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Review of Iraq Sanctions
and Washington's Iraq Policies
|Americans Against World Empire Homepage
A Quick Review on Iraq Sanctions (see also "SANCTIONED SUFFERING") [below]
Memo To: Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott and House Speaker Bob Livingston
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: The Sanctions Time-Line
So much time has elapsed from the beginning of the Iraq sanctions in 1991 that you may need a quick review of the record. Here is a thumbnail review recently compiled by the Institute for Public Accuracy. It is entitled:
AUTOPSY OF A DISASTER: THE U.S. SANCTIONS POLICY ON IRAQ (http://accuracy.org/iraq/index.htm); Myth: The Sanctions Will be Lifted When Iraq Complies with the U.N. Inspections.
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August 6, 1990: United Nations Security Council passes Resolution 661, placing sanctions on Iraq to "restore the authority of the legitimate government of Kuwait." (For U.N. resolutions, see: gopher://gopher.undp.org/11/undocs/scd/scouncil)
April 3, 1991: U.N. Security Council passes Resolution 687 which states that upon "the completion by Iraq of all actions contemplated in" specific paragraphs of the resolution, "the prohibitions against financial transactions ... shall have no further force or effect." The paragraphs cited have to do with weapons inspections. Other paragraphs in the resolution have to do with "return of all Kuwaiti property seized by Iraq" and Iraqi liability for losses and damage resulting from Iraq's occupation of Kuwait.
April 5, 1991: U.N. Security Council passes Resolution 688 that "demands that Iraq" end its repression "of all Iraqi citizens."
May 20, 1991: President George Bush: "At this juncture, my view is we don't want to lift these sanctions as long as Saddam Hussein is in power." James Baker, Secretary of State: "We are not interested in seeing a relaxation of sanctions as long as Saddam Hussein is in power."
March 6, 1992: The Washington Post reports that the U.S. Census Bureau demographer assigned to estimate the number of Iraqis killed during the Gulf War will be fired. Beth Osborne Daponte estimates that 86,000 men, 40,000 women and 32,000 children died at the hands of American-led coalition forces, during the domestic rebellions that followed and from postwar deprivation. After various protests, the Bureau rescinds the firing but rewrites the report, lowering the death toll and removing the data on women and children. The following month, the Pentagon published its three-volume official history of the war, but a draft chapter on casualties is deleted and there is no mention of Iraqi deaths. (The London Independent, April 23, 1992)
September 24, 1992: The New England Journal of Medicine publishes the findings of Harvard researchers that 46,700 Iraqi children under five have died from the combined effects of war and trade sanctions in the first seven months of 1991.
January 13, 1993: As Bill Clinton is about to take office, he states: "I am a Baptist. I believe in death-bed conversions. If he [Hussein] wants a different relationship with the United States and the United Nations, all he has to do is change his behavior." (The New York Times, January 14, 1993)
January 14, 1993: In the face of criticism, particularly from The New York Times, that he might lift sanctions and even normalize relations with Iraq, Clinton backtracks: "There is no difference between my policy and the policy of the present Administration.... I have no intention of normalizing relations with him." (See The New York Times and Boston Globe, January 15, 1993) Incoming Secretary of State Warren Christopher: "I find it hard to share the Baptist belief in redemption.... I see no substantial change in the position and continuing total support for what the [Bush] administration has done."
January 12, 1995: While inspections are taking place, though not complete, Ambassador Madeleine Albright says the U.S. is "determined to oppose any modification of the sanctions regime until Iraq has moved to comply with all its outstanding obligations." She specifically cites the return of Kuwaiti weaponry and non-military equipment. (Reuters, January 12, 1995)
May 12, 1996: On "60 Minutes," Lesley Stahl asks Albright: "We have heard that a half a million children have died. I mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima. Is the price worth it?" Albright responds: "I think this is a very hard choice, but the price-we think the price is worth it."
Late 1996: The United Nations begins "oil-for-food" program.
