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Re: The Oil-for-Food Programme

> In the discussion in Parliament just following the attacks on Iraq last
> month, George Galloway made the point that the allowances for Iraq to
> import necessities under the Food-for-Oil programme (or is it the other
> way round?) weren't enough to alleviate the great hardship in the country.
> Either Robin Cook or the Prime Minister replied that Iraq was, anyway,
> still exporting food products.

Hearing this claim I looked at,
the UN Office of the Iraq Programme's 180 day review of the oil-for-food
deal (19/11/98).  It has two sections on the progress of Iraqi
agriculture, one in "central and south" Iraq, the other in Iraqi Kurdistan
(the northern three governates).  The report is divided this way as these
two regions are administratively separate, with Baghdad having no sway
over the north.

The review discusses agriculture, noting that it is still in a dire strait
in the centre and south of the country but seems to be improving in the
north.  The report does not mention smuggling of food.  I say "smuggling"
as, under the oil-for-food deals there is no provision made for Iraq to
legally export anything other than carefully regulated petroleum sales.

It is reported in newspapers that oil smuggling has been occurring and
that this has enriched the regime.  The US claims that the Basra oil
refinery that it bombed was involved in such operations.  While I cannot
claim further knowledge it seems that it would make more sense to smuggle
oil than food; perhaps, though, with the low price of oil food has become
more profitable.

If you had the time please do write to the FCO asking them about the
claim.  ASK FOR SOURCES!  Over the past year and a half that I have been
following this issue I have seen the FCO repeatedly make unsourced claims
that, upon some investigation, turn out to have very dubious origins; the
"palaces" story was one of these.  This is not to say that expensive
palaces have not been constructed, merely that the FCO was using this
information nonsensically: as palace components could not be imported
under oil-for-food they could not be hindering it; if the components were
smuggled in they would not be hindering oil-for-food either as they would
be purchased out of non oil-for-food funds.  I am not sure whether
the FCO actually believes its claims or whether it is merely hoping to
maintain a smokescreen around its position, hoping that most people will
not probe it.

Colin Rowat
King's College                                                 
Cambridge CB2 1ST                       tel: +44 (0)468 056 984
England                                 fax: +44 (0)1223 335 219

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