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[casi] FCO articles with comments

Dear list,

I thought I would draw your attention to two articles published on the
Foreign & Commonwealth Office website.

Firstly, there is a brief page entitled ""What Iraq can import" at

It includes the paragraph:

 "[SCR 1409] introduced a new Goods Review List (GRL) of items relating to
 weapons of mass destruction. Anything not on the List can now be freely
 imported.  In effect, this means that there are now no sanctions on any
 civilian goods for Iraq."

The last sentence is an interesting interpretation of the situation.  It
is true that importing non-GRL items is now a very straightforward
procedure compared to what it used to be. (For a complication-free
application without any GRL items, I think it takes a maximum of 10 days
for it to be registered by the OIP and 10 days to be checked for GRL items
by UNMOVIC/IAEA). However, I would say "freely imported" and "no sanctions
on any civilian goods" are stretching the truth. For a start,
theoretically all contracts have to be listed in the Distribution Plan
submitted every 6 months by the government of Iraq, i.e. they have to be
arranged months in advance by Iraq's central government. Secondly,
applications do have to go through the OIP approval process, however
streamlined. This could hardly be called "freely imported", which implies
that anybody in Iraq can pick up the phone, call a foreign company and
order some goods for import.

In fact the OIP fact sheet includes the paragraph "The oil-for-food
programme was never intended to be a substitute for normal economic
activity. As long as the comprehensive sanctions remain in force, however,
there is no alternative to the programme for addressing the humanitarian
situation in Iraq." which suggests that in their opinion there are still
"comprehensive sanctions" in place.


Secondly, there is an article published today at

Below I quote the article, interspersed with some comments of mine,
clearly identified by ">" marks.

I refer to two sources, the UN Secretary-General's phase XII 180 day
report (S/2002/1239) of 12 November, available at , and the OIP's
accompanying 62 page November 2002 "Note", available at

[begin article]

SUFFERING' - STRAW (24/11/02)

The United Nations 'Oil for Food' programme is due for renewal this week.
According to figures provided to the UN Security Council, the Iraqi regime
is holding up $2.3 billion dollars worth of humanitarian supplies, despite
vigorous efforts by the UN to maximise humanitarian relief to the Iraqi
people. That equates to almost a whole year's supply of food to Iraq under
the 'Oil for Food' programme.

> I haven't been able to trace with absolute certainty the source of
> this $2.3 billion figure, nor exactly what type of "holding up" is
> being referred to. My best guess so far, is that they are referring
> to delays by the Central Bank of Iraq in issuing letters of credit.
> This is mentioned in para 14 of the OIP November 2002 Note:
> "... as at 4 October 2002, there were 322 applications, valued at $570
> million, which were issued with approval letters in excess of 90 days,
> but for which the Central Bank of Iraq had not requested openings of
> letters of credit. Moreover, there were 888 applications, worth a
> total of $1.76 billion, for which the relevant letters of credit had
> been issued for over one year, but under which no deliveries have been
> made to Iraq."
> Now, $1.76 billion + $570 million = $2.33 billion, which could be where
> Straw got his figure from. But as far as I can see this is completely
> unjustified, since there is no implication that it is the
> Govermnent of Iraq, rather than the foreign supplier, who is causing the
> delay in the case of the $1.76 billion.
> If anyone has a better idea what Straw is on about, please let me know!
<<< SW

The Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, has said:

'The latest 'Oil for Food' figures give the lie to Saddam Hussein's
propaganda. While he claims that sanctions are to blame for Iraqi
suffering, his own regime is denying the Iraqi people access to medicines
and other humanitarian relief. Those who defend Saddam should see his
regime for what it is - a dictatorship which cares nothing for the Iraqi
people. It is time to kill the lie that the West is responsible for their

'The new system of controls, which Britain worked hard for at the UN, is
improving the situation, despite the regime's obstruction. The UN has
processed over 4,000 contracts for humanitarian exports to Iraq in the
last six months.

>>> SW:
> Office of the Iraq Programme has indeed processed 4070 applications
> between 1st July and 31st October (4 months), which include many
> previously-on-hold applications transferred to the new procedures. But
> for many applications this is just the first stage of processing. Of
> those 4070, only 1916 have popped right out the other end of the
> pipeline.  (1891 having no GRL items, 12 approved in spite of GRL
> items, 11 denied due to GRL items, and 2 lapsed). The remaining 2154
> applications are sitting awaiting additional consideration or more
> information at various stages of the process. [These figure are all from
> the OIP "Note".]
<<< SW

 While Saddam's propaganda machine bombards the
international media with stories of spiralling death rates and worsening
drug shortages, the truth is that we are doing what we can to help the
Iraqi people, with little co-operation from the regime.

>>> SW:
> The latest UN Secretary General's Report (S/2002/1239) and comments
> from the Office of the Iraq Program give several ways in which both
> the government of Iraq and the Security Council members could improve
> the humanitarian situation.  This includes sorting out the continuing
> disputes over retroactive oil pricing, which no progress appears to
> have been made on since some proposals were circulated in July. The UK
> is therefore not doing everything it can to help the Iraqi people.
> On drug shortages, the Secretary General's report says (para 11)
> "There are, however, shortages of pre-anaesthetics and reagents
> because of dual-use concerns by members of the [Sanctions] Committee.
> Pharmaceuticals for treating leukaemia and cancer also in short supply
> countrywide, owing in part to the insufficient financial allocation by
> the Government of Iraq and procurement chain difficulties ... and in
> part to dual-use concerns."
<<< SW

'Saddam has the means to make life better for the Iraqi people but refuses
to do so. And he has consistently tried to deceive world opinion about who
is to blame.'

