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basic anti-sanctions briefing

Dear all

A Word-formatted version of this available from our website soon.



Sanctions on Iraq
A voices in the wilderness uk briefing, September 2001

Are the people of Iraq still suffering? Are sanctions responsible?
What about the UN's oil-for-food relief programme? Why are 
sanctions continuing? What about 'smart sanctions'?

voices in the wilderness uk believes that economic sanctions on Iraq 
must be lifted immediately and unconditionally on humanitarian 
grounds. We also totally oppose so-called "smart sanctions".

1) Are the people of Iraq still suffering?
On 12 Aug. 1999, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) released the 
results of a major survey into child death rates in Iraq. Children under 
the age of five in central and southern Iraq were 'dying at more than 
twice the rate they were ten years ago.' 
        Child death rates declined during the 1980s, but rose sharply in 
the 1990s (sanctions were imposed in 1990). According to UNICEF 
Executive Director Carol Bellamy, sanctions contributed to the deaths 
of half a million children between 1991 and 1998. If child death rates 
had declined in the 1990s in the way they had in the 1980s, 'there 
would have been half a million fewer deaths of children under-five'.
        UNICEF did not say that all these deaths were the result of 
sanctions. However, economic sanctions were 'certainly one factor'.
A report from the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and 
the World Food Programme (WFP) in September 2000 estimated 
that ' least about 800,000 children under the age of five' were 
'chronically malnourished' in Iraq. Chronic malnutrition can lead to 
lifelong physical and mental stunting. 
        The report said that there had been 'a marginal decrease' in 
acute malnutrition rates since 1995. 
        Prior to the war, Iraqi children suffered more from excessive 
eating than from malnutrition: 'calorie availability was 120% of actual 
requirement, nutritional deficiencies were at very low levels, while 
clinical disorders due to excessive and unbalanced consumption of 
foods were increasingly encountered.' (World Health Organization, 
The Health Conditions of the Population in Iraq Since the Gulf Crisis, 
1996, p. 2)
        Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children are going hungry, and 
thousands are dying every month, because of economic sanctions.

2) Are economic sanctions to blame for the suffering?
Sanctions have been blamed for the humanitarian crisis by two 
leaders of the UN's own 'oil-for-food' relief programme in Iraq. Denis 
Halliday and Hans von Sponeck resigned as directors of oil-for-food in 
1998 and 2000, in protest against the sanctions.
        Economic sanctions have been blamed for the suffering in Iraq 
by, among others: the Pope, Anglican Bishops, Save the Children, 
Human Rights Watch, the UN Sub-Commission on the Promotion 
and Protection of Human Rights, the Economist magazine, and the 
French Foreign Minister. 
        'If people could hear and see what is being done in their names 
in Iraq, they would be outraged. But they don't, so it continues.' (John 
Simpson of the BBC, Sunday Telegraph, 30 Apr. 2000)
        Economic sanctions have prevented the reconstruction of 
essential public health infrastructure damaged in the 1991 Gulf War 
(water purification and distribution, sewage and sanitation, and so on), 
creating a deeply unhealthy environment. 
        The World Food Programme reports that "the main reason" 
for the continuing nutritional crisis in Iraq is "the massive 
deterioration in basic infrastructure" (Dec. 1998). The Economist 
Intelligence Unit has estimated (Mar. 2000) that the reconstruction of 
Iraq's civilian infrastructure will cost between $50bn and $100bn.

