The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
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This is from the House of Lords yesterday 7.34 p.m. Lord Islwyn asked Her Majesty's Government: Whether they will give further consideration to the removal of sanctions against Iraq. The noble Lord said: My Lords, sanctions imposed on Iraq under UN Security Council Resolution 661 of 1990 constitute the most wide-ranging regime of economic sanctions ever adopted by the UN. The embargo affects the import and export of all commodities and products, including oil, weapons and other military equipment, but does not extend to supplies for medical purposes and, in humanitarian circumstances, foodstuffs. However, those are subject to scrutiny by the Security Council Resolution 661 Committee. Draconian measures of this kind soon led to serious humanitarian problems. In 1996, the oil-for-food scheme was introduced. Later, in 1998, the amount of oil which Iraq could sell every six months was increased from 2 billion dollars' worth to 5.2 billion dollars' worth. This measure highlighted a further major difficulty. The oil industry of Iraq was in a very rundown condition and consequently the required oil capacity could not be realised. As a result, the Security Council authorised the import of oil industry spare parts. Nevertheless, there is now grave concern about the safety and working of Iraq's oil installations. The principal concern I wish to raise is that of the humanitarian situation. Most neutral observers confirm that economic sanctions are undermining the whole fabric of Iraqi society. In October 1998, Mr Denis Halliday, the United Nations Assistant Secretary-General and Chief UN Relief Co-ordinator for Iraq, resigned. He stated: "The sanctions were failing in the purposes they were set up for back in 1990-91. They weren't leading to disarmament and, second, the cost of sanctions was completely unacceptable--killing 6-7,000 children a month". What an astonishing figure that is. For me, it brought back memories of the horror of Aberfan over 30 years ago. Mr Halliday went on to say that the policy was: "Sustaining a level of malnutrition of about 30 per cent for children under five leads to physical and mental problems. It's incompatible with the UN Charter, with the Convention on Human Rights, with the Convention on the Rights of the Child and probably many other international agreements. I just found that impossible to accept as the head of the UN in Iraq". There was more to come. In a speech at Harvard University on 5th November 1998, Mr Halliday said that, "sanctions were causing significant disruption to Iraqi society and family life. The devaluation of the Iraqi dinar had wiped out savings and fuelled corruption and begging". What is more, the sanctions regime is not affecting the Iraqi leadership, which remains isolated from the humanitarian plight of the general population. Sanctions have not brought about any positive change of a political nature in Iraq. However, they are isolating Iraq from the rest of the world, leading to political fanaticism and a deep-seated resentment of the west. 23 May 2000 : Column 712 Mr Halliday stated his belief that to continue economic sanctions would be to, "disregard the ... very moral leadership and the credibility of the UN itself". That is pretty strong language to come from a senior and impartial international civil servant. I turn now to Hans von Sponeck, who until recently was the UN's humanitarian co-ordinator in Baghdad when he, too, resigned. According to the BBC World News on 8th February, he called for an end to UN sanctions on Iraq, saying that they have created a "true human tragedy". He said that the United Nations oil-for-food programme was not meeting the minimum requirements of the Iraqi people. "As a UN official", he said, "I should not be expected to be silent to that which I recognise as a true human tragedy that needs to be ended". Sarah Graham-Brown has reviewed the situation for Christian Aid. In an address to British parliamentarians on 29th February, she said: "A critical factor in the impact of sanctions has been the impoverishment of large sections of the population. This has been combined with the erosion, and in some cases virtual collapse, of services on which most people depend, including water and sanitation services, healthcare and education. The living standards of the middle class have been seriously undermined, while those who were already poor live on the edge of survival". In January 1999, the Security Council's approved panel was asked to assess the current humanitarian situation in Iraq. The panel reported on 30th March in the same year. It concluded that, "the gravity of the humanitarian situation of the Iraqi people is indisputable and cannot be overstated". According to the report, infant mortality rates in Iraq are now among the highest in the world. Only 41 per cent of the population have regular access to clean water. Amnesty International, commenting on the report, said that, "the Security Council must take appropriate action ... with a view to ensuring that human rights considerations are fully taken into account". The report also noted that the population's dependence on humanitarian supplies has, "increased government control over individual lives". Saddam Hussein and his regime remain firmly in power. The anomaly of the situation is that conditions are slightly more favourable in the three northern governates which are under Turkish control. But it must be taken into account that the north receives more per capita--13 per cent of the population gets 19 per cent of the aid; that the programme started earlier there; that smuggling has benefited the economy in the north much more; that the programme in the north allows for a cash component and also for training; and that the agricultural economy there is much stronger. 23 May 2000 : Column 713 In conclusion, I have recently read the pamphlet by the writer and commentator, Geoff Simons, entitled The Scourging of Iraq, which states, at page 131: "Women suffer, as do men, at the pain of their children. And women suffer also in unique ways. Only the desperately hungry pregnant woman can experience the anguish of knowing that her foetus is already malnourished, that her baby will stand a greater chance of being born disabled or dead, and that if it survives it is destined to suck in vain on shrivelled breasts". That is the position of Iraqi women today. Surely it is time to end the sanctions. Then, in line with the UN's own reports, the international community should provide additional funding for humanitarian efforts in Iraq. The Government of Iraq should urgently expedite implementation of targeted nutritional programmes. All priority should be given to contracts for supplies that will have a direct impact on the well-being of children. This is not an issue about saving face; it is about saving lives. 