March 26, 1997: Albright, in her first major foreign policy address as Secretary of State: "We do not agree with the nations who argue that if Iraq complies with its obligations concerning weapons of mass destruction, sanctions should be lifted. Our view, which is unshakable, is that Iraq must prove its peaceful intentions. It can only do that by complying with all of the Security Council resolutions to which it is subjected. Is it possible to conceive of such a government under Saddam Hussein? When I was a professor, I taught that you have to consider all possibilities. As Secretary of State, I have to deal in the realm of reality and probability. And the evidence is overwhelming that Saddam Hussein's intentions will never be peaceful."
October 4, 1996: United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) releases report on Iraq. "Around 4,500 children under the age of five are dying here every month from hunger and disease," said Philippe Heffinck, UNICEF's representative for Iraq.
October 3, 1997: A joint study by the United Nations' Food & Agriculture Organization and World Food Program, found the sanctions "significantly constrained Iraq's ability to earn foreign currency needed to import sufficient quantities of food to meet needs. As a consequence, food shortages and malnutrition became progressively severe and chronic in the 1990s."
November 7, 1997: Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz: "The American government says openly, clearly, that it's not going to endorse lifting the sanctions on Iraq unless the leadership of Iraq is changed."
November 14, 1997: President Clinton. [During a standoff on weapons inspectors] "What he [Hussein] says his objective is, is to relieve the people of Iraq, and presumably the government, of the burden of the sanctions. What he has just done is to ensure that the sanctions will be there until the end of time or as long as he lasts. So I think that if his objective is to try to get back into the business of manufacturing vast stores of weapons of mass destruction and then try to either use them or sell them, then at some point the United States, and more than the United States, would be more than happy to try to stop that."
November 14, 1997: In response to the question "Is it his [Clinton's] opinion that the sanction will not be lifted ever as long as Saddam is in power, whatever he does?" National Security Adviser Sandy Berger states:
"No. Let Saddam Hussein-let Saddam Hussein come into compliance, and then we can discuss whether there are any circumstances... It has been our position consistently that Saddam Hussein has to comply with all the relative Security Council resolutions from this action.... I don't think, under these circumstances, when he has [sic] blatantly out of compliance, it is the right time for us to talk about how we lift the sanctions.... It's been the U.S. position since the Bush administration that Saddam Hussein comply-has to comply with all of the relevant Security Council resolutions." In response to the question "but what the president said- what he has just done is to ensure that the sanctions will be there until the end of time or as long as he lasts." Berger responds: "Well, that's right, and that's not inconsistent with what I've said. In other words, there's no way-if he is-if he's got to be in compliance, he can't be in compliance if he's thrown the UNSCOM people out. So it's a necessary condition. It may not be a sufficient condition."
November 18, 1997: The Guardian reports: "The prospects for a diplomatic solution to the confrontation between Iraq and the United States strengthened significantly yesterday with the U.S. and Britain offering a relaxation of economic sanctions against Baghdad as international moves to resolve the dispute over United Nations weapons inspectors continued."
November 20, 1997: [A stand-off is defused] A Russian-Iraqi communique is released pledging that Moscow will "energetically promote the speedy lifting of sanctions against Iraq on the basis of its compliance with the corresponding U.N. resolutions." Albright states that the lifting of the sanctions "will probably be discussed at some time, but the United States has not agreed to anything."
November 26, 1997: UNICEF reports that "The most alarming results are those on malnutrition, with 32 per cent of children under the age of five, some 960,000 children, chronically malnourished-a rise of 72 per cent since 1991. Almost one quarter (around 23 per cent) are underweight-twice as high as the levels found in neighbouring Jordan or Turkey." Philippe Heffinck, UNICEF Representative in Baghdad: "And what concerns us now is that there is no sign of any improvement since Security Council Resolution 986/1111 [oil-for-food] came into force."
