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Voices UK comment on panel report

Dear all,

Here are preliminary thoughts on the results of the panel inquiry. There is
a legitimate question as to the difference between the lifting of sanctions
and the implementation of the panel recommendations (in the most generous
interpretation of those recommendations).


voices in the wilderness uk
12 Trinity Road, London N2 8JJ
phone/fax: 0181 444 1605

Oil-for-food 'cannot' meet humanitarian needs in Iraq
A voices in the wilderness uk briefing

An expert panel set up by the UN Security Council has just returned a
damning indictment of the oil-for-food deal which is the UN's primary
humanitarian programme in Iraq.

The humanitarian panel reports that, "The gravity of the humanitarian
situation is indisputable and cannot be overstated". Child mortality has
more than tripled because of sanctions.

Vindicating the analysis of Denis Halliday, and of voices in the wilderness,
the panel stated that "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) [which set up the oil-for-food deal] and succeeding
resolutions, in particular resolution 1153 (1998) [the enhanced
'oil-for-food' programme]."

Oil-for-food cannot solve the humanitarian crisis.

The UN experts add, "Nor was the programme intended to meet all the needs of
the Iraqi people ..."

front page news?
At the end of March the three UN panels set up at the end of January to
review Iraq's dealings with the UN reported back to the Security Council.
The Guardian noted that  "the reports would have been front page news" had
it not been for the crisis in Kosovo. As it was they went largely

the security council
Before surveying the reports themselves, it is worth reviewing some recent

In the wake of 'Desert Fox' there was renewed activity in the Security
Council to determine a new policy towards Iraq. France, the United States
and Russia all put forward proposals.

The basic split was the usual one. Of the five permanent members of the
Security Council, France, Russia and China want sanctions lifted while the
US and Britain do not.

meaningless gestures
True, the US dressed their  proposal up for propaganda purposes. They
suggested that the official cap on the value of oil sales (continued
overleaf) (continued from page one) permitted under the UN 'oil-for-food'
programme be removed (it currently stands at $5.2 bn every six months).
However, "with Iraq's dilapidated wells able to pump only $3 billion-worth
in the most recent six month period, and their capacity declining by about
6% a year, the gesture is meaningless. The $600m-worth of spare parts the UN
has allowed Iraq to buy will do no more than stem the decline" (Economist,
6th February, emphasis added).

Unable to reach agreement, the Council made the decision, at the end of
January, to set up three panels. They were commissioned to review, and make
recommendations for future policy, in the areas of disarmament, Kuwaiti
claims and the humanitarian situation.

'fooling around'
At the time The Economist reported that the panels "will not report until
mid-April and, even then, their recommendations will not be binding - merely
plans for plans. Indeed, [they] were formed only as a procedural ruse to
bypass the deadlock in the council ... Iraq, for it's part, has already
condemned the setting up of the [panels], complaining, with good reason,
that it will only lead to further delays in fixing policy" (6th February).

An anonymous "American official with responsibility for Iraq" told The
Washington Post that "We bought seven years and that's not bad ... The
longer we can fool around in the council and keep things static the better"
(28th January).

more inspections
The 20-member disarmament panel, which included representatives from UNSCOM,
"concluded that intrusive inspections were needed under a restructured UN
Special Commission (UNSCOM) to account for Baghdad's remaining weapons of
mass destruction" recommending that disarmament procedures carried out in
the past could be combined with a monitoring system which would be "if
anything more intrusive than the one so far practised".

"Couched in opaque diplomatic language, the report says data on Iraq's
dangerous weapons systems is largely, but not totally complete, thereby
allowing the United States and Britain to maintain stringent UN sanctions. "
(AP, 30th March).

As we go to press, little information is available about the panel on
Kuwaiti claims. According to  AP the panel "concluded that Iraq had not
provided sufficient explanations about missing Kuwaitis or cooperated enough
in returning looted property" (30th March).

'a shift to poverty'
The humanitarian report states that "The gravity of the humanitarian
situation is indisputable and cannot be overstated" (p. 14), Iraq having
undergone, in the words of the UN Development Programme field office, "a
shift from relative affluence to massive poverty" (p. 12).

Furthermore the situation "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" (p. 19).

The report notes that between 1989 and 1997 "the under-five child mortality
rate increased from 30.2/1000 live births to 97.2/1000" and cites the
calculation by the Population Division of DESA  "that the infant mortality
rate rose from 64/1000 births in 1990 to 129/1000 in 1995 (the latest Human
Development Report sets the average infant mortality rate for Least
Developed Countries at 109/1000)" (p. 5-6). The "data made available to the
panel were considered generally reliable, as they were undersigned by UN
agencies or other credible sources" (p. 3).

little change
Whilst acknowledging that "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 helped to alleviate the health situation" the (continued
on page three) (continued from page two) report notes that the extent of
malnutrition in the Center/South has only been "stabilized ... at an
insufficient level" (p. 8).

