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IRAQ - SANCTIONS's WorldView - 20 November 2000

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Meanwhile, Back in Iraq
By George Friedman

Buried deep in the American subconscious lurks the specter of a 10-
year old war. American aircraft still fly daily combat air patrols
and conduct air strikes. U.S. Navy ships still ply the water and
nearby, ground forces remain at the ready.

The ongoing U.S. and British action against Iraq remains the
ultimate in low intensity conflict. It is not so much a forgotten
war as one whose goal is unattainable. Neither the destruction of
Saddam Hussein nor the restoration of an arms inspection regime is
now possible.

Last week, the Russians helped make these military operations
meaningless. In a new drive, the Putin government is signaling that
it will help the Iraqi government put a formal end to a decade of
UN economic sanctions. By doing so, the Russians aim to halt the
U.S. and British patrols and gain for themselves billions of
dollars by developing Iraq's western oil fields.

Ten years after the defeat of Iraq in the Gulf War, the United
States continues to conduct a Persian Gulf policy on autopilot,
despite the fact that the policy is programmed to go nowhere. A
decade ago, the United Nations imposed an embargo on Iraq. The
British and Americans imposed no-fly zones in the north and south
of the country, flying nearly constant air operations. Saddam did
not fall.

So the goal shifted to preventing him from developing weapons of
mass destruction. The United Nations sent inspection teams to Iraq
to look for facilities suspected of making biological and chemical
weapons, as well as long-range missiles. Saddam systematically
thwarted the effort. And the inspection regime failed.

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As a result, the sanctions against Iraq have not only failed they
have been repeatedly and deliberately violated for months but their
last vestige of believability has been shattered.

Everyone from the French to the Syrians has quite publicly violated
the sanctions in some way. The United States has responded by
pretending that the violations weren't violations.

But the American strategy of pretending just became much more
difficult. Last Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov
visited Baghdad. He carried with him a letter from Russian
President Vladimir Putin. The letter called for an end to U.S. and
British air strikes against Iraqi targets. The letter also
declared, the Russian leadership's firm intention to obtain a rapid
political settlement to the Iraqi problem, including the lifting of
sanctions against Iraq.

In an interview with Al-Djazira television reported by Interfax,
Ivanov stated, "It is necessary to work out steps that would
provide for the carrying out of UN Security Council resolutions
concerning Iraq and guarantee reliable control over banned military
programs." The Russian foreign minister also called for a UN
dialogue on the subject but said that the talks are in deadlock and
implied that Iraqis are not the ones responsible for the delay.

The Russians are working hard to strengthen ties with Iraq and in
the process will strain relations with the United States. A Russian
airline, Vnukovo, is going to begin regular service to Baghdad,
although it will be labeled as a special charter. A group of
Russian scientists recently visited Baghdad to protest sanctions.

However, this has as much to do with oil as it does with global
power politics. In a memorandum to UN Secretary General Kofi Anan,
Ivanov noted that sanctions against Iraq have cost Russia $30
billion over the past decade. Ivanov got this number from Yuri
Shafranik, who leads the committee for Russian cooperation with
Iraq and is a director of the Russian Central Fuel Company.

Russian firms are in danger of losing access to Iraq's vast western
oil fields and now the Russian government is using foreign policy
as a lever in this struggle. Recently, Amer Rasheed, Iraq's oil
minister, threatened to cancel a contract with Russia's giant
Lukoil to develop the Kurna oil field in western Iraq, one of the
largest in the world. The Russians say it has the potential to
produce 200 million tons of oil. The Iraqis complained that the
Russians have done nothing to develop the field; the Russians
countered that the sanctions make that impossible.

The Iraqis agree and appear to have made a quid pro quo quite
clear: If the Russians will get rid of the sanctions, the Iraqis
will give them the keys to the western oil fields. The Russian
government has a lot to lose in Iraq, and little to lose in
challenging the Americans at the United Nations. This is a perfect
marriage between geopolitical interests and economic ones.

It's important to understand that this is not just talk. The
Russians want to develop the oil fields.  The Iraqis will pull the
contract if they don't do so. Therefore, the Russian government
will engineer a fig leaf solution to weapons inspections, helping
the UN create a regime that is wholly ineffective. This will allow
Moscow to claim that Iraq has met the conditions for ending the

Although the British and the Americans will object, they will run
into serious problems at the Security Council. Both the Chinese and
the French will buy into a pseudo-inspection system. As important,
the Israeli-Palestinian confrontation has increased anti-
Americanism throughout the Arab world. Recent events will make the
American position harder to maintain.

While in Baghdad, the Russian delegation insisted that it had no
geopolitical interests in the region. Ironically, the leader of the
delegation of Russian scientists was the director of the country's
geopolitical institute. Pure coincidence, of course.

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