Iraqi population. Nor have there been any attempts to measure the harm suffered by those Iraqis--the great majority--who do survive beyond their fifth birthday... One public health expert who has closely studied the Iraq situation, Dr. Richard Garfield of Columbia University, has emphasized that "excess deaths should thus be seen as the tip of the iceberg among damages to occur among under five-year-olds in Iraq in the 1990s."
Paragraph 26 of the humanitarian panel report mentioned the UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator in Iraq. This is Hans von Sponeck, the second of two Humanitarian Co-ordinators in Iraq. He, like his predecessor, has now resigned to protest the effects of the sanctions. Responding to US criticism for speaking out about the effects of the sanctions before his resignation, von Sponeck explained that "[the] very title that I hold as a humanitarian coordinator suggests that I cannot be silent over that which we see here ourselves" [Reuters, 8 February 2000]. After resigning he went on to say:
I keep saying every night, one out of five Iraqi children under (the age of) five goes to bed malnourished. There is not enough anywhere, whether it is books or pencils or classroom furniture or whatever the case may be, it is a totally inadequate situation...
We have evidence that mental disorders of children under 14 are increasing. So there is a sense of hopelessness and can we afford, can anyone afford, to associate himself or herself with such a reality? I cannot...
You try to catch a tiger and wind up killing a nightingale. [Al-Jazeera Television, Qatar, 15 February 2000]
A week later he added that:
I do not want to be party to a continued struggle under which the people in this country have to exist because there is a mix-up between the civilian concerns and the disarmament discussion. [Middle East Economic Survey, 21 February 2000]
Von Sponeck's predecessor, Denis Halliday, had explained his resignation in September 1998 by saying that "[we] are in the process of destroying an entire society. It is as simple and terrifying as that. It is illegal and immoral" [The Independent, 15 October 1998].
IS THIS DECLINE DUE TO THE SANCTIONS?
British and American government officials publicly deny that sanctions have contributed to the suffering in Iraq. These statements display a confusion about the nature of sanctions: sanctions are coercive instruments and they seek to coerce by causing hardship.
Mikael Barford of the European Commission's Humanitarian Office presented oral evidence to the House of Commons' Select Committee on International Development for their Second Report, on The Future of Sanctions [HC 67, 10 February 2000]. He identified six reasons that economic sanctions may harm civilians more than a regime:
14... The first one is the obvious one that economic sanctions hit the wrong targets in many cases. While the political regime of the target state in many cases remains largely immune against economic hardship, the ordinary population is fully exposed to sanctions ... Secondly, there is the question of what I would call a double embargo. Allocation of resources [by national governments] discriminates against [certain ethnic or social groups] in many cases. When external sanctions are imposed on these states the populations are often punished once more, undermining the economic basis of alternative political forces... The third point...is that economic sanctions promote the creation...of black markets and organised crime and smuggling... Often these profiteers are closely affiliated with the ruling elite of the target state... Fourthly, in political terms, the sanctions can be used to create a propagandistic rally around the flag effect, victimising any opposition to the ruling regime... Fifthly, sanctions may economically and politically destabilise non-target states through cutting off trade revenues and through stimulating an increased flow of refugees... Lastly, it is often said that humanitarian aid could and should mitigate the worst negative effects of economic sanctions. Governments exposed to sanctions often disallow or manipulate humanitarian access... In other words, humanitarian space can become very limited as a result of catch-all sanctions.
The Red Cross' Special Report is very clear that the sanctions on Iraq are contributing to hardship, claiming that, "[as] in war, it is civilians who are the prime victims of sanctions".
A year and a half previously, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights' Sub-commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities noted:
with satisfaction that many non-governmental organizations and personalities from a variety of countries, including the United States of America, have organized humanitarian convoys for Iraq, thus displaying their disapproval of the adverse consequences of an embargo that deprives an entire population of food, care and education... the Sub-Commission decided, without a vote, to appeal to the international community and, in particular, to the Security Council for the embargo provisions affecting the humanitarian situation of the population in Iraq to be lifted.
