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RE: Saddam's ability or inability to buy weapons instead of medicines.
- From: "Colin Rowat" <crowat@DELETETHIScesr.org>
- Subject: RE: Saddam's ability or inability to buy weapons instead of medicines.
- Date: Thu, 5 Apr 2001 11:01:26 -0400
try to answer your question under two headings: "under the provisions of
Security Council Resolutions" and "otherwise".
under the provisions of Security Council Resolutions
Paragraphs 24 - 28 of Security Council Resolution 687
(3 April 1991; the "ceasefire" resolution setting the direction of policy after
the 1991 Gulf War) make clear that the Security Council does not allow any
nations to supply Iraq with anything directly militarily related. [For a
complete list of resolutions on Iraq, see http://www.cam.ac.uk/societies/casi/info/scriraq.html]
called "dual use" items - items with both a civilian and a military application
- enjoy different treatment. Security Council Resolution 1051 (27 March
1996) called for some mechanism to be established to allow these into Iraq if
sufficient assurances could be provided to the Sanctions Committee of the
Security Council about their use. The Sanctions Committee, or the US
and UK members of it, has adopted very restrictive interpretations of these
assurances, noting that, without weapons inspectors in Iraq, the UN does not
have the necessary technical expertise to properly investigate the end use of
Therefore, in summary: under the existing arrangements
a complete arms embargo is still in force against Iraq; exports of "dual use"
items to Iraq are strongly regulated.
no official figures are published on Iraq's smuggling activities it does seem to
have increased substantially in recent years: the price of oil has increased,
the "oil for food" programme has allowed the country to stabilise in some ways,
people have learned ways around the sanctions (which harm all the parties who
formerly engaged in trade), the sanctions' legitimacy has eroded as all have
come to recognise that they've inflicted terrible harm on ordinary Iraqis
without greatly influencing the leadership, etc.
Increased smuggling has at least two consequences:
first, the Iraqi government probably has more access to more funds outside of
the "oil for food" arrangements. This means more money for buying weapons,
etc. if it wants to. Second, the borders are more poorly controlled (from
the point of view of enforcing Security Council Resolutions: the governments
involved seem to be quite happy with the existing arrangements) than ever
before: this makes it easier to move things across those
may be easier than at any other point in the 1990s to acquire military equipment
in Iraq. It is possible that the "Chinese fibre optics" mentioned in the
context of the bombing raids earlier this year were there outside of the "oil
for food" arrangements. This said, I have yet to hear stories of
heavy military equipment being purchased. You'll remember, earlier in the
year, that there were reports of all the Iraqi tanks on parade in Baghdad - more
tanks than were left intact at the end of the Gulf War. The story that I
am told is that the "new" tanks are repaired tanks from 1991, not newly imported
tanks. While I know almost nothing about the murky world of arms
smuggling, it does seem that many national intelligence services pay close
attention to Iraqi attempts to import military supplies.
Therefore, in summary: there probably is military
material getting into Iraq, but I have yet to hear stories of any major
imports. In any case, because such equipment must necessarily be smuggled,
and because it is of greater concern to countries like the US and the UK, it is
certainly not easier to import into Iraq than it is to import, for example,
As a closing note, while many media articles still
focus on "food and medicines" in Iraq, it seems that the bigger problems at
present are infrastructural. It seems that, under "oil for food", the food
and medical supply has improved - but this is only the smallest link in the
whole chain. This was driven home to me when talking to a Red Cross staff
member in Baghdad in December who painted a picture of a rural clinic: the lack
of telecommunications means that national co-ordination in response to
epidemics, and even just restocking, is reduced; the intermittent electrical
supply means that refrigeration of temperature sensitive supplies is compromised
(this is particularly of concern in Iraq, where I am told that summer
temperatures have reached 60 Celsius in recent years); the damaged water
sanitation and treatment facilities means that, even if your population is
eating well, they are becoming sick from dirty water (and a generally unhealthy
environment); finally, because you have no money to pay your staff, no one can
really afford to be at work. The image that came to mind was that of an
NHS in which the only thing working was the distribution of medical
this said, it seems that the Iraqi government's first priority over the past
decade has been its own survival. While it is unclear how much of its
failures can be attributed to lack of ability, and how much to lack of will, the
latter must not be discounted: Iraqi schools stand in disrepair, although they
require no imported resources to repair; perhaps it would be difficult for the
Iraqi government to pay people to rebuild them, even in a country with high
unemployment, but the government seems still to have found a way to pay for the
new "armies" that it has raised in response to the current intifada.
Iraq Sanctions Project Coordinator
for Economic and Social Rights
162 Montague Street
Tel: (718) 237-9145 x 19
Fax: (718) 237-9147
Can anyone enlighten me on this issue please?
Please forgive me if I seem a bit naive but can Saddam Hussain buy
weapons from the West easier than he can buy medicines for the people of Iraq.
It is frequently stated in the mainstream press and news reports that Saddam
spends all his aid money on reinforcing his military rather than on the
hospital supplies and medicines that are so obviously desperately
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