Welcome to CASI's second newsletter of 1999. This contains a brief overview of the situation in Iraq, of our work over the past months and our expected future activities. If this is your first CASI newsletter and you are not a CASI member please read to the end where we provide contact details should you be interested in guaranteeing your receipt of future newsletters.
Except for a two week lull in March the US-UK bombing of Iraq has continued since December. By the beginning of March the US had changed its "rules of engagement" to allow its pilots to attack a wide range of targets loosely associated with Iraq's air defense system; these targets have included communications facilities used to coordinate Iraq's oil pipelines.
In mid-January Bulent Ecevit, Turkey's prime minister, claimed that, "I don't understand what the United States wants to achieve. .. They have tactics, but no policy or strategy." [The New York Times, January 13, 1999]. Turkey has allowed the US to use its airbases for attacks on Iraq. The US has appointed Frank Ricciardone as Special Representative for Transition in Iraq amid debate over the prospects for a successful coup within the country.
This ongoing action by the US and the UK has thrown the Security Council's policy on Iraq into confusion. By beginning the bombing before the Security Council had debated the latest report of the UN Special Commission (Unscom) on Iraqi disarmament the US and UK cast doubts on the Security Council's role in this conflict.
The UN's role has been further called into question by Iraq's refusal to allow the return of Unscom after they had withdrawn in anticipation of December's bombing [Associated Press, February 5, 1999]. Not only do these actions risk moving policy on Iraq from a realm in which the rule of law could be appealed to but they reduce the international community's ability to monitor Iraqi weapons programmes. As satellite photographs cannot distinguish between legitimately and illegitimately employed biological or chemical facilities the possible end to inspections on the ground poses real risks should the regime in Baghdad seek to rebuild its non- conventional weapons.
The return of Unscom has also been made less likely by revelations in the Washington Post [January 6] and other US newspapers that the US had used Unscom to spy on Iraq without the approval of the Security Council, to whom Unscom is officially responsible. The Independent, on January 25, claimed that MI6 also planted officiers within Unscom. Scott Ritter, former chief weapon's inspector for Unscom until his resignation last year over Washington's treatment of Unscom, claimed that he had warned Unscom chairman Richard Butler of CIA involvement in 1997. He alleged that Butler did not take the necessary steps then to ensure Unscom's independence [March 30, The Guardian]. Iraq has long linked its hesitancy to cooperate with Unscom to charges that it had been compromised by spies [January 8, The Independent].
In an attempt to address both the continuing humanitarian problems within Iraq and that raised by the interruption of weapons inspections France announced a proposal on January 13 France's proposal would lift the oil embargo immediately, removing other sanctions only as Iraq demonstrated its compliance with the new rules and retaining the capacity to reinstate them. Unscom would be replaced with a body designed not to document Iraq's past weapons' programme but to prevent attempts to continue or restart them.
Kofi Annan called the proposal a "first step" forward on UN policy after December The US rejected France's proposal, arguing that the existing Security Council resolutions had to be respected. They counter-proposed that the current $5.2 billion cap on Iraqi oil sales every six months be removed. As oil prices and Iraq's pumping capacity only allows it to generate $2.9 billion the US proposal would not alleviate Iraqi suffering. France has rejected a US suggestion that the oil-for-food programme should be extended indefinitely rather than requiring renewal every six months, arguing that oil-for- food was introduced as a temporary measure.
At the end of January three panels were established by the UN Security Council to review its policy on Iraq. The Security Council panels were mandated to report on disarmament, humanitarian issues and the 400 or so Kuwaiti prisoners of war They are due to report back by April 15.
Under the resolutions governing oil-for-food the Secretary-General provides an interim report at the 90- day point of each 180-day phase and a final report at the end On February 22 S/1999/187, the most recent 90-day report, was published. It is available from the Office of the Iraq Programme's homepage at www.un.org/Depts/oip.
The report noted that the "most serious issue facing the implementation of the programme at present is the growing shortfall in revenues required to implement the approved distribution plan". Low oil prices and Iraq's damaged oil industry are only projected to be capable of selling some $2.9 billion (instead of $5.2 billion) over this 180- day phase; this leaves $1.8 billion for humanitarian expenditures, about $100 per Iraqi. The report predicted that Iraq's export capacity will not increase, even with rapid approval of spare parts contracts by the Sanctions Committee, before March 2000.
Also in this report is the remark that the British government focused on, namely that some $275 million of medical supplies had accumulated in Iraqi warehouses. While the British government took this to be an example of the Iraqi regime's attempts to manipulate oil-for-food the Secretary-General's report offered the following explanations:
'the lack of modern managerial tools, poor working conditions within the warehouses and the lack of transport for moving the supplies to health centres. They are also due, in part, to the rigid hierarchy in the Ministry of Health administration which makes it difficult for functionaries to approve deliveries with approval of superiors, and this takes time. A variety of sources, including WHO, suggest that stockpiling seems to have increased following September 1998, when tensions mounted, and superiors may have deliberately withheld supplies in anticipation of emergency needs.'
