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]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Guardian Article

Time for the west to stop being Saddam's scapegoat

Severe sanctions imposed by the west have proved a convenient way for Iraq's
president Saddam Hussein to deflect the blame for his nation's woes, but the
forthcoming election of a new US president could engender a fresh approach
to the Iraqi dictator

Mark Tran
Friday March 24, 2000

American presidents come and go, but Saddam Hussein clings on to power with
the persistence of a barnacle. Despite losing the Gulf War, and suffering 10
years of crippling sanctions, which have seen Iraq - once a modern state -
crumble around him, President Saddam's hold on power seems as secure as

As the suffering of the Iraqi people deepens, the US and Britain - the two
principal proponents of sanctions - are coming under increasing pressure to
lift the economic siege. As a UN security council debate gets underway on
the UN oil-for-food program - which was designed to alleviate the
humanitarian plight of ordinary Iraqis - several human rights groups,
including Human Rights Watch and Save the Children (UK), have called for a
radical overhaul of the sanctions. They are, in effect, urging the west to
junk most of the measures which have been in place since Iraq invaded Kuwait
in 1990.

The US and Britain argue that President Saddam bears the prime
responsibility for Iraq's devastation, particularly the high child death
rate caused by a medicine shortage. Peter Hain, minister of state at the
Foreign Office, said recently that children are dying because the Iraqi
government does not order enough medicines and fails to distribute the drugs
the country does receive. President Saddam, Mr Hain argues, is playing
politics with suffering.

One expects no less from someone demonised as an evil dictator. The
situation is reminiscent of Cambodia after the Vietnamese drove out the
Khmer Rouge in the late 1970s. The west isolated the Vietnamese-backed
regime in Phnom Penh and supported the Khmer Rouge in its camps in Thailand.
Even those Cambodians who had little time for the Phnom Penh regime
criticised the west for wanting to fight the Vietnamese and their allies
down to the last Cambodian. At times, it seems the US and Britain want to
fight Saddam down to the last Iraqi.

Given Saddam's ruthlessness, the present policy is a moral and a practical
dead end. As the Guardian's Ewen MacAskill has reported from Iraq, the
sanctions provide Saddam with an all-too-convenient scapegoat for the
country's problems - the west.
Saddam is going to be a headache for the next US administration. Vice
president Al Gore has hinted at a more aggressive stance by agreeing to meet
dissident Iraqi exiles, despite the fact that the opposition is notoriously
divided. George W Bush, the Republican candidate, has spoken of forceful
responses to any sign that Iraq is developing weapons of mass destruction.
Neither approach seems very promising, taken on its own.

There is, however, an approach that would really put the frighteners on
Saddam - cosying up to Iran, Iraq's bitter regional rival. There are signs
that America is planning to play the Iranian card. US secretary of state
Madeleine Albright last week announced an easing of sanctions against Iran,
in acknowledgement of the more moderate policies being pursued by Iranian
president Mohammad Khatami. Baghdad has already betrayed its nervousness at
this diplomatic duet between the US and Iran. After this week's mortar
attack in Baghdad, Iraq blamed the US for encouraging Iranian "aggression"
against Baghdad.

With a new president in the White House, there will be a chance for a fresh
approach to Iraq. With the prestige of being the new president, the next
incumbent could well agree to less a draconian regime of sanctions and
deflect Iraqi resentment away from the west towards its rightful target,
Saddam. Couple that with the west's rapprochement with Iran and there is the
making of a more effective policy towards Iraq.

This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq
For removal from list, email
Full details of CASI's various lists can be found on the CASI website:

[Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]