The House of Commons International Development Select Committee concluded that:
39. Not all this humanitarian distress is the direct result of the sanctions regime. There is a tendency to blame all such distress on sanctions in the absence of clear evidence. Moreover, it appears that Saddam Hussein is quite prepared to manipulate the sanctions regime and the exemptions scheme to his own ends, even if that involves hurting ordinary Iraqi people. The responsibility for the plight of the Iraqi people must ultimately lie with the Iraqi leadership.
40. This does not, however, entirely excuse the international community from a part in the suffering of Iraqis. The reasons sanctions were imposed in the first place were precisely the untrustworthiness of Saddam Hussein, his well documented willingness to oppress his own people and neighbours, his contempt for humanitarian law. The international community cannot condemn Saddam Hussein for such behaviour and then complain that he is not allowing humanitarian exemptions to relieve suffering. What else could be expected? A sanctions regime which relies on the good faith of Saddam Hussein is fundamentally flawed.
On 12 May 1996 Madeleine Albright demonstrated the difficulties involved in admitting the consequences of these sanctions in an appearance on the US television show, 60 Minutes. At the time she was the US ambassador to the United Nations; six months later she became Secretary of State. Host Lesley Stahl, referring to a 1995 figure, asked:
Stahl: "We have heard that a half a million children have died. I mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima. Is the price worth it?"
Albright: "I think this is a very hard choice, but the price -- we think the price is worth it."
Videotapes of the show are available from CBS (1-800-848-3256); the segment above may be viewed on the web.
WHY HAS IRAQ BEEN SO VULNERABLE TO SANCTIONS?
According to the House Special Committee's report on The Future of Sanctions:
19. Iraq's susceptibility to sanctions was increased by a number of factors. When sanctions were imposed in 1990, Iraq had emerged from a long period of conflict dating back to the start of the Iran-Iraq war in 1980, a fact acknowledged by Dr. Salah A. Shaikhly, official spokesperson for the Iraqi National Congress, the umbrella organisation for most Iraqi opposition groups, "the origins of the present crisis in Iraq dates from the years of war between Iraq and Iran (1980-1988). The roots of what today appears to be the total collapse of the economy lie in that period." Secondly, the impact of the Iran-Iraq War on Iraq's economy and infrastructure was exacerbated by the 38 day allied bombing campaign that followed Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. Thirdly, Iraq was heavily dependent on the export of one product - oil - for revenue. According to the UN, it was, therefore, "relatively easy to cut off exports that provided more than 90 per cent of Iraq's export earnings and 62 per cent of Iraqi GDP. Sanctions therefore had a greater impact on the Iraqi economy than any other sanctions regime on any other target state in history. Per capita income halved between 1989 and 1992 and has continued to decline." Finally, prior to the imposition of sanctions, Iraq was estimated to have relied on food imports for 70 per cent of its requirements: in 1989, the total value of Iraqi food imports exceeded $2,000 million and whilst, from the start, food and medicines were exempted from the sanctions regime, it was not until the final agreement by the UN of the Oil for Food Programme in 1995 that Iraq was provided with the necessary means to purchase them - both at national and local level.
20. A further factor exacerbating the impact of the sanctions is the human rights situation in Iraq. In his most recent report on human rights in Iraq, the UN's Special Rapporteur, Max van der Stoel, concluded that "the gravity of the human rights situation in Iraq had few comparisons in the world since the end of the Second World War" and that the Iraqi regime had "effectively eliminated the civil rights to life, liberty, physical integrity, and the freedoms of thought, expression, association and assembly. In particular, the report highlighted grave violations of human rights against the population of the southern marsh area, the Shiite community and the Kurds. The report went on to conclude that the Government of Iraq had failed to comply with its obligations to provide adequate food, clothing, housing and good health and that "insufficient attention had been paid to allocating budgetary resources in favour of children to the maximum extent available."
