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Re: The Years 1991-1995 Pt I

Dear Drew and All,

1) Refusal of oil-for-food programme 1991-1995

See Sarah Graham-Brown's new book for authoritative (though incomplete)
discussion of this topic. She reports an allegation that the offer of
oil-for-food was designed to be refused, an allegation I think the evidence

a) Refusing money to Iraqi civilians

Graham-Brown points out, inter alia, that the UN humanitarian experts'
recommendation of $2.65bn oil sales over four months (ALL of which was to be
used for humanitarian relief) was reduced by political pressure to $1.6bn
every six months (of which one-third was to be used for compensation and UN

'In practice, the resolutions reduced the sum available for humanitarian aid
to approximately $930 million over six months, from $2.65 billion over four
months, as originally proposed. The oil revenuies were to be deposited in an
escrow account directly controlled by the UN, not in the SOMO [Iraqi
government] account as [UN humanitarian envoy Prince] Sadruddin [Aga Khan]
had wanted... A further concern among UN officials was that an oil sale at
the lower figure might cut off or severely limit international aid to Iraq,
while the funds generated would not be sufficient to allow reconstruction.
This would effectively defeat Sadruddin's argument that the country could
afford to pay for itself.
    'It seems likely that these less attractive conditions reduced the
chances of Iraq accepting the resolution. According to an aid agency staff
member involved in the discussions in Iraq, even by late July [1991] "UN
officials were convinced... that the US intention was to present Saddam
Hussein with so unattractive a package that Iraq would reject it and thus
take on the blame, at least in Western eyes, for continued civilian
suffering."' [p.75]

b) Mixing relief with UNSCOM and compensation

'Throughout the two years of stalemate over these [oil-for-food]
resolutions, Western governments took the opportunity to turn continuing
reports of civilian suffering back onto the Iraqi regime, arguing that it
could alleviate suffering and chose not to do so...
    'But this approach caused unease among many humanitarian observers who
felt that the "package" deal offered under Resolutions 706 and 712 was one
which it could have been anticipated Iraq would refuse. They argued that
humanitarian needs should have been entirely separated from questions of
compensation and payment for the work of UN weapons inspectors. The latter
were issues for the Iraqi state alone, and civilians should not be penalised
for a government decision to resist paying for these items...
    'The mixing of humanitarian exemptions with matters such as compensation
and enforcement activities of UNSCOM muddied the waters, allowing the Iraqi
Government to object on other political or technical grounds. This made
Western condemnation of its callousness less credible.' [p.77]


It is important to remember that during this period the Iraqi government was
distributing food to its civilian population. The rationing system that
began in September 1990 was described by the Food and Agriculture
Organisation in the following terms in 1995 (quotation taken from report
reprinted in _The Children ARE Dying_, World View Forum/International Action
Center, 1996):

'... while the rationing system has forestalled the occurrence of any masive
famine under conditions of critical food shortages and high food prices
since the embargo, it has not checked malnutrition and morbidity in a large
section of the population which is too poor to adequately supplement the
rations. [This is unfortunately true also of oil-for-food]... The food
basket supplied through the rationing system is a life-saving nutritional
benefit which also represents a very substantial income subsidy to Iraqi
households... So far the public rationing system has been performing
efficiently, with negligible margins of omission or commission.'

It is therefore untrue to say that the Iraqi government deliberately starved
its people by rejecting oil-for-food between 1991 and 1995, though it is
true that the food ration would have been enhanced by acceptance of
oil-for-food. The whole case against sanctions, however, is derived from the
fact that oil-for-food was, and is, incapable of overcoming the humanitarian
crisis in Iraq, which requires (I) much larger revenues and credits than are
available under oil-for-food; and (II) the reflation of the entire economy
to provide jobs and purchasing power to families throughout Iraq.


It follows from the above analysis that the offer/rejection of oil-for-food
during 1991-1995 are in themselves irrelevant to the question of _solving_
the humanitarian crisis.

We have to get the framework of discussion right.

If we are talking about marginal contributions to health/welfare/nutrition,
then, okay, let's talk about the different offers and their rejections.

If we are talking about actually stopping the starvation and disease, and
restoring the economic and social rights enjoyed prior to 1990, then the
central focus is the sanctions regime as a whole, and its appalling impact.


The question for those of us in the West, and in Britain and the US in
particular, is what responsibility our governments have for the disaster in
Iraq. An honest inquiry, I think, leads to the conclusion that London and
Washington must take the lion's share of responsibility for this crime.


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

-----Original Message-----
From: Hamre, Drew <>
To: 'Iraq-CASI - Discussion' <>
Date: 21 May 1999 16:12
Subject: The Years 1991-1995, the Refusal of Arab Aid, and Delays Ordering
Protein Biscuits

>> Does anyone have information which rebuts the following arguments for
>> Saddam's complicity in the humanitarian disaster:
>> (1) Saddam refused oil-for-food for five years
>> (2) Saddam has recently refused Arab aid
>> (3) Iraqi administrators have consistently delayed ordering protein
>> biscuits permitted under oil-for-food
>> Believe the issue with (1) had to do with Iraqi sovereignty and the
>> relatively small amounts being tendered.  (A collection of communications
>> between the UN and Iraq for the period 1990-1996 is available as a UN
>> 'Blue Book'; perhaps this would be helpful?)
>> Apparently, (2) stems chiefly from a Barbara Crossette article in the
>> NYTimes, which contained the assertion but few details.
>> In the overall scheme of things, (3) is a relatively minor issue.
>> However, it remains a sore point among OIP administrators and receives
>> coverage as a result.
>> Any information would be sincerely appreciated.
>> Regards,
>> Drew Hamre
>Minneapolis, MN USA
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