7.44 p.m. The Lord Bishop of Hereford: My Lords, I apologise to the House for not being in my place when the noble Lord, Lord Islwyn, began his speech. I want to express our thanks to him for introducing this timely debate. The Iraqi regime is an evil one, guilty of the grossest violations of human rights, of international aggression and of the use of weapons of mass destruction which are internationally unacceptable in any circumstances. It is cynical and ruthless in using the suffering of its own people as a political bargaining counter--a despicable and utterly immoral tactic. Let us be clear about that. However, there is widespread and deep concern about the sufferings of the Iraqi people, which have been presented to us graphically by the noble Lord, Lord Islwyn. The concerns have been reinforced by the visit to Iraq earlier this month of a group of Anglican bishops and others to assess the humanitarian needs and to make contact with Christians, who make up about 5 per cent of the population of Iraq and as many as 25 per cent of teachers and doctors. The Middle East Council of Churches has been active since 1991 in many kinds of relief work, so the Churches really do know what the needs are, even making every allowance for the fact that restrictions are placed on visitors. There is real dilemma between the arguments in favour of maintaining sanctions against this odious regime and the strong conviction of many good people that, according to any doctrine of proportionality (which has undergirded the traditional concept of the just war and ought to continue to undergird any doctrine of a just sanctions regime) the sufferings of the civilian population are disproportionate to any good purpose that the sanctions have achieved or may achieve. There has been a systematic degradation of Iraq's infrastructure and the vast majority of the population have been reduced to poverty. Meanwhile, the regime is, if anything, more firmly entrenched than at the end of the Gulf War. 23 May 2000 : Column 714 There are those who argue for a complete separation of the sanctions policy, which has had such a devastating impact on health and welfare, from military and political considerations--in other words, the sanctions should be lifted because they have not worked and they have become ethically untenable. The overwhelming argument against such a policy is that it would in effect be saying: "If you persist in wickedness long enough, we shall give up and call it a day and let you get on with it". I do not believe that this is an acceptable policy. I agree with the Government that the weapons inspection process under the newly constituted organisation UNMOVIC must be pursued as part of the process set in motion by UN Security Resolution 1284 of December last year. If the Iraqi Government were to comply with Resolution 1284, there could be a transition to the proper rehabilitation of the civilian infrastructure and the social and economic development of the country. The terms of the resolution are generous and reasonable and, set alongside the now unconditional oil-for-food programme under which Iraq can sell as much oil as it likes or can to meet humanitarian needs--potentially 12 billion dollars' worth this year--the way really is open for a solution to the suffering and distress among the Iraqi people, which every decent person must deplore. It is up to the Iraqi Government. However, there are some serious questions about the way in which Resolution 1284 is working. The Church delegation was alarmed by the delays and the bureaucratic procedures that it discovered. Even allowing for the fact that it is the fault of the Iraqi Government that a quarter of the food and medical goods delivered since the start of the humanitarian programme have still not been distributed, and even allowing for the fact that there has been proper and rigorous scrutiny of dual-use goods such as chlorine, I wonder whether the figure of only 1 per cent of contracts put on hold quoted by the Minister in another place during a debate on 24th March, or 2 per cent quoted by the noble Baroness the Minister to me this afternoon in this House, is accurate. The Board for Social Responsibility of the Church of England has information to the effect that on 14th April of this year there were 1,180 contracts on hold, together worth 1.7 billion dollars, covering such matters as water, sanitation, electricity, education and agriculture. If that is so it is a scandal. I hope that the Government will address the matter of bureaucratic delays with great urgency. The question of proportionality, and the ethical and moral considerations which lie behind it, must be taken with the utmost seriousness. Humanitarian considerations must be central, not peripheral, to the workings of the sanctions regime. Possibilities exist to impose further financial sanctions against the Iraqi elite, who so far have escaped the effect of sanctions. Care needs to be taken to correct the imbalance between the impact of sanctions on the centre and south of Iraq compared with the north of the country. I hope that the Minister will be able to give assurances on these matters. 