The Secretary-General therefore recommended both that the Iraqi government utilise its resources more efficiently and that the Sanctions Committee, whose approval is required for Iraqi imports, "acknowledge that a humanitarian programme of such magnitude requires a commensurate level of transport, communications, and material-handling equipment and to be ready to act favourably on requests for essential logistic support".
The report also noted that Iraq has not submitted contracts for "targeted nutrition inputs" (high-protein biscuits) to the Sanctions Committee for approval. No explanation was offered.
Introducing the report to the Security Council Benon Sevan, Executive Director of the Iraq Programme, explained that Iraq's impaired ability to generate oil revenues mean that, "any suggestion to raise further the ceiling of revenues is simply an academic exercise, unless bold, imaginative and pragmatic alternatives for investment in Iraq's oil industry are considered by the Council".
Mr Sevan welcomed the increasing flexibility of members of the Sanctions Committee but notes that they are placing, "additional new holds on new applications". These comments are also available on the OIP website.
A final UN document, also on the OIP website, is the report of the humanitarian panel to the Security Council [S/1999/356] It observed that
The gravity of the humanitarian situation of the Iraqi people is indisputable and cannot be overstated. Irrespective of alleged attempts by the Iraqi authorities to exaggerate the significance of certain facts for political propaganda purposes, the data from different sources as well as qualitative assessments of bona fide observers and sheer common sense analysis of economic variables converge and corroborate this evaluation.
Iraq had "experienced a shift from relative affluence to massive poverty" and now had infant mortality rates that were "among the highest in the world". Further
low infant birth weight affects at least 23% of all births, chronic malnutrition affects every fourth child under five years of age [and] only 41% of the population have regular access to clean water.
The report conjectured that, even if oil-for-food worked perfectly, "the magnitude of the humanitarian needs is such that they cannot be met within the context of the meters set forth in [the oil-for-food resolutions]" and concludes that
the humanitarian situation in Iraq will continue to be a dire one in the absence of a sustained revival of the Iraqi economy, which in turn cannot be achieved solely through remedial humanitarian efforts.
The report also criticised the "hand-out" nature of the programme as failing to stimulate the Iraqi economy, undermining Iraqi agriculture (which cannot compete with oil-for-food's foreign imports) and increasing state control over the population.
The report addressed the question of the relatively superior performance of the northern Kurdish governorates to the South/Central governorates British government claims have suggested that this again reflects the disinterest of the Iraqi regime in its population's welfare. The panel provided three explanations for the disparity:
"The per capita allocation of funds under the [oil-for-food] programme is higher, distribution of food and medicine through UN agencies is comparatively more efficient than distribution by the Government, and the Northern border is more permeable to embargoed commodities than the rest of the country".
The report does not explain to what extent the greater efficiency of distribution in the North is due to the provision of an adequate logistical network there. Permeability of embargoed commodities refers to smuggling. Agriculture in the north is rain fed; without a reliable electrical system to drive irrigation southern agriculture has therefore been more badly damaged.
Noting the disparity of treatment between the North and the South/Centre the report reminded the Security Council that its resolutions have consistently upheld "the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Iraq", noting that most UN agencies are concerned by this differential treatment.
Turning to recommendations, the panel claimed that "securing additional funding to finance humanitarian efforts is of paramount importance". It recommended that the Security Council consider removing the oil sales cap, providing spare parts for the oil industry quickly, allowing foreign and private investment in Iraq's oil industry and temporarily suspending the 30% share of revenues currently paid into the Compensation Fund for victims of Iraq's 1990 invasion. It also put forward suggestions for an eased import approval process. The panel made a few recommendations to the Iraqi government as well, mostly aimed at improving the efficiency of their operations.
Other events in Iraq include the assassination of the Shiite cleric Ayatollah Mohammed Sadeq al-Sadr and his two sons on February 19. As al-Sadr, originally an ally of the regime, had been developing a growing power base the Iraqi regime is blamed for his death [February 27, The Economist]. The regime has since executed a number of individuals, allegedly in connection with the Ayatollah's death.
The epidemic of foot-and-mouth continues to ravage Iraqi livestock. The Minister of Health claims that one million sheep have been killed as a result. The FAO is concerned that the epidemic may spread throughout the region and risks undermining food security. The general manager of the veterinary department in the Ministry charges that Unscom has destroyed Iraq's ability to produce the vaccine required to counter this epidemic [March 29, Arabic News].
Finally, on the UK front, there seemed to be cause for optimism when MP Tony Lloyd answered a written question on March. 15 He explained that, as a result of a Whitehall review "the Government have decided to launch a new policy of better targeted 'smarter' sanctions. This will sharpen the focus and effectiveness of sanctions whilst trying to minimise their impact on ordinary people, including children, and on our own commercial and economic interests". Two days later, however, Foreign Office Minister Baroness Symons clarified in the Lords that this policy would not be applied to Iraq. She explained that it was impossible to target the Iraqi regime specifically and that "the behaviour of the target regime justifies the toughest measures" in this case (Hansard).
