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Re: Fwd: dsanet: Iraq and UN Sanctions

Hi Richard,

Thanks for your posting.  I think that Leo's request is quite reasonable
and he seems to be careful and generally well-informed.  I have included
brief responses to the three questions that he asks. 

> >(1)  How is this use of sanctions different from the use of sanctions in
> >South Africa, which we all supported? Of course, the ANC and the resistance
> >in South Africa supported the sanctions, despite the effect they had on poor,
> >black South Africans, because they believed -- correctly, we can say in
> >retrospect -- that sanctions would hasten the end of apartheid. I have yet to
> >see evidence that the Iraqi equivalent of the ANC and the South African
> >resistance is opposed to sanctions. All I see is invocations of "ordinary"
> >Iraqis, with evidence of their views little more than television interviews
> >given under the watchful eyes of Saddam's secret police, in just the same way
> >that the apartheid government invoked "ordinary" South Africans against
> >sanctions. I would be happy to see something more convincing.

The four items that we listed in our October newsletter (available in full
on our website) are:

1. Bodies regarded as representing a large number of South Africans (e.g.
the ANC) supported the sanctions against their own country; this is not
the case in Iraq.

2. South Africa was largely self-sufficient in food; Iraq imported roughly
two thirds of its food. 

3. The sanctions on South Africa were never rigorously enforced, being
opposed by the US and the UK governments; those on Iraq have been much
more strenuously enforced.

4. The suffering caused by sanctions in South Africa does not seem to have
been on the same level as that in Iraq. 

The difficulty with 1., above, is that there is no equivalent of the ANC.
There are many smaller opposition groups, and they tend to be outside the
country if we know about them.  Because the regime has been so successful
in crushing political opposition we do not know what an ANC-equivalent

> >(2) In the absence of compelling evidence, I have difficulty with accepting
> >the premise that it is entirely sanctions which is causing what human
> >hardship now exists in Iraq. I point simply to the recent refusal of Saddam
> >to renew the UN agreement which would allow him to exchange a certain amount
> >of oil for food and medicine. How much of the suffering which is going on is
> >a result of deliberate policy choices by Saddam as part of a stratagem to end
> >the sanctions so that he can rebuild the army and weapons of destruction? How
> >much of it is a result of deliberate policy choices of Saddam to punish the
> >Shia of the south and the Kurds of the north?

No, the sanctions are certainly not entirely responsible for the hardship
in Iraq: Columbia University epidemiologist Richard Garfield estimates (in
a report available on our website) that about one quarter of Iraq's excess
child mortality since 1991 has been due to the Gulf War.  The 1980-88
Iran-Iraq War also took a toll on Iraq's infrastructure and ability to
cope with sanctions.  In particular, it left Iraqi impoverished.  Finally,
Iraq's centrally planned economy has also held it back.

And, yes, the Iraqi government does seem to make many decisions for
political rather than humanitarian reasons.  My belief, though, is that
this is precisely why sanctions are ineffective here: if the regime was
primarily concerned with the well-being of its people the sanctions, which
target the economically vulnerable, might be an effective policy tool.  To
claim, though, that the regime doesn't care about its people and to
support the sanctions, which target them, seems to me deeply confused.

About the question of what might happen after sanctions, it's not clear
that Iraq's first priority will be aggression.  Between the end of the
Iran-Iraq War and the Kuwait invasion (1988 - 1990), Saddam Hussein
survived four assassination attempts (Freedman and Karsh, The Gulf
Conflict, 1990-1991.  Princeton University Press, 1993).  I find the
following interpretation of this quite reasonable: without some external
excuse for Iraq's difficulties, Iraqis began to hold their leadership

> >(3) What is the alternative policy to sanctions? Surely no one thinks that
> >diplomacy and persuasion is going to make the slightest difference to Saddam.
> >Surely no one thinks that the resistance to Saddam is anywhere near
> >overthrowing him. Sanctions seem far more preferable to me than military
> >intervention, and I see that as almost inevitable if Saddam rebuilds his
> >nuclear capability and his biological and chemical capability. I do not find
> >a 'do nothing' policy (i.e., no policy at all) very compelling.

Two points here: I, and CASI, distinguish between the military and the
non-military sanctions.  We do not have a position on the former and tend
to regard them as a separate issue from the latter.  Clearly, lifting the
non-military sanctions will make it easier for military inputs to be
imported into Iraq.

I personally have come increasingly to believe that there is good reason
to suspect that deterrence will work with Iraq.  Deterrence is felt to
have held the superpowers in line during the Cold War.  It is felt to have
prevented Iraq's use of WMD during the Gulf War (although, Allied forces
had advanced on Baghdad, the regime might have become more desperate).

Deterrence did not fail in either of Iraq's other two invasions.  In the
case of Iran, we encouraged Iraq to attack.  In Kuwait, deeply mixed
signals were sent (including US Ambassador Glaspie's explicit statements a
week before the invasion that the US did not have a position on Iraq's
"border dispute" with Kuwait).

I hope that this helps.  Many of these arguments are more completely
expressed in a Word document that I have.  Anyone interested should let me
know and I can send a copy.


Colin Rowat

Coordinator, Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq

393 King's College                                                 
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England                                 fax: +44 (0)870 063 4984

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