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Re: Banned Goods

Hi again Tim,

Thanks for your follow up e-mail.  As before, I only
have answers to some of your questions.  You correctly
note that the September 1997 Secretary-General's
report merely anticipated the arrival of chlorine. 
The November 1997 report (available at,
and in the list on the CASI website) mentions chlorine
arriving by November (and possibly as early as
September; paragraph 26 is not clear on this). 
Paragraph 52 mentions the operation of the chlorine
monitoring mechanism.  Paragraph 59 talks about the
insufficiency of chlorine imports at that time.

> a. How long did it take Iraq to convince the
> Committee that imports should
> be allowed or how long did it take the Committee to
> decree the same?

You're referring to chlorine imports here
specifically?  As they're being imported by Phase II
of the programme, it means that they would most likely
have been included in the Phase II distribution plan
(the Iraqi government can also attempt to amend a
distribution plan afterwards), approved by the UN
Secretary General on 4 August 1997 (according to the
OIP's chronology at  Phase II
itself officially began on 8 June, but the Iraqi
government pumped no oil until 14 August 1997.

As the OIP does not post the distribution plans for
the early phases of "oil for food", I don't know
whether the chlorine gas imports that we read about in
Phase II refer to imports initiated under Phase I (and
then only arriving during Phase II).  I therefore
don't know whether chlorine has been imported from the
outset of not.

> b. what has the Committee been doing since the end
> of the Gulf War(circa
> '91), if not deliberately preventing the import of
> this and other life-saving supplies?

Yes: no argument here.  The sanctions, by design,
restrict the flow of goods and services between Iraq
and the rest of the world.  This can be damaging in
any society; it has been especially damaging given
Iraq's heightened needs after the Gulf War.

> How is it possible for UN agencies to do
> genuine humanitarian
> work in Iraq when at ahigher level there is
> obviously a completely different agenda?

Yes again: this is the tension.  Scott Ritter, the
former UN weapons inspector, pointed out in one of his
early speeches after resigning that he had a great
deal of respect for people like Denis Halliday (the
former UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator, who resigned at
roughly the same time): they were trying to improve a
situation that sanctions were designed to worsen.

As to the "agenda" question, I had a conversation with
someone in the Office of the Iraq Programme on the
"holds" issue that shed some light on this for me.  He
explained that, for the most part, holds are placed by
understaffed missions (the US and the UK) when the
staff don't feel that they have enough information to
make a clear decision immediately.  Their hope is that
by placing the hold, they'll buy some time to look at
it more closely later.  As they're understaffed,
though, often "later" never comes and the hold remains
until a lobby is generated against it (e.g. the child
vaccines recently).  Furthermore, as these staff know
that one of the fastest ways to end your career is to
allow "Saddam to get his hands on...", they tend to be
very cautious.  In the case of the US, there may be
even more caution as the US is currently undergoing
policy review: until they've got a new policy, the job
is to sit tight.

In some cases, though, there is a policy of political
holds.  This seemed to be the case for the
telecommunications sector holds placed by the US.

I'm sorry that I don't have a better understanding of
the chlorine issue.  I do hope that this helps,

Best wishes and good courage,

Colin Rowat
274 Vanderbilt Ave., #2
Brooklyn NY 11205
(m) 917 517 5840
(f) 707 221 3672

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