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British proposal: three editorials and comment from von Sponeck

Three editorials on the new proposal. Still some confusion at the New York
Times (the editorial claims that 'In return for a relaxation of the trade
ban, Mr. Hussein would have to allow the U.N. to resume weapons
inspections' - something explicitly denied by US officials in yesterday's
wire reports) but the spin is certainly working eg. the Chicago Tribune
describes it as a 'momentous policy change' with Colin Powell backing
away from his earlier commitment to "re-energize the sanctions regime." The
reality, of course, is exactly the opposite.

According to Hans von Sponeck (private communication with Voices UK) the
'All the pillars of the existing sanction policy seem to remain' in the new
proposal' and 'an enlarged green list and civil aviation as new concessions
(with the latter happening anyway) can not be considered even remotely
lifting of sanctions.'

Best wishes,

voices in the wilderness uk


*Recasting the Iraq sanctions, New York Times
* At last, sanity on Iraq, Chicago Tribune
* Saddam Wins Again, New York Post


May 20, 2001
Editorial, the New York Times

Recasting the Iraq Sanctions

Recognizing that the international embargo on trade with Iraq has become
increasingly untenable, the United States and Britain will soon propose a
reasonable narrowing of the sanctions to bar the shipment of arms and
weapons-related material to Saddam Hussein's regime. Even nations that are
weary of the 11-year ban on trade with Iraq should support restrictions
designed to prevent Baghdad from rearming and once again threatening its
neighbors. But Washington and London will have to make a concerted
diplomatic offensive if they hope to prevail at the United Nations Security
Council and gain Mr. Hussein's assent for a plan that would return
international weapons inspectors to Iraq.

A decade after the Persian Gulf war, most of the world has lost interest in
isolating Iraq. Some nations are lured toward complacency by short memories
of Mr. Hussein's invasion of Kuwait and the prospect of profitable business
deals with Baghdad. The change in attitude is shortsighted, but with
permanent members of the Security Council like France, Russia and China
anxious to abandon the embargo, the United States and Britain have no choice
but to fashion a new approach.

Under the British-American proposal, the Security Council would develop a
specific list of military and industrial items that would be banned from
sale to Iraq. Iraq would still be required to deposit all its legitimate oil
revenues in an escrow account controlled by the U.N. Yet the country would
be free to import whatever nonmilitary goods it wished, effectively ending
the embargo on civilian commodities. The U.N. has permitted Iraq to import
food, medicine and other essential items, but Mr. Hussein has cynically
limited such purchases to stoke foreign complaints about the hardships the
embargo has inflicted on the Iraqi people.

In return for a relaxation of the trade ban, Mr. Hussein would have to allow
the U.N. to resume weapons inspections, which have been suspended since
1998. He is unlikely to accept the deal unless he is convinced that the
Security Council is united in its determination to maintain an arms embargo
and will not set aside the broader trade restrictions until he lets
inspectors back into Iraq to monitor weapons programs. He may well reject
the plan even if faced with an undivided Security Council, but there will be
no hope of obtaining his agreement if France, Russia and China remain

The plan will also prove unworkable if nearby nations like Syria, Iran,
Turkey and Jordan are unwilling to enforce the prohibition on arms sales by
carefully inspecting overland cargo shipments to Iraq. All these nations now
openly permit the smuggling of banned goods in and out of Iraq.

If the new diplomatic initiative fizzles, President Bush is sure to face
escalating pressures to support Iraqi efforts to unseat Mr. Hussein.
American financial assistance might be appropriate if there were an
organized, well-led opposition within Iraq, or in the Iraqi exile community,
but that is not the case. Mr. Bush should not entertain any proposals to use
American military forces or weapons in concert with Mr. Hussein's foes.

Engineering a change in governments is easy to champion but extremely
difficult to execute, even in the rare cases when it may be justified and
consistent with American principles. A bungled program to remove Mr. Hussein
from power would embarrass the United States and recklessly endanger the
lives of Iraqis who would like to see a democratic government installed in

Chicago Tribune
At last, sanity on Iraq

May 20, 2001
Britain is expected Tuesday to introduce in the United Nations Security
Council a resolution that could mark the beginning of the end of the Gulf

Backed by the United States, the British measure would end the international
trade embargo of Iraq, retaining only restrictions against sales of arms and
weapons-related goods.

The resolution represents a long-overdue concession to reality by Britain
and the U.S., which have found themselves increasingly isolated as more and
more nations, disgusted with the effects of the embargo on the lives and
health of the Iraqi people, demanded an end to it.

It also suggests that London and Washington have finally recognized what
ought to be the sole aim of restrictions on Iraq: to prevent it from
acquiring the means to threaten its neighbors and using them.

