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The Minneapolis StarTribune has published a news backgrounder on the sanctions in Iraq, and on the controversy which surrounds their continuation. Eric Black - the paper's lead international reporter - wrote the story, in which he summarizes current Security Council maneuvers, provides historical context, and explains the key arguments from each side. Denis Halliday and Phyllis Bennis are quoted at length. The StarTribune is one of the largest papers west of Chicago (Sunday readership of 1-million plus). This story led the news/editorial section yesterday, November 28. If you have a moment, please write the StarTribune (email@example.com), Mr. Black (firstname.lastname@example.org), and Roger Buoen (the national/international editor, email@example.com) and thank them for the attention. Urge that it continue. Regards, Drew Hamre Golden Valley, MN USA --- http://www.startribune.com/stOnLine/cgi-bin/article?thisSlug=SANC28&date=28- Nov-1999&word=iraq Published Sunday, November 28, 1999 Sanctions against Iraq: pro and con Eric Black / Star Tribune The U.N. Security Council tied itself in knots last week over revising and extending the so-called oil-for-food exception to the economic sanctions on Iraq. Iraq then raised the ante by declaring itself so fed up with the program that it would refuse to export oil. On the surface, the issue appears to be about the details of oil for food and about Security Council politics. But underlying these is the larger question of the sanctions themselves. Are they, as the Clinton administration contends, a vital tool to get Iraqi President Saddam Hussein out, or get him to behave? Or are the sanctions, as critics contend, inhumane because of their devastating impact on Iraqi civilians and counterproductive because they actually strengthen Saddam. In New York this month, Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering told the Iraqi National Assembly -- a U.S.-subsidized collection of Iraqis in exile who want to overthrow Saddam -- that the United States is "doing all we can, through the United Nations sanctions controls, to deprive the ruling clique of their lifeblood -- cash. At the same time, we are working through the U.N. to compel Iraq's ruler to redirect the economic benefits of the national oil wealth away from building more palaces, prisons and weapons of mass destruction and toward food and medicine for all Iraqis." But Phyllis Bennis, who watches the sanctions issue as a fellow at the Washington-based Institute for Policy Studies, said that it's clear that the sanctions are doing more humanitarian harm than arms-control good. "The only thing that keeps them going is the unwillingness of the Clinton administration to admit that the sanctions have been a mistake," she said. "This administration has never been very good at admitting its mistakes." The United Nations imposed the sanctions in August 1990, when Iraqi forces occupied Kuwait. Although they constitute a wide ban on international trade with Iraq, at their most concrete, the sanctions bar the rest of the world from buying Iraq's primary export -- oil. After the Gulf War, the Security Council made lifting sanctions conditional on Iraq destroying its nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and agreeing not to resume making such weapons. Bennis complained that other elements of the sanctions resolutions have been ignored. For example, the resolutions called for turning the Middle East into a region free of weapons of mass destruction. Such a goal would require U.S. allies to give up some military assets, such as Israel's nuclear program. Those elements of the sanctions program are ignored, she said, while Iraq suffers the full force. In 1996, responding to the criticism that the sanctions were mostly inflicting suffering on Iraqi civilians, the United Nations added a program called oil for food. Iraq is permitted to sell a fixed amount of oil -- $5.26 billion every six months. But instead of getting cash for its oil, Iraq gets credits that can be redeemed for food, medicine and other items of humanitarian aid. Inspections drag on In fact, the five permanent members of the Security Council must approve each contract to supply goods to Iraq under the program. Bennis said the United States has blocked or delayed contracts to supply such materials as chlorine, on the grounds that chlorine can be used for chemical weapons manufacture. Because the Gulf War bombing campaign destroyed much of Iraq's water-purification system, and because many Iraqi children are contracting and dying from water-borne diseases, Iraq vitally needs chlorine, Bennis said. U.S. objections delayed the chlorine shipments for more than a year, Bennis said, although the contract was ultimately approved. In its white paper on Iraq, the State Department said that 78 percent of the contracts submitted had been approved. Those that were rejected or delayed included requests for items that, while they may have legitimate civilian uses, can also be used for nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. "As Iraq is not permitting [U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors] to perform its U.N.-mandated functions, there can be no assurance that Iraq would not divert these dual-use items," the white paper stated. Iraq has at various times pledged to cooperate with the sanctions regime in order to get it lifted. It did permit arms inspectors from the U.N. special commission (UNSCOM) to find and destroy stocks of chemical and biological weapons and the means to make them. Inspectors believe Iraq ended its program to develop nuclear weapons, but they are less sure about chemical and biological weapons, which are easier to make and conceal. As the sanctions and inspections dragged on, Iraq refused to allow inspection of certain sites or caused delays before permitting inspections, which raised suspicions that Iraq was hiding banned weapons programs. Last December, chief U.N. weapons inspector Richard Butler withdrew his team on grounds that lack of Iraqi cooperation made it impossible for UNSCOM to complete its work. The United States and Britain followed up with a brief bombing campaign and the United States has bombed Iraqi targets many times since, when it believed that Iraqi radar or