23 May 2000 : Column 715 7.50 p.m. Lord Rea: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Islwyn for tabling this Question. As noble Lords may be aware, I have asked similar Questions intermittently for the past six or seven years. My noble friend and the right reverend Prelate have spelt out the humanitarian situation. We can accept as a fact that the infant mortality rate in Iraq has greatly increased. A number of reputable international bodies, including UNICEF, confirm that the rate has approximately doubled since 1990. Malnutrition lies behind the high child death rate. Malnutrition makes them more susceptible to common illnesses, especially diarrhoea. That in turn is made worse because of damaged or obsolete sewage and water treatment plants and pumping stations, spare parts having been virtually unobtainable under the sanctions policy until very recently. Although since last December there has been no real restriction on Iraqi oil exports, there is still a huge backlog of infrastructural repairs to be completed. There is no doubt that, if accepted, SCR 1284 will result in an improvement in the humanitarian situation, but there remain many items for civilian use which will have to be approved by the UN Sanctions Committee before they can be shipped. Many more have been put on hold than the figure of 1 or 2 per cent which has been attributed to my noble friend. The position of the Government has always been that the humanitarian disaster in Iraq has been due more to Saddam than to sanctions. I agree that Saddam should certainly have used the oil-for-food programme earlier, but the main result of sanctions has been the undermining of the economy, with hyper-inflation, extreme poverty, high unemployment and the general collapse of civil society. As my noble friend pointed out, Saddam and his group have escaped all this. The question is whether the original aim of the sanctions has helped to eliminate Saddam's weapons of mass destruction. I suggest that whatever has been achieved has been due to the work of UNSCOM before it was forced out of Iraq rather than the sanctions themselves. Most of UNSCOM's work had been done by the time it left in December 1998. The regular bombing of installations in the no-fly zones is the only control that we now have over Saddam's weapons. According to the RAF demonstration in Church House on 28th March, those operations are 70 per cent on target. However, Russia's Ambassador to the United States, Sergei Lavrov, claimed in a debate in the Security Council on 24th March that, "the United States and Britain, since December 1998, had invaded Iraqi airspace nearly 20,000 times, hitting food warehouses, oil pipeline stations, and last year killing 144 people and wounding 466 others". French correspondents have come up with similar figures. 23 May 2000 : Column 716 We need to watch and control Saddam's conventional military capacity, not only his weapons of mass destruction. I suggest that sporadic bombing from a great height is an ineffective and inhumane way to achieve that. Although SCR 1284 is likely to lead to some improvement in food and drug supplies, it is cumbersome to operate and does not allow the full funding necessary for the country's rehabilitation. There is a strong possibility that the lifting of sanctions, with the exception of military equipment, and the cessation of bombing may be matched by Saddam with the acceptance of the new UN inspection team UNMOVIC to replace UNSCOM. Perhaps my noble friend can tell us whether that commission will be able to operate in Iraq as matters stand. With possible discussions between Iraq and Israel reported in this week's Observer, it may be that the time is ripe for further thoughts on the scrapping of the sanctions as they stand and their replacement with much more focused sanctions on arms, together with permission for UNMOVIC to operate inside Iraq. I suggest that that would result in better arms control as well as the recovery of Iraqi civil society. 7.55 p.m. The Earl of Sandwich: My Lords, I too thank the noble Lord, Lord Islwyn, for this opportunity to revisit the subject. In our previous debate I outlined some of the problems that faced the Iraqis and the responsibilities of the NGOs involved. I shall not repeat the details. I simply remind the Government that they have a humanitarian commitment which in some cases overrides their other objectives. Since the previous debate we have the benefit of the report of the Select Committee on International Development and the Government's response two weeks ago. That committee reached one major conclusion: "Sanctions have clearly failed to hurt those responsible for past violations of international law. The deterioration of infrastructure, the limited supply of food, the absence of drugs all affect the poor to a disproportionate degree". The committee went on to say: "The responsibility for the plight of the Iraqi people must ultimately lie with the Iraqi leadership. This does not, however, entirely excuse the international community from a part in the suffering". During evidence given to the committee by Mr Peter Hain, the late Bernie Grant, MP, put the following question to the Minister: "Do you not think that you have some responsibility in relation to the effect of these sanctions on the people? ... By pressing these sanctions you are totally ignoring the fact that Saddam Hussein cannot change and at the same time you are not taking any action to get rid of Saddam Hussein. Therefore I would say that you are not totally, but you are partly, culpable for the situation in Iraq". The Government must face up to this question. The mantra of "Saddam Hussein is responsible" is really not good enough considering the evidence before us. I do not deny that sanctions can work in the broadest sense of international isolation, but surely it is now beyond doubt that they hit the people hardest and even give comfort to a regime which is well placed to turn them to its advantage. 23 May 2000 : Column 717 I have just visited the Channel Islands and been reminded of the wartime occupation and the fear and terror which tyranny inspires. We on this island have almost no experience to help us identify with the Iraqi people today. It is only through personal stories that we can appreciate the suffering. But we add to the injustice if we do not at least admit that in our efforts to contain the regime we also indirectly harm the ordinary population and fail to make every effort to reduce the suffering through carefully targeted sanctions aimed at the political elite. I believe that the Government have tacitly admitted this. There has been some improvement under the terms of the latest resolution, but I doubt that the Iraqi people would agree with that. There are acute shortages, delays in the delivery of essential supplies and inequalities in distribution. I have said before that almost always consignments arrive incomplete and equipment is without spares or ancillary parts. The delay in applications may be part of the normal process of sanctions, but in the case of humanitarian aid it is intolerable. I know of one charity, Medical Aid for Iraqi Children, that has had to wait several months for essential medical equipment for paediatric hospitals. For