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An Editorial of Daily Dawn, Karachi -Pakistan


Politics of sanctions

                   MERCIFULLY, men and women of conscience are still
around who are willing to protest against some of remorseless policies and
actions of the big powers. The resignations of two UN officials in Iraq,
namely the head of the World Food Programme in Baghdad and the UN
humanitarian aid coordinator, earlier this week clearly demonstrate the
sense of horror at the consequences of the UN's (read American and
British) sanctions policy vis-a-vis Iraq. There is no questioning the two
officials' contention that UN Security Council resolution 1284 cannot be
implemented. Thus Iraq will be further denied the humanitarian assistance
it is entitled to and will be wronged without any legal or moral
justification. Hence their resignations. Another of their colleagues had
resigned on the same grounds two years ago.

                   The fact is that the sanctions policy against Iraq is
now no more than a display of brute force by the United States against a
small Third World country.  Admittedly, when sanctions were first imposed
in 1990, Iraq needed to be tamed. Its invasion and annexation of Kuwait
was an unmitigated act of aggression which violated all norms of
international law.  The need of the hour was to get Baghdad to vacate the
occupied territory and to defang it. This was accomplished successfully
shortly thereafter. 
                   Then why the prolongation of the senseless sanctions
with the unreasonable demands which seem to be unending? Evidently, Iraq
has emerged as an issue of prestige for Washington which has made no
secret of its goal of toppling Saddam Hussein and installing a more
pliable ruler in his place in Baghdad. That would explain why the
sanctions were not lifted in spite of all-clear reports by the United
Nations Commission on Disarmament (UNSCOM). 

                   In the process, the people of Iraq have suffered untold
miseries. The oil-for-food programme, which allowed Baghdad to export a
specified quantum of oil and buy food and medicines in exchange under a
rigidly regulated mechanism, has not really alleviated the sufferings of
the people. Some statistics tell their own tale. Life expectancy fell from
66 years in 1993 to 58 in 1997. Infant mortality rose from 37 per 1,000
live births in 1989 to 97 in 1997. Maternal mortality rate increased from
50 per 100,000 in 1989 to 117 in 1997. Average per capita salary dropped
from $335 in 1988 to $24 in 1999. All this testifies to the fact that it
is the people of Iraq who have had to bear the brunt of the UN sanctions. 
They should not be held responsible for the sins of their rulers. But that
is precisely what is being done. 

                   The new UN resolution which sets up UNMOVIC, a new
agency to monitor Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, also raised the
ceiling on Baghdad's oil exports. But this is not expected to make much of
a difference. Iraq's oil production capacity is limited given the
restrictions on imports of spare parts.  Besides, its trade is tightly
regulated. Of the $22 billion Iraq could earn from its oil exports in the
last three years it could spend only five billion dollars on food and
medicines. The rest went into a war reparation fund, UN financing of its
operation in Iraq and an escrow account in New York. But what is more
significant is that the sanctions are being violated.  In some cases for
every legitimate consignment there are 200 embargo-busting cargoes. The
problem with this under-the-table dealing is that only the Iraqi elites
are benefiting from these. While the president's palace has been spruced
up and luxury goods abound in shops, the common masses of Iraq continue to
be the worst sufferers. 

                   It is not clear what the Americans hope to achieve by
relentlessly pushing for sanctions and disarmament of Iraq. They have been
unable to unseat Saddam Hussein, or bring him to his knees. With other
Third World countries' sympathies quietly swinging towards Iraq, it is the
US which will find itself isolated in the long run. Meanwhile, the people
of Iraq will continue to pay the price for the policy of vindictiveness
that the Americans have adopted towards Iraq. 

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