The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
[Main archive index/search] [List information] [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]
The following are some notes that I typed up on the 24th Nov. and the 3rd Dec. I thought they might be of interest/use. Gabriel. %%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%% 'dance of the seven veils' Some recent background to the Iraqi Government's suspension of the oil-for-food programme 24th November 1999 WHAT'S THE HURRY ? Since the beginning of the year the UN Security Council has been trying to agree a upon a future policy towards Iraq. With almost a year having passed since Desert Fox the sentiments expressed by one diplomat to the French wire agency Agence France Presse (in April !) that "Nobody is in a hurry" have been amply born out. However there does now appear to be a sense of urgency on the part of the US and Britain to get a "consensus" Resolution passed by the Council. Indeed, "Unless an agreement on the resumption of inspections is reached in December, officials said, the United States I prepared to walk away from months of negotiations about the lifting of economic sanctions on Iraq" (Washington Post, 20th November). Why ? At the end of October Middle East Economic Survey (MEES) explained that the new urgency stemmed "from the ending of the sixth oil-for-food program on 20 November and the replacement at year-end of five non-permanent members of the Security Council (Bahrain, Brazil, Gambia and Slovenia) who are co-sponsors of the UK/Dutch draft resolution." (MEES, 25th October). A failure to get a Resolution passed in the next few weeks could thus result in the US and Britain having to build a fresh consensus among a new set of non-permanent members - some of whom, conceivably, might not be so amenable to the US-British position. DANCE OF THE SEVEN VEILS At the end of October Britain was upbeat regarding its chances of success with Peter Hain telling a press conference in the United Arab Emirates that unanimity was "nearly there" (AFP, 26th October). However, during a meeting of permanent Council members on November 5th - the first since September - an unnamed "diplomat" told Reuters that the whole process was a "dance of the seven veils and this is just the first veil being lifted" (5th November). According to the Reuters report "The general outline of the proposed ["consensus"] resolution would lift any ceiling on how much oil Iraq could sell, now at $5.26 billion every six months, as soon as a new arms commission was set up. Import and export sanctions would be suspended after Iraq answered some key questions on its weapons of mass destruction" the questions to be posed by a new chief arms inspector "whom Kofi Annan would have to appoint within 30 days after the resolution is adopted". The suspension "would lapse at periodic intervals unless the council renewed it" and "Iraq's trading practices would still be controlled by Security Council members and a separate escrow account maintained by the United Nations" despite the fact that "the current humanitarian program is extremely cumbersome". "Diplomats said differences remained on precisely what Iraq had to do to get the sanctions suspended and under what conditions they could be reimposed". France was said to have "moved closer to the US-British proposals since September". A MODEST PROPOSAL As the 20th November neared "The US and Britain expressed hope for quick agreement on a new Iraq policy but Russia and China cautioned that serious problems remain[ed] and [that] no breakthrough [was] imminent" (AP, 17th November). Separate to this ongoing wrangling the US proposed another six-month extension of the oil-for-food programme in its current form. Russia had other ideas and proposed a series of amendments. These called for the elimination of the ceiling on oil sales, the simplification of the procedure for the approval of humanitarian and oil spare parts contracts, to "eliminate the 30% allocation of Iraqi oil revenue to the UN Compensation Fund" and the resumption of international and regional civilian air traffic. Russia also requested the Secretary General "to make arrangements to allow funds deposited in the [UN] escrow account to be used for the purchase of locally produced goods and meet local costs" and proposed an increase in the money that Iraq could spend on oil equipment from $300 mn (per six month phase) to $600 mn (MEES, 22nd November). 