November 30, 1997: Ambassador Bill Richardson in the Washington Post: "To the extent Saddam used the inspectors' two-week absence to hide weapons, he has only delayed for Iraq the time it will take the UNSCOM team to ensure compliance, therefore further delaying any possibility of lifting sanctions."
December 9, 1997: In response to the question: "The United States has given apparently contradictory criteria for when it will lift the sanctions. It says it will do it when UNSCOM is allowed into Iraq, when UNSCOM can get into the 'palaces,' when Iraq abides by all U.N. resolutions, including paying a few hundred billion in reparations, when Saddam Hussein is overthrown, or never. The question: When is it?" Richardson: "Our policy is clear. We believe that Saddam Hussein should comply with all the Security Council resolutions, and that includes 1137, those that deal with the UNSCOM inspectors, those that deal with human rights issues, those that deal with prisoners of war with Kuwait, those that deal with the treatment of his own people. We think that there are standards of international behavior."
December 16, 1997: President Clinton: "I am willing to maintain the sanctions as long as he does not comply with the resolutions.... There are those that would like to lift the sanctions. I am not among them. I am not in favor of lifting the sanctions until he complies.... But keep in mind, he has not come out, as some people have suggested, ahead on this last confrontation. Because now the world community is much less likely to vote to lift any sanctions on him..." In response to the question "How do you assess Saddam Hussein?" Clinton makes several points and then says:
"Finally, I think that he felt probably that the United States would never vote to lift the sanctions on him no matter what he did. There are some people who believe that. Now I think he was dead wrong on virtually every point."
January 10, 1998: The Pope: "I insist on repeating clearly to all, once again, that no one may kill in God's name," recalling "our brothers and sisters in Iraq, living under a pitiless embargo... The weak and the innocent cannot pay for mistakes for which they are not responsible," the Pope said of the U.N. sanctions.
February 23, 1998: Standoff defused by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan's trip to Baghdad.
April 30, 1998: UNICIF reports: "The increase in mortality reported in public hospitals for children under five years of age (an excess of some 40,000 deaths yearly compared with 1989) is mainly due to diarrhea, pneumonia and malnutrition. In those over five years of age, the increase (an excess of some 50,000 deaths yearly compared with 1989) is associated with heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, cancer, liver or kidney diseases."
July 30, 1998: The New York Times reports: "Russia tried and failed to get Security Council action today on a resolution declaring that Iraq had complied with demands to destroy its nuclear weapons program and was ready to move away from intrusive inspections to long-term monitoring... Russia has been arguing that those files can be 'closed' one at a time, to give Iraq some motivation for further cooperation. The United States has held that all requirements must be met before sanctions can be altered."
August 3, 1998, (Monday): Reuters reports: "The chief United Nations arms inspector, Richard Butler, arrived here today for talks that Baghdad says have to hasten an end to international sanctions. Mr. Butler, who arrived to scathing criticism from Iraqi newspapers, said he wanted to end his work of disarmament in Iraq as soon as possible to enable the Security Council to lift its eight-year-old sanctions. Iraq said on Thursday that it would take unspecified action, based on the outcome of Mr. Butler's visit, if the sanctions were not removed as soon as possible."
August 5, 1998: Iraq says it will suspend cooperation with inspectors and turns them away.
August 14, 1998: The Washington Post front page: "U.S. Sought To Prevent Iraqi Arms Inspections; Surprise Visits Canceled After Albright Argued That Timing Was Wrong," regarding Scott Ritter.
August 17, 1998: Richardson: "Sanctions are going to stay forever, or until it complies fully." (The New York Times, August 18, 1998)
August 20, 1998: Richardson: "Sanctions may stay on in perpetuity." (The New York Times, August 21, 1998)
October 5, 1998: House passes bill 360-38 to direct the Pentagon to channel up to $ 97 million in overt military aid to Iraqi rebel groups that seek to bring down the government of Saddam Hussein.