Indeed "In marked contrast to the prevailing situation prior to events in
1990-1991 ... Chronic malnutrition affects every fourth child under five
years of age" (p. 12)

"Results of a nutritional status survey of infants attending routine
Immunization sessions at primary health care centers throughout Iraq
conducted in October 1997, and again one year later, reveal little change in
the nutritional status since the beginning of the [oil-for-food] programme"
(p. 9, emphasis added).

"The objective of providing the population with a basic caloric food basket
of 2300 kilo-calories per person per day, is yet to be met". (p.8)
Oil-for-food has made available more medicines and medical supplies, but
"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
communications and transport." (p.9).

massive deterioration
More importantly the report notes that "In addition to the scarcity of
resources, malnutrition problems seem to stem from the massive deterioration
in basic infrastructure, in particular in the water-supply and waste
disposal systems" (p. 6, emphasis added). Indeed, "The [World Food
Programme] considers that food imports alone cannot address the problem of
malnutrition in the absence of a drive to rehabilitate the infrastructure,
especially as regards health care and water/sanitation" (p. 11, emphasis

For example, "The WFP currently estimates that access to potable water is
currently 50% of the 1990 level in urban areas and only 33% in rural areas"
(p. 6).

The inability of 'oil-for-food' to deal with these problems is structural
and not simply a consequence of the "substantial shortfall in revenue for
the implementation of the approved distribution plans" (p. 13).

Thus the report notes that "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) [the enhanced 'oil-for-food' programme - GC]. Nor was the
programme intended to meet all the needs of the Iraqi people ...

"Given the present state of the infrastructure, the revenue required for its
rehabilitation is far above the funding level available under the
['oil-for-food'] programme." (p. 13). The UN estimates the cost of
repairing the  power system - upon which all other sectors depend - as over
$7 bn.

In its final section the report states that "it is up to the Security
Council to decide whether the economic sanctions on Iraq should be
maintained, modified or lifted in the light of other interrelated aspects
and broader political considerations that were beyond [the panel's] mandate.
Having in mind these limitations, the panel is proposing several
recommendations it believes may lead to incremental improvements" (p. 14).
The three main recommendations are:

1) remove the ceiling on allowable exports under "oil-for-food"

2) authorise private investment flows into the Iraqi oil industry and other
non-military export industries (fertilizer, sulfur, dates etc)

3) "reduc[e] by an agreed percentage the revenue allocated  to the United
Nations Compensation [Fund]"

the iraqi response
Publicly Iraq has rejected the recommendations of all three panels,
insisting on an end to sanctions. However, AP reports that behind the scenes
"Iraq is working with diplomats from France, Russia and China... a[n
anonymous] European diplomat with good contacts in the Iraqi government said
Baghdad desperately wants some of the suggested changes" (13th April).

the us response
AP  reports that the US rejected the panel's recommendations on foreign
investment. Ambassador Burleigh suggested that by the end of 1999 oil prices
"could be high enough to fill the sales quota" (April 13th). The tacit
implication - that "oil-for-food" can address the humanitarian crisis - is
in outright contradiction with the humanitarian report's assessment.

the british response
In contrast to the US the British Government is backing a proposal to reduce
"for a fixed time, the amount of revenue from the programme siphoned to the
Compensation Commission" (Observer, 28th March).

Britain has submitted its own proposals regarding Iraq's weapons, saying it
would consider "a new approach" but stressing that UN inspections must be
intrusive. "The British outline acknowledges that Iraq's record suggests it
won't meet the council's conditions of complete disarmament before sanctions
can be lifted," but "the paper [also] indicates [that] the oil embargo
cannot be lifted because Iraq hasn't been fully disarmed"  (AP, 25th March).

no hurry
The humanitarian panel states that "under current conditions the
humanitarian outlook will remain bleak and become more serious with time"
(p. 13).

The Security Council renewed discussions on Iraq on the 7th April.
"Discussions are expected to continue at least until the end of the month,
diplomats believe" (AP, 7th April).
"Nobody is in a hurry", one diplomat told Agence France Presse (7th April).

Gabriel Carlyle
voices in the wilderness uk
12 Trinity Road, London N2 8JJ
phone/fax: 0181 444 1605

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