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A RESPONSE TO ALEXANDER STERNBERG Part III Lifting Sanctions on Iraq - de-linking the issue of Kurdistan SUMMARY >Having argued for the de-linking of the inspection crisis and the humanitarian crisis, anti-sanctions activists should not accept the re- linking of the humanitarian crisis with the Kurdish crisis. >Making the solution of the humanitarian crisis dependent on the solution of the Kurdish crisis is to punish millions of ordinary families for the failure of Iraqi, Kurdish and US/UK leaders to agree. >International security guarantees for the Kurds are not inextricably mixed up with economic sanctions against Iraq. Guarantees could continue after economic sanctions are lifted. >Sternberg fails to make the case that the Kurdish part of Iraq's border is less porous than other borders. >The crucial issue is whether, as Sternberg seems to be suggesting, the question of guarantees (and the issue of security must be distinguished from the issue of revenue distribution) should become a condition of lifting economic sanctions, or, as Peter Brooke appears to be suggesting, guarantees should be considered as part of ‘the manner in which sanctions are lifted', once a commitment to lift economic sanctions unconditionally has been secured. ****************** INTRO Given the logical flaws and evidential poverty of Alexander Sternberg's arguments regarding the impact of economic sanctions on Iraq, it is clear that his real concern is the protection and preservation of the Kurdish people currently living within the three autonomous northern governorates (as he himself notes in his opening paragraph, there are more than a million Kurds living in areas under Baghdad's control). For some reason Sternberg addresses only the problems of Iraq's Kurds, and not the persecution suffered by Kurds in other neighbouring countries - not the problems of Kurdistan as a whole. Why these other Kurds do not deserve security and public expenditure guarantees just as much as the Kurds of Iraq, Sternberg does not explain. GUARANTEES 1. Sternberg is concerned that lifting economic sanctions will threaten the security of the three million Kurds in the autonomous zone. He refers to the Government of Iraq's campaigns against the Kurds in the 1980s, and says, ‘How can all this brutal history be ignored by the anti-sanctionists?! If sanctions are lifted, without security guarantees, and without guarantees of a fair share of Iraq's public wealth, it could happen all over again.' (para 15) 2. Sternberg is of course absolutely correct. It could all happen again. But what he fails to point out is that ‘it could happen all over again' even if there are ‘security guarantees' and ‘guarantees of a fair share of Iraq's public wealth'. One recalls the many solemn treaties signed between the United States of America and the Native peoples of North America (sovereign nations). Written guarantees cannot offer complete protection. And security guarantees from major powers depend on the orientation of those powers. The Kurds of Iraq are only too well aware of what the word of the United States is worth, for example. 3. What is at issue in regard to the Kurds of Iraq is not an absolute guarantee of the total protection of the greater proportion of that ethnic minority - forever. This is not something that can be completely guaranteed in perpetuity by any diplomatic or military structure that respects the territorial integrity of Iraq - something that both the major and regional powers are committed to, for a variety of reasons. (Sternberg does not question this basic commitment.) Outsiders must necessarily set their sights lower. 4. Sternberg seems to be suggesting that the lifting of economic sanctions should be made conditional on the signing by the Government of Iraq of (a) a binding commitment to some form of security guarantee structure (I presume Sternberg intends the military involvement of outside powers); and (b) a binding commitment to providing the three northern governorates with ‘a fair share of Iraq's public wealth'. 5. On the latter point, we know from Denis Halliday's discussions with both Government ministers and Kurdish leaders in June 2001 that there is a gap between their positions. PUK and KDP leaders seem to want Baghdad to provide in perpetuity a similar proportion of Iraq's oil revenues to that currently enjoyed under oil-for-food (13 per cent). Baghdad's position (which has a certain consistency) seems to be that revenues for particular sectors should be allocated on a per capita basis. Currently, the northern governorates receive just over 18 per cent of the revenues available for humanitarian supplies under oil-for-food (13 out of 72 per cent), while containing less than 14 per cent of the population of the country (3 million out of something like 22 million people). DE-LINKING 6. The position of the mainstream of the anti-sanctions movement has been that economic sanctions on Iraq should be lifted immediately and unconditionally. The solution of the humanitarian crisis should be de-linked from the solution of the inspection crisis, as the old formula has it. What Sternberg (and a number of other commentators) seem to be suggesting is that the solution of the humanitarian crisis should be made dependent on the solution of the Iraqi Kurdish crisis. 7. Anti-sanctions activists are used to arguing that ‘babies do not make biological weapons, and should not be punished (and killed) unless and until the Iraqi government and the international community agree on what should be done about Iraq's suspected biological weapons programme.' 