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[casi] WashPost Features CASI "Humanitarian Scenarios" Story

The most powerful U.S. newspaper, the Washington Post, today ran a story around
CASI's press release concerning "Likely Humanitarian Scenarios".  The Post's
headline ("Iraq War Could Put 10 Million In Need of Aid") says it all.

Kudos to Nathaniel Hurd for his initiative in obtaining the document, and to
CASI for its hard-won reputation for reliability and attention to detail.  The
online story includes a link to CASI's site.

Drew Hamre
Golden Valley, MN USA


Iraq War Could Put 10 Million In Need of Aid, U.N. Reports

By Colum Lynch
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 7, 2003; Page A12

UNITED NATIONS, Jan. 6 -- The United Nations estimates that a U.S.-led military
campaign to overthrow Iraqi President Saddam Hussein could place about 10
million Iraqi civilians, including more than 2 million refugees and homeless, at
risk of hunger and disease and in need of immediate assistance, according to a
U.N. planning document.

U.N. officials warned that the impact of a U.S. air and ground invasion in Iraq
would likely be worse than the humanitarian crisis caused by the Persian Gulf
War in 1991 because a decade of U.N. sanctions has made the Iraqi population
almost totally dependent on government handouts for survival.

Such a conflict, the U.N. planners predicted in the document, would halt the
country's oil production, severely degrade its electrical power network and
disrupt the Iraqi government's capacity to continue distributing food rations
through a U.N.-supervised humanitarian program. It would also likely lead to the
outbreak of diseases, including cholera and dysentery, in "epidemic if not
pandemic proportions," the confidential report said.

The 13-page contingency plan, prepared by a senior U.N. task force last month to
coordinate U.N. humanitarian agencies' response to a possible conflict,
represents the most alarming official U.N. assessment of the humanitarian
fallout of a U.S.-led war in Iraq. It also underscores U.N. fears that it may be
impossible to adequately deliver relief to Iraqi civilians in the initial weeks
after the outbreak of war as U.S. forces destroy or blockade key roads, rails,
bridges and ports.

"The bulk of the population is now totally dependent on the government of Iraq
for a majority, if not all, of their basic needs," the document said. "Unlike
the situation in 1991, they have no way of coping if they cannot access them:
the sanctions regime, if anything, has served to increase dependence on the
government as almost the sole provider."

The document was obtained by the U.N. office of the Mennonite religious group,
which opposes a war against Iraq, and posted on the Web site of the Cambridge
University student advocacy group, Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

The United Nations' preparations have been cloaked in secrecy because senior
U.N. officials feared it might appear that the world body was backing the Bush
administration's efforts to topple Hussein. U.N. officials have only recently
begun to acknowledge their plans, noting their concern that they may be called
upon to conduct a major humanitarian operation and subsequently help administer
a future Iraqi government. "We have had a lot of experiences in the past where
we were accused of not being ready," a U.N. official said. "If something does
happen, nobody can say they weren't given a lot of notice. "

The U.N. Children's Fund, the World Food Program and the U.N. High Commissioner
for Refugees are stockpiling food, blankets, tents and other equipment in
warehouses in Iran and other countries along Iraq's border for more than half a
million people. The United Nations also issued an appeal last month in Geneva to
the United States and other international donors for $37 million to finance
their initial preparedness plans. However, implementation of the plan could cost
billions, according to U.N. officials.

The U.N. Department of Peacekeeping Operations is planning to create an
Afghanistan-style U.N. political office that could help distribute humanitarian
relief aid and administer a new Iraqi government.

U.N. officials said they hope the resumption of U.N. inspections in Iraq can
avert a war and that their own efforts do not reflect support for U.S. aims to
oust the Iraqi leadership. The U.N. document cites the need for developing a
"plan B" that would outline the U.N.'s future role in Iraq in the event that
"conflict is avoided and sanctions are, at the least, suspended."

"The United Nations often engages in contingency planning in countries in which
we work. In the case of Iraq we are of course preparing for all eventualities,"
said David Wimhurst, the U.N. spokesman for peacekeeping. "However, it is
standard practice that we do not discuss such planning nor disclose details
about it."

Under the terms of a 1996 agreement, Iraq is permitted to export its oil and use
the majority of proceeds to pay for food, medicine and other humanitarian goods.
The program is expected to be suspended in the event of a military conflict.

The United Nations expects the most serious fighting to occur in central Iraq,
particularly in Baghdad, causing shortages of clean water and sanitation and
driving civilians into southern Iraq and across the border into Iran. But it
also warns that the food distribution network that feeds more than 24 million
Iraqis could be disrupted, requiring the establishment of alternative supply

U.N. organizations are expecting to concentrate their aid efforts in the south,
where it anticipates about 5.4 million people will be in need of immediate
relief. But they will have to find new supply routes to feed more than 3.7
million people in three Kurdish-administered provinces in northern Iraq.

They will also have to contend with more than 900,000 refugees expected to flee
to Iran and an additional 50,000 that will go to Saudi Arabia. About 130,000
refugees living in U.N.-supervised refugee camps in Iraq are also expected to
join the flood of internally displaced Iraqis requiring aid.

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