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Dear CASI: You may have noticed that UK officials are now as standard practice saying that the UK only puts about 1% of OFF contracts on hold, implying that this is only a trivial number with a trivial humanitarian impact, so there is just a big fuss about nothing surrounding holds. Here is a letter I have just sent to the FCO. I'll let you know the response. Eric Jaimie Cooper Middle East Department Foreign & Commonwealth Office London SW1A 2AH 20 April 2000 Dear Mr. Cooper Sanctions on Iraq I have received a copy of your letter of 27 March 2000 to Ms. A. Sinclair (<snip>) regarding John Pilger’s recent documentary on Iraq, which appears to be a standard letter to those writing to the UK Government with regard to that documentary. I would like to take to take up one particular point in your letter. You state that ‘The UK puts only a tiny percentage of “oil for food” contracts on hold (about 1% overall).’ ***OFF Sanctions Committee holds and blocks imposed by the UK*** Did you arrive at this by comparing the total number of OFF contracts throughout the life of the programme with the total number of OFF contracts currently on hold due to holds imposed by the UK at the UN Sanctions Commitee? Between the start of OFF on 10 December 1996 and 31 March 2000, the UN received 12,225 OFF contracts. Of those 1,180 were on hold at that time. UN documents don’t indicate which country has imposed holds, but, as Jon Davies agrees, the US imposes about 10 holds for each one by the UK, and other countries rarely impose holds. It does indeed follow that, with roughly 10% of OFF contracts currently on hold, the UK is responsible for only about 1%. Or did you arrive at 1% by comparing the total number of OFF contracts throughout the life of the programme with the total number of OFF contracts on which the UK imposed holds at any point (that is, which are still in place and which have been lifted?) An illustrative snapshot (selected by me randomly from UN documentation) from 12 October 1999 indicated that 23.7% of contracts for that particular OFF phase (Phase V) were on hold at that time. Assuming the usual 10:1 ratio of US:UK holds, at that point the UK holds must have been at least 2% (a figure I agree could reasonably be accommodated within ‘about 1%’). ***Non-OFF Sanctions Commitee holds and blocks imposed by the UK*** What is the figure for UK holds and blocks on the UN Sanctions Comittee for non-OFF contracts? According to Peter Hain in a House of Commons written answer on 30 March 2000, over 6,000 of such contracts were received in that category between 1 August 1998 and 20 November 1999, with 2,654 approved, 427 put on hold and 2,823 blocked. Does the 427 on hold refer to the number currently on hold? If so, how many of the contracts which were approved were on hold at some point? At minimum, over 50% were put on hold or blocked. Using the usual ratio, this would suggest that at least 5% were imposed by the UK. ***National level holds and blocks imposed by the UK*** As you know, all exports to Iraq from the UK must receive permission at UK level before they may even be considered by the Sanctions Committee. How many such requests have been made and how many have been put on hold at any point or blocked? I presume that such holds and blocks do occur. They would be in addition to the ‘about 1%’ figure you use. ***Calculating the impact of holds and blocks imposed by the UK and supported/not opposed by the UK*** Am I right in thinking that you want people to infer from the 1% figure that holds imposed by the UK are of only marginal significance for the humanitarian programmes funded by OFF? If so, I would be interested to have your response to the following points: First, looked at by sector in the same snapshot mentioned earlier, holds were very high in the following sectors: telecommunications (100%), electricity (65.5%), water and sanitation (53.4%) and oil spare parts and equipment (43%). Hence, following the usual US:UK ratio, my estimate is that UK holds counted at that point for about 10% to 4% of the total, depending on sector. Is this accurate? What is the percentage of UK holds by OFF sector? Second, the imposition of a hold on one contract, even if it is lifted later, will often undermine the value of other related contracts, so that 1% holds may undermine the value of a much higher percentage of the contracts. You give no indication of this. In May 1999 Kofi Annan pleaded for ‘expeditious approval by the Security Council Committee of applications in water and sanitation and other key sectors such as health, which have a direct bearing on the unacceptably high malnutrition levels.’ Similarly Executive Director of the UN Office of the Iraq Programme Benon Sevan complained to the Security Council in July 1999 that 'The improvement of the nutritional and health status of the Iraqi people through [a] multi-sectoral approach ... is being seriously affected as a result of [the] excessive number of holds placed on supplies and equipment for water, sanitation and electricity.' Giving specific examples, Sevan argued out that the absence of even one small item can be enough to stall an entire project. Third, the FCO figure of 1% also serves to distract attention away the overall figures for holds and blocks whoever imposes them. Your letter should indicate the UK Governments position on the rest of the holds and blocks imposed (almost always by the United States). Certainly, the UK Government does not publicly oppose those holds and blocks. Overall, an accurate summary of the situation with regard to holds and blocks would seem to be as follows: The UK imposes holds on about 1% of OFF contracts overall and about 4-10% across a range of key OFF sectors (telecommunications, water and sanitation, electricity, and oil spare parts and equipment). It also imposes holds or blocks on at least 5% of non-OFF UN-level contracts. It imposes further holds and blocks at UK national level. The overall level of holds and blocks is about 10% for OFF contracts and over 50% for non-OFF UN-level contracts. The vast majority are imposed by the United States without the opposition of the UK. A hold or a block often undermines the value of a much larger percentage of related contracts and may wreck entire projects. Would you agree with this summary or something similar? If so, why is it not hinted at in your standard letter? I look forward to hearing from you. Yours sincerely, Dr. Eric Herring Lecturer in International Politics cc: Jon Davies, A. Sinclair. -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq For removal from list, email email@example.com Full details of CASI's various lists can be found on the CASI website: http://welcome.to/casi