October 6, 1998: Denis Halliday, who had just resigned as the head of the "oil-for-food" program for Iraq, Assistant Secretary General of the UN, gives a speech on Capitol Hill, citing a "conservative estimate" of "child mortality for children under five years of age is from five to six thousand per month." Halliday states: "There are many reasons for these tragic and unnecessary deaths, including the poor health of mothers, the breakdown of health services, the poor nutritional intake of both adults and young children and the high incidence of water-born diseases as a result of the collapse of Iraq's water and sanitation system-and, of course, the lack of electric power to drive that system, both crippled by war damage following the 1991 Gulf War." (See remarks, www.accuracy.org/halliday.htm)
October 20, 1998: Washington Post front page: "Congress Stokes Visions Of War to Oust Saddam; White House Fears Fiasco."
October 31, 1998: Iraq announces it will cease cooperation with inspectors.
November 5, 1998: Scott Ritter claims on Nightline: "He holds the key to getting sanctions lifted. All Saddam Hussein has to do is provide what he was obligated to provide 15 days after the passing of the initial resolution in April, 1991, a full, final and complete declaration of the totality of his holdings."
September 15, 1998: Martin Indyk, Assistant Secretary of State: "First of all, there is one serious consequence that has already occurred; that is, the Security Council has voted unanimously to suspend indefinitely sanctions reviews. That means there will be no sanctions reviews and sanctions will not be lifted." Indyk then claimed: "the Security Council resolutions provide in very specific terms for the lifting of sanctions when Iraq has fully complied with all the Security Council resolutions. And that is the crux of the matter; it's not a question that they'll never be lifted, but the conditions on which they'll be lifted will never appear to be fulfilled."
November 10, 1998: State Department spokesperson James Rubin: "We've stated very clearly that it is up to Saddam Hussein to comply with the resolutions of the Security Council that lay out the needs and requirements, including on weapons of mass destruction, coming back into compliance with those resolutions, including on Kuwaiti prisoners, Kuwaiti equipment, and, in short, demonstrating his peaceful intentions, in which case we are prepared to see an adjustment in the sanctions regime." A few moments later, Rubin states: "The Security Council has set out a very simple path to resolve this situation. And all it requires is him doing what he agreed to do, cooperating with UNSCOM-not refusing cooperation with UNSCOM-but providing them the information they need."
November 12, 1998: Albright on the PBS NewsHour: "This has been one of the clearest sanctions regimes with the clearest roadmaps that have ever existed in terms of how to get from point A to point B."
It is the purpose of this work to show that the current United Nations sanctions against Iraq are causing a major humanitarian catastrophe for its citizens. As such, one could argue that the organization created to, among other things, protect human rights, is actually violating those very same rights. Initially implemented as a means of forcing compliance with the Security Council resolutions that ended the Gulf War, the sanctions have been relatively successful in accomplishing this objective. However, the continuation of sanctions in light of this compliance raises questions about the real motives of the organization's member nations, the United States in particular.
There are five principle UN resolutions with which Iraq has been forced to comply with in the aftermath of the Gulf Crisis. These are Resolutions 687, 688, 706, and 715, and 833. To begin, UN Resolution 687 is the basic cease-fire resolution. Here the issue of armaments is connected with the lifting of the embargo on the export of oil and other Iraqi commodities in what is called Chapter C. Specifically, Resolution 687 requires that Baghdad forfeit its long-range ballistic missile program, as well as its nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons programs. The other requirement in Chapter C is Paragraph 10, which calls for detailed inspections to ensure Iraqi compliance. Paragraph 10 consequently led to the adoption of Resolution 715, addressing the question of on-going monitoring. Theoretically, once all these conditions are met, Paragraph 22 of Resolution 715 will permit Iraq to sell an unlimited amount of oil.
