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von Sponeck and Clawson on PBS Newshour (3 May 2000)

Below is the official transcript for the 3 May 2000 PBS "Newshour with Jim Lehrer" "debate" between 
Hans von Sponeck and Patrick Clawson.  Clawson is the Research Director for the Washington 
Institute for Near East Policy, a Washington, D.C., "think-tank" that has had some very powerful 
policy-makers (e.g., former National Security Advisor Anthony Lake, then-UN Ambassador Madeleine 
Albright, former Undersecretary of Commerce Stuart Eizenstat, and former Defense Secretary Les 
Aspin) contribute to various Institute articles and reports.  

The Institute has a stellar mainstream reputation and its staff and fellows reguarly get drafted 
for Congressional testimony and media duty.  However, please keep in mind that the Institute has 
always had strong links with, and might fairly be described as a front operation for, the American 
Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).  AIPAC launched a still-standing action campaign to 
maintain sanctions on Iraq and is the primary force behind the Rep. Crowley-Sweeny Letter that 
calls for sanctions to be kept in place.  

Patrick Clawson has made sanctions maintainence a pet issue of his.  Despite his consistently 
inconsistent arguments and factual errors and lapses, Clawson has become one of the standard 
pro-sanctions commentators of choice for both print and television.  Moreover, between 1995 and 
1999 he testified before Congress on the issue of Iraq over 7 times.  For a typical Clawson stump 
speech see the transcript below, or, read his 27 February 2000 Washington Post article which you 
can access, expectedly, by going to the AIPAC Web-site's "AIPAC Action Alert: Maintain Sanctions on 

With regards,
   Nathaniel Hurd
   Boston, USA

U.S. and U.N. sanctions against Iraq

Two Iraqi experts debate the value and effectiveness of sanctions
against Iraq.

GWEN IFILL: We are joined by one of those officials who appeared on Capitol Hill today. Hans von 
Sponeck, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Iraq from October, 1998, until this past March, when 
he resigned in protest and also by Patrick Clawson, director of research at the Washington 
institute for Near East Policy. Mr. Von Sponeck, are you the second humanitarian chief to quit in   
                       the last two careers. Why did you leave? 
HANS VON SPONECK, Former UN Humanitarian Coordinator, Iraq: Well, I would say because of an 
increased awareness that nine years of sanctions hadn't met their objectives. An oil-for-food 
program that was inadequate at best. And in December of last year, the                          
creation of a new resolution, a new road map for Iraq that I don't believe will lead to any easing 
of the ongoing human tragedy in this country. 

GWEN IFILL: When you say that the sanctions, the goals of the sanctions were not met, what do you 
mean by that?  And who's to blame? 

HANS VON SPONECK: The sanctions were introduced to bring about changes in Iraq, and nine years of 
sanctions have seen a regime, a government remain in the saddle but off the saddle when 23 went 23 
million Iraqis. So one can argue and say that the methods that were put in place didn't reach their 

GWEN IFILL: Mr. Clawson, how about that? Are the sanctions that were put in place doing what they 
were intended to do? 

PATRICK CLAWSON, Washington Institute for Near East Policy: Yes.                                    
            The sanctions were designed to keep Saddam militarily weak, to contain Saddam because 
there wasn't a consensus in the international community about the need to replace Saddam, which is 
what the United States Government would prefer to see happen. There's only an agreement to keep him 
contained, and that's a long, slow process. And the sanctions were designed to keep him weak while 
alleviating the humanitarian problems faced by the Iraqi people. 

GWEN IFILL: What evidence do you have that Saddam is actually really weak? You heard Jamie Rubin 
talking about the building of great palaces, you heard of other ways that Saddam at the very least 
is still in power. 

PATRICK CLAWSON: It's been a long time since Saddam has militarily threatened his neighbors, and 
indeed, Saddam's hold on his own country is weaker than it's been for a long time. This guy faces 
regularly bombings in Baghdad by the opposition, a                          lot of activity that he 
wants to keep out of our press. 

Effective sanctions vs. humanitarian needs

GWEN IFILL: Let's assume for a moment that the sanctions are working, as Mr. Clawson says they are. 
 Let's look at the flip side of it: From your touring of the countryside of Iraq, what are the 
effects that you've seen of the sanctions? 

HANS VON SPONECK: Well, I would say, as an overall conclusion, one can see that here is a society 
that is really in shreds, that has no more optimism to move on and fend for itself. You have, 
wherever you go, you have conversations that show that people have given up. And the physical side 
of the needs are not met, let alone the non-material sides of life, particularly in the area of 

GWEN IFILL: Was the original goal of these sanctions in part to weaken Saddam to the point that, 
not only militarily, but that so he would no longer be in power? And if so, is that goal any closer 
to being accomplished? 

PATRICK CLAWSON: The US would have been delighted if there had been a program, an international 
program to replace Saddam's regime, but that in fact was not the international consensus, the       
                   sanctions were designed only to contain Saddam and the US then had its own 
program to try to encourage a regime change. And I would entirely agree with Mr. Von Sponeck that 
the Iraqi people have lost a lot of hope, and that's not surprising, given what a brutal dictator 
Saddam is. 

GWEN IFILL: And that was worth it? 

PATRICK CLAWSON: Let's face it, in the ten-year period before the sanctions were imposed, the Iraqi 
people had lost hope because Saddam had taken their country with a terrible war in Iran, hundreds 
of thousands of Iraqis had been killed. And under Saddam, for 20 years that he's been in power, 
Iraqi income has been dropping and their material situation has been getting worse and worse. 

