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[casi] Why the SC will never lift the sanctions on Iraq

Why the SC will never lift the sanctions on Iraq

PressInfo # 176

 March 12, 2003


Jan Oberg, TFF Director
Christian Hårleman, TFF Boardmember

When, in 1991, in the wake of the Gulf War, the Security Council decided
about inspections and sanctions it must have suffered from some kind of
hubris. Iraq should be punished for the invasion of Kuwait - and it did
invade and it was foolish and illegal to do so. Sanctions should put
pressure on the regime and, it was hoped, turn the people against the
leadership. Hard as the sanctions were, they were designed to last for a
short time, the time it was assumed to take to find and disarm Iraq's
weapons of mass-destruction.

The winners of the war dictated the conditions. Iraq, the loser, had to
obey unconditionally. Lifting the sanctions was made dependent upon the
delivery of an inspection report to the Security Council that would state
that all that could be used in the production of nuclear, biological or
chemical weapons had been found and destroyed and there was nothing left
anywhere in Iraq.

Here is the trap produced by the victors' hubris. This has lead to the
sanctions being our moral problem; we dealt with that in PressInfo 173. The
major players seemingly were so triumphant and self-assured about the
rightness and the justice of their cause - the punishment of Iraq - that
they didn't even think of asking a few practical and philosophical
questions such as these:

1. Will it at all be possible for inspectors to state that no amount of a
substance pertaining to weapons of mass-destruction exists in a country
that covers about half a million square kilometres and is not exactly eager
to reveal everything about its military?

2. Is it wise to make the lifting of the sanctions conditional upon such a
declaration by inspectors, i.e. to use sanctions as leverage for the
disarmament process?

3. What if the inspection process takes a much longer time and inspectors
will still be there in, say, 2003? If we want 100% compliance and a
guarantee that Iraq is 100% clean, that will take time. Sanctions are known
to have negative effects on citizens. So, isn't it a risk that, if we make
slow progress, we will be made morally responsible for the increasingly
destructive humanitarian consequences?

Today it is easy to see that the answers to these questions are no, no and

To comb half a million square kilometres for a few kilos of some chemical
or biological substances is quite a task. There is sand; there are stones,
rivers, mountains and buildings of all kinds. The Iraqis know how to drill
deep down for oil; they could drill a hole, hide something at the bottom
and cover the hole. Or they could place the stuff outside Iraq, in another
country or on boats in international waters.

Alternatively, imagine that every kilo and gram was actually found and
destroyed - then what? Given that the knowledge of how to produce these
materials remains with thousands of Iraqi scientists, engineers,
assistants, workers and others, it would probably not take long before they
could re-introduce these substances or divert them from civilian production
facilities and laboratories. If so, would we re-introduce sanctions?

We seem to be so afraid to self-critically recognise that we, i.e. the
Security Council and then most governments and media, took for granted that
all this would be simple and quick. In December 1995, some quick-fix U.S.
diplomats also put together the Dayton Accords for Bosnia wishfully
thinking that it would all be implemented in 12 months; it still won't

Another not-so-easy problem is this: while Iraq is obliged to disarm its
weapons of mass-destruction, it has a sovereign right to self-defence (UN
Charter Article 51) and security by means of a conventional military.
Security Council resolutions emphasise that the country's sovereignty and
integrity shall be respected during the inspection process.

But that is not how the Iraqis can see it. Inspectors go to any place with
only a few minutes notice. Any place! Require to see everything, collect
anything, ask any question, interview anyone they find interesting. This
goes for purely civilian sites and sites of conventional defence; and
that's in a country that is threatened by history's strongest military
power who also reserves the "right" to, if necessary, use nuclear weapons
on Iraq.

When Iraq has had the slightest dissenting opinion about reasonable
inspection versus intrusive, intelligence collecting inspections, if they
insist on their sovereignty as a member of the United Nations, they are
told that they'll be bombed because they don't co-operate, because they are
not in compliance with our ultimatums. Thus, the philosophically
nonsensical statement made time and again that Saddam is the one who
decides whether there will be a war.