Unfortunately, theory and reality have yet to coincide with regard to the UN sanctions and Iraq. To monitor and certify Iraqi compliance with Resolutions 687 and 715, the Security Council appointed a UN Special Commission (UNSCOM), who, with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), was assigned the task of identifying and destroying Iraq's long range missiles, nuclear equipment, and chemical and biological arms. Documents signed by UNSCOM Chairman Rolf Ekeus and by the representative of the IAEA were presented to the Security Council in October of 1994, certifying that Iraq's military machine had been destroyed in full. The documents also confirmed that a long term monitoring system was successfully in place and that Iraqi cooperation had shown great improvement. Therefore, in accordance with Chapter C of Resolution 687, Iraq has met its obligations. This entitles Iraq to the immediate implementation of Resolution 715 - Paragraph 22, which would allow Iraq to sell oil, "mainly so that the Iraqi people could live normally and economic hardships would be alleviated" (Pipes 60).
One would imagine it reasonably difficult for the Security Council to dismiss Ekeus' report, but that is exactly what happened. The United States has repeatedly made it clear that it does not consider Iraq's compliance with Security Council Resolutions 687 and 715 on disarmament sufficient to lift the embargo. Additionally, the United States, with the support of Great Britain, immediately initiated a campaign against the implementation of Paragraph 22. In an address to the Security Council, Madeleine Albright, US Ambassador to the UN, officially responded to Ekeus' findings by saying, "That is not enough. You have to establish the monitoring regime and then you have to put the Iraqis on test for a certain period. Only then can the council consider the matter of implementing Paragraph 22" (Pipes 60). This statement leads one to ask: Exactly how long is a "certain period"? Judging by the ambiguity of Albright's response, it is apparent that even if Iraq passes the United States' proposed test, a formal commitment to implementing Paragraph 22 does not exist within the Security Council.
In addition to requiring a testing period, the United States has also asserted its view that Baghdad should also abide by Resolution 688, which requires Iraq to cease the repression of its civilian population. This resolution specifically refers to the Kurds in the north and the Shi'ites in the south. The problem here, however, is that Resolution 688 really has nothing to do with the lifting of the embargo. Lord Healey, when addressing the British parliament, put it most succinctly when he remarked, "Though many wish Iraq would comply with Resolution 688, it must be emphasized that legally and technically there is no link between this resolution and the sanctions regime" (Markinson A9). The government's persecution of the Kurds and Shi'ites does violate more than one article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This issue, however, has nothing to do with the war, the resolutions that ended it, or the sanctions they entailed.
Nevertheless, putting aside the relevancy or legality of Resolution 688, one must also consider Baghdad's claims that this resolution is impossible to fulfill because the Kurd and Shi'ite groups are rebels and every government has the right to defend itself against internal rebellion. However, rather than rejecting Resolution 688 outright, the Iraqi government has attempted to strike a bargain. "It would cease acting against Kurds and Shi'ites when the West stops interfering in Iraq's internal affairs by giving the rebels aid and comfort, for example by the lifting of the no-fly zones in the north and south" (Jensen 8).
Although it appears that the UN sanctions will never be lifted, the Iraqi government has continued its attempts to appease the Security Council. In November of 1994, Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, handed over to US Ambassador Albright, who was serving as the Security Council's president for November, the formal documents of Iraq's recognition of Kuwait in accordance with Resolution 833. This resolution required that Iraq recognize Kuwait's independence, sovereignty and UN demarcated borders.
Even more difficult than compliance with Resolution 833 was the Security Council's demand that Iraq also bow to the United States' additional demands regarding Kuwait. Washington demanded that Iraq's recognition of Kuwait "be ratified by a vote in Iraq's National Assembly, which was done on November 10, 1994; that it be officially approved by the Ba'th party in a decree signed by Saddam Hussein; and that the decree be published in the party's official gazette, which has also been done" (Jensen 8). However, even as Iraq handed over documents certifying its compliance with these demands, the Security Council informed Iraq that it must still comply with other demands, which seem to grow in number every time the Council meets to consider lifting the sanctions.