The Human Rights Watch memorandum expanded on the consequences of the Gulf War bombing:
This campaign, conducted under the authority conferred by Resolution 678 (1990), included air attacks that crippled most of Iraq's electrical power system. Because of the centrality of the country's electric power grid to water and sewage treatment, the health care system, agricultural irrigation, and other vital civilian areas, these attacks have had grave civilian consequences. The embargo, in turn, has severely impeded the repair and reconstruction of these sectors that together function as a life support system for most of Iraqi society. More than nine years after the war, it is less and less possible to resort to the make-shift repairs and cannibalization of parts that for a number of years enabled the country to keep in operation some of its pre-war stock of generators, transformers, water pumps, and similar sorts of equipment.
IS "OIL FOR FOOD" ENOUGH?
The humanitarian panel report contains the most comprehensive review of the "oil for food" programme of exemptions to the sanctions:
28. In April of 1995 the Security Council adopted resolution 986, which was intended "as a temporary measure to provide for the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people until the fulfillment by Iraq of the relevant Security Council resolutions". This initiative came to be known as the "oil for food" programme. It took one year for the Government of Iraq to agree to the implementation of the programme. The humanitarian programme established by resolution 986 (1995) is totally financed from revenue generated by the sale of Iraqi oil, and in that sense does not constitute humanitarian aid, such as the assistance which is financed bilaterally or multilaterally...
29. The adoption of the "oil for food" programme has played an important role in averting major food shortages in Iraq and to a considerable extent has helped to alleviate the health situation, especially in the North. Since the inception of the programme, the extent of malnutrition seems to have stabilized in the more populous Center/South, albeit at an insufficient caloric level, while in the Northern governorates the situation has actually improved somewhat... The differential reduction in the North is due in part to higher per capita allocations of the 986 programme, especially in agriculture, water and sanitation and education. Several UN agencies as well as the Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq pointed to the fact that the unavailability of a cash component for the South further exacerbates these disparities...
31. The collapse of the irrigation system and the introduction of the oil-for-food programme have prompted the Government to withdraw from agriculture (the Economist Intelligence Unit, country profile Iraq, 1998-99). A recent outbreak of foot and mouth disease reported by the Department of Animal Health is assumed to have affected approximately one million cattle and sheep and is causing high mortality among offspring. Iraqi allegations that the laboratory producing the vaccine was forced to halt its activities when the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) destroyed its equipment are contested by the Commission. FAO points out that even if sufficient vaccines could be made available, which is unlikely, trucks and cold storage units are also required to contain the spread of the disease. Moreover, as indicated by FAO, the provision of pesticides and herbicides through the programme remains limited, at less than 10% of the needs. By contrast, in Northern Iraq the Security Council 986 programme had a more positive impact, even if the free distribution of wheat flour has negatively affected the local wheat growers by depressing prices.
32. The flow of medicines and medical supplies under Security Council resolution 986 as from May 1997 increased availability of such supplies to health institutions and people. As a result the quality of health has improved somewhat, but the insufficiency of funds has not allowed for significant improvement in the environment in which health care is provided nor has there been a renewal of basic equipment. Preventive activities are suffering from lack of communication and transport. The environmental risks of water borne communicable diseases, primarily diarrhea, but also malaria and leishmaniasis continue to be of great concern. There is a continuing threat of typhoid and cholera outbreaks. Central warehouses and warehouses in the Northern Governorates have deteriorated over time, and lack handling equipment and the minimum required tools for effective management of large quantities of supplies. A recent study. quoted by WHO indicates that the central warehouses are operating at less than 20% of previous capacity.
33. In the Northern governorates the availability of equipment, trained staff as well as drugs and supplies have contributed to substantially increase patient attendance. There seems to be a decline in some infectious diseases such as measles and better control over polio, although documentation is only tentative due to lack of records for preceding years. Water and sanitation have also improved in the North, with renovated as well as new systems established under the "oil for food" program...
