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RE: Saddam's ability or inability to buy weapons instead of medicines.

Hi Kev,
Let me try to answer your question under two headings: "under the provisions of Security Council Resolutions" and "otherwise".
1. 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]
So 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 these items.
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.
2. otherwise
While 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 borders.
So, it 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, medicines.
3. etc.
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 supplies.
All of 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.
Colin Rowat
Iraq Sanctions Project Coordinator
Center for Economic and Social Rights
162 Montague Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
Tel: (718) 237-9145 x 19
Fax: (718) 237-9147
Mob: (917) 517-5840
Mob. mail:
-----Original Message-----
From: []On Behalf Of Kev Kiernan
Sent: Thursday, April 05, 2001 10:07 AM
Subject: Saddam's ability or inability to buy weapons instead of medicines.

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 needed.

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