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letter to the editor on Britain's UN proposal on Iraq

Hi all,

The following is the text to a letter that I have sent to a number of UK 
newspapers that reported on Britain's proposal on sanctions yesterday.


Colin Rowat

Dear Editor,

In March the UN Security Council panel on the humanitarian situation in 
Iraq reported that "the gravity of the humanitarian situation of the Iraqi 
people is indisputable and cannot be overstated".  Iraq had "experienced 
a shift from relative affluence to massive poverty" and that, in "marked 
contrast to the prevailing situation prior to 1990-91 [before sanctions], 
the infant mortality rates in Iraq today are among the highest in the world 
... chronic malnutrition affects every fourth child under five".  Last April 
Unicef reported that Iraqi hospitals were experiencing 90,000 more deaths 
a year (including 40,000 children under five) than they had before 
sanctions (an underestimate, they feared, as reported deaths terminate 
food rations).  This is about twice the daily death count that we now 
suspect may be due to Serb massacres in Kosovo since March; further, 
while Iraq has ten times Kosovo's population, Iraq's quiet deaths have 
been going on for almost nine years.

On top of this tragedy the FAO reported last month that Iraq is now 
experiencing its worst drought since at least 1930.  Between one and two 
thirds of the wheat and barley crop in an already weakened agricultural 
sector may be lost.

It is in this context that Britain's proposed resolution to the Security 
Council (17/6/99) must be seen.  While touted as a significant turnaround 
for the UK, the proposal (which has been circulating for some months) 
seems little different from the original 1990 sanctions formula: hold the 
Iraqi people ransom to pressure a dictator to disarm himself (if we believe 
Security Council Resolutions; US and UK officials have repeatedly made 
statements to the contrary, explaining that sanctions will not be lifted 
while Saddam is in power).  Since the onset of US/UK bombing last 
December this formula has left us with sanctions but no weapons 
inspections.  Nine years and hundreds of thousands of deaths later, 
returning to this formula is not obviously wise.

March's UN humanitarian panel report made a number of 
recommendations which might lead to "incremental improvements" in the 
humanitarian situation in Iraq.  As the "securing of additional finance" 
was of "paramount importance" the panel made recommendations to that 
end, including the temporary suspension of the 30% of oil revenue that 
Iraq pays into a compensation fund.

Britain's proposed resolution is less generous, maintaining the 
compensation fund payments and delaying the possibility of foreign 
investment in the Iraqi oil industry.  Its lifting of the cap on oil sales 
(recommended by the humanitarian panel) will not improve matters as 
Iraq is currently unable to meet even its existing cap.

The main alternative, the French proposal, differs by lifting non-military 
sanctions as soon as Iraq "cooperates" with inspectors.  This shifts the 
focus from the US/UK interest in documenting Iraq's past weapons 
development to preventing future weapons development and use.  
Obviously, preventing development is easier with complete historical 
knowledge, the old formula.  In the end, though, it is use that matters and 
the Gulf War demonstrated that deterrence is possible: Iraq's non-
conventional arsenal, then much larger than now, was not used as it was 
clear that retaliation would be massive.

So we are faced with a choice: the British approach, apparently similar to 
the approach since 1990 or the French approach (supported by Russia 
and China).  The latter may take more of a risk with Iraq's weapons but 
offers more hope for longsuffering Iraqis.  In doing, it is also more likely 
to reduce a real threat to regional security: the hatred festering in Iraq.


Colin Rowat
Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq

393 King's College
Cambridge CB2 1ST
(0468) 056 984
fax: (01223) 335 219


Humanitarian panel report: Annex II of S/1999/356 (30 March, 1999)
Unicef report: Situation Analysis of Children and Women in Iraq - 1997 
(April, 1998)
FAO Report: Adverse Effect of the Drought on Domestic Food 
Production During 1998/1999 in Iraq (May, 1999)

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