'SOMETHING IN RETURN' In other words Russia proposed incorporating many of the "carrot" measures contained in the Anglo-Dutch Resolution. There is - and never has been - any humanitarian rationale for the ceiling on oil sales. Similarly, the introduction of a "cash component" (ie. money for the "purchase of locally produced goods and to meet local costs") could make a real difference to the implementation of oil-for-food, and was recommended by both the Humanitarian Panel and UNICEF. However, Britain will not countenance these measures - which could have a positive impact on the humanitarian situation - "without receiving something in return" (FCO letter, October 1999) and neither will the US. The US rejected Russia's proposed amendments insisting on maintaining the $5.26 bn ceiling "while suggesting [that] the ceiling could be changed if UN Secretary General Kofi Annan decides that Iraq needs to sell additional oil to buy more humanitarian supplies" (MEES, 22nd November). US deputy ambassador to the UN, Peter Burleigh, also "said [that] he would request a study by the UN Secretariat, to be completed by 15 January 2000, on whether an increase in funding for the purchase of oil spare parts by Iraq was justified on humanitarian grounds" (MEES, 22nd November). Russia agreed to drop its amendments for the time-being "but not for six months" (AP, 19th November) therefore a draft resolution [not to be confused with the "consensus" resolution !] was tabled on the 18th November extending the program for a two week period "to enable differences between the US and Russia to be resolved and to canvass Russian support for the British "omnibus" resolution" (MEES, 22 November) [The "omnibus" resolution is the one referred to as the "consensus" resolution in the wire reports.] 'ABOUT EIGHT MONTHS' The same edition of MEES provides an outline of the "much modified British "omnibus" resolution" based on "the latest available version of the proposed resolution".The ceiling on oil exports would be lifted "as soon as a new arms commission is set up" (and, presumably, given access to the Iraq ?). The new body "would have sixty days to draw up an arms program for Iraq to follow. Import and export restrictions would [then] be suspended after Iraq answers key questions on its weapons of mass destruction posed by the new chief arms inspector". MEES notes that "this procedure would take about eight months, after which sanctions could be suspended". "A VERY BIG ASSUMPTION" "Thus even if everything went according to plan, in the best of circumstances the opening of Iraq's upstream [ie. foreign investment in the 'upstream' sector of Iraq's oil industry] would not start until the second half of next year. And that is assuming there are no problems along the way, which on the basis of of past experience is a very big assumption" (MEES, 22nd November). the remaining issues According to MEES (22nd November), what remains to be "ironed out" is : 7 "whether suspension should be renewed every 100 days, as the US and UK want, or every 200 days, as France and Russia are demanding" 7 "how to monitor Iraq's imports to make sure that weapons-related materials do not enter the country" 7 "the length of time between the adoption of a resolution and the suspension of sanctions and the actual criteria for suspending them". The US and UK are arguing "that Iraq should have to allow inspectors back and co-operate with them "for a substantial period of time" " 'TRUE COLOURS' The resolution extending oil-for-food for two weeks (1210) was passed on Friday 19th November. The following day Iraq rejected the two-week extension and by the Monday (the 22nd) Iraq had suspended its oil exports through the program. AP reported that "Iraq's rejection of the extension" was "not expected to have a major impact on the humanitarian program because UN officials say supplies are coming in normally" (22nd November). By contrast "oil prices surged to their highest level since the end of the Persian Gulf War" closing above $27 a barrel on the Monday (Washington Post, 23rd November). With breath-taking cynicism Secretary of State Madeleine Albright explained that "Iraq [had] shown its true colours" by "turning down the possibility of having more food and medicines for [Iraq's] people by selling more oil" - exactly what the US did when it rejected Russia's amendment ! (Reuters, 22nd November). Readers will no doubt recall an edition of 60 Minutes on which Ms Albright revealed her "true colours". WHY ? Exactly why the Iraqi Government suspended oil sales is a matter of speculation. Iraq's Ambassador to the UN Saeed Hasan told Reuters : "What can you export in two weeks? What kind of a distribution plan can you submit? What kind of commodities can you bring to the country in two weeks? It's ridiculous to extend it for two weeks this program with all of its complexities". The