As a concession to the embargo on Iraq's oil sales, Resolution 706 was adopted which permits Iraq to sell $1.6 billion worth of oil without precondition. However, the resolution also mandates that the UN oversee the spending of funds so acquired. Had it not been for this last aspect the Iraqi government would have had no problem accepting this resolution. This extra condition has been viewed by Baghdad as a slap in the face. This response was best explained by Tariq 'Aziz in a 1994 interview when he commented, "We were rather insulted, because when it says that it would like to monitor the distribution of food and medicine to everybody, all the people of Iraq, this insults the government of Iraq, and it insults the facts as well" (Pipes 61).
The monitoring of how revenues raised from the sale of a limited quantity of oil are spent, is considered by Baghdad to be an infringement upon the sovereignty of Iraq. Resolution 706 is viewed with fear and contempt as not just a mere resolution that allows Iraq to sell a minimal amount of oil, but rather as a system intended to turn Iraq into a UN protectorate. Even though Iraq desperately needs the money from oil sales to meet the needs of its civilian population, the nation is not ready to give up its sovereignty for a token amount of money which it claims would still not be enough to meet those needs.
Under rather stringent circumstances, economic sanctions can be the most effective means of bringing about a policy change in a target country or in Iraq's case, a means of forcing compliance with UN Security Council resolutions. However, before the use of sanctions can be deemed appropriate, it is first necessary from an economic standpoint that some basic theoretical requirements converge with reality in the target country. Iraq, in this respect, is the ideal case. There are essentially three basic theoretical requirements which have made Iraq the ideal candidate for economic sanctions. These requirements, as laid out by Gary Hufbauer and Jeffrey J. Schott in Economic Sanctions Reconsidered, are: (1) economic vulnerability; (2) a limited capacity to circumvent sanctions and retaliate economically; (3) political isolation.
The economy of Iraq is vulnerable due to its strong dependence on outside markets for both exports and imports. In terms of exports, the Iraqi economy is highly succeptible to outside pressures "since roughly 99 per cent of its exports is oil and the rest mainly consists of dates, gas and chemical fertilizers" (Smeets 113). On the import side, Iraq is heavily dependent upon foreign products. Prior to 1990, Iraq imported "food and medical products worth $3-4 billion a year" (Rouleau 64).
Iraq has a very limited capacity to side-step sanctions through the creation of outside alliances and is rather weak at taking retaliatory steps. This is mainly due to the fact that Iraq does not have a product with which it can effectively retaliate. Although Iraq's major export is oil, it is only one of many oil producers in the region. "Iraq's share in world oil production in 1989 was 2.8 mbd (million barrels per day) on a total of 23.7 mbd for all OPEC countries" (Smeets 117). Even though a major producer, with Iraq gone there is no scarcity of oil on the market. The other oil producers, namely Saudi Arabia, have been more than willing to fill the gap that was created by the absence of Iraqi oil.
Finally, due to strong international support for the economic sanctions, Iraq also finds itself in an extremely isolated position. More importantly, the economic sanctions are full-fledged, meaning that they include a boycott, embargo, and the freezing of financial assets abroad. This last aspect is particularly important because the vast majority of Iraq's assets were being held in foreign banks and investments prior to the outbreak of the Gulf War. On August 2, 1990, President Bush signed an executive order freezing Iraqi assets in the United States. He also froze Kuwaiti assets before they could be seized by Iraqi authorities. His action was immediately followed by most other Western governments. That same day the Security Council adopted Resolution 660, formally condemning Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and demanding an immediate withdrawal of all its forces. Resolution 660 also invoked Articles 39 and 40 of Chapter 7 of the UN Charter. This chapter grants the Security Council "sweeping powers to prevent acts of aggression including economic sanctions or actions by air, sea or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security" (Smeets 110).
