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[casi] Framing of developing crisis


I thought you might be interested in a few words of comment
on the developing crisis which might be useful in
campaigning, to reinforce some of the points Mil has been

The standard line is that this is a crisis about Iraq's
Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) programmes, caused by
Iraqi non-compliance with UN  resolutions. Therefore, the
argument goes, Iraq will only comply if major military
threats are made, and anyway as Saddam has never complied
so far, we have to be prepared to go to war to get rid of

However, in December 1998, the UN weapons inspectors
reported that
- Iraq's nuclear weapon programme had been eliminated
'efficiently and effectively'
- the elimination of Iraq's chemical weapon and missile
capabilities was almost complete
- disarmament work remained in the biological weapon area
- Iraq had still to provide further information in all areas
- Iraq had agreed in principle to long-term monitoring but
not to a specific system.

[On the other elements of UN Security Council Resolution
687, Iraq has recognised Kuwait, has returned some but not
all Kuwaiti property, has returned some but not all missing
persons, is paying compensation though it has denied
liability in principle, has not sponsored international
terrorism for 10 years according to the CIA but has denied
ever sponsoring it and has not fully agreed to servicing
all of its external debt]

In other words, far from simply not complying, Iraq had
complied with most of what had been asked of it (however
grudgingly). It is a fantasy that, as is so often said,
Iraq will never comply as long as Saddam is in charge. The
UN resolutions allow for partial relaxation of sanctions in
reward for partial compliance but this was never offered.

Indeed, before this report was delivered to the Security
Council, the US and Britain brought about the withdrawal
ofUN inspectors and launched their Operation Desert Fox
bombing of Iraq without Security Council approval. Iraq has
refused to allow the inspectors related to resolution 687
back ever since.

If US policy really was driven by the need to disarm Iraq
of WMD then it has been irrational. Their response to
incomplete but extensive compliance has been to label it
non-compliance, bomb Iraq and call for the overthrow of
Iraq's leader. This hardly creates any incentive to comply
any further. There has always been a significant thread of
US and British opinion who have feared that Iraq will
comply because sanctions might then be lifted.

If US policy is rational, then disarmament of Iraq's WMD
has not been its priority: instead, the priority, stated
all along has been to keep the pressure on for as long as
it takes to get rid of Saddam Hussein (as Mil Rai puts it,
leadership change, not regime change, which they are
actually very frightened of, as indicated by their response
to the 1991 uprising: they want rid of him, not the brutal
system that runs Iraq). If Iraq had complied fully despite
the bombing, maybe the US would have been forced to accept
the lifting of the sanctions. That is indeed my guess. But
it is also possible that the US would have been able to
ensure that Iraq was never declared to be fully in
compliance. And it doesn't change the point that US policy
makes no sense if it is meant to be aimed at prioritising
getting rid of Iraq's WMD. The official US policy objective
of overthrowing Saddam represents non-compliance with the
very UN resolutions with which Iraq is meant to comply. The
leadership change agenda has fundamentally undermined the
arms control agenda.

The dominant framing in coverage is very much a crisis of
Iraqi WMD non-compliance. The reality is that the crisis is
one of continuing US non-compliance and unwillingness to
respond to Iraqi compliance with most of what has been
asked of it.  To put it bluntly, we are going to war on the
basis of lies (some of the people making the argument for
war now know what the truth is) and self-deception (some of
them believe their own propaganda).

Best wishes


Dr. Eric Herring
Senior Lecturer in International Politics
Department of Politics
University of Bristol
10 Priory Road
Bristol BS8 1TU
England, UK
Office tel. +44-(0)117-928-8582
Mobile tel. +44-(0)7771-966608
Fax +44-(0)117-973-2133

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