example, heart-monitoring equipment for an intensive care unit ordered last June was approved only in February. That is quite unacceptable. The DTI still routinely takes three to four months to process these applications. If this Government genuinely distinguish between political and humanitarian objectives, then they must improve the flow of humanitarian aid. They must also speed up the reform of UN committees to enable exemptions to work and, where possible, put in place pre-exemptions of individual items and bona fide charities. There also needs to be some mechanism for monitoring and assessment. I have studied the government response to the IDC under paragraphs 39 to 40 on exemptions which sounds reasonable as policy but lacks conviction and provides no timescale for improving exemptions. Under paragraph 16 on monitoring, all the Government can do is agree. One reason given in the case of the Iraqi children's charity was that, whereas equipment came from Siemens in Germany, the fact that some components derived from the US meant that approval had to be obtained not only from the UN but from three US government departments. When are we likely to see real progress in the implementation of SCR 1284? There are still acute shortages in Baghdad. Finally, I have three questions which are of concern to the non-governmental agencies involved such as Save the Children and Care International. Will the Government press for a more transparent procedure in the administration of sanctions? Will the Government join the new UN working group and enable NGOs to make suggestions? What were the findings of the UK mission to New York in March 1999, expressly sent with the aim of strengthening the capacity of the UN sanctions committees? 23 May 2000 : Column 718 8.1 p.m. Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, I am sure that the House is grateful to my noble friend for initiating this debate. It is right that we should consider the humanitarian consequences of the present situation in Iraq as none of us can feel comfortable when confronted by evidence that children are suffering and dying in that country. I listened carefully to what my noble friend Lord Islwyn said. I read the Hansard report of a debate in another place on 24th March, initiated by Tam Dalyell MP. I was recently in the Middle East, in Jordan, as one of the UK delegates at the Inter-Parliamentary Union conference where the subject of UN sanctions against Iraq was hotly debated in the conference chamber and at fringe meetings outside. We were left in no doubt about the strength of feeling in parts of the Middle East against the sanctions policy. But missing from each consideration of the issue has been the answer to one simple question: if not sanctions, what? What is the alternative, short of simply withdrawing sanctions and abandoning the proposed arms inspection arrangements and the military activity that backs them up when necessary? Like the right reverend Prelate, I believe that Security Council Resolution 1284, which was a British initiative, offers the way forward. It offers Iraq suspension of sanctions provided it co-operates. It also allows Iraq to pump as much oil as it likes under the oil- for-food programme--up to 10 billion dollars should be available for the humanitarian programme this year to allow food and medical supplies to get through. Noble Lords may have seen recent television documentaries made by John Pilger or have read articles by him. He seeks to show that sanctions are responsible for the suffering of the Iraqi people. Other noble Lords have made the same point in this debate. This is effective propaganda. It is hard to think of a more harrowing sight than that of children suffering in a hospital cancer ward because they are not receiving the necessary treatment. It is a scandal that doctors cannot get the drugs they need. But why is that? Earlier this year the UN Secretary-General reported that one quarter of all medical goods delivered to Iraq since the oil-for-food programme started have remained undelivered in government warehouses. Basic items such as antibiotics remain in short supply. Iraq claims that the problem is caused by lack of vehicles. But thousands of vehicles have been authorised by the Sanctions Committee since the start of oil for food. The real problem is the lack of commitment on the part of the Iraqi regime. It is not only that. Iraq is exporting humanitarian goods. It has sold food to Syria and tried to sell food to Jordan; and several vessels exporting goods from Iraq have been intercepted in the Gulf. There is also evidence that Iraq is exporting oil outside the oil-for-food programme--oil which could and should have been exported under the oil-for-food rules. By exporting it illegally the regime is depriving the programme of revenue and thus the Iraqi people of 23 May 2000 : Column 719 humanitarian relief. The revenue from these illegal exports goes straight into the pockets of Saddam Hussein and his friends. The Iraqi people see none of it. Is it any wonder that there are sick and malnourished children for Mr Pilger to film? Saddam Hussein, who understands about political propaganda, will make sure that they are there in their thousands, if necessary. To argue that sanctions are not working is to deny the evidence. They have successfully contained a brutal dictator for 10 years and have significantly reduced the threat from his weapons of mass destruction. If sanctions were not making any difference, why does Iraq and its friends put so much effort into trying to have them lifted? Resolution 1284 shows that the Security Council is prepared to look creatively at the Iraq issue. It provides for suspension of sanctions in return for progress by Iraq short of full compliance. It represents an opportunity for Iraq to make quick progress on sanctions. If Iraq has nothing to hide, as it often claims, then it has everything to gain from co-operating. The resolution also calls on Iraq to prioritise its spending under the programme in line with the needs of the Iraqi people, in particular the most vulnerable. It may not be very palatable, but we have no choice but to stick with the United Nations policy. The alternative--to lift sanctions--would reinforce Saddam Hussein's regime and allow him again to build up a military threat against other states in the region. I do not believe that the international community could contemplate such a course of action. 