Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq
Newsletter - February 2001

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Welcome to CASI's first newsletter of 2001. The period between this publication and its predecessor has seen a change of focus in the international relations surrounding the economic sanctions and their presentation to the public. As domestic and international pressure grows for their removal, we have witnessed a series of measures taken to 'improve' the economic sanctions. Whilst these processes do alleviate some of the suffering of the Iraqi people, unfortunately they are also used to deflect attention from the fundamental problems at hand.

There has been a growing recognition that a sustainable improvement of the humanitarian situation requires not just food and medical supplies, but also the rebuilding of Iraq's infrastructure and economy, and that the present 'oil for food' programme is unable to deliver what is required. Indeed, Tun Myat, Hans von Sponeck's successor as UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq, recently commented that although the current food distribution system was second to none, many families are so poor that they are forced to sell their rations in order to purchase essentials such as clothing. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation tells us that this is one of the reasons that the 'oil for food' programme has been unable to improve the unacceptably high figures of child malnutrition in Iraq. Despite some attempts to address these issues, in practice progress is slow. The 'cash component' envisaged in Security Council Resolution 1284 has yet to materialise, and the number of 'oil for food' contracts placed on hold by the US and UK has actually increased recently.

Insisting on working within the framework of SCR 1284, and faced with blank Iraqi refusal, the US and the UK have been effectively locked down in a staring competition with Baghdad. Meanwhile, countries critical to sanctions -- notably France and Russia -- have seized the initiative, with a consequent 'erosion' of the sanctions' legitimacy at an international level. Examples of this are the recent flurry of humanitarian flights to Iraq, and an easing of Iraq's diplomatic isolation, with visits delegations and visits from foreign politicians. The high oil prices of the past year have also favoured Iraq, handing its government a double edged weapon in the form of the threat to halt oil production, as well as generating a large revenue for the 'oil for food' program.

In the UK, the call for the lifting of sanctions is reaching new heights, with NGOs, the Church of England and much of the press calling the current policy into question. The tone within the political community is also changing, following the call for the lifting of non-military sanctions on Iraq by the Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Menzies Campbell.

Within the UN, the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights decided to endorse a hard-hitting working paper by Marc Bossuyt which called sanctions on Iraq 'unequivocally illegal'. Referring to the 1949 Geneva Conventions, it passed a resolution calling for 'the embargo provisions affecting the humanitarian situation of the population of Iraq to be lifted'.

The discourse surrounding the sanctions has changed in focus. It is no longer possible to seriously deny the detrimental effects of the economic sanctions on Iraq's civilian population. The question now is not 'what are the problems?' but 'what are the solutions?'. To seriously address this question, in March CASI is hosting a public conference at which academics and experts from around the world will analyse the key issues and, we hope, develop a coherent alternative policy working paper. Whilst this endeavour will stretch CASI's financial resources to the limit, we hope it will be a significant step towards offering a feasible way out of the current stalemate. For information on how to contribute to CASI or how to book a place at the conference please refer to the Campaigning News section.

I hope you find the following useful and look forward to hearing from you,

Yousef Ghazi-Tabatabai

CASI to hold "Alternative Policies" Conference

One of the most common responses anti-sanctions campaigners face, both from the public and from government, is "sanctions aren't ideal, but there's no coherent alternative". Formulating a realistic alternative policy which addresses all the issues is indeed a difficult task. To meet this challenge, CASI is hosting its second international conference on 10th and 11th March 2001 in Cambridge. The conference, which all are welcome to attend, will be addressed by policy experts from around the world.

See article on the conference in the Campaigning News section, or the conference web pages.