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Von Sponeck: UK Envoy Fails to Justify Iraq Sanctions (28 Jul 01 - Irish Times)

Saturday, July 28, 2001
UK envoy fails to justify Iraq sanctions
The British government stands rightly accused of inflicting misery on the
people of Iraq, argues Hans von Sponeck , a former United Nations official

On January 27th, 2000 the British House of Commons released a document.
Prepared by a group of MPs from all parties, it concluded that the "blunt
instrument" of economic sanctions against Iraq essentially had failed to
achieve its objectives. Instead it had inflicted enormous human costs on
innocent civilians.

Since then much evidence from reputable institutions such as the Red Cross,
Caritas, Care, UNICEF and others has been added to substantiate what the MPs
had pointed out and what had caused two UN officials in charge of the
oil-for-food programme in Iraq, Denis Halliday and myself, to resign. Our
resignations were in protest over a flawed international Iraq policy and the
conversion of the UN from an instrument of conflict resolution to an
instrument of conflict promotion.

This reality makes it hard to understand why the British Foreign Office does
not equip its ambassadors better to argue their case. The British
ambassador, Sir Ivor Roberts, in his letter (The Irish Times, July 21st)
uses the same misleading and easily refutable lines of past British argument
read elsewhere.

It is correct that $23.5 billion was approved for humanitarian supplies.
What Sir Ivor does not mention is that less than $11 billion had actually
arrived in Iraq during a four-year period - only about $100 per person per

Sir Ivor's government also knows that the unusually complicated procurement
mechanism maintained under sanctions causes delays and slippage in the use
of funds. His government knows why allocations for health and education
budgets fluctuate from phase to phase. Sir Ivor repeats what his government
has often and simplistically advanced as an explanation for better
conditions of life in the Kurdish areas outside Baghdad's control.

The British Foreign Office knows, too, that it is not simply a case of
Baghdad's absence. Sanction regulations are applied in these areas much more
loosely. Cash can be disbursed and local procurement is possible. The
Kurdish areas on a per capita basis get a larger share of oil revenue for
their programmes.

The hilly Kurdish region has a more temperate climate and therefore a better
epidemiological situation. There are many NGOs active, unlike elsewhere in
Iraq, and there is substantial cross-border trade with Turkey and Iran. Sir
Ivor should have mentioned these factors when explaining why the Kurdish
areas are better off.

He refers to Iraq's "illegal" income from the sale of oil outside the
oil-for-food programme. He is correct in his criticism that some of these
funds are spent on luxuries and not on education and health. These, however,
are minimal amounts. His government is surely aware that in Iraq, like
anywhere else, it costs money to run a nation.

Sanctions make no provision for any recurrent cost budget. I am not at all
an apologist for the government of Iraq when I ask where should funds come
from for the payment of civil servants, teachers' salaries, for the up-keep
of schools and hospitals, for roads, bridges and other infrastructure.

But depriving Iraq of such "extra" income to defray legitimate national
costs, as proposed by the UK/US "smart" sanction resolution, would have
indeed done what Sir Ivor argues it would not: choke legitimate civilian
trade and humanitarian assistance. Fortunately, the UN Security Council last
month decided to shelve this initiative.

My hope is that this will clear the path for dialogue and end the dreadful
battle between Iraq and a US/UK-led UN Security Council, fought on the backs
of the Iraqi people. Until this happens, I am afraid, Sir Ivor, the UK will
be rightly blamed for prolonging an agony.

Hans von Sponeck is a former Humanitarian Co-ordinator for Iraq

Nathaniel Hurd
Iraq Sanctions Project (ISP) Associate
Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR)
162 Montague Street, 2nd Floor
Brooklyn, NY 11201
Tel.: 718-237-9145, x 21
Fax: 718-237-9147
Mobile: 917-407-3389
Personal E-Fax: 707-221-7449

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