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How the US & UK helped provoke the crisis

The role of the US and Britain in provoking the present crisis and the
role of media propaganda


Many lies are being told about the onset of this crisis. In fact, Clinton
and Blair helped to provoke the crisis by rebuffing efforts to negotiate
an end to the inspection crisis. The critical intervention was their
insistence on 30 October that the Security Council should *not* re-affirm
to Iraq that the oil embargo would definitely be lifted once disarmament
had been verified. This led Iraq to suspect that sanctions would continue
indefinitely even after the UNSCOM process had been exhausted, and thus
contributed directly to the 31 October decision to break off relations
with UNSCOM (though not with the IAEA).

SUMMARY of following newspaper and magazine articles:

>Article 22 of the ceasefire resolution (UNSCR 687) says that 
>the ban on oil exports will be lifted once missile, nuclear, 
>chemical and biological disarmament has been verified by the
>IAEA and UNSCOM. The US refused to allow the Security
>Council to confirm that this is how the oil ban would be ended,
>and rejected Chinese, French and Russian proposals to re
>affirm the provisions of Article 22. Washington alluded to
>further conditions Iraq should satisfy before the oil embargo
>would be lifted, including accounting for alleged Kuwaiti 
>prisoners (missing people who may have been killed on the
>Basra Road at the end of the 1991 war). Britain drafted a letter
>to Iraq which excluded any re-affirmation of Article 22. This
>letter, transmitted on 30 October, led directly to Iraq's closing
>down of UNSCOM. Britain and the US, therefore, have a
>considerable share of responsibility for the latest crisis.


Iraq withdrew some cooperation from weapons inspectors on 5 August because
of the alleged bias of UNSCOM. Kofi Annan promised a 'Comprehensive
Review' of sanctions if Iraq resumed cooperation. On 9 September the
Security Council suspended all routine reviews of sanctions until Iraq
permitted inspections. (A review is the only time that lifting sanctions
could be considered.) 

On 1 October, Kofi Annan reported progress in the talks, and UN officials
indicated that Iraq was winning concessions - so that the Security Council
itself, rather than UNSCOM, would make decisions on what Iraq needed to do
to get sanctions lifted. (FT, 2 Oct.) 

On 6 October, Kofi Annan announced that the Comprehensive Review (CR)
would set a timetable for investigating remaining disarmament issues. (The
following details are taken from a UN Department of Public Information
press release dated 6 October taken from ReliefWeb - ) 'Once the resumption of satisfactory
cooperation is confirmed, it is envisaged that the first phase of the
review would commence within a relatively short period of time, say a few
weeks at most,' wrote Kofi Annan in a letter to the President of the
Security Council. 

The CR would come in phases. The first phase of the review would (a)
clearly determine if Iraq still possessed weapons of mass destruction or
any equipment for its production, (b) would clarify if Iraq was still
trying to restart the proscribed military production programmes, and (c)
answer the question of whether Iraq still constituted a military threat to
the region. 

UNSCOM and the IAEA would submit reports on their work on the nuclear,
missile, chemical and biological files. These reports would also spell out
the work that the two agencies judge remained to be done in these four
areas to satisfy the disarmament requirements under UNSCR 687 (1991) -
'while indicating a tentative timetable for this purpose based on the
assumption that Iraq will extend full cooperation.' The reports should
also include relevant information to substantiate non-fulfilment by Iraq
of disarmament provisions.

The UN DPI press release says 'On a basis of a review of these reports and
the material submitted by Iraq, the Council would agree on a list of
remaining requirements and demands to be fulfilled by Iraq for the lifting
of sanctions and to establish a reasonable timetable for this purpose.'

Iraq then accused the US of 'trying to sabotage the efforts of the
secretary general to carry out a review of sanctions' (Ath-Thawra, the
Ba'ath Party newspaper, 18 Oct.). Agence France Press, reporting Iraq's
complaints, added that 'The secretary general has proposed to the Security
Council that a list be drawn up of what work is left on Iraq's disarmament
and suggested the council satisfy itself with less than 100 percent
disarmament.' (AFP, 19 Oct., ReliefWeb)


The present crisis began when Iraq asked the Security Council for
clarification of the terms of the review. This crucial letter was sent on
30 October - it's been rather inadequately reported in the Independent,
ignored by almost all the rest of the mainstream press, and covered
accurately (though in parentheses) only by the FT.

The Independent version: 

'The Security Council - or rather London and Washington - revised the
Annan paper slightly. In a letter sent back to Mr Annan on 30 October, the
council agreed to the review, but on condition that the burden of proof
fell on Iraq, not on UNSCOM, to demonstrate it was indeed free of all
weapons of mass destruction. The council also referred only very obliquely
to Article 22 of the 1991 Resolution 687 that says that the oil embargo on
Iraq will be lifted as soon as the weapons were indeed gone. The letter,
drafted by Britain, is what triggered Saddam's decree on 31 October that
stymied UNSCOM entirely. Saddam had some reason for anger - the integrity
of Article 22 is crucial for him.' (Independent, 13 Nov., p. 15)

Four key points: (1) the burden of proof was shifted to Iraq, not left
with UNSCOM; (2) the crucial letter was drafted by *Britain*; (3) the
letter only 'very obliquely' referred to Article 22 of UNSCR 687; and (4)
this letter is what 'triggered' the complete ending of cooperation with
UNSCOM (but not the IAEA).