Deprived of oil revenues and nearly all imports by the sanctions, its known assets abroad frozen, and its hidden assets apparently nearing exhaustion, Baghdad's streets and marketplaces have been hard-hit by record levels of inflation. The effects of this inflation are reflected most noticeably in free-market food prices which immediately shot up, almost doubling in some cases (Shields 47). "Food prices have risen 550-fold since the end of the war, while incomes have increased only two-to-three fold. A tin of milk powder, or a tray of eggs, now costs 1000 Iraqi dinar--about half the monthly salary of a university professor" (Platt 15). This increase in free-market food prices combined with high levels of inflation and unemployment has translated into a severe malnutrition problem. In 1990, Thomas Ekfal, representative of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in Baghdad, reported:
Half a million children, more than 9000 a month, have died of malnutrition and disease because of sanctions and another 1.5 million are in danger of dying if the sanctions are continued. With a chicken costing half the average monthly wage 2.5 million people were suddenly vulnerable to severe hunger (Shields 47).
As a result, the regime has had no option but to implement a policy of basic food rationing because the UN sanctions and economic embargo against Iraq have caused shortages in items needed for agriculture. In 1993, the Iraqi Ministry of Agriculture reported that production for the year was only 25 to 30 percent of 1992's yield (Dulmage 1). The primary cause for this decline in production is that there is a shortage of spare parts, fertilizers, pesticides, and seed. In particular, the UN sanctions have made it extremely difficult to maintain the elaborate government greenhouse complex at Raschdiva, just outside of Baghdad, which is the center of Iraqi agriculture.
The sanctions have made it practically impossible to replace glass broken at the Raschdiva greenhouse complex during the coalition's bombing attacks on a nearby communications outpost during the war. No longer able to import the glass required for repairs, replacement glass and parts now can only come from one source; the Iraqis have begun stripping some of the more heavily damaged greenhouses. Of course, the more they cannibalize, the fewer greenhouses are available to grow much needed crops. Additionally, machinery is breaking down and there are no spare parts to be found in Iraq to keep equipment running. The Raschdiva greenhouse system relies on the ability to electronically control the climate inside the greenhouses. As electronic components fail, more greenhouses are closed down.
Since 1990, Iraq has also been unable to import foodstuffs and medical supplies at the volume required by its 18 million people. Before the imposition of the oil embargo in August 1990, Iraq imported food and medical products worth $3-4 billion a year. The revenue available today for those type of imports, including those arriving as contraband from Jordan, Turkey, and Iran, does not exceed a billion dollars (Rouleau 64).
A thorough examination of the sanctions reveals that the Security Council has imposed no formal restrictions on the import of humanitarian goods (i.e. food and medical supplies). However, the ban on Iraqi oil exports has essentially done just that. Iraq relies on the revenue generated from the sale of oil to purchase such goods. Therefore, to avert wholesale starvation, in 1990 the government implemented a policy of providing all Iraqis with a basic monthly food ration at a cost of about $1 billion a year from its hidden reserves and with minimal help from UN agencies (Lewis A3). As Iraq's hidden reserves became depleted, the government was forced to economize. "Government rations were recently cut by one third, so they now provide less than half a person's nutritional requirements" (Platt 15). According to a 1994 UNICEF report:
The caloric deficit among Iraqis is now putting at risk some 3.5 million persons, including 1.58 million children under the age of 15 and 230,000 pregnant or nursing women. Many children, it is now believed will be born mentally handicapped; the infant mortality rate, which has doubled in three years, will continue to rise (Jansen 9).
Eric Rouleau described Iraq's food shortage, stating, "For visitors who knew Iraq in happier times, it is astonishing to realize that it is possible to die of hunger in one of the world's richest countries, on land covering the largest oil reserves in the world, after those of Saudi Arabia" (Rouleau 63).
In addition to malnutrition, disease levels have also been on the rise. This is due in part to a shortage of dire medical supplies and a breakdown in basic infrastructure resulting from the economic blockade of Iraq. In March of 1993, a United Nations investigative mission visiting Iraq reported:
In 1994, 2,380 children died of diarrhea as compared with 121 in 1989 and 1,789 of pneumonia, as compared with 139 in 1989, and the mortality rate for people over 50 suffering from hypertension, diabetes and cancer was 10 times higher in each category than the 1989 rate (Jansen 9).