Iraqi anti-aircraft weapons had locked onto or shot at U.S. planes patrolling the no-fly zones over Iraq. At the United Nations, the Netherlands and Britain proposed to lift the ceiling on the oil-for-peace program, so that Iraq could trade unlimited amounts of oil for humanitarian goods. The United States backed the plan. Iraq objected that the sanctions should be lifted unconditionally. Russia, Iraq's best friend among the five permanent Security Council members, tried to revise the sanctions program so that it would include a timetable for lifting the sanctions if Iraq would cooperate with arms inspections. The United States and others rejected that proposal. The oil-for-food program has generally been renewed every six months. It came up for renewal last week, with the Security Council divided between the British-Dutch and the Russian proposals. Russia, to protest the council's rejection of its plan, refused to approve a six-month renewal. Security Council actions require unanimity. So the oil-for-peace plan was renewed for only the next two weeks. Iraq immediately announced it would stop exporting oil. On Tuesday night, it loaded the last oil tanker for which it had a contractual obligation and vowed to sell no more oil. The world price of oil, which had already doubled over the previous year for other reasons, rose to a nine-year high last week partly in response to Iraq's cutoff. Criticism grows Meanwhile, the overall sanctions regime has come under growing criticism from U.S. groups, mostly on the left, and from around the world. In October 1998, Denis Halliday ended his 34-year U.N. career by resigning as the coordinator of humanitarian relief in Iraq and devoted himself to a worldwide campaign to get the sanctions lifted. When he came to Minneapolis in March 1999, he said the sanctions were strengthening Saddam, enabling him to portray himself as the one Arab leader willing to stand up to the West and forcing the whole Iraqi population to depend on him for food. "I think London and Washington have got to recognize the mistakes they've made and be big enough to change it and come up with some new approach," Halliday said "But we need to move quickly. A hundred children died yesterday and 150 may die today and the same tomorrow and we really don't have time to go slow." In August, UNICEF surveyed the situation in Iraq. It found that in the county's central and southern regions -- where Saddam's government is in control -- the child death rate had more than doubled since the sanctions took effect. UNICEF estimated that about 500,000 fewer Iraqi children would have died over the past nine years if the pre-sanctions death rate had stayed in place. In September, Halliday's successor, Hans von Sponek, called for immediate and unconditional lifting of many of the sanctions. That same month, French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine said the sanctions were destroying Iraqi society: "The United States is insensitive to the human catastrophe under way in Iraq." The Clinton administration has generally responded to such criticisms by arguing that it is not the sanctions but Saddam's conduct that is responsible for the suffering in Iraq. Not only did Saddam's invasion of Kuwait bring on the sanctions in the first place, and not only did Saddam's refusal to comply with U.N. resolutions cause the sanctions to remain in place for so long, but Saddam has sabotaged U.N. efforts to reduce the suffering, U.S. officials have said. Because of the oil-for-food program, "sanctions prevent Saddam from spending money on rearmament, but do not stop him from spending money on food and medicine for Iraqis," the State Department said in its September white paper. Saddam found the money to build 48 presidential palaces since the Gulf War but can't find money to feed his citizens, the paper said. In April 1999, Iraqi officials inaugurated a lakeside vacation resort outside Baghdad that contains stadiums, an amusement park, hospitals, parks and 625 homes to be used by government officials. "There is no clearer example of the government's lack of concern for the needs of its people," the white paper said. Saddam's status The United Nations showed it is more concerned than Saddam about hungry Iraqis, the Clinton administration argued. The United Nations first proposed the oil-for-food program in 1991, but Saddam refused to participate until 1996. In the Kurdish section of northern Iraq, where the United Nations directly administers humanitarian assistance under the oil-for-food program, the death rates for children have remained stable rather than doubling as they have in the regions where Saddam's government administers the program. The United States even alleges that baby milk provided to Iraq through the oil-for-food program "has been found in markets throughout the [Persian] Gulf, demonstrating that the Iraqi regime is depriving its people of much-needed goods in order to make an illicit profit." Critics of the sanctions have accused the United States of perpetuating the sanctions by changing the requirements for getting them lifted. U.N. resolutions never mention removing Saddam from power, but the critics say that this has become the U.S. goal, so the sanctions would remain in place even if Saddam complied with all U.N. demands. The Clinton administration makes no secret of its desire to see Saddam fall. And although they don't explicitly acknowledge the critics' point, top U.S. officials have come close. Just after becoming secretary of state, Madeleine Albright said: "We do not agree with the nations who argue that if Iraq complies with its obligations concerning weapons of mass destruction, sanctions should be lifted. Our view, which is unshakeable, is that Iraq must prove its peaceful intentions . . . And the evidence is overwhelming that Saddam Hussein's intentions will never be peaceful." In November 1997, after Saddam had ceased cooperation with the arms inspectors, Clinton said: "What he has just done is to ensure that sanctions will be there until the end of time, or as long as he lasts." © Copyright 1999 Star Tribune. -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq For removal from list, email firstname.lastname@example.org Full archive and list instructions are available from the CASI website: http://welcome.to/casi