CASI's work stems from the belief that increased awareness of the workings and consequences of the sanctions on Iraq is the most effective way of campaigning for their lifting. We have been involved in a number of activities this part term designed to increase this awareness.
In January a new Cambridge umbrella group called "Voices for Justice in Iraq" was formed. This group is largely town-based and complements CASI's student focus. Since its foundation VJI has organised two stalls in Cambridge's market square, one on the February 27 Day of Action and one on April 10. It is committed to holding monthly stalls. The response in February was particularly positive, giving us a sense of widespread sympathy among the Cambridge population. Some 400 signatures were collected during the day on a petition that VJI later submitted to Cambridge MP Anne Campbell. Present at the submission was Dr Erica Hunter, a Cambridge archaeologist who consults with Scotland Yard on drug rings' smuggling of antiquities out of Iraq. VJI can be reached through Eleanor Fairclough (209 Hills Road, Cambridge; 01223 247170). CASI's representative on the VJI is Yousef Ghazi-Tabatabai.
CASI has also expanded among students with Mark al- Sinjakli organising a system of college representatives. We were greatly encouraged at our first meeting in March to see so many new and serious faces. Thanks Mark! Thanks are also due to Seb Wills, who has coordinated CASI since its inception two years ago He has now been replaced by Colin Rowat, a member for the past year and a half. Without Seb's tireless efforts CASI would not be what it is today We are pleased that Seb is able to continue as CASI's External Officer.
January also saw Denis Halliday tour the UK, a tour organised by CASI. Mr Halliday packed Cambridge's Union Society for a charged panel discussion with George Galloway (Labour MP), Nabeel Musawi (a director of the London-based Iraqi opposition group, the Iraqi National Congress) and John Sweeney (a foreign correspondent with The Observer). Mr Halliday addressed audiences in five UK cities, including both private and public meetings in the House of Commons. He was interviewed by many radio, television and print journalists including for BBC Radio 4 and 5, NBC, The Guardian and the Financial Times and Xinhua (the Chinese official news agency).
CASI has also had more direct contact with Parliamentarians this term. Our newly-established press release team aims to provide rapid and properly researched responses to misleading claims appearing in the media, in particular those emanating from government statements. The releases are distributed by fax and email to the media and a dozen or so MPs who have requested it. If you would like to receive our press releases in future please let us know.
We have also prepared a 10 page briefing at the request of a member of the House of Lords. This briefing provided background information on two articles by government MPs in Tribune magazine, one of which had inadvertently doubled the size of the oil-for-food programme at the stroke of a key.
As a separate project CASI has been preparing a briefing document. Initially intended to be a 20 page pamphlet for the February Day of Action it has ballooned into a 40 page tome. Copies of it are available on the CASI website or by post for 2 pounds. It is currently still in draft form and has yet to take into account the UN reports mentioned in this newsletter. We are likely to complement this document with a smaller pamphlet more appropriate for use on the street.
Most recently, CASI appeared in Oxford on April 10. Harriet Griffin, one of CASI's researchers there, organised what is probably the most professional CASI presentation to date, replete with remote microphones and a multimedia presentation. Milan Rai (Voices in the Wilderness UK), Dr Eric Herring (Department of Politics, University of Bristol) and Majed Ghafadgi (an Iraqi living in Britain for two decades) all spoke. The audience of sixty to eighty were largely non-students. Cambridge welcomes the competition from Oxford; great work Harriet! Excellent work has also been going on in Brighton, resulting in the formation of Sussex CASI.
CASI, with the support of the Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding (CAABU) in London, has been trying to organise a press conference to respond to the UN Security Council panel reports. The details of this are still being worked out but we intend to field a panel of British experts on the Iraqi situation.
As mentioned already, CASI has established a press release team in an attempt to encourage higher quality information on Iraq in the media. It has already sent out a few press releases but we hope the coming months will see its functioning improved.
Last term CASI received the support of the Cambridge University Students' Union to investigate the educational situation within Iraq. This coming term will see us beginning to do so.
Finally, at the most recent national coordination meeting in London another Day of Action was called for the May 29. This is to modelled on the Day in February, with local groups undertaking local initiatives under a unified system of posters, flyers and press releases. CASI and VJI will be planning for that here in Cambridge. This has been the third national coordination meeting since December, when CASI hosted one in Cambridge.
We are always trying to figure out how we can campaign more intelligently. If there is something that you think that we might be able to help you with please do let us know. This includes comments on this newsletter: if you think that we have too much or too little of something please tell us.
Given our reasonably good access to information via the internet we would be happy, for example, to provide you with copies of UN documents that we mention here if you are otherwise unable to obtain them. To receive copies please make cheques out to CASI at a rate of 2.00 pounds per document plus 1.00 pound for shipping and handling.
If you are wondering how you can get more involved in campaigning for a lifting of the non-military sanctions on Iraq please drop us a line. We are always happy to discuss ideas or point you to groups in your area.
CASI's financial situation is better than it has ever been. If, however, you are not yet a member of CASI and would like to be please send us a cheque for 5 pounds. Upon disbanding all CASI funds will be donated to a charity working in Iraq.