same report noted that "Security Council diplomats said they had been informed that Baghdad would accept a "straightforward rollover" of the plan on terms the United States had proposed in the Security Council last week" (Reuters, 23rd November). Meanwhile the New York Times reported that "some diplomats say the Iraqis may have been stunned by reports that the Russians might be willing to drop their strong advocacy for Iraq in return for American restraint in criticising Moscow's war in Chechnya. The Russians deny that such an offer was made." (23rd November). MILITARY ACTION ? The same piece noted "the danger that by shutting down oil flows and continuing to oppose a new disarmament plan, Iraq might effectively free itself of foreign supervision". This the piece claimed "would raise the question of military action to enforce Security Council Resolutions". On Wednesday (the 24th) the Iraqi Oil Minister Amer Mohammad Rashid told AFP that Iraq's suspension of its oil exports would last "two weeks starting from two days ago". UPDATE : 3rd December 1999 On the 27th, Iraqi Oil Minister Amir Muhammed Rasheed confirmed the earlier reports that Iraq would accept a six-month extension of oil-for-food (Reuters, 27th November). 'NOVEMBER 2000' Talks in the Security Council broke off on the 26th November. "We are finishing the chess game and beginning the poker game" a "diplomat involved in the talks" told the Washington Post (27th November 1999). The Post noted that "Effectively, the US-backed proposal [ie. the "omnibus" or "consensus" proposal - G.] would put off the politically difficult decision of suspending the sanctions on Iraq until after the presidential election in November 2000". The New York Times (27th November) noted that "Western nations have set up a timetable that could prolong the entire process of restoring inspections and dropping the sanctions by months, even if everything goes well". The US "will settle for assurances that the "key" disarmament tasks have been resolved" before easing sanctions "instead of insisting on complete disarmament" diplomats told the Post whilst an unnamed "diplomat involved in the negotiations" was quoted as saying that "Russia, France and China say the test period is currently too long". CLOSE ? The following Monday (the 29th) the Financial Times reported that the Security Council was "close" to agreement on a new sanctions/inspections resolution. "The breakthrough after a year of haggling came with Russia's new willingness to abstain from the Security Council vote, rather than block the resolution" the paper reported noting that "US and Russian foreign ministers are likely this week to discuss the terms of Moscow's abstention". "Deeply distrustful that the UN weapons inspections teams can remain neutral" Moscow "wants to transfer some of the authorities of the new UN commissioner in charge of Iraq's disarmament to the Security Council". A compromise had apparently been arrived at on this point with the inclusion of "a clause that requires the chief UN weapons inspector to submit for the council's review the list of disarmament tasks that Iraq must fulfil before sanctions are suspended" (FT, 29th November). ONE MORE WEEK The next day Associated Press, citing diplomatic sources, reported that the US was suggesting a week-long extension to oil-for-food "while the council hammers out a broader policy". Meanwhile Iraq's deputy Prime Minister, Tariq Aziz, flew to Moscow for talks on the sanctions/inspections resolution. Mr Aziz took the opportunity to publicly reject the "consensus" resolution (Reuters, 30th November) and the next day he "rejected as a joke" the US plan for a extending oil-for-food by one more week (Reuters, 1st December). In the end the Security Council approved a one week extension "with France refusing to vote in protest and three other countries [Russia, China and Malaysia] abstaining". "France's UN Ambassador Alain Dejammet said the one-week extension was too short and impossible to implement" (AP, 3rd December). BITS AND PIECES AP also noted the belief, on the part of US and British officials, that "agreement is near on an omnibus resolution - and a week can clinch it". Malaysia's Ambassador, Agam Hasmy, complained that there was "too much of a hurry" with "artificial deadlines being exerted" and that the 10 non-permanent council members "don't feel we're taken seriously" having been shown only "bits and pieces" of the omnibus resolution. -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq For removal from list, email email@example.com Full archive and list instructions are available from the CASI website: http://welcome.to/casi