For that purpose, an embargo on arms, backed by the threat of massive
retaliation if Saddam ever dares to use a weapon of mass destruction, ought
to be enough.

This momentous policy change, which the Tribune began urging on the U.S.
back in 1998, could hardly have been predicted when the Bush administration
came to office four months ago.

Not only had two of the administration's top dogs--Secretary of State Colin
Powell and Vice President Dick Cheney--been architects of the Gulf War
victory in 1991, but Powell came in speaking of working with America's
allies to "re-energize the sanctions regime."

An early tour of the Mideast apparently helped change his mind. The
secretary discovered that our "allies" wanted nothing so much as to sleep
with the enemy--or at least trade with him. And both among the allied and
the indifferent, there was anger and unease with a policy that, by the UN's
count, had caused the deaths of more than 1 million Iraqis since 1991.
Clearly, Powell perceived, it was time for Plan B.

A British official said Friday that it is London's and Washington's hope
that, with the effects of the embargo on the Iraqi people removed as an
excuse, the members of the Gulf War coalition will come together again in
support of the arms restrictions. In other words, less should turn out to be

They certainly ought to come together. Through the 10 years since open
combat gave way to cat-and-mouse evasions, Saddam has been unrelenting in
his pursuit of weapons of mass destruction. Since UN weapons inspectors were
effectively barred from the country in 1998, the Iraqi dictator has been
able to proceed unhindered in his quest. And he has given evidence that he
still covets Kuwait as an Iraqi province.

Meantime, the sanctions regime has come, in the words of President Bush in a
January interview with The New York Times, to resemble "Swiss cheese."

Smuggling--of oil and all manner of other goods--has become commonplace.
Baghdad's airport, renovated and rededicated, was reopened last year and
does not want for traffic.

Britain's embargo-ending initiative is formally a resolution to change the
terms of the oil-for-food program resolution, which must be renewed by June

That program has allowed Iraq for several years to sell specified amounts of
oil, the proceeds of which go into a special UN fund, to be tapped to
purchase food, medicine and other non-military goods. But the rules have
never been successfully enforced or followed.

Iraq, interestingly, is expected to oppose the British-American resolution
in the UN. It demands that all restrictions on it be ended unconditionally.

Assuming the resolution passes, it will do nothing about possibly the most
dangerous aspect of the Anglo-American relationship with Iraq: The two
no-fly zones that the U.S. and Britain declared after hostilities ended 10
years ago to shield vulnerable ethnic and religious minorities from Saddam's

That could prove an even stickier wicket than the sanctions have been,
especially if an Iraqi anti-aircraft gunner gets lucky one of these days and
brings down an American or a British plane.

For now, it is auspicious that Britain and the U.S. have found the good
sense and the gumption to back away from the ruinous embargo. Too bad it
took so many years--and so many lives.


The New York Post

May 18, 2001 -- Saddam Hussein has reason to be smiling today. The United
States and Britain have agreed on a proposal that will, for all intents and
purposes, wipe out the decade-long international sanctions against him.
Secretary of State Colin Powell proposes what the State Department
acknowledges is "a significant change in our approach to Iraq." But unless
Washington is prepared to put its muscle where its mouth is, it won't be a
better approach.

Powell has long favored what he calls "smart sanctions" against Iraq. And
he's apparently convinced President Bush, who recently called the sanctions
"Swiss cheese."

Which they are - because neither the Clinton administration nor the rest of
the West were willing to lift a finger to enforce them. Iraq's supporters
simply thumbed their noses at America and blithely ignored the embargoes.

The new plan would ban for export to Iraq only a specific list of arms and
military-related items. Baghdad would even be allowed to import "dual use"
goods - material with both civilian and military uses. And Saddam would not
have to allow U.N. weapons inspectors into Iraq before the plan takes

Score a big one for the Butcher of Baghdad - his diplomatic war of attrition
paid off.

Saddam will eventually have to allow inspections if he ever wants all
sanctions ended. Which means one of two things: Either he figures he can
outlast Western impatience or a new confrontation with Iraq will become

The West has repeatedly refused to back up its weapons inspectors. To what
extent will the West enforce even these limited sanctions?

If past is precedent, the answer is: not at all.

Meanwhile, U.N. officials admit that Saddam openly pockets huge payoffs from
private companies and illegal surcharges on foreign oil sales - none of
which goes to his starving population.

The U.S.-British proposal may look good on paper. But in the real world, it
will neither relieve Iraq's suffering nor bring Saddam any closer to
abandoning his quest to build a deadly arsenal of mass destruction.

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