GWEN IFILL: So are you suggesting that the kinds of things that Mr. Von Sponeck has seen in the 
countryside of Iraq, the unintended effects perhaps of the sanctions, are just the casualty of 

PATRICK CLAWSON: Oh, I would say that, if the sanctions weren't in place, the situation would be 
worse in Iraq because Saddam would spend money on arms and on arms industry. His priority is 
spending on the military, not on humanitarian goods. And if there weren't UN controls which force 
Saddam to spend money on humanitarian goods, I think he would be using that money for nefarious 
purposes instead.

GWEN IFILL: Mr. Von Sponeck? 

HANS VON SPONECK: Analogy to a shooting team. If you are a member of a shooting team and you shoot 
at targets and you miss the target time and again, then I guess you will be replaced in that team. 
And I think the target has been consistently missed with sanctions. 

GWEN IFILL: The target being... 

HANS VON SPONECK: The target being to try and bring about changes in the regime, bring about a new 
political reality in Iraq that                          hasn't happened. Can we really continue, 
then, to argue for the                          maintenance of a policy that hasn't brought about 
change?                  Shouldn't we try and give another approach a chance by removing economic, 
if not military sanctions and introduce a system that would allow us to monitor what comes into the 
country and what                          happens in the country -- that is possible. 

GWEN IFILL: The oil-for-food plan that you administered was supposed to be part... It was supposed 
to be targeted at relieving some of the hardships of sanctions and giving Iraq some of the 
resources it needed to provide food and medicine for its population. But you quit, saying that 
wasn't working, it wasn't enough. 

HANS VON SPONECK: No, no. I think it would be unfair to give the impression that the oil-for-food 
program was useless. It has given a lot of important items to Iraq.  But it's not adequate. The 
cloth that you can buy to cover the body Iraq with the money that you have is much, much too 
little. I don't know whether the audience is aware that every year at the moment, there is on 
average, only $252 per person available to meet the physical needs alone, let alone the other needs 
in education and in socialization of the youth, the young people. There's nothing. There's very 

Saddam's regime and the global community

GWEN IFILL: Not only that, but the sanctions seem to also be kind of porous. There's arms smuggling 
that happens along the border, there are illegal oil sales going on. So how do you quantify, 
especially since the inspectors are no longer there? How do you quantify that the goal of reducing 
weapons of mass destruction or military presence, how do you quantify that that's been met?

PATRICK CLAWSON: You made some very good points about the smuggling, which is that hundreds of 
millions of dollars that are earned by Saddam and he spends not a penny of it on humanitarian 
needs. The only money which is used to meet the Iraqis' humanitarian needs comes from this 
food-for-oil program from the United Nations, which by they way now is going to be much, much 
larger than the smaller figure that been used in the past. The UN lifted all restrictions on the 
size of the program last December. And the best way that we can tell how much Saddam has been able 
to divert into his weapons of mass destruction programs is, unfortunately, pretty imprecise at the 
moment because we don't have those inspectors on the ground. But from what we can tell,
what Saddam has done is to rebuild his capacity to make weapons of mass destruction but not yet 
make them because he fears retaliation from American military forces if he were in fact ever to use 
those weapons of mass destruction. And that shows how military deterrence is going to have to be 
part of this mix, as well.

GWEN IFILL: Is the problem Saddam, or is the problem the United Nations?

HANS VON SPONECK: I think the problem is much more complex than categorizing it either into a 
problem of the regime or the problem of the United Nations. I think both sides have to recognize 
each other again. The term this morning on Capitol Hill that was used was to "dedemonize Saddam 
Hussein and bring Iraq back into the comity of nations, sit with Iraq and around the table and try 
to argue things out." We are at the moment in a terrible deadlock and that political deadlock is 
squarely at the                          expense of the civilian population that has nothing to do 
with that conflict. 

GWEN IFILL: How do you break that deadlock? 

HANS VON SPONECK: By simply moving away from a policy where you put your head into the sand when 
the Iraqis appear. The Iraqis must be taken into account, we must sit around the table with them, 
we must talk to them and maybe then we get into a position where we can take a better measurement 
of their intentions than we can at the moment. 

GWEN IFILL: You're saying lift the sanctions entirely in order to have conversation, rather than 
having conversations aimed at lifting the sanctions?  

HANS VON SPONECK: No. Lift the sanctions, introduce the monitoring system, and do it consistently.  
Don't allow... It is correct, there's a lot of illegal income because of the export of diesel oil 
illegally across the border. But to quote the ambassador of France to the Security Council said 
recently and all that with the full connivance of the Security Council. It's known what is 
happening in the North. It's condoned. It's not condoned in the South because there is a different 
political situation and reality. In the North, it's done because it's in exchange for allowing US 
aircraft to fly into northern Iraq and to satisfy the demands by Turkey that argue as a result of 
sanctions, they have lost until now $30 billion worth of trade. So it's a very pragmatic and in a 
way also dishonest approach in                          dealing with the situation in Iraq. 

GWEN IFILL: Would that work? 

PATRICK CLAWSON: No, in a word. Dealing with Saddam Hussein has not worked for the Iranians, whom 
he invaded, it did not work for the Kuwaitis who tried to buy him off. It would not work for us. 
Saddam has a track record. He has track record of dropping chemical weapons on his own people. This 
is a man who's been guilty of genocide. To expect him to look out for the best interests of Iraqis 
is like expecting Pol Pot to look out for the best interests of Cambodians. I agree with Ambassador 
Von Sponeck. We have to talk to the Iraqis, we have to talk to the Iraqi opposition and we have to 
talk to them about how to get rid of Saddam. And the more we can do to step up our pressure on this 
guy and if we could get an international consensus for more vigorous actions, that's going to help 
the Iraqis a whole lot more.

GWEN IFILL: Mr. Clawson, Mr. Von Sponeck, thank you both very much.
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