3) What about the oil-for-food relief programme?
In 1996, the UN and Iraq agreed a scheme permitting the sale of Iraqi 
oil in six-monthly 'Phases'. Iraqi oil revenues are banked in a UN-
controlled account in New York, and used to pay for humanitarian 
imports into Iraq. Iraq is allowed to sell as much oil as it wants for this 
'oil-for-food' programme. (<>)
        Not all the money goes to humanitarian purchases, however. 
25 per cent of Iraqi oil sales are diverted to compensation for 
companies and countries which suffered war damage in 1991. A few 
per cent go on UN expenses and bank charges. 
        Only 72 per cent of oil revenues are available for humanitarian 
purchases. (Over $3bn worth of goods Iraq has tried to order are on 
'hold', blocked by the US and UK in the UN Sanctions Committee.)
        An expert 'Humanitarian Panel' convened by the Security 
Council concluded in Mar. 1999 that 'oil-for-food' could not meet the 
needs of the Iraqi people, '[r]egardless of the improvements that 
might be brought about in the implementation of' the relief 
programme. There are some things that oil-for-food simply cannot do.
        The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has stated 
that the nutritional crisis in Iraq cannot be solved without restoring 
the 'viability' of the Iraqi Dinar, and 'creating conditions for the people 
to acquire adequate purchasing power'. (FAO, 1995)
        Iraqi families need jobs, and wages paid in a meaningful 
currency, in order to be able to buy essential goods and services. But 
jobs can be generated and the value of the Iraqi Dinar increased 'only 
if the economy can be put back in proper shape enabling it to draw 
on its own resources, and that clearly cannot occur as long as the 
embargo remains in force.' (FAO, 1995) 
        You cannot generate jobs and increase family purchasing power 
by importing humanitarian goods. Oil-for-food cannot solve the 
purchasing power problem. It is also incapable of generating the 
colossal funds needed to reconstruct the civilian infrastructure.

4) Why do sanctions continue?
The British Government says economic sanctions must continue until 
Iraq has fulfilled the disarmament obligations set out in UN Security 
Council Resolution 687. (Passed in April 1991, UNSCR 687 requires 
UN-monitored destruction of Iraq's nuclear, chemical, and biological 
weapons and long-range missiles.) 
        In other words, the UK (and US) position is that the solution of 
the public health crisis in Iraq must wait on the solution of an 
inspection crisis which has dragged on since at least 1998. 
        But as the Centre for Economic and Social Rights points out: 
the Security Council 'As a matter of fundamental principle, human 
rights are based on the inherent dignity and worth of every human 
person, and are owed directly to individuals. These rights are not 
forfeited because of a government's misconduct.'  Whatever Baghdad 
does, we must respect the people's basic rights.
        Regarding disarmament, Scott Ritter, the ex-UN weapons 
inspector, wrote in June 2000, 'Most of UNSCOM's findings of Iraqi 
non-compliance concerned either the inability to verify an Iraqi 
declaration or peripheral matters such as components and 
documentation, which by and of themselves do not constitute a 
weapon or a program. By the end of 1998, Iraq had, in fact, been 
disarmed to a level unprecedented in modern history, but UNSCOM 
and the Security Council were unable - and in some instances, 
unwilling - to acknowledge this accomplishment.' (Arms Control 
Today, June 2000)

5) What about "smart sanctions"?
The main change to the oil-for-food programme in the US/UK "smart 
sanctions" package is to allow Iraq to import all civilian goods except 
those identified on a special "Goods Review List", reducing the ability 
of the Sanctions Committee to block goods. But just allowing more 
goods into Iraq 'will do nothing to tackle the real issue - how to 
stimulate the internal economy and allow civil society to come back'. 
(Anonymous aid agency official, FT, 1 June 2001)
        The other main proposals are aimed at stopping Iraq from 
getting access to foreign currency (through oil smuggling and other 
devices). But Hans von Sponeck and Denis Halliday, former UN 
Humanitarian Coordinators for Iraq, warn that choking off Iraq's 
income will actually deepen the humanitarian crisis. At least some of 
the foreign exchange Iraq acquires is used to maintain roads, ports, 
bridges, railways, to pay for teachers and doctors. Cutting off Iraq's 
supply of foreign exchange 'amounts to a tightening of the rope 
around the neck of the average citizen,' say Halliday and von Sponeck. 
"Smart sanctions" are clever PR but worth little or actually harmful in 
terms of the needs of the Iraqi people.

6) The way forward
World opinion has turned against the economic sanctions. More and 
more people believe that Iraq must be allowed normal civilian trade 
relations with the outside world, access to foreign loans and foreign 
investment, and direct access to its foreign exchange earnings. Only 
then will the economy re-inflate, generating jobs and living wages for 
families. Only then will the reconstruction of the civilian infrastructure 
proceed at the pace Iraq's children need so desperately.
        Britain and the US hold out against world opinion, demanding 
that the humanitarian crisis can only be solved when the inspection 
crisis is solved to their satisfaction. We must break this link.

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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