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Re: Latest oil-for-food report (90 day report) and Iraqi non-cooperation

This is a brief response to Per and Mil's remarks on the latest 90 day
report on "oil for food".

Mil, I think, is correct to observe that the Iraqi government's refusal to
co-operate on (i) the SCR 1302 humanitarian assessment mission; and (ii)
the SCR 1284 cash component provisions do not represent a step backwards:
both of the above are new ventures, neither essential to the current "oil
for food" programme.

I think that Per is right, though, in noting that these steps do not allow
as much improvement as might be possible under "oil for food".

The purpose of the 1302 humanitarian assessment has not been clear to me.
The Iraqi government is responsible for developing "distribution plans"
under "oil for food".  Therefore the Iraqi government needs detailed
information on conditions within Iraq.  As the UN is required to approve
the "distribution plans" there is a need also to explain conditions to the
UN.  The 1302 mission might have helped with that.  

But it is unclear what a mission with such a general mandate was hoping to
do that more specific missions can not do.  For example, Mil mentions the
routine UN agency information gathering.  There was also an oil experts
mission to Iraq earlier this year.  One possibility is that the 1302
mission would have higher profile than UN agency reports.

This possibility may be contributing to the Iraqi government's reluctance
to allow the mission in.  There is a belief that, for example, obesity is
returning to the adult population, presenting an image of the country that
the Iraqi government does not want presented.

As to the "cash component", which could be used to allow the purchase of
local produce and training costs, I am much less sure why the Iraqi
government is not cooperating here.  Even if, for some reason, it did not
want a cash component implemented, it could have taken more subtle, in my
opinion, steps to sabotage this without so obviously appearing to be "the
bad guy".

For example, our last newsletter stated that:

        We know of no knowledgeable source who feels that the cash
        component... will be implemented.  The problem seems to be that
        the mechanism for doing so will not be agreed upon.  On the one
        hand, the US government will not allow the government of Iraq to
        disburse the cash, although it is responsible for the running of
        OFF in South/Centre Iraq.  On the other hand, the Iraqi government
        is unlikely to allow UN Agencies to do so, for at least two
        reasons. First, it is concerned that UN Agencies are not
        sufficiently accountable (there are stories of senior UN employees
        being pensioned off around Europe on "oil for funds" funds rather
        than returning to their less pleasant home countries).  Second,
        the Iraqi government is concerned about the UN taking over Iraq's
        economy. This fear may reflect both the government's desire to
        prevent challengers to its own rule but also a more technical
        economic fear: the government pays less for services than do UN
        Agencies.  Increased Agency control of money might therefore mean
        that the money stretches less; it may also bid up the price of
        services in Iraq, making other purchases more costly too. 

It therefore seems possible to me that the Iraqi government could have
allowed discussion of the "cash component" but only agreed to terms that
the US would have rejected.  It is possible that the Iraqi goverment has
not even agreed to discuss this, though, because it is a SCR 1284
provision, and the Iraqi government does not accept SCR 1284.

Per concludes his message by noting that

> this seems like worrying development for the anti-sanctions movement.

Yes, it is certainly discouraging, because obstruction by the Iraqi
government makes it easier for the US and the UK to hide the central point
- that sanctions are designed to cause hardship, sanctions with
humanitarian exemptions lesser hardship.  This said, I do not think that
this alters our argument: that, however obstructive the Iraqi government,
our governments should not be engaging in a policy that punishes ordinary
Iraqis for the behaviour of a dictatorship.

Colin Rowat

Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq               fax 0870 063 5022
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