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Couple of interesting pieces. The first, from Save the Children states that 'sanctions and the Oil for Food program have almost totally impoverished the population of Northern Iraq -- raising dependency levels to internationally unprecedented levels' and that 'any scaling back of the Oil for Food program currently associated with sanctions could "send Kurds living in Northern Iraq over the edge into a humanitarian catastrophe."' - an assessment somewhat at variance with the rosy picture usually painted by the British Government. The second, from today's Guardian, reports that Cheney's visit to the Middle East next month 'is now seen as a prelude to what could be an attempt by the United States to remove Saddam Hussein by military means.' Best wishes, Gabriel voices uk ********************************************************************** Source: Save the Children Fund (SCF) Date: 4 Feb 2002 Save the Children UK warns of potential humanitarian crisis in Iraq As talks about the future of sanctions against Iraq quietly progress, Save the Children, the UK's leading international children's charity, met today with the Department for International Development (DfID) to present the findings of a new study into Kurdish livelihoods in Northern Iraq, and to urge the UK Government to consider the economic and humanitarian impact of any change to the sanctions regime. The Save the Children UK study concludes that sanctions and the Oil for Food program have almost totally impoverished the population of Northern Iraq -- raising dependency levels to internationally unprecedented levels - and that the Government of Iraq is a major beneficiary of the Oil for Food program, as it manages food distribution. The organisation warned, however, that any scaling back of the Oil for Food program currently associated with sanctions could "send Kurds living in Northern Iraq over the edge into a humanitarian catastrophe." According to the report, large sectors of the Kurdish population in Northern Iraq are dependent on relief rations for over 90 percent of their food -- with over half of the population living in poverty. Most have no household assets, and therefore nothing to fall back on in the event of a decrease in their food rations, as they were forced to sell their possessions in order to survive in the early 1990s. "The irony is that while the Oil for Food program is what is keeping these people alive, it is also what put them in this situation to begin with," said Alastair Kirk, Save the Children UK's research officer based in Northern Iraq. "Any change to the Oil for Food program needs to be very well-thought through, as the current situation is a disaster waiting to happen." "The conditions we witnessed in Northern Iraq are comparable to some of the worst we have ever seen - including in sub-Saharan Africa," said Gary Sawdon, a Save the Children food security advisor who has assisted in several humanitarian crises. "These people are in an incredibly vulnerable situation - any external 'shock', such as a internal or external conflict, price increases, drought, or other natural disaster - could spell tragedy." While sharing their findings with DfID on Kurdish livelihoods, Save the Children UK also sought assurances from the Department that they will urgently consider conducting a full economic analysis of the situation in the whole of Iraq. "As bad as the situation is for the Kurds, all indications are that after nearly 11 years of sanctions, Iraqis living in south and central Iraq are even worse off," said Kirk. "The fact is, sanctions - as they are currently being implemented - simply do not work. They have a disproportionate effect on those who are most vulnerable in Iraqi society - particularly children." "We urge the UK government, in all of its bilateral dealings and particularly at the UN, to use its influence to help avoid the possibility of a deterioration of the humanitarian crisis in Iraq," Kirk. "Regardless of international politics, surely all can agree that the children of Iraq deserve no less than our utmost attention to their development and well-being. The international community, together with the Government of Iraq, shares the responsibility for ensuring that the Iraqi people cease to be the primary victims of the sanctions and Oil for Food programs." Save the Children UK's recommendations are, amongst others, that: if the sanctions regime is to continue, military and economic objectives must be delinked, as a first step towards safeguarding the health and welfare of the civilian population of the whole of Iraq; there be an urgent assessment of the economic impact of Oil for Food programme on households throughout Iraq, as evidence suggests that the situation in the central and southern areas is even worse than that in Northern Iraq; the Memorandum of Understanding between the UN and the Iraqi Government be rewritten to allow for the development of services for children and informal market economy structures in Iraq, including the local procurement of agricultural goods. *************************************************************** Cheney tour lays ground for military strike on Iraq Duncan Campbell in Los Angeles Monday February 11, 2002 The Guardian The visit by Vice-President Dick Cheney to the Middle East next month is now seen as a prelude to what could be an attempt by the United States to remove Saddam Hussein by military means. One scenario being explored is said to be US air strikes coupled with hopes of defections from within the Iraqi military. Despite the opposition of most of America's allies, the mood within the Bush administration is now to enforce the removal of Saddam Hussein by any means. Dick Cheney is to visit the region, including four neighbours of Iraq, in an attempt to persuade them to support the policy. Even the secretary of state, Colin Powell, who is the most cautious of the US administration, is now said to be on board, according to the Los Angeles Times yesterday. The military option is said to be one of three policies being pursued. The first would mean a tightening of sanctions through the UN to put pressure on Iraq to allow weapons inspectors to look for evidence of the development of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. The second would require action to be taken by neighbouring states to "tighten the political noose", and the third would mean a military campaign relying heavily on air power and defections from within the Iraqi military. "There's an evolving consensus that a sizeable US military activity will be required," a source told the LA Times. Describing the reasons for Mr Cheney's visit, President Bush said last week: "There's nothing like looking somebody in the eye and letting them know that when we say we're going to fight terror, we mean it." Mr Cheney will visit Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey and Kuwait, all of which border Iraq and could be used as bases for US strikes. He will also visit Britain, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and Israel, partly in a bid to win support for whatever action the US may take. There has been strong opposition in the EU to expanding military action in the region. · The UN humanitarian programme in Iraq is bogged down by politics and outdated regulations, Benon Sevan, director of the UN oil-for-food programme - created in 1996 to ease the suffering of Iraqis living under sanctions - said yesterday after a three-week visit to Iraq. -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq For removal from list, email email@example.com CASI's website - www.casi.org.uk - includes an archive of all postings.