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FT Edt. Board on Sanctions (6 August 00)

The Financial Times
Editorial comment: Rethinking Iraqi sanctions
Published: August 6 2000 20:00GMT 
Last Updated: August 6 2000 20:02GMT

A decade after comprehensive United Nations sanctions were imposed on Iraq, the policy has 
succeeded in containing Saddam Hussein. The Iraqi dictator no longer poses a threat to his 
neighbours and without sanctions he certainly would have bolstered his arsenal of weapons of mass 

But the sanctions policy has run out of momentum and the pain it has inflicted on Iraq's 22m 
population has eroded support for it in the Arab world and beyond. Among the UN security council's 
five permanent members, only the US and UK remain staunch backers of the embargo. 

Though contained, Mr Saddam is firmly in control of Iraq. The exiled opposition, on which the US 
says it relies to bring about a change of government, is neither credible nor capable of toppling 

Sanctions were imposed to force Iraq to disarm and UN weapons inspectors have stripped the country 
of most of its deadly weapons. But arms experts have been barred from the country for more than 18 
months. A system of monitoring laboratories and factories which could be turned to weapons 
production has been crippled. 

Saddam Hussein must continue to be punished for defying the UN. But it is now worth re-evaluating 
UN policy and looking for ways of putting pressure on the regime without inflicting more suffering 
on the Iraqi population. The UN security council took a first but insufficient step in that 
direction last December when it passed a resolution allowing Iraq to export as much oil as it wants 
under the UN-monitored oil-for- food programme. 

This should ease the pressure on ordinary Iraqis. But it is far from certain that the UN 
bureaucracy has the capacity to administer the plan. And oil-for-food is strictly a humanitarian 
programme that is not designed to rehabilitate the economy or break the isolation of Iraqi society. 

Moreover, Mr Saddam has not accepted the resolution and he has little incentive to agree to a 
return of UN inspectors. The resolution's terms for suspending sanctions are vague and, in any 
case, the US continues to insist that the embargo will be lifted only when the Iraqi strongman is 
removed from power. 

The security council should not be satisfied with this stalemate. It must push for a resumption of 
inspections and renew the monitoring programme which alone can ensure long-term Gulf security. 

Further modifications to the embargo should be examined, including the option of lifting civilian 
sanctions while maintaining a ban on arms sales and financial scrutiny over selected imports. Mr 
Saddam must not be rewarded, but sanctions should target him rather than the Iraqi people.

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