36. Certain reports call attention to the fact that rural areas have been suffering more acutely from insufficiencies of unpolluted water supplies. Concern has been expressed among others by the Secretary-General and by the Special Rapporteur on Iraq of the Human Rights Commission over the slow pace of distribution of medicines and medical supplies by the Government. As of 31 January 1999, approximately 275 million US dollars worth of medicines and medical supplies had accumulated in warehouses, awaiting distribution by the Government.
37. While there is agreement that the Government could do more to make the "oil for food" programme work in a better and more timely fashion, it was not clear to what extent the problems encountered could be attributed to deliberate action or inaction on the part of the Iraqi Government. It is generally recognized that certain sectors such as electricity work smoothly while drug supplies suffer from delays in distribution. But mismanagement, funding shortages (absence of the so called "cash component") and a general lack of motivation might also explain such delays. While food and medicine had been explicitly exempted by Security Council resolution 661, controls imposed by resolution 986 had, at times, created obstacles to their timely supply.
38. It was noted that recent power cuts, which can last up to 10 hours a day, have been affecting humanitarian efforts in general, while the security situation has imposed additional constraints on the activities of humanitarian workers. The ICRC, which remained present in Baghdad and pursued its normal activities during the December 1998 air strikes, stepped up its support for treating the war wounded (over 200 casualties were seen by its delegates) and assisted with repairs to a hospital which suffered blast damage when three missiles fell nearby. Emergency assistance was also provided by the ICRC in the region of Basrah at the end of January 1999, when missiles hit areas inhabited by civilians.
39. Information reviewed by the panel indicated that while the humanitarian programme established by resolution 986 had clearly contributed to prevent a steadier decline in certain indicators than would have otherwise been the case, particularly in terms of nutrition, written submissions and oral presentations to the panel converged in recognizing the inherent limitations of such efforts in the medium term. The WFP considers that food imports alone could not address the problem of malnutrition in the absence of a drive to rehabilitate the infrastructure, especially as regards health care and water/sanitation...
42. It was acknowledged that factors independent from the effectiveness of the humanitarian efforts to assist the Iraqi population could help to improve the situation, such as a sustained rise in international oil price levels. However, in order for Iraq to aspire to social and economic indicators comparable to the ones reached at the beginning of the decade humanitarian efforts of the kind envisaged under the "oil for food" system alone would not suffice and massive investment would be required in a number of key sectors, including oil, energy, agriculture and sanitation. Finally, it was pointed out that if and when sanctions are lifted, it will take a long time before the infrastructure is repaired and the economy recovers.
46. Due to a substantial shortfall in revenue for the implementation of approved distribution plans, the "oil for food" humanitarian programme established by the Security Council has not been able to achieve fully its objectives. But even if all humanitarian supplies were provided in a timely manner, the humanitarian programme implemented pursuant to resolution 986 (1995) can admittedly only meet but a small fraction of the priority needs of the Iraqi people. Regardless of the improvements that might be brought about in the implementation of the current humanitarian programme - in terms of approval procedures, better performance by the Iraqi Government, or funding levels - the magnitude of the humanitarian needs is such that they cannot be met within the context of the parameters set forth in resolution 986 (1995) and succeeding resolutions, in particular resolution 1153 (1998). Nor was the programme intended to meet all the needs of the Iraqi people...
48. The fact that basic humanitarian needs are being met through hand-outs does not contribute to stimulate the economy and has an indirect negative impact on agriculture, while increasing State control over a population whose private initiative is already under severe constraints of an internal and external nature...
58. In presenting the above recommendations to the Security Council, the panel reiterates its understanding that the humanitarian situation in Iraq will continue to be a dire one in the absence of a sustained revival of the Iraqi economy, which in turn cannot be achieved solely through remedial humanitarian efforts.