8.6 p.m. Viscount Waverley: My Lords, I have just returned from Baghdad after an independent assessment. Time-constrained remarks reflect my evaluation beyond distressing humanitarian issues and sensitivity to the deep concerns about the Iraqi leadership. There will not be a comprehensive peace or stability in the Middle East without an Iraqi solution. Differing ends of the spectrum include those with a conciliatory pragmatic approach and some in Washington extolling an open-ended massive operation tied to Iraq's acceptance of unconditional international inspections. I believe that anything would be preferable to the continuing creeping strangulation of Iraq. We are on a treadmill to nowhere and the inability to achieve policy objectives or continuing containment after 10 long years is not sustainable. Iraqi containment and the provision of humanitarian aid to the Kurds have cost the United States Defense Department about 8 billion US dollars since the war. What are the estimates of UK expenditure? While wishing to emphasise that Kuwait's concern remains one of deep scepticism, I left Baghdad with the firm perception that we are no more likely now to achieve policy objectives than we ever were; that Saddam will not be pressurised into compliance by dangling the suspension of the sanctions carrot; but, 23 May 2000 : Column 720 most worryingly, that the Western quandary of failure to sustain the moral high ground of ceasefire terms and Security Council resolutions will continue as a result of Iraq's continued exclusion, imposed peace and lack of sensitivity to the Arab mind-set. The participants must urgently devise a pragmatic exit strategy to unlock the impasse beyond Resolution 1284 which, while addressing outstanding legitimate concerns and creating incentives beyond the perceived American containment-plus agenda, also offers--and here is the key--direct third-location dialogue, a device hitherto not used. A good starting point would be a discussion on the "major concerns" referred to in Resolution 1284. Discussions should extend to de-linking military embargo from economic sanctions, with Iraq reverting to a spirit of "immediate, unconditional and restricted" monitoring. A range of confidence-building measures should also be put in place. First, there should be the removal of civilian travel restrictions, allowing medical and academic exchange. Secondly, management of and responsibility for financial resources should be returned to the Government of Iraq, a point to which I shall return. Thirdly, we should allow unfettered access to the UN and OPEC arenas. Fourthly, we should encourage the private sector to re-engage. Fifthly, we should permit an early overhaul of the oil industry. A quid pro quo should include the re-establishment of inspectors at the borders and within Iraq, implementation of a smart monitoring sanction of post-sanction racketeering and urgent rebuilding of the education system. One essential inclusion in a compromise has to be to devise a formula to ensure that future Kurdish autonomy is not jeopardised. Iraq need not shy away from that. During discussions, however, with Tariq Aziz, he emphasised that anything short of direct financial management was an invasion of sovereignty. I would suggest to him that an acceptable formula could be found, however, to allow Iraqis to manage their own money, ensuring responsibility yet being accountable, with control mechanisms in place not far removed from the accountable methods of the World Bank and the IMF. Then and only then, all else failing, should default and hidden agendas result in punitive actions, but it should be remembered that the erosion of the former allied coalition constrains many further military options. I remain uncertain that the political will exists for the United States and its allies to allocate more assets, incur greater risks and so deal with further challenges by Iraq. Opposition is too fragmented and lacking in support within the Iraqi heartland to be effective. The United States Iraqi Liberation Act has failed and generally provided insufficient support and missed key opportunities. Arab initiatives, which are to be encouraged, include the Egyptians' call for an Arab League summit at year's end and Kuwait, Saudi and Iraq should attempt to stay the course. It also should be noted that 23 May 2000 : Column 721 a Qatari Foreign Minister called for reconciliation in Kuwait last week, supported last Friday in Paris by the French Foreign Minister. But what about the Iraqi leadership and its intentions? With or without Saddam--and in reality it is more likely to be with--globalisation, and with it the empowerment of the individual, would prevail. So in conclusion, while not calling for an unconditional lifting of sanctions, rather devise urgently a pragmatic package beyond Resolution 1284 whereby sanctions can indeed be dealt with, I believe a policy review could present an achievable road map. And should participants have the will, I believe that we could be out of this mess in 12 months. 8.11 p.m. Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Islwyn, for bring forward this serious matter and for the way in which he did so. All of us are conscious of the great strains on the policy that has been pursued. Not only has it continued for 10 years, but it is clear that there is less solid support for it among those who were involved in the Gulf War than was the case a few years ago. The United States--and increasingly Russia, France and other countries--are beginning to pull away from that policy. Another reason that I believe that the policy cannot last forever is the level of smuggling, in particular over the Russian, Turkish and Jordanian borders. That goes a long way to undermine the effect of sanctions. I share some of the points raised about the humanitarian agony that is being suffered by the ordinary people of Iraq. It is difficult even to read the accounts of some of the dreadful things that are happening to children in hospitals and in homes. I want to associate myself with what was said by the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, about some of the unacceptable delays in making available supplies of humanitarian goods. However, I most closely identify with the speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Hereford. He put his finger on an acutely difficult moral dilemma. He pointed out that simply to walk away from the sanctions and effectively to hand a victory