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Pro-Sanctions Editorial in the News Zealand Herald


I came across the following pro-sanctions editorial in Thursday's issue of
the News Zealand Herald only a day after the same newspaper reported New
Zealand's intention to ease the sanctions (I append that article too).

The editorial board of the NZ Herald, unlike the NZ Foreign Affairs
Minister, just can't make a distinction between the people and the regime.


Editorial: Premature to ease sanctions on Iraq

20.04.2000 -

Sanctions imposed on an errant nation should be eased or lifted only when
that country has demonstrated its behaviour again equates to international
norms. Premature easing, through a lack of resolve or exhaustion of
patience, will in all likelihood backfire. The Government, nonetheless, is
intent on supporting the lifting of blanket sanctions against Iraq.
Unhappily, all this new policy will, in fact, achieve is to offer succour to
a regime which the United Nations Commission on Human Rights this week
accused of "all-pervasive repression and widespread terror."

The Minister of Foreign Affairs cites humanitarian considerations as the
main reason for breaking ranks with the United States and Britain. Blanket
trade sanctions, Mr Goff says, are harming ordinary Iraqis, not the ruling
elite. A decade of sanctions has indeed inflicted terrible hardship on the
people of Iraq. Perhaps as many as 500 children a month die from
malnourishment and disease.

Again, however, the UN human rights report provides perspective. "The cause
of suffering is the reprehensible behaviour of the Iraqi regime, which
systematically denies badly needed food and medical supplies to its people,"
its says. "Instead, Saddam Hussein spends wealth on palaces and military

Consequently, a UN food-for-oil programme has failed dismally to relieve the
suffering of its intended recipients. Only the naive now believe that the
health of the Iraqi people is a concern uppermost in the mind of their

The Government reasons that if the blunt instrument of economic sanctions
has not wrought change in Iraq, "smarter" sanctions will. Thus, there would
be stricter monitoring of arms embargoes, the banning of the foreign travel
of the ruling elite and the freezing of their assets and bank accounts. In
theory, the vulnerable would be protected, while the elite would suffer. In
practice, even if the damage to the vulnerable were minimised, the overall
impact would be ineffectual.

Money, from whatever source, will always find a residence of convenience, as
aggressors will always find a source of arms. Private suppliers continue to
flourish and shifting international relations always provide another avenue,
overtly or covertly, for weapons replenishment. A UN working group studying
ways to improve the effectiveness of sanctions will surely conclude nothing

That group is, of course, partly a response to critics who point out that
the sanctions against Iraq have not worked. Saddam Hussein remains in power,
his popularity undiminished. The sanctions have even diverted his people's
attention from their wretched state. But those same sanctions have also
neutered the threat Iraq presented to Middle East stability.

The thorn that followed up a ruinous war with Iran by invading Kuwait has
been blunted. Iraq has not complied fully with requests to eliminate weapons
of mass destruction, but so severely has it been debilitated by economic
sanctions that Saddam Hussein no longer strikes fear into his neighbours.

The Iraqi President's survival instincts remain, nonetheless, as finely
honed as his ruthlessness. He would again be quick to seize on any weakening
of international resolve. New and feeble sanctions would strengthen his
hand, and inevitably undermine regional stability. And, as always under his
regime, the Iraqi people would be among the victims.


Time to end misery of Iraq blockade says NZ (New Zealand Herald 19 April '

New Zealand no longer supports economic sanctions against Iraq.

The country's staff in New York told the UN Security Council of the new
policy yesterday and Foreign Affairs Minister Phil Goff outlined it later at
a Beehive meeting.

He said blanket trade sanctions were "a blunt instrument" harming ordinary
Iraqis, not the ruling elite.

"They could cause devastating suffering and long-term degradation to
civilian populations, far in excess of the damages inflicted by armed
conflict and war."

Mr Goff wanted better-targeted "smarter sanctions," which could include the
freezing of assets and bank accounts, bans on foreign travel and
better-monitored arms embargoes.

The sanctions were imposed in 1990 following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. In
1996, a food-for-oil programme was set up under which Iraq was able to
exchange $3 billion worth of oil every six months to earn money for
humanitarian imports.

In 1999, it was estimated that of the $50 billion from that oil revenue,
only 25 per cent had reached Iraqi civilians in food and medicines.

News of New Zealand's change of stance was welcomed yesterday by a former UN
deputy secretary-general, anti-sanctions lobbyist Denis Halliday.

Mr Halliday, an Irish citizen based in New York, is one of three top UN
officials working on humanitarian aid to Iraq to have resigned over the
effect of the sanctions.

He believed they were responsible for hardship and the deaths of more than a
million people, many of them children.

Mr Goff's confirmation was "a small but significant breakthrough," Mr
Halliday said.

"New Zealand speaks much more loudly than its size would normally allow -
New Zealand has influence."

The US and Britain still back the sanctions and Mr Goff said New Zealand
would remain bound by the sanctions as long as they were UN policy.

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