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Re: Lifting Sanctions on Iraq - dissident view PART THREE

Lifting Sanctions on Iraq - de-linking the issue of Kurdistan

>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.

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 

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.

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).

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 

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.

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 

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)

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.

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.

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
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

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