The Red Cross Special Report agreed:
The "oil-for-food" programme, introduced by UN Resolution 986 in 1995, has not halted the collapse of the health system and the deterioration of water supplies, which together pose one of the gravest threats to the health and well-being of the Iraqi civilian population. The situation is now exacerbated by water shortages owing to the worst drought in decades.
WHAT ARE THE ALTERNATIVES?
Before searching for alternatives, we should ask whether Albright was right: have the achievements of the sanctions on Iraq been worth the price? The consensus within academic and diplomatic circles disagrees so strongly as to use the sanctions on Iraq as the example of failed sanctions. The first words in Prof. Daniel W. Drezner's 1999 book on the difficulties in using sanctions against dictatorial regimes are:
On August 6, 1990, the United Nations Security Council voted to impose multilateral economic sanctions against Iraq in response to Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait. By any conventional measure, these sanctions achieved the greatest degree of international cooperation in modern history. Iraq suffered damages equal to roughly half its pre-war gross national product, a cost far outweighing any other sanctions attempt in this century. Despite the severe economic dislocations suffered by the Iraqi regime, it refused to surrender any Kuwaiti territory. Ignoring claims that the sanctions would have worked with time, the US-led coalition decided to retake Kuwait through military force. On April 3, 1991, the Security Council voted to extend the sanctions regime until Iraq complied with additional demands to reveal its weapons of mass destruction program, recognize the border with Kuwait, and pay reparations. An unstated but desired demand was the removal of Saddam Hussein from power. Iraq has labored under the UN sanctions regime for eight years. As a result, infant mortality rates have increased sevenfold, annual inflation rose to over 4,000 percent, and per capita income has fallen to less than half pre-war levels. In the face of continued economic losses and bellicose US rhetoric, the Iraqi regime has only acquiesced to UN demands when additional military threats have been made. On every issue, when the only pressure is economic sanctions, Iraq has not budged. Domestically, Saddam's regime shows no signs of falling; if anything, the sanctions regime have strengthened it. Despite the most potent sanctions in history, economic coercion has failed to produce any significant Iraqi concessions. [The Sanctions Paradox: economic statecraft and international relations, Cambridge Studies in International Relations: 65. Cambridge University Press]
The Human Rights Watch memorandum agreed, stating that the "balance sheet of several years of sanctions against Iraq reveals a minimum of political dividends as against a high human price paid primarily by women and children."
In December 1999 the UN Security Council passed a new resolution (SCR 1284), piloted by the UK and supported by the US. The other three permanent members of the Security Council, France, China and Russia, abstained from voting on it (for more information, see CASI's briefing). Representatives of the US and the UK claimed that 1284 represents a significant humanitarian development. White House National Security Adviser Sandy Berger also felt that the resolution gave the sanctions "a greater degree of legitimacy and acceptability around the world" [Reuters, 19 December 1999].
Berger's optimism may be unfounded. On 17 February the Daily Telegraph reported that:
The sanctions policy has come under increasing fire from almost every country in the world, bar America and Britain. Now, in Washington, about 70 congressmen, most of them Democrats, have released a letter to President Clinton saying: "While we have no illusions about the brutality of Saddam Hussein ... we simply ask that you do what is right: lift the economic sanctions."
This article was written shortly after the second UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator for Iraq, Hans von Sponeck, tendered his resignation. He also disagreed that 1284 offered sufficient humanitarian improvements:
The oil for food programme is inadequate. What is in store for an improvement is also, in my opinion, inadequate and there's only one answer. The answer is to reconsider the whole sanctions approach. [Newsnight, 25 February 2000]
He had previously claimed that he was not alone in his beliefs:
I think time has come when I come out to say so and when I do that I must be able to face the consequences...that I must then accept to leave the position.... Well, everyone here in the U.N. is concerned over the inadequacy of the performance of the oil-for-food program... That is not just my view.... So I'm not at all alone in my view that we have reached a point where it is no longer acceptable that we are keeping our mouths shut.... Our support, my support, my commitment is for the Iraqi people as a group of deprived people whose tragedy should end. [Reuters, 15 February 2000]
The day after his resignation, Jutta Burghardt, head of the UN World Food Programme in Baghdad, proved him right by resigning as well. She too denied that the new resolution could meet the humanitarian needs of ordinary Iraqis:
"I find it increasingly difficult to be legally bound as we are told by New York to implement (Security Council) resolution 1284," Jutta Burghardt said in an interview with CNN television...