to Saddam Hussein would do nothing to strengthen the rule of law and the rule of morality in the world. Those who advocate, as did the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, in a powerful speech to which I shall return, the complete abandonment of sanctions must seriously consider what that could mean for the standing of the United Nations and, more broadly, for the standing of any attempt to establish a moral rule in the world. Even while we observe that sanctions have become, to a great extent, blunted, it is also the case that without hindrance and according to the evidence of Max Van Der Stoel, the UN representative on human rights in Iraq, Saddam Hussein has continued with capricious executions, the killing of political opponents and the arbitrary imprisonment of large numbers of people. That is why the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, correctly says that one can have little 23 May 2000 : Column 722 hope of an opposition arising in Iraq. We must be clear why. It is not because there are no opponents of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, but because the terrible things that have happened to them and their families have undermined whatever moral courage those brave people have shown. Resolution 1284 was a step forward. It would be reasonable to say to the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, that if the 120 days condition of that resolution were to be taken up--and it is open to Iraq to proceed along those lines--the lifting of sanctions that we are seeking would occur. However, the condition is the difficult issue. It is the condition of accepting that UNMOVIC can move into installations which it wants to inspect without let or hindrance from the government. I want to ask the Minister a few questions about what might be done in this desperately stalemated position. First, can the Government consider including representatives of at least some Arab states in the inspection teams? Countries such as Jordan and Tunisia leap to mind. It is unfortunate that there is not a single Arab state among the list of representatives on the UNMOVIC group. It is vital to keep the Arabs on board. Secondly, can the Minister tell us how far we have tried to involve Russia in making representations to the government of Iraq with regard to the possibility of being willing to accept UNMOVIC's surveillance? Russia has an important role to play. Thirdly, it would be worth considering the postponement of reparations to Kuwait until such time as the most desperate humanitarian needs can be met. I refer not to the waiving of reparations but to a postponement of their payment. Finally, the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, referred to the long delays experienced by the sanctions committee in so far as it is consulted. It may be that only 1 or 2 per cent of the delays are caused by us. However, with respect to the Government's loyalty to the United States, is it not the case that the United States has delayed a number of the provisions which should be going to Iraq under humanitarian aid? Can the Government tell us whether the United States would be prepared to consider a more generous approach to the issue? 8.18 p.m. Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Islwyn, has done us all a service by raising the issue as we approach the 10th anniversary of the sanctions and embargo. The issue must be revisited again and again and it has prompted a balanced short debate. The questions are simple, but, unfortunately, the answers are complex, deep and difficult. The noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, put his finger on many of them. Are the sanctions working? It depends on what one means by "working". Could they be further modified beyond the expanded oil-for-food programme and Resolution 1284, which is a generous resolution? Should they be suspended or scrapped altogether without launching Saddam on new powers of evil in 23 May 2000 : Column 723 the region? Above all, and it is the central dilemma, how do we go about rebuilding the democratic and prosperous Iraq that could exist one day without helping this evil man, this tyrant, and his hideous little clique back to their bad ways. What does "working" mean? I must agree that the sanctions are leaking in every direction. They are being bypassed. They have not brought Saddam down; he has stood entrenched. If the aim was to bring Saddam off his perch, the sanctions have not worked. However, I do not believe that that was the aim. Surely, the aim was always containment and the prevention of further evil. That is what we are talking about. In that sense, there is no doubt that, painful and tragic though the consequences of the sanctions regime are, it has prevented a repeat of even greater tragedies. There has been containment, or containment-plus, as the Americans say, and that has had some effect. Therefore, could the sanctions be modified further? Tam Dalyell, the Member for Linlithgow, for whom I have enormous respect, has urged again and again that there are ways through. The matter has been raised again tonight by noble Lords of great experience. Could we do more on the health and immunisation side? Could some of the contract screening be speeded up? Could there be more intellectual and public contact with Iraqis who want to contact the outside world? And could more be done to repair the oil fields? To those who talk that language I have to say that if they had seen, with me, the Burgam oil fields in 1990 as they flamed skywards, covering the entire area with black dust, which made them look like Dante's Hell, and knowing that that was done malignly and deliberately by Iraqi troops at the orders of their masters, possibly they would believe that there is some hideous justice in the fact that Iraq's own oil fields are not in ideal shape. The truth is that behind all the attempts to get through the problem and alleviate the suffering of the Iraqis stands Saddam Hussein. As we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, Saddam has the resources. The UN tells us that a quarter of all medical goods delivered are sitting in warehouses and not being distributed. The elite are obtaining vast resources from their illegal oil exports. I have seen them myself, as I have their food exports rumbling into Syria off the Euphrates road at night. Therefore, enormous sums of money are available in Iraq and in the hands of the elite. How