8. It is hard to see how they should now adopt the position (at the urging of Sternberg and others) that ‘although babies are not responsible for the civil strife in Iraq, they should nevertheless be punished (and killed) unless and until the Iraqi government and the international community agree on what should be done about the security and revenues of the three northern governorates.' 9. Making the solution of the humanitarian crisis conditional on the solution of the Iraqi Kurdish crisis means being willing to inflict mass poverty and mass suffering on 22 million ordinary Iraqis in order to pressurise the Government of Iraq into making a particular accommodation with the Kurdish people living in the three northern governorates. It means being willing to continue a sanctions regime which is killing several thousand Iraqi children every month in order to achieve a particular political settlement. 10. There may be individuals and groups within the anti-sanctions movement who are willing to adopt this position, but I personally am not, and I cannot see it as a morally superior position. 11. Refusing to make the lifting of economic sanctions on Iraq conditional on either a new inspection process or a new settlement with Iraq's Kurds does not mean that one has no concern for either issue. It means that whatever solution is found in these areas cannot be at the cost of the fundamental human rights of millions of ordinary Iraqi families. 12. It is entirely consistent with previous mainstream positions within the anti-sanctions movement to campaign for the unconditional lifting of economic sanctions on Iraq and to be committed to achieving the best possible arrangement for Iraq's Kurds within the post-sanctions country. Once Britain and the US have given way, and negotiations begin on the modalities of the post-sanctions environment (it is hard to imagine that the sanctions will be lifted literally overnight), it would be entirely proper for those anti-sanctions activists who aren concerned to press for the best possible deal during the negotiations. 13. But if anti-sanctions activists take on the position that the Iraqi Kurdish issue must be solved first, I have no doubt that we will set back the day when the sanctions-induced suffering of Iraq's children can finally end. DISTINGUISHING GUARANTEES FROM SANCTIONS 14. The distinction which Sternberg fails to make, and which is crucial to the whole argument, is between the economic sanctions regime and the security guarantee to the Kurds of the three northern governnorates. Iraqi Kurds seem to regard the two as either the same thing, or inextricably mingled together, so that the lifting of economic sanctions necessarily means the removal of the US/UK military guarantee to the three governorates, and the lifting of the no-fly zone. 15. Thus Sternberg writes, <16. Mine awareness education, demarcation of minefields, and demining, a painfully slow process, have been implemented by NGOs since 1992, and by the UN under the oil-for-food program since 1997. Lifting sanctions would be expected to halt these critically important activities.> While in a post-sanctions environment there would no longer be guaranteed UN-channelled Iraqi oil revenues for the de-mining process, it is by no means clear that NGO or UN agency activities must necessarily stop after economic sanctions are lifted. If the northern governorates continued to be an autonomous zone under US/UK military protection, and Baghdad was permissive, it is hard to see why these activities must necessarily stop (though they would probably have to be funded by outside donors instead of by funds diverted forcibly from Iraqi oil revenues). 16. I personally do not support the carving out of a US/UK/Turkish security zone in the north of Iraq, and I am opposed to the continuation of the northern (and southern) no-fly zones. However, for those who favour such policies because they are committed to the protection of the Kurds in the three northern governorates, it is entirely possible and coherent to campaign both for the lifting of economic sanctions and the continuation of the US/UK military guarantee to, and overflights of, the autonomous zone. 17. Support for international military guarantees to Iraq's Kurds can co-exist with support for the unconditional and immediate lifting of economic sanctions on Iraq. Security guarantees can continue - they can even be strengthened - even after economic sanctions are lifted. I would prefer they did not. However, I cannot see the logic of campaigning for the retention of economic sanctions on the grounds that without them Iraq's Kurds would lack a security guarantee. 18. The economic sanctions interfere with Iraq's civilian economy and the reconstruction of its civilian infrastructure. They do not interfere with Iraq's military capacities - those are subject to military sanctions, which are not at issue (for the overwhelming bulk of anti-sanctions groups), and which show no signs of ending with the economic sanctions. 19. The political reality may be that international concern with Iraq will decline once economic sanctions are lifted. However, that does not justify extending the duration of the suffering of the people of Iraq. For those who want strong international guarantees for the Kurds of Iraq (whether they are backed up by military or non-military sanctions), this is an argument which must be won on its own merits, and not by default by the continuation of sanctions which punish an entire nation. 