"It is a true humanitarian tragedy what is happening here and I believe any human being who looks at the facts and the impact of the sanctions on the population will not deny that [von Sponeck] is right". [Agence France-Presse, 16 February 2000]
According to the Associated Press, "Von Sponeck's call for the sanctions to be lifted earned him the wrath of the United States and Britain. He also wanted the Security Council to separate the issues of humanitarian aid and disarmament in Iraq" [15 February 2000]. Days earlier, just after von Sponeck had announced his resignation, US State Department spokesperson James Rubin replied, "Good" [Reuters,11 February 2000].
Perhaps surprisingly, UN humanitarian staff like Halliday, von Sponeck and Burghardt are supported by Scott Ritter. Ritter, an ex US Marine, became the most famous weapons inspector in Iraq for his "challenge inspections", designed to break the Iraqi weapons concealment progamme. In August 1998 he resigned. Ritter has since spoken out against the sanctions to all who will listen:
Economic sanctions were levied by the Security Council to compel Iraq to comply with resolutions. It's failed. We're killing 5,000 kids under the age of five every month. Now people say Saddam's killing them, but ultimately, sanctions are killing them, and we shouldn't be supportive of something that causes innocent people to suffer to such a degree. Bombing Iraq, enforcing no-fly zones -- to what end? To what purpose? [Christian Broadcasting Network, 30 March 1999]
He too has argued for a separation of the military and humanitarian issues:
Of course, it doesn't have to be this complicated. Instead of conducting a policy which has repeatedly found itself in danger of slipping away altogether, America could be pushing a policy that results in the rapid reintroduction of weapons inspectors into Iraq, and use this as the cornerstone of a new relationship regarding Iraq. Trading the lifting (vice suspension) of economic sanctions for the resumption of meaningful inspections is one means of accomplishing this. [The American Spectator Online, September 1999]
The Human Rights Watch memorandum also recommended de-linking the humanitarian and political problems:
For this reason, we urge the Council to revise the present embargo in favor of a regime that targets specifically the ability of that government to import military and dual-use goods, and lifts restrictions on the import of civilian commodities and on financial transactions broadly, restrictions that have a disproportionately harmful impact on ordinary Iraqi people.
The question of dual use items is a difficult one, as noted by the House Select Committee:
30. One problem is that many of the items required to rehabilitate infrastructure will have a dual use. Save the Children stated, "There has been an attempt to map the water supply [in Iraq] and one of the needs that was paramount was water testing equipment... field test water quality equipment would be extremely difficult if not impossible to pass through the Sanctions Committee because in fact it essentially tests for the chemical constituents of water and the biological aspects and in fact it has a biological incubator built into it. I can imagine the Sanctions Committee would immediately reject this as an item that could be imported into Iraq and yet it does serve a very important humanitarian need at this time. That is one example of a dual-purpose humanitarian product."
The representative of Save the Children was referring to the tendency of the US and British representatives to the Sanctions Committee to place holds on items regarded as dual use. According to a letter written by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on 23 October 1999:
There is a high level of holds on applications ... for telecommunications (100 per cent), electricity (65.5 per cent), water and sanitation (53.4 per cent) and oil spare parts and equipment (43 per cent).