does one get round the fact that, so long as Saddam plays this game and pursues his evil policies, it is almost impossible to bypass him and bring alleviation to the tragic and impoverished Iraqi people? If he alone is selling outside the oil-for-food programme- -approximately 60,000 barrels of oil a day--and the money goes straight into his palaces, his new cars, his armaments and his equipment, it cannot be right to say that we should do more of that in the hope that somehow he will come good and abandon his ways. The reality is that it is probably too ambitious to talk in terms of getting rid of Saddam. What does it mean if we talk in terms of containing him? Is more evil 23 May 2000 : Column 724 and cruelty to more children and people in Iraq being carried out by the present policy of sanctions, as the right reverend Prelate rightly mentioned? Or will more evil be unleashed if we take the containment harness away from him? What happens if he goes back to his old ways, as he has said that he will? What happens to the Kurds? What happens to the Kuwaitis, who have been so gallant? What happens to the Marsh Arabs and to the whole of the Middle East peace process if Iraq emerges, not benign and democratic, but malign and evil and, once again, led by this hideous tyrant? That is the agonising dilemma. No doubt the noble Baroness will explain how this Government are facing it. I have no doubt myself that if there was a benign, democratic, rich Iraq, it would be of huge benefit to the entire Middle East peace process and the peace of the world. However, we have not reached that stage yet and I am not sure that removing sanctions would bring us to that point. 8.23 p.m. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): My Lords, I, too, thank my noble friend Lord Islwyn for allowing me this opportunity to debate the important subject of Iraq. I say straight away that I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiments expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Howell. I fully share the concern that my noble friend Lord Islwyn set out in relation to the people of Iraq. The tenderness of that expression does him honour, as, indeed, do the sentiments expressed by all noble Lords who have participated in the debate. Would that the tenderness of those sentiments were shared by the Government of Iraq. I agree with my noble friend Lord Islwyn that it is not an issue of saving face but of saving lives. However, the noble Lord, Lord Howell, put his finger on it when he reminded us that we are talking about containment and considering which is the greater evil. The Government of Iraq prefer--that is what we must face--to use their people's suffering for propaganda purposes. I also agree with the sentiments expressed by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Hereford and his description of the regime. The regime knows that the pictures of malnourished children provoke our sympathy, even our outrage, as many noble Lords have already said. And rightly so. However, it is surely an even greater outrage that the Iraqi Government wilfully deny food and medicine to those children and plays politics with their suffering. They hope that by doing so they can play on our emotions and persuade us to abandon the Security Council's resolutions and lift sanctions. That would leave Saddam Hussein free to redevelop his weapons of mass destruction and, once again, threaten the region, as I believe the noble Lord, Lord Howell, outlined. It is important for us to recall why sanctions were first imposed, following Iraq's unprovoked invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Under Security Council Resolution 687, which Iraq accepted at the end of the Gulf War, 23 May 2000 : Column 725 sanctions can be lifted only when Iraq complies with its obligations, including on disarmament. Iraq could have done that at once if it had chosen to do so. Instead, it chose deliberately to obstruct the efforts of UNSCOM weapons inspectors to uncover the extent of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programme. It chose to hinder efforts to account for the whereabouts of the 605 Kuwaitis and others who have been missing since the Gulf War. To date, Iraq has produced sufficient information to close only three files. In doing so, it has prolonged the sanctions regime for 10 years. It would be nice to believe that Saddam Hussein wants to put the needs of his people first. However, he has never done so. In the 1980s he launched chemical attacks on his own civilians, whose only supposed crime was to be Kurdish. Thousands of civilians died in those attacks and many more still suffer from the after-effects of exposure to such weapons. He attacked his neighbours again with chemical weapons in the Iran-Iraq war. As the noble Lord, Lord Howell, pointed out, while his people were starving, he sold food to other countries. Surely there can be few who are now justified in believing that if sanctions were lifted Saddam Hussein would suddenly change the habit of a lifetime and start to put his people's needs first. I for one have no reason to believe that he would do so. I can only agree with the analysis set out so cogently by my noble friend Lord Faulkner of Worcester as to what the likely outcome would be. I agree with all noble Lords who say that there is absolutely no need for the Iraqi people to suffer or starve. The importation of food and medicine into Iraq has never been prohibited under sanctions. Under the oil-for-food programme, billions of dollars have been spent on food, medicine and repairs to Iraq's infrastructure, including that of its oil industry. The UK has been at the forefront of efforts to alleviate the humanitarian situation. Since 1991 we have donated approximately £100 million in aid to Iraq. Of course, in this respect we are also grateful for the contributions made by British NGOs and religious bodies. I should tell the House that my right honourable friend Mr Hain is due to meet Churches Together in Britain and Ireland next month to discuss the whole situation in Iraq. As many noble Lords have mentioned, our most recent initiative--SCR 1284--which was adopted in December 1999, is a very important step forward. Throughout the past year we invested huge amounts of time and energy in securing adoption of that resolution. I can assure the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, that the resolution provides a new platform for the UN's