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Dear all, On the 6 of May, Hans Blix, Executive Chairman of UNMOVIC, gave a 25 minute interview on Swedish radio, focussing on UNMOVIC, inspections and sanctions. Those of you who understand Swedish might be interested in accessing the original Real Audio clip, links to which can be found on http://www.cam.ac.uk/societies/casi/info/. As Blix will be the person reporting to the Security Council on whether Iraq has 'cooperated in all respects with UNMOVIC' (see paragraph 33 of SCR 1284) and therefore qualifies for a suspension of sanctions, his attitude and understanding of the situation seems like an important aspect of the future of sanctions. Sadly, my conclusion is that Blix vigorously supports sanctions. He seems to see them merely as a useful tool helping him to carry out his assigned task, and denying any moral dimension. He dismisses humanitarian concerns by arguments seemingly directly borrowed from the US State Department. What is more, throughout the interview he backs his claims by referring to 'American assertions', 'American opinion', and 'the detailed statements made by the American and other governments'; actual UN reports are attributed a strangely secondary role throughout. While making clear that the suspension of sanctions is completely dependent on him reporting favourably on Iraqi co-operation, he completely denies any moral connection between his activities and the effects of sanctions. In sum, Blix's position amounts to the most hawkish defence of sanctions I have encountered in Swedish. Indeed, it's hard to remember any UN official being so one-sided. I am not able to assess whether the many inaccuracies in Blix's interview (see below for details) are the result of deliberate distortions or just stem from a remarkable level of ignorance of the real conditions in Iraq. Hoping for the latter, his position is in either case saddening, given the pivotal position attributed to his office by the vague provisions of SCR 1284. Let's hope that if inspections ever do recommence, Blix will be guided by professional integrity in his reporting; we certainly cannot hope for his sympathy with the Iraqi people. Yours, Per Klevnäs. --- Below follows a thematic description and some analysis of what I perceive to be the most important parts of the interview. THE STRUCTURE AND ROLE OF UNMOVIC. On the question on how UNMOVIC will be different from UNSCOM, Blix says the he hopes to conduct inspections in the more 'correct manner' of IAEA (of which he was Director General from 1991 to 1996), i.e. in a less aggressive way than that of UNSCOM. At the same time, he is very eager to deny allegations that he will be 'softer' on Iraq than were previous heads of inspections such as Rolf Ekéus. He states that there will be a great deal of continuity between UNSCOM and UNMOVIC in terms of personnel, due to the limited pool of expertise, but sees as important the shift in allegiance from national governments to the UN. Notably, he denies that UNSCOM in any way should be seen as having been dishonest in intentions, and he dismisses the spying charges as Iraqi and Russian allegations for which there is not evidence. He also says that it is not in his interest to enquire into these allegations. UNMOVIC will be training its officers for inspection this summer, and will theoretically be able to start inspections by the end of August. THE STATE OF IRAQI DISARMAMENT. Blix makes no mention of Scott Ritter's distinction between qualitative and quantitative disarmament, claiming instead that there now is no knowledge of what actually has been going on in Iraq since December 1998. Nevertheless, he states that sanctions and military action have been very effective methods of pressure over the last decade, so that 'the greater part of their [the Iraqi] capacity for mass destruction is destroyed'. Iraqi nuclear weapon capacity, he says, was completely destroyed by the Autumn of 1998, as reported by IAEA. Blix believes that by now the USA agrees with this conclusion, despite statements to the contrary at the time. The mention of this aspect is of some significance, as highlights how any future UMOVIC reports could be summarily rejected as inadequate, should they fail to satisfy the US or the UK. Moreover, Blix unwittingly, it seems, makes the same comment as Scott Ritter that it naturally is impossible to know whether 'every centrifuge, every computer program' has been found and destroyed. He odes not, however, draw the same conclusion as Ritter that it always will be enormously difficult to ascertain complete quantitative disarmament. Iraqi missile capacity he also deems was sufficiently destroyed in 1998 so as to satisfy inspection criteria, but he does not touch upon how this lack of carrying capacity for WMDs should contribute to the assessment of Iraq as a security threat. --- Below are some examples of statements which I believe highlights Blix's attitude to sanctions. THE SCOPE OF SANCTIONS. On the scope of sanctions, Blix makes a number of very striking comments: * He states that 'Iraq can sell as much oil as it wants to, which amounts to at least $10 billion per year'; failing to mention the crippling role of holds on contracts. This export he claims enables Iraq to buy 'vast' amounts of food, ignoring that the grand total of foodstuffs supplied under oil-for-food for the last three years amounts to only $6,95 billion, nothing near the $10 billion per year that he alludes to. * He denies that there are no limitations on purchase of medicines. This is not truthful, as there have been several instances of invoking dual use arguments for stopping vaccines and much medical equipment. * He says that 'all goods that can be bought in the West can also be bought in Baghdad', which just is plainly wrong. To the extent that, for example, anything containing a Pentium chip is available in Baghdad, it has got there by smuggling. * Most worryingly, he concludes that 'Iraq can buy vast amounts of food; what Iraq cannot import are parts of weapons of mass destructions, of platforms for weapons of mass destruction'. The extraordinary extent of this distortion, making it seem that the sanctions make up an exclusively military embargo - is almost unparalleled. EFFECTS OF SANCTIONS. Blix denies practically all links between the sanctions policy and human suffering in Iraq. The examples of distortions of evidence are numerous, but here are but a few examples: * Blix says that 'the Iraqi population is certainly much better [sic] hurt by sanctions [than is the regime], but it was already hurt by the war against Iran, which span over many years, and which hurt the economy and took very many human lives'. Coming from a UN official, this is an extraordinary contradictions of figures and conclusions produced by UN agencies themselves. Indeed, the only previous instance I can recall of this argument is in Pilger's documentary, where something similarly absurd is proposed by James Rubin. * When asked about Denis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck, Blix states that they resigned 'because they did not feel that the sanctions were meaningful', implying that their was linked to the failure of sanctions to bring about disarmament. Anyone who has heard Halliday's statements about 'genocidal sanctions' will know that this hardly is a fair description of their damning criticism of the sanctions. Blix follows up his comment by saying that 'the American opinion is that sanctions still are a means of bringing pressure to bear on the regime', with the implication that this is enough justification to counter both Halliday and von Sponeck's claims. * When asked directly about the humanitarian situation, he says that, 'according to American assertions', 'the picture is disjointed', and invokes the familiar arguments of comparing infant mortality rates in Northern and South/Central Iraq. He fails to mention any of the factors that Carol Bellamy and UNICEF claim explain this difference. --- Per Klevnäs Girton College Cambridge, CB3 0JG UK +44 79 01 80 77 82 -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq For removal from list, email firstname.lastname@example.org Full details of CASI's various lists can be found on the CASI website: http://welcome.to/casi