Benon Sevan, the Executive Director of the UN Iraq Programme in New York commented on this when he briefed the Security Council on 17 November. Regarding holds on electrical contracts, he reported the UNDP's estimate that "Iraq could potentially achieve a 50 per cent increase in electricity supply if these holds were released" and is sure "we all share the view that there is a direct link between reliable power generation and the provision of health care, water supplies and other basic services" . The importance of telecommunications contracts is less immediately obvious but Mr Sevan wished:
to emphasize the necessity for the Council and its Committee to address this long outstanding question, as it has significant implications for other sectors, in particular the efficient distribution of food and medicine.
Aware of this, the Human Rights Watch memorandum noted that:
Because of the cumulative and systematic damage to Iraq's civilian economy and civilian infrastructure, the Security Council should allow for investment and development activities, under international supervision, in order to address the severe and pressing needs of most of Iraq's civilian population. These reforms will provide the Iraqi government with access to additional revenues, and it is a matter of serious concern that some portion of these revenues may well be used for purposes other than rebuilding the civilian infrastructure and meeting humanitarian needs. We believe that the Council, after nearly ten years of comprehensive embargo, must weigh any reasonably anticipated constructive consequences of the embargo's continuation in its present form, in terms of gaining government compliance with the Council's disarmament demands, against the demonstrated and severe harm it has caused to Iraq's civilian population.
Many observers caution soberly that the lifting of the non-military sanctions on Iraq will not solve its economic problems. The Red Cross Special Report claims that:
Even if sanctions were lifted tomorrow, it would take years for the country to return to the same standards as before the Gulf War. Prospects for a better future are bleak, and an increasing number of Iraqis, especially the highly qualified, are trying to leave the country, or have already done so. This brain drain exacerbates the situation for those staying behind, as it leads to a loss of skills which are then not to be passed on to the next generation.
James Buchan, Granta Magazine # 67: "Women and Children First" (1999). The version below is taken from The Guardian's 25 September 1999 excerpt, The Children of the Storm.
I was taken to Baghdad university, a neat campus in Waziriyeh where the well-dressed boys and girls looked like American high-school pupils. I was surprised they bothered to attend. They had almost no chance of a job after college. Opposite the gate to the Kazimain mosque the evening before, I had met a cheerful PhD selling black georgette for ladies' abayas who ran off a list of his fellow students who were cab drivers. It is what Count Hans Sponeck, the UN humanitarian coordinator in Baghdad, called "the deprofessionalisation of Iraq under sanctions". As I set off across the hot campus, a boy named Raad trotted by my side. He said, "The other students came to me and said, 'Run after the English reporter and tell him our problem. It is unfair! We cannot even get Thomas Hardy!' And this writer" - he looked down at The Great Gatsby in the old pastel Penguin - "Scott Fitzgerald. You must tell your government to let us have books. You must tell your government to let us visit. We are human beings, aren't we? For God's sake let us come."
Back in Baghdad, Mr Abdullah picked me up in his Buick. It was dark. As we drove through the underpass beneath the Zawra Park, he gathered himself together in that way even the bravest Iraqis have when they are going to talk about Saddam. He said: "Don't touch the President. Everything we have here, everything you see" - and here he pointed at the new shops by the racetrack where, in December 1996, Saddam's son Uday had been ambushed and wounded - "everything you see is designed to protect him. Nothing else matters."
He was right, of course, for modern Iraq is merely the physical embodiment of a single man's fears and misjudgements. What Mr Abdullah meant, in the elusive way of speaking people have in Iraq, is that Saddam is the Last Iraqi. To get to him, the US will have to kill every single other Iraqi, Arab and Kurd. What Mr Abdullah meant was that it isn't worth it: that, as the boy said at Baghdad University, it isn't fair.
This briefing has been prepared by Colin Rowat, 393 King's College, Cambridge CB2 1ST, tel 0468 056 984, fax 0870 063 4984. CASI can be reached via its website or by e-mail. It is happy to accept donations to support the distribution of these briefings.