Finally, there is the problem of burden of proof. The inspection regime is
so constructed that anyone can state that he or she believes that Iraq
possesses something it should not possess. The US time and again practises
the method of stating that it knows that Iraq is hiding something that the
inspectors have not and cannot find and the Iraqis say they don't have.
Remember the palace site issue? In that case Iraq could prove that there
was nothing there by opening them up to inspection. But the philosophical
question remains why the international community forced Iraq to
unilaterally prove that it had not violated the rules of the game, that it
was not guilty. In a constitutional state and in international, lawful
behaviour, the burden of proof is normally on the side of the council for
the prosecution.

Most things can be seen from more than one angle. This is not only a matter
of right and wrong, it is also a matter of psychology: perceptions,
feelings of pride, honour, sense of being ignored and humiliated. And it
is, ultimately, about trust. Why?

Because the inspection mission is mission impossible. No inspection team
will be able to guarantee that every kilo of prohibited substances in Iraq
have been found; it could be disproved the next day. Even if it were
proved, the substances and weapons may come back, sooner or later. And
solving the categorisation problems mentioned above (civilian, conventional
and mass destructive) will invariably cause conflict between the parties -
with good arguments (and not-so-clean motives) on both sides.

These essential issues have never been seriously discussed. Given that
nobody seems to have thought them through carefully at an early stage, the
only answer has been that Saddam is a criminal, a cheater, a liar, a man
playing for time, etc. It was easier to blame than to think - not to speak
about being self-critical. (There were enough negative lessons about
sanctions that could have been used by the Security Council in its
deliberations back in 1991).

The best we can hope for is an inspection report that will, one day, state
that "there are reasons to believe" that the Iraqis have give up 95, 96,
97, 98, or even 99 per cent of their physically identifiable
mass-destructive weapons and materials for them. Some countries would be
satisfied with that and insist that the sanctions be lifted. Some, among
them the United States, would not. The argument would be something to the
effect that "we can't trust that guy to even have 1 per cent left. We can't
let him or, later, his son acquire them after we have lifted the sanctions.
No, keep up the pressure and get a new regime we can trust."

If the inspections regime aims at 100 per cent certified disarmament of
Iraq's mass-destructive weapons and potential, the inspection will remain
an absurd theatre. Waiting to lift the sanctions will be like waiting for
Godot. It's a meaningless "mission impossible".

If it aims at less than 100 per cent, it must build on trust to compensate
for the fact that there won't be 100 per cent guarantees by anybody. That
trust is simply not there after 12 years of inspections, sanctions,
quarrelling, threatening, mistrust, bombing and mutual hate.

These are some of the more philosophical reasons why we think the UN SC
will never lift the sanctions. Such a decision depends on 100 per cent
certified disarmament and that will never be stated on paper.

This inspection-sanctions link was never of Saddam Hussein's making; he
can't be blamed for the foggy thinking it is based upon. The UN SC
thoughtlessly and without vision, decided this in a mood of triumphalism,
victor's hubris and out of a wish, one must assume, to humiliate the
President of Iraq that they hated.

We have described the results of this policy in PressInfo 173, backed up
with facts from the UN on the ground. It was hardly intentional, but the UN
Security Council and the international community have caused a genocide
affecting one-half to one million innocent Iraqis. Our sanctions have
destroyed the economy, the school and health-care system, the standard of
living, the hopes and the social strength of the only ones who could, in
the best of cases, have toppled that President: the Iraqis themselves.

Could it be that some countries in the West have such bad consciences that
the living witnesses to this morally bankrupt policy must die because their
suffering reminds us, painfully, of our complicity in crimes, of our
violations of the human rights of the citizens in Iraq?

If there are decent leaders in the international community, they should
begin today, rather than tomorrow, to discuss how we can cut the link
between inspections and sanctions-lifting. Until now, we have been wasting
innocent lives every minute we discuss and plan a war - a war to cover our
deep feeling of guilt.

Please ask yourself, when have the Iraqis suffered enough for their
non-elected President's decision to invade Kuwait 12 years ago? When does
the civilised West become so civilised that it is able to admit its
mistakes? If it denies these mistakes and conducts war instead, it is
morally so feeble that the centre and all the rest may not hold.

How can leaders and governments, who know perfectly well what they did,
have done and continue to do, seek reconciliation and ask forgiveness from
the people they have hurt so much? This, not war, is the question that
should occupy us. Is it already too late?

© TFF 2003

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