20. Sternberg writes in the heading to one of his sections, ‘What happens [in Iraqi Kurdistan, obviously] when sanctions are eventually lifted? Another very good question.' It is a question he singularly fails to answer, except to complain that public services in the three governorates will be damaged because UN agencies have hired local government staff away from public service. (para 31) POROUSNESS 21. On a much less important topic, Sternberg writes, ‘Regarding the border with Kurdistan being "more porous", give us a break! What planet do the proponents of lifting sanctions live on?' (para 25) His rebuttal? ‘All of Iraq's borders are porous: Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Iran, in addition to Turkey.' (para 26) Goods come in from all of these states. Sternberg claims (again without evidence) that ‘Much of what's available in Kurdistan comes up from the CS, not from Turkey. And much of what comes from Turkey goes to the CS, not to Kurdistan.' Sternberg's arguments are not so important in themselves as in what they reveal of his standards of logic and argument. 22. Take just the importation side of ‘porousness', let's suppose that porousness is measured in terms of goods imported per mile of border per year. Using the length of the Kurdish border as one unit of length, let's say the borders with Saudi Arabia and Iran are 2 units long, the Syrian border is 1.5 units long, and the Jordanian and Kuwaiti borders are .5 units long. For the sake of argument, let's say that $150m worth of goods are smuggled in via the northern and eastern borders of Iraqi Kurdistan every year, and $60m worth of goods comes in every year over each of the Iranian, Saudi, Jordanian, and Syrian borders with Centre/South, and a similar sum comes in and goes out via the sea route. Kurdistan would account for $150m worth of imports a year in total. All the direct routes into the Centre/South would amount to $300m worth of goods a year. The total sum imported into the Centre/South directly would be twice as much as that coming in through Kurdistan, but the Kurdish border would still be considerably more porous than any other single border. The Kuwaiti border would account for $30m per unit length per year, compared to $50m per unit length per year. 23. For completeness's sake, we should also bring in the exportation side of porousness. 24.. These figures are plucked out of the air. I am not suggesting they reflect reality. They are there simply to show that you cannot demonstrate the less porous nature of the Kurdish border by pointing out (correctly) that goods also cross other borders. To establish the relative porousness of different borders you need to show what the value of goods crossing the different borders is. For Sternberg, this is another case of argument by assertion. 25. Underlying this whole argument, and the reason for Sternberg's fervour on the point, is the fact that the Kurdish authorities levy tolls on goods passing through their territories, and these revenues are retained in the local economy for local use, giving Kurdistan an ‘option/ capability/ capacity/ resource' not mentioned by Sternberg in his analysis. NORTH VS. CENTRE/SOUTH 26. Sternberg makes a number of interesting points regarding the better nutritional and humanitarian situation in the autonomous zone compared to the Centre/South of Iraq, which deserve separate discussion. I leave this to others better qualified than myself. 27. However, I cannot help wondering why the judgement of UNICEF's representative in Iraq regarding the causes of these differences is ‘uninformed opinion' (para 23) (UNICEF conducts numerous programmes in both the North and the Centre/South), while the differing judgement of Alexander Sternberg is presumed to be not only ‘informed', but absolutely correct. CONCLUSION 28. Responding to Sternberg's essay, Peter Brooke recently suggested to the CASI list, ‘We need to think about security guarantees and guarantees of a fair share of Iraq's public wealth. What a pity nobody in the US or British government seems to be thinking about these things. I am sure that once the case has been put there would be very few people on our list who would disagree with it. But it isn't an argument against the lifting of sanctions. It is simply an intelligent and serious suggestion as to the manner in which sanctions should be lifted.' 29. I cannot help feeling that the crucial issue is whether, as Sternberg seems to be suggesting, the question of guarantees (and the issue of security must be distinguished from the issue of revenue distribution) should become a condition of lifting economic sanctions, or, as Peter Brooke seems to be suggesting, guarantees should be considered as part of ‘the manner in which sanctions are lifted', once a commitment to lift economic sanctions unconditionally has been secured. Milan Rai Joint Coordinator, Voices in the Wilderness UK firstname.lastname@example.org 29 Gensing Road, St Leonards on Sea East Sussex UK TN38 0HE Phone/fax 0845 458 9571 local rate within UK Phone/fax 44 1424 428 792 from outside UK Pager 07623 746 462 Voices website http://viwuk.freeserve.co.uk -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq For removal from list, email email@example.com Full details of CASI's various lists can be found on the CASI website: http://www.casi.org.uk