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A Note on Strategy



It seems to me that the way in which the problem over sanctions in Iraq is
being expressed at the present time is rather loose and woolly, giving the
impression that in our exchanges withthe government we are talking at cross
purposes. In practical terms what the issue comes down to is not just a
matter of 'lifting sanctions'; it is a matter of whether or not, and to what
extent, control over the Iraqi economy should be restored to the
Iraqigovernment.

At first sight, putting the question in those terms seems to give the
advantage to our opponents, because it immediately raises the problem of the
beastliness of Saddam Hussein. But it is also problematical for them,
because it lifts away the pretense that the main problem lies with the
question of weapons inspections. The fact is that, whether or not stringent
weapons controls are in place, it would be very difficult for any American
or British government to restore to the Iraqi government even partial
control over the oil industry, its revenues, its restoration, the
restoration of the basic infrastructure Iraq needs  electricity, roads,
water  and all the enormously lucrative contracts all that implies. The
more so since one assumes that as little as possible of the profits that are
waiting to be realised would go to America or Britain. One imagines in
particular the French getting the advantage of their not very honourable
policy of indicating disapproval of the Amercian and British actions while
doing nothing effective to oppose them.

This is all such an unattractive prospect, given the public perception of Mr
Hussein's administration, that the government would have some difficulty
defending their present ostensible policy of offering it as the reward for
compliance with the ever more unreasonable and intrusive demands of
theweapons inspectors. They would be increasingly obliged to express clearly
and defend their real policy, which is to starve the Iraqi people until
somehow, anyhow, the person who bears the name 'Saddam Hussein' vanishes
from the face of the earth (the only option available to him, personally,
should he decide he wants to help his suffering people, is to commit
suicide).

It is impossible to imagine the necessary rebuilding of Iraq being done
without the full participation of the Iraqi government. When 'oil for food'
was originally proposed in 1991, the Iraqi government refused it, rightly in
my view, because it meant handing over full control of the national economy
into the hands of their country's enemies. They eventually had to comply,
but 'oil for food', even if it were to work as well as we would all like it
to, is still, for the vast majority of people, a matter of handouts. It
doesn't restore electricity, irrigation systems, clean up the battlesites,
mend the roads, or supply hospital equipment or any of the other vast
projects whch have to be undertaken if the citizens of Iraq are to regain
control over their own lives. None of this can be done without restoring
control over the economy to the government.

The American government (which is the only one that really counts) will only
agree to this under very heavy pressure and I don't think we  those who are
moved simply by a sense of moral outrage on the matter  will ever be
capable of exercising that pressure. There is one body that might be able to
do it and that is the Arab world, more particularly the pro-western Arab
world, more particularly Saudi Arabia. It would be nice to think that the
Kuwaiti government could do something and I wouldn't rule it out. It is
unthinkable that there are not many Kuwaiti citizens who are deeply upset by
their neighbours' suffering. The Saudis, we know, are very embarrassed by
the whole affair. Oman and Dubai have long been opposed to sanctions and I
understand that this is also the official position of the whole of the
United Arab Emirates (it would be amusing if
our government were to say that the opinion of the UAE doesn't count for
very much. At the time of the Gulf War, when they
supported the Western alliance, their opinion was regarded as very important
indeed and each one of them was counted as a separate state in order to
support the view that 'a majority' of Arab states were in favour of the
war!). I assume (but again would like confirmation) that Syria, Iran and the
Yemen are opposed to sanctions, and surely Jordan must be as well, despite
their retreat from their earlier pro-Iraqi position.

Since the whole policy is justified in the name of defending 'Saddam's
neighbours', nothing surely could be better than if those neighbours should
make a clear, unequivocal, united demand for the re-inclusion of Iraq, even
with its present government (there being none other on offer), in the family
of nations.

In the meantime, on the little scale on which we can operate, what can be
achieved is very modest but still important:

1) to improve the operation of the oil for food scheme while continuing to
oppose it in principle  ie publicising and ending the petty restrictions of
the Sanctions Committee
(while recognising that such improvements will deprive us of valuable
debating points) and

2) to provide a more objective explanation of the politics of the situation,
including the positions of the Iraqi government and

3) to demonstrate again, again and again, from the whole history of this
sorry affair, the essential, endemic immorality of the governments of the
western world.
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