Article 22: '[The Security Council] Decides that upon the approval of the
programme called for in paragraph 19 above [regarding a Compensation Fund]
and upon Council agreement that Iraq has completed all actions
contemplated in paragraphs 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, and 13 above [ie chemical,
biological, nuclear and missile disarmament], the prohibitions against the
import of commodities and products originating in Iraq and the
prohibitions against financial transactions related thereto contained in
resolution 661 (1990) shall have no further force or effect.'

Key point: the ban on oil *exports* is to be lifted once disarmament is
certified - but this does not mean the lifting of restrictions on

The Financial Times version(s): 

On 30 October, 'the US rejected proposals by Russia, France and China that
would have clearly committed the security council to a lifting of the oil
embargo if Iraq complied with requirements to eliminate its weapons of
mass destruction'. (FT, 2 Nov.) 

'Baghdad decided to extend a ban on spot inspections after UN Security
Council members agreed to terms for a comprehensive review of sanctions.
The US refused explicitly to commit the council to a lifting of the oil
embargo imposed on Iraq even if Baghdad met requirements to eliminate its
weapons of mass destruction. The US said such a move would have pre-judged
the outcome of the review, but Iraq saw it as confirmation that Washington
would maintain the embargo as long as Mr Saddam remained in power.' (FT, 9

'Mr Saddam's decision [on 31 Oct.] to cripple UNSCOM was triggered by the
US refusal explicitly to commit itself to lifting the oil embargo if Iraq
complied with disarmament requirements - as stipulated by' Article 22 of
UN Security Council Resolution 687. (FT, 12 Nov., ) 

A comparison
The Independent version uses the same word 'triggered' to describe the
effect of the 30 Oct clarification on Iraq's policy, and also refers to
Article 22, but does not make clear to readers the fact that the US and
Britain had *refused* Chinese, Russian and French proposals to (a) restate
the provisions of Article 22 in the letter of clarification, and (b)
thereby confirm to Iraq that the oil embargo would definitely be lifted
immediately the disarmament programme was verified.

The Economist version:

'The immediate cause of the latest, and probably inevitable, bust-up was
said to be the ambiguous content of a Security Council document supposedly
clarifying the "comprehensive review" that is to look at Iraq's compliance
with the 1991 ceasefire resolution and identify what remains to be done...
Then Iraq - unwisely quite possibly, cunningly, perhaps - asked Mr Annan
to clarify the terms of the review. He had to pass the request on to the
Security Council. But since its members do not agree on policy towards
Iraq, it is hard for them to make anything clear. Their clarification, in
a letter to Mr Annan, was opaque. The council's ceasefire resolution rules
that the embargo on oil sales - the one sanction that really hurts - will
automatically end once UNSCOM declares Iraq cleared of weapons of mass
destruction. The Americans, reluctant to send a positive signal to Iraq,
refused to let the letter make explicit reference to this provision;
indeed, it pointed to Iraq's other obligations, such as accounting for
Kuwait prisoners and property. Iraq interpreted this as confirmation of
its long-held - and plausible - belief that, even if it did come clean on
all its weapons, no American administration would lift the oil embargo so
long as Mr Hussein remained in power.' (Economist, 7 Nov.)

Key points: (1) the US has attempted to widen the requirements for lifting
the oil embargo beyond the clear provisions of Article 22; (2) the
Economist believes that the Iraqi charge is 'plausible', ie that the US
will veto lifting the oil embargo until Saddam Hussein has been replaced.

Diplomacy and Propaganda

Tony Blair has said, 'We have bent over backwards to try to accommodate
any reasonable demands'. (Evening Standard, 12 Nov., p. 1) In fact, the
crucial Security Council 'clarification', which refused to re-confirm the
provisions of Article 22 of Resolution 687, was 'drafted by Britain':
'The letter, drafted by Britain, is what triggered Saddam's decree on 31
October that stymied UNSCOM entirely. Saddam had some reason for anger -
the integrity of Article 22 is crucial for him.' (Independent, 13 Nov.)

If the government really was interested in a peaceful resolution to the
crisis,  it would urge the Security Council to state explicitly that
Article 22 still holds, and that once disarmament is verified, the oil
embargo will be lifted immediately. Instead, Tony Blair is 'bending over
backwards' to repel this 'reasonable demand'.

The government's war drive only proceeds unchallenged because of the
complicity of the mass media. The media are, uncensored, or, rather,
self-censored, drowning out the truth with a flood of propaganda. The
glints of truth available here and there are buried in an avalanche of
lies. The issue of the 30 October clarification is a crucial case in

'That a careful reader, looking for a fact, can sometimes find it, with
diligence and a skeptical eye, tells us nothing about whether it was
intelligible to most readers, or whether it was effectively distorted or
suppressed... The media do, in fact, suppress a great deal of information,
but even more important is the way they present a particular fact - its
placement, tone, and frequency of repetition - and the framework of
analysis in which it is placed.' (Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky,
'Propaganda Mill: The Media Churn Out the "Official Line" ', The
Progressive, June 1988)

It is vital that the 'official line' on the causes of the present crisis
be challenged wherever possible. Lies enable war.

Milan Rai
Voices in the Wilderness UK
1 Hertford Road
London N2 9BX
phone/fax 0181 444 1605

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