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By Richard Becker

An editorial in the Feb. 11 New York Times calls on the Bush 
administration to "reinvent the rules for dealing with Iraq 
by enlisting the aid of regional leaders in tightening the 
arms embargo on Baghdad while simultaneously relaxing other 
trade sanctions." What gives the Times' new position 
significance is that it is considered the U.S. "newspaper of 

There are, moreover, indications that Secretary of State 
Colin Powell, who played an integral and criminal role in 
the 1991 Gulf War, is moving toward a similar position.

The editors point out that they have "strongly supported 
Washington's efforts over the last 10 years," meaning the 
U.S. war and sanctions blockade against Iraq. In fact, the 
Times has been a staunch advocate of policies that have 
killed a million-and-a-half Iraqis and devastated a once-
thriving developing country.

Clearly it is not human suffering that has motivated the 
Times' call for a policy shift. In fact there is just one 
remarkably bland reference in the whole editorial to the 
enormous human cost, a throwaway line about "the hardships 
on the Iraqi people that have accompanied the sanctions."

No, what is moving the Times and also possibly the 
administration is the reality that the sanctions regime--
imposed and maintained by the UN Security Council at the 
behest of the U.S.--is threatened with complete collapse: 
"the array of sanctions that the Security Council imposed on 
Iraq in the early 1990s has been rapidly weakening as Arab 
and Muslim states grow impatient with the restrictions and 
two permanent members of the Council, Russia and France, 
press to ease Baghdad's isolation. Recent weeks have seen a 
rapid deterioration. Commercial flights with uninspected 
cargo have resumed."

In an understatement of stunning proportions, the editorial 
snootily notes, "The continuing stalemate between Israel and 
the Palestinians has added to Arab restiveness."

While couched in typical Times language, these statements 
are admissions that U.S. policy in the Middle East is 
confronting a crisis. Anger against Washington is running 
very high. The combination of the genocidal sanctions 
against Iraq, the continuing U.S.-funded and backed Israeli 
repression of the Palestinians, and the massive U.S. 
military occupation of the entire Gulf region has greatly 
heightened anti-imperialist sentiment throughout the region.

The ascension of the blood-drenched racist Gen. Ariel Sharon 
to the premiership of Israel can only further fuel this 
anger. U.S. client regimes in the region could be 

Taken together, these are the factors behind the call for a 
reformulated policy. That the call is being made at all is 
evidence that the U.S., while the sole superpower, is not 

The Times is calling for what might be termed a "de-linking" 
of economic from military sanctions. The editorial makes the 
unprecedented admission that, "Currently, American diplomats 
are holding up billions of dollars of imports needed for 
civilian transportation, electric power generation, the oil 
industry and even medical treatment because they could be 
put to military as well as civilian uses."

Anyone who has traveled to Iraq in recent years can attest 
that the list of held-up imports also includes water and 
sewage treatment equipment and supplies. Iraq's inability to 
import the goods needed to rebuild its shattered 
infrastructure is the number one cause of death and illness 
in that country today. Nearly all industrial goods are 
labeled "dual-use," meaning potentially having both civilian 
and military applications.

The Times hopes that a policy shift will "gain the 
cooperation of other states in enforcing the arms embargo." 
The sanctions, including an arms embargo, can only be 
"enforced" by military means, by means of a military 
blockade. A blockade is an act of war. Supporting the 
continuation of any type of sanctions is thus support for 
continuing the ongoing war against Iraq.

The objective of a shift in policy, according to the Times? 
"Thwarting [Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's] ambition to 
rebuild his military forces must remain the central goal of 
American policy." To achieve this, says the Times, "General 
Powell must try to reconstruct a united and effective front 
against Mr. Hussein."

The real aim of U.S. policy is to maintain and extend its 
control over the Gulf region and the Middle East as a whole. 
Domination of this oil rich region means fabulous profits 
and is a key factor in geopolitical hegemony.

No region of the world is more important to the oil-banking-
military interests that predominate within the U.S. ruling 
class. Keeping Iraq and its people in a decimated state is a 
key tactic in achieving the subjugation of the Gulf region.

Regaining its full sovereignty is not only fundamental to 
Iraq's right of self-determination, it is also the necessary 
pre-condition for Iraq to overcome the imperialist-created 
humanitarian disaster which has afflicted the country and 
its people for the past decade.

- END -

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