dealings with Iraq. All Security Council members are now working hard on its implementation. On the humanitarian side, it provides for significant improvements to the effectiveness of the "oil for food" programme. It lifted the ceiling on the amount of oil Iraq can export to fund the purchase of humanitarian aid, and this, together with the recent recovery in 23 May 2000 : Column 726 world oil prices, has boosted Iraq's oil revenues back to--if not above--their peak historical level of around 15 billion dollars a year. Iraq's oil Minister has recently announced that Iraq is planning to increase its exports further by about 700,000 barrels per day, which would put Iraq among the world's top five oil exporters. All of this means that an estimated 10 billion dollars will be available for the humanitarian programme in Iraq this year. Despite all this, the Iraqi people still do not see the full benefits. The UN recently recommended that Iraq set aside 91 million dollars for targeted nutrition for groups such as infants and new mothers. Iraq allocated only 24 million dollars. In 1998 the UN Secretary-General recommended a daily food ratio of 2,463 kilocalories. The Iraqi Government, however, sets the current average ration at just 1,993 kilocalories. Kofi Annan's latest report notes that Iraq is ordering insufficient quantities of pulses and dairy products to make up the food ration and not including sufficient protein. The Iraqi Government also fail to order enough medicines and then fail to distribute them properly, as a number of noble Lords have already said. The latest UN report notes that one quarter of all medical goods delivered to Iraq since "oil for food" began have not been distributed. Meanwhile, in the northern governorates the people are not starving. In the north, child mortality rates are actually lower than they were in 1990. Why is there such a difference? It is because in the north the United Nations implements the "oil for food" programme, and does so in a manner designed to bring maximum benefit to the people. My noble friend Lord Islwyn was not quite right in saying the northern governorates are under Turkish control. They are not. The government in Baghdad could do the same, if they wanted to. Some have urged here today that we lift sanctions immediately and unconditionally. I am sure my noble friends would not expect the United Kingdom, a Permanent Member of the Security Council, to decide to abandon the council's resolutions, which have the force of international law. As I said before, there is no reason to suppose that Saddam Hussein would give any higher priority to the needs of his people than he does now. I can assure the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Hereford and the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, that our policy is to expedite the supply of humanitarian goods to Iraq. Under Resolution 1284 the Sanctions Committee procedures for approving humanitarian contracts have been streamlined to ensure the contracts are processed more quickly than before. We will not overlook our responsibility, however, to ensure that Iraq does not acquire prohibited goods. In total the United Kingdom only puts a tiny percentage of the "oil for food" contracts on hold and it is about 1 per cent overall, and I can assure the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, that we will continue in our 23 May 2000 : Column 727 efforts to improve efficiency and transparency. I shall write to the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, in relation to the two other questions. I will address some of the matters raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, about the question of UNMOVIC and its staff. Hans Blix, the Executive Chairman of UNMOVIC, is currently in the process of recruiting and training his staff in this region, and we do look to Russia, as the noble Baroness suggests, to urge Iraq to co-operate with the resolution. It is only fair to add that, during the negotiations for the resolution last year, the UK made the very proposal to postpone payments for "oil for food" to the compensation fund so that money could be used for food and medicine and unfortunately other council members rejected this proposal. We have tried very hard indeed, and we must not underestimate the success that we have had in getting this new resolution. We are trying to work with it as effectively and efficiently as we can, but we accept there is much to do and we shall continue to do all that we can in that area. I can also assure my noble friend Lord Rea that we are not conducting a bombing campaign in Iraq. The UK and US pilots are patrolling the "no fly" zones, which were established in 1991 and 1992, in response to Iraqi oppression of the civilian population. They stop Saddam Hussein using his aircraft to attack his own people. Since late 1998 Iraq has waged a systematic campaign to shoot down our aircraft. There have been over 650 direct threats against our aircrew, including missile attacks and heavy anti-aircraft fire, and our aircraft take action only when they are forced to do so to defend themselves. As regards the package that the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, for which argued in terms of confidence-building measures to persuade Iraq to resume co-operation, many of those proposals already exist the form of SCR 1284, and they offer Saddam Hussein every incentive to co-operate. All the comments made by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, were very much to the point, and I think she was right to highlight that Saddam Hussein has continued to disregard human rights and that Resolution 1284 is a step forward. The way ahead lies with SCR 1284. This is a real opportunity for Saddam Hussein, if he wishes to take it, but most crucially SCR 1284 marks out a clear route out of sanctions by allowing for their suspension. Under the resolution, if Iraq co-operates with the new disarmament body to a standard well short of that required for a sanctions lift then sanctions can be suspended, possibly within months. The Iraqi Government are fond of claiming that they have given up their weapons of mass-destruction and have nothing to hide. If that is so then they have everything to gain by resuming full co-operation with the UN. Her Majesty's Government call on Iraq to do so. -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------- 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