The majority of these cases could have be treated, but Iraq's drug shortage has made this nearly impossible.
Although drugs were explicitly exempt from the embargo, foreign producers refuse to fill orders from Baghdad. As much as $10m out of $17m worth of orders placed and paid for before the embargo was imposed have yet to be delivered (Jansen 10). As Iraq's medical crisis became more acute, Baghdad signed agreements in 1991 with Great Britain, Spain, Italy, Canada, and Sweden to grant credit against frozen Iraqi assets held by those countries. However, by the end of 1994, Britain had only sent "$22m out of an agreed $70m in drugs and food, Spain $1m, Italy a quarter of the specified amount and Canada and Sweden were still negotiating deals" (Jansen 10).
In regard to Iraq's failing infrastructure, some 800,000 people in Southern Iraq are at risk from water bourne diseases due to the destruction of sewage treatment and water purification facilities by Allied bombers in 1991 (Jansen 10). Under the current sanctions and blockade, Iraq has been banned from importing chlorine for water purification, as well as spare parts to repair purification plants damaged during the coalition's bombing attacks.
Besides chlorine, electrical components, and assorted mechanical parts, which apparently have military applications, the Sanctions Committee has also "banned more than 300 items using criteria whose logic is not always apparent" (Rouleau 63). The list of these banned items has come to be known as the "Red List." To illustrate the absurdity of the "Red List" consider the following examples of items banned: electric light bulbs, socks, wristwatches, ovens, spare parts for vehicles, sewing machines, mirrors, diskettes, nails, a wide range of textiles, refrigerators, etc. The tragedy of the Iraqi situation is that all of its import requests are subject to a vote by the Sanctions Committee's fifteen members, representing the nations of the Security Council. As such, it takes only one vote to veto an import request, even if the other fourteen members agree.
The American-British demand for total Iraqi compliance with all resolutions has as its ultimate objective to so humiliate Saddam Hussein that his own people and army will rise up and remove him from power. Most Iraqis believe that the UN sanctions will never be lifted, as long as Saddam Hussein remains in power, regardless of whether or not the government complies with the resolutions. Yet, knowing this and despite the difficult conditions created by the sanctions within Iraq, Hussein's position remains secure. The everyday struggle of the Iraqi people has left them with "neither the desire nor the energy to rise up against their government, which they increasingly perceive as a victim of a superpower's agenda" (Rouleau 68). Also, the leader has simply responded by tightening control of his military and security forces, purging all opposition.
As a result, since the summer of 1994, three of the permanent members of the Security Council (Russia, China, and France) have been advocating a relaxation of the sanctions. The primarily American-British hard-line attitude toward Iraq and its compliance with the Security Council's resolutions has come under intense scrutiny, particularly in light of the recent rash of reports highlighting the deplorable living conditions inside Iraq. One of the principle arguments against the hard-line attitude has been: Why must the resolutions pertaining to Iraq be enforced so severely when many other UN resolutions have been ignored? More often than not, the example of Israel is used to argue this point. After the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and Israel's 1978 invasion of Lebanon, several UN resolutions were passed to punish Israel which were largely ignored.
The hypocrisy of American-British stance has led to a general feeling that the two nations care only about their oil and weapons interests in the Middle East. Iraq's return to the oil market could push prices down and make it difficult for Saudi Arabia to meet payments for its arms purchases from Washington and London. "The United States does not want to do anything that would affect Saudi Arabia's cash flow since American companies hold orders there for $30b worth of weapons and $6b worth of commercial aircraft" (Neff 3). Competition from Iraqi oil sales would have a severe impact on Saudi Arabia, forcing it to either lower its price or reduce its production output.
There are also rumors of a secret agreement by Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, guaranteeing cheap oil to the United States; "America' s economic recovery over the last three and a half years has been greatly aided by oil available at under $20 a barrel" (Neff 4). Assuming these rumors are true, Washington for its part of the deal would be required to ensure that the UