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"Sanctions cannot dislodge dictators"

The following ran Tuesday in the Rocky Mountain News, the largest newspaper
in Colorado and the fastest growing newspaper in the U.S..  The author -
Holger Jensen - wears two hats: international editor and commentator; this
is unusual -- many papers have a 'firewall' between editorial and news
staffs -- but it's encouraging that he's so conversant with the nuts and
bolts of sanctions.

Still, wish he'd dragged his fingernails across the blackboard more loudly

Tyrants fatten on sanctions while subjects slowly starve 
by Holger Jensen  

Rocky Mountain News 
February 8, 2000

New year, old problems.

Navy Seals boarded a Russian tanker smuggling Iraqi oil out of the Persian
Gulf, which explains how  Saddam Hussein continues to enrich himself while
his people suffer the effects of an economic embargo  intended to topple

The ship is now docked in Oman, where the oil will be sold to defray the
costs of the intercept and Omani  port fees. But the Russians will get their
tanker back and Saddam will remain comfortably in power, his  bank accounts
hardly dented.

Besides Russian tankers, ships flying many other flags help Saddam
circumvent sanctions. By State  Department count, 12,000 vessels have been
intercepted by American and allied warships since the embargo  was imposed
in 1990, and about 700 were diverted when found to be carrying Iraqi oil.

Turkey and Iran also help in the overland smuggling of Iraqi oil. Turkish
tanker trucks openly cross the  border of northern Iraq, right beneath the
noses of U.S. pilots patrolling Iraq's "no fly" zones, but  little is said
about it because Turkey is a loyal NATO ally and heavily dependent on Iraqi
oil and gas.

Despite the intercepts, the State Department estimates that Iraq smuggles
100,000 barrels of oil daily  over and above the $5.2 billion limit it is
allowed to export every six months to buy food, medicine and  other

The value of the smuggled oil, at current prices, is more than $3 million a
day. It's a safe bet that  little of this is used to benefit the Iraqi
people. Saddam's personal wealth is estimated at more than $6  billion, and
he is sixth richest on Forbes' list of "Kings, Queens and Dictators."

Since the Gulf War, Saddam has built more than 40 palaces and plush vacation
resorts for himself, his  family and friends. He has also rebuilt missile
facilities destroyed by U.S. and British air raids in  December 1998, and
buildings that housed his chemical, biological and nuclear arms programs.

Meanwhile, Baghdad's health ministry says there have been 1.2 million
sanctions-related deaths over the  past nine years, many of them children
felled by inadequate nutrition, lack of medicines and other  erosions in the
health care system. The figures may be suspect, but the suffering is
well-documented by  nongovernmental aid agencies.

The U.N. Security Council recently offered to lift sanctions within four
months if Saddam cooperates with  a new weapons inspection system headed by
Hans Blix, formerly head of the Vienna-based International  Atomic Energy
Agency. But Saddam, who kicked out all weapons inspectors in 1998, has again

Short of going to war there's no way to make him comply. And pressure is
building from three of the  Security Council's five permanent members --
Russia, China and France -- to lift sanctions without his  compliance.

Slobodan Milosevic is another foe whom sanctions have failed to dislodge.
CIA Director George Tenet told  the Senate Intelligence Committee last week
the Yugoslav president's hold on power is "not seriously  shaken." He
controls the military, his inner circle remains "loyal, or at least cowed,"
and he has an  "effective media machine."

In just eight years Milosevic has started and lost four wars. His dreams of
a "Greater Serbia" have led  to a lesser Serbia, allied only with an
increasingly hostile Montenegro in what's left of the rump  Yugoslavia. He
has cost the Serbian economy $50 billion in international sanctions and $30
billion in war  damage, which the West won't repair until he is driven from

Yugoslavia is now the poorest country in Europe. Poverty has doubled in the
past year, with 64 percent of  the population living on less than $30 a
month. And more than half of all Serbian workers are unemployed.

While the Milosevic-controlled news media blame "NATO aggression" for
Serbia's economic woes, most Serbs  blame Milosevic. But he survives by
putting loyalists in charge of every level of government and  rewarding them
handsomely with business monopolies.

The head of the national oil company is also chairman of the Serbian
parliament. The prime minister heads  an export-import company. And
Milosevic himself skims off Serbia's thriving black market, which accounts
for a third of the country's gross domestic product.

Sanctions cannot dislodge dictators.

<Holger Jensen is international editor. E-mail: His column
also appears on the Internet at>

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