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.

[Main archive index/search] [List information] [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

von Sponeck/Halliday statement on smart sanctions

A 'New' Iraq Policy: 
What About International Law and Compassion?
Hans von Sponeck and Denis Halliday

The conveyor belt theory that economic pressure will produce 
political change has once again proved to be false. A change in 
government has not taken place but the conditions of life facing civilian 
Iraq is today are desperate, far worse than what senior UN officials 
described already in 1991 as apocalyptic. 

At the end of World War II, a Marshall Plan came to the rescue of a 
civilian population in Germany devastated and traumatized by six 
years of war. At the end of Operation Desert Storm in 1991 
following the earlier Iran-Iraq war of eight years, Iraqis were 
sentenced to the most comprehensive sanctions ever extended by the 
international community to a country. Not surprising the human cost 
for a decade of failure is horrendous. 

Today Iraq has the dubious distinction of being the country with the 
highest increase in child mortality during the period 1990-99 of all the 
188 countries surveyed according to a UNICEF report released in 
December 2000. 

As two former Humanitarian Coordinators who have lived in Iraq for 
lengthy periods and who have had the rare opportunity to see 
conditions on the ground and interact with Iraqi officials and normal 
citizens, we would like to express our deep apprehension over the 
current UK/US proposals for a new international policy on Iraq.

What is proposed as an international road map for change seemingly 
suggests a well-surfaced international highway to civilian recovery. The 
brutal truth is that the road is full of potholes. 

The US State Department and the British Foreign Office must be 
aware that eventually the 'true story' will come out just as in the cases 
of Chile and Vietnam. The tragedy is that it will come too late for 
millions of Iraqis who will have died or become permanently disabled 
by self-serving and dishonest policies of others. 

Our first concern is that the international community and the Iraqi 
authorities do whatever is in their power to allow the restoration of 
genuine socio-economic normalcy and dignity of life in Iraq. 

The proposals the UK has made to the UN Security Council will, as 
presently foreseen, not lead at all to a betterment of the human 
condition in Iraq. An enlarged 'green list' of items which can come 
into the country more freely does not constitute a removal of 
external restrictions on a normal civilian life! Only the full lifting of the 
economic embargo will contribute to this. 

What is proposed at this point in fact amounts to a tightening of the 
rope around the neck of the average Iraqi citizen. The question that 
needs an answer is; how much does it cost to run a nation, 
particularly a nation disabled by ten years of sanctions. Where should 
resources come from for the maintenance of Iraqi roads, ports, 
bridges and railways? What about money for the civil service, the 
payment of teachers, or for the up-keep of hospitals and schools?

Sanction regulations do not permit any funding for such purposes. 
Does this not put into perspective the amounts of money the Iraqi 
government obtains in addition to the legal sale of oil? 

The proposed 'civilian-friendly' new policy for Iraq is trying to 
eliminate this source of revenue. If successful, it will deepen, not 
lessen the suffering of the Iraqi people. 

US and UK representatives at the UN Security Council argue that 
their proposals are tantamount to lifting most, if not all, restrictions 
on the import of civilian goods. Consequently, any continued suffering 
by the Iraqi people will be on account of the Government in Baghdad. 

This is not only false but malicious. 

A genuine international contribution to ending the tragedy in Iraq will 
only come when economic sanctions are lifted. The status of a hand-
out society will only end when Iraq's economic engine is running again 
and when people have a chance to fend for themselves, rather than 
waiting for the monthly food basket. 

Without foreign investment of financial and human resources this will 
not happen nor will it happen as long as the Iraqi oil revenue is 
managed from outside. 

The so-called 'new' sanction policy maintains the old bridgeheads of 
the current sanction regime: the oil escrow account remains with the 
UN, market-based foreign investment in Iraq will not be allowed and 
an oil-for-food programme stays in the hands of the UN. 

The smell is of diluted wine in the same restricted bottle. No 
reasonable person will want to drink it and the Iraqi Government will 
refuse to pay for it. For the Iraqi people with an immune system 
which has all but disappeared, it will be fatal.

Ultimately, this circuitous approach in dealing with Iraq is based on 
the pretension that Iraq still constitutes a military threat. The anti-Iraq 
lobby has tried hard to suggest that major recent acts of terrorism 
have an Iraq connection. No facts are offered. All this is designed to 
justify a policy of punishment of a nation for having failed to get rid of 
its leader.

Iraq today is no longer a military threat to anyone. Intelligence 
agencies know this. All the conjectures about weapons of mass 
destruction in Iraq lack evidence. An Iraq that at the height of its 
military prowess in the war against Iran failed to win a clear victory is 
not an Iraq that can be a danger after ten years of sanctions and seven 
years of disarmament. 

William Cohen was therefore right when he conveyed to incoming 
President Bush on 10 January that "Iraq no longer poses a military 
threat to its neighbours".

The new majority leader of the US House of Representatives, Tom 
Daschle, in talking about the Middle East referred to the need for 
compromise. We too, believe that there will be no progress in any 
aspect of the Middle East peace process without compromise. This 
includes Iraq. 

The cornerstone of such compromise has to be that all parties accept 
the principle of dialogue. The second round of talks between the UN 
Secretary-General and an Iraqi delegation is an important step 
towards a fuller dialogue with the UN Security Council. 

The US/UK Governments have the position papers presented by the 
then Iraqi Foreign Minister Al-Sahaf to Secretary-General Annan in 
February. A full dialogue must begin with a substantive, not a political, 
reaction by the UN Security Council to these papers. This would set 
the stage for a review of all outstanding matters from missing POWs 
to compensation payments and disarmament. 

If there is an honest concern for the welfare of the Iraqi people, then 
there must also be a sense of urgency in finding a humane way out of 
the present political cul-de-sac. Let not hate but sympathy for a 
human catastrophe be the guide for the next steps.

H.C. von Sponeck                                Denis L. Halliday
UN Humanitarian Coordinator     UN Humanitarian Coordinator
For Iraq                                        For Iraq
(1998-2000)                             (1997-1998)

                               Geneva/Dublin, 29 May 2001

This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq
For removal from list, email
Full details of CASI's various lists can be found on the CASI website:

[Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]