The revised UN sanctions system adopted in May this year, which Britain
helped to devise and negotiate over 18 months and which effectively
expands the 'Oil for Food' programme, has substantially improved the
processing of humanitarian goods for Iraq. According to figures provided
to the Security Council, of the more than 4000 contracts considered under
the revised system since July 2002, only 11 have been rejected by the UN.
In each case the UN feared Iraq would use the requested goods for military

> See my earlier comments on the processing of contracts. It is true
> that only 11 have been rejected, but that's out of 1916 that have been
> fully processed, not 4000. Furthermore, because it's the
> straightforward contracts which get approved quickly, a much higher
> proportion of the outstanding contracts are likely to be rejected.
> So to imply that the "11 out of over 4000" statistic is representative
> is definitely misleading. Still, thankfully it does seem that the new
> procedures are a significant improvement and are working smoothly.

The Iraqi regime, which seeks to portray these UN controls as the cause of
Iraqi suffering, has itself seriously disrupted both the UN supplies and
the source of the UN's humanitarian funding. The Iraqi regime's
obstruction of the UN's efforts begins long before goods arrive in Iraq.
Saddam's decision to halt all oil exports for a month earlier this year,
for example, reduced the humanitarian funding available this year by $1.2
billion compared to last. When Iraq resumed sales it found that already
nervous oil traders had looked elsewhere for their oil, suppressing Iraqi
sales and so reducing the humanitarian revenue.

> It's true that the halting of oil exports reduced incoming by $1.2
> billion (SG's report, para 39), and that this caused significant
> problems given the funding crisis being experienced by the Oil for
> Food programme. However it is disingenuous to not mention here the
> dispute over "retroactive oil pricing" which was imposed by the
> Security Council to prevent Iraq adding surcharges to oil sales.
> According to a Reuters report on 1st March, this move had, by that
> date, prevented $40m of kickbacks reaching the Iraqi government at a
> cost of $750m in lost revenue to the humanitarian programme due to the
> Iraq's protests at the scheme, and oil purchasers' reluctance to do a
> deal under the retroactive pricing arrangement. See
> in the CASI newsletter for
> more details. The latest Secretary General's report recommends that
> the GoI be forthcoming in resolving the dispute, and that the Security
> Council be forthcoming in response (para 40).
> The threat of war is a much more plausible reason for oil traders
> being nervous of dealing with Iraq. The Secretary General mentions
> this in para 39 of his report when he talks about "...concerns by
> traders over the reliability of uninterrupted Iraqi oil supplies
> and/or possible disruptions as a consequence of current political
> developments."
> <<< SW

Budget cuts made by
Saddam's regime mean the figure available for medicines this year is only
just over half last year's figure.

>>> SW:
> It is most odd to be talking about "budget cuts". The Secretary
> General's report repeatedly talks about how Iraq is submitting
> unrealistically *high* budgets in its distribution plans, given the
> lack of funds. For example, para 37: "Regrettably, instead of revising
> the allocations contained in the distribution plans downward, the
> Government [of Iraq] has continued to revise them upward". The report
> does criticize the GoI for not prioritizing well enough, which could be
> what Jack Straw is attempting to turn into propaganda here.
<<< SW

 Meanwhile Iraqi orders submitted to the
UN for approval during one week in October included 22,000 tons of chewing
gum machines, 12,000 tons of mobile phones, 36,000 dishwashers and over
three quarters of a million TVs. Vital water and sanitation, demining and
electricity projects are currently held up because over 130 UN experts are
still waiting for visas to enter Iraq. And other humanitarian projects are
delayed because Iraq refuses to allow the UN to import necessary

> The OIP's November 2002 Note agrees that there are 137 outstanding
> visa requests as of 31 October 2002 (para 183), and says (para 184):
> "It should be noted that the number of outstanding visas, in
> particular for water and sanitation as well as electricity projects in
> the three northern governorates continues to undermine the timely as
> well as effective implementation of the projects."

Despite these Iraqi attempts to reduce the humanitarian relief available
to ordinary Iraqis, the UN - with strong British support - has worked hard
to do what it can. Under the revised sanctions system, UN 'holds' on
exports have gone. Saddam can no longer hide behind them: his
responsibility for delayed supplies is clear to all.

The signs are that life is in any case getting better in Iraq because of
'Oil for Food'. Recent UN figures show ordinary Iraqis' health is
improving. Devastating conditions like polio, diphtheria and diarrhoea in
children are now less common than they were when Iraq invaded Kuwait.
Acute malnutrition rates in children under 5 are half the levels recorded
when the UN programme first began in 1996. And in northern Iraq, where the
UN administers the programme directly, child mortality rates are lower
than before sanctions were imposed.

[end article]



Seb Wills
Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq

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