The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
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|Sheffield Campaign Against War in the Gulf|
Government rejects Sheffield petition against sanctions and bombing of Iraq
In early 2001, the Sheffield petition against sanctions and bombing of Iraq was submitted to the government. Sheffield Central MP Richard Caborn deposited the sheaf of over 1,000 signatures in the bin behind the Speaker’s Chair. The text of our petition was entered into the official record.
The UK government has rejected our petition! The “Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs” – presumably Brian Wilson, Peter Hain’s replacement at the Foreign Office’s Middle East and Africa desk – has issued a statement, entitled “Supplement to the Votes and Proceedings”, which sets out the government’s reasons for rejecting our petition. The government’s rejection of our petition, and its defence of the policy of sanctions and bombing of Iraq, is a disgrace!
We have reproduced it in full below, with a point by point rebuttal by the Sheffield campaign.
This point-by-point rebuttal is a draft. We have decided to circulate this draft as widely as possible, and invite supporters to suggest about how it can be improved. The task is not only to refute the Secretary of State’s arguments, but to defend the Sheffield petition. We don’t want to unduly prolong the process of arriving at a final text, but any suggestions for changes and improvements will be taken seriously.
But first, our petition, which read as follows:
We, the undersigned, note with horror the genocidal effects of UN sanctions on Iraq which have killed at least 1.2 million Iraqis, including more than 500,000 children since 1990, and are now killing 5-6000 Iraqi children every month.*We could provide the text with a set of footnotes, giving supporting facts/quotes/references for each of the points at issue.
Note on New US/UK proposals for changes to Iraq sanctions.
The US and UK are trying to retreat to a more defensible position, because they realise that their current policy is completely indefensible.
The main proposed change is to move from the present situation, in which every purchase must be approved by the UN sanctions committee, to one where Iraq would be free to buy anything so long as it was not on a banned list. But this is nothing like as big a change as might appear. The list of banned goods is going to be long, and will include many vital items which the US/UK considers dual-use. The FT reported that US diplomats were arguing that chemicals necessary for decontaminating water should be put on the banned list. Also, the current situation – in which Iraq’s oil receipts are paid into an escrow account in New York, from which all exporters to Iraq are paid – would continue unchanged.
It took a year of wrangling on the UN Security Council before it arrived at the dead-in-the-water UNSCR 1284. A key aim of the US and UK is to win Arab regimes back onto its side. But with the Israel- Palestine coflict going from bad to worse, and the rage of their own people getting hotter by the day, there is no guarantee that the Egyptian, Saudi etc governments will buy this new policy.
Conclusion: there is nothing in the proposed changes to the sanctions regime which would cause to change our response to the government’s rejection of our petition... or so it seems to me. If you think otherwise, please say.
“Observations by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on the Petition [13th February] from the Sheffield Committee Against War on Iraq and others calling on the House to urge the Government to stop military attacks on and end its support for sanctions against Iraq”
SUPPLEMENT TO THE VOTES AND PROCEEDINGS 1st March 2001
[To read the government’s response on its own, skip all the indented paragraphs.]
Observations by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on the Petition [13th February] from the Sheffield Committee Against War on Iraq and others calling on the House to urge the Government to stop military attacks on and end its support for sanctions against Iraq.
With a point-by-point response by Sheffield Committee Against War in the Gulf.
The Government fully shares international concern about the humanitarian situation in Iraq. The Iraqi regime, not sanctions, is responsible for the suffering of the Iraqi people.
Three reasons why these claims have zero credibility:
Under UN Security Council Resolution 1284—the comprehensive UK-led resolution on Iraq adopted in December 1999—Iraq could achieve the suspension and then lifting of sanctions by cooperating with the new UN arms control body, the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), but the Iraqi regime refuses to cooperate, preferring to give priority to weapons not the welfare of the people.
UNSCR 1284 stated that Iraq had to readmit weapons inspectors and they had to complete their work and declare Iraq cleansed of WMD before a rolling 120-day suspension of sanctions could begin. Further suspensions would have to be agreed by the Security Council, where a US or UK veto would bring the immediate reimposition of sanctions. This procedure would be continued indefinitely.
UNSCR 1284 was born dead. Its real purpose was to provide a pretext for the continuation of sanctions.
The threat from Iraq’s weapons programme is real. A UN panel of 22 independent disarmament experts concluded in 1999 that serious gaps remained in Iraq’s declarations on chemical and biological weapons and ballistic missiles, such as Iraq’s failure to tell the truth over its production and weaponisation of VX (nerve agent).
The Secretary of State attempts to use the alleged threat posed by their erstwhile ally in Baghdad to justify the UK government’s own military policy.
Iraq is not a military threat today because it is war-devastated and its economy is prostrate. US/UK policy is to ensure that it remains that way, until such time as a compliant regime takes power in Baghdad.
US and UK policy towards the Middle East is based on their own overwhelming military might (including the world’s largest stockpiles of ‘weapons of mass destruction’), and their readiness to use this force to advance their own interests – including to repress challenges by the peoples to their corrupt regimes.
Statements from Baghdad in January 2001 repeating Iraqi claims to Kuwait are a reminder of Iraq’s continuing ambitions and the need for the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Authority] and UNMOVIC [United Nations Monitoring and Verification Commission] to re-establish an effective arms control regime in Iraq under SCR 1284.
The US and UK encouraged Iraq’s invasion of Iran and they protect Israel’s occupation of Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese territory. The UK in particular has aggravated and manipulated the Iraq-Kuwait border dispute to suit its own ends. So, we reject the attempt by the UK government to use this dispute as an excuse for their own continued military involvement.
Every member of the Security Council believes there must be progress on disarmament before there can be progress on sanctions.
The Secretary of State glosses over the deep differences between the US and UK and other members of the Security Council. Three of the five permanent members reject the US/UK policy of confrontation. Hubert Vedrine, France’s Foreign Minister, stated last August that sanctions on Iraq were “cruel, ineffective and dangerous” ; Russian and Chinese criticisms are even more strident. UNSCR 1284 was achieved after a year of deadlock on the Security Council, and when it was adopted , in December 1999, only Britain and the US out of the ‘permanent five’ actually voted for it.
The UK has led attempts to alleviate the Iraqi people’s plight through improvements in successive “oil for food” resolutions of the Security Council. With UN SCR 1284’s removal of the ceiling on the amount of oil Iraq can export, the “oil for food” programme has expanded sevenfold since it began in 1996, making available about $14 billion for humanitarian expenditure last year. The UN has also introduced simplified “fast-track” procedures to speed up the contract process. The majority of goods exported to Iraq are no longer referred to the Sanctions Committee. Iraq simply does not order the goods it needs. It failed, for example, to spend any of the $625 million allocated to the health sector during the last six-month phase of the “oil for food” programme.
It is true that some of the most extreme elements of the sanctions regime were modified by UNSCR 1284. These changes amount to a tacit admission that previous procedures had caused civilian suffering, something the Secretary of State continues to deny. However, Iraq’s humanitarian crisis is the consequence of economic collapse and can only be lifted through revival of the economy. Whilst the US and UK do not so actively impede humanitarian supplies, they continue to block purchases of materials and equipment vital for economic reactivation. Iraq is only allowed to sell oil, and while the export ceiling has been lifted, US and UK ‘holds’ on spare parts and machinery continue toi seriously disrupt efforts to repair Iraq’s war-damaged and decrepit oil industry.
UK and US forces are certainly not engaged in the devastation of Iraq’s civilian infrastructure, including its water services. Indeed, as part of the UK’s wider programme of aid to Iraq—worth about £6 million a year—the Department for International Development is currently funding two water and sanitation projects in Baghdad-controlled Iraq.
The Sheffield petition referred to the devastation of Iraq’s civilian infrastructure during and since the 1991 Gulf War.
UK and US pilots patrol the No Fly Zones, which were established in 1991 and 1992 to stop Saddam Hussein continuing to use his aircraft in the brutal repression of his own people. Iraq’s limited military incursion into Kurdish territory for three days in December 2000, and some 250 violations of the NFZs by Iraqi combat-aircraft since December 1998, show Baghdad’s continuing hostility towards the Kurds and Shia of Iraq.
It is significant that the US and UK no longer claim UN authorisation for their illegal “no-fly” zones, in which they in effect assert their sovereignty over Iraqi airspace. The constant overflying of Iraq by US and UK warplanes is a violation of Iraq’s sovereignty and of international law, and is deeply humiliating to many ordinary Iraqi people.
Since late 1998, Iraqi forces have targeted UK and US aircraft in the NFZs on more than 1200 occasions, including with artillery and missiles. In the first weeks of 2001, the threat to our aircrew increased. Iraq fired more missiles at our aircraft in January than in the whole of last year. This compelled us to act on l6 February against military targets directly linked to this increased threat, including some outside the NFZs. This action was a proportionate response in self-defence, taken solely in order to reduce the risk to our pilots. Every effort was made to avoid civilian casualties.
Iraq has a right to defend its airspace. If the UK government wants to protect ‘our pilots’, then they should not be given illegal orders to invade Iraq’s sovereign airspace and should be withdrawn.
Iraqi claims of civilian casualties must be treated with extreme caution. The Iraqis have claimed such casualties even on days when no UK/US aircraft have been flying.
We have also learned to treat the UK government’s pronouncements with extreme caution. Until he was stopped by US/UK pressure, the UN Humanitarian co-ordinator in Iraq sent teams to visit the sites of recent bombing attacks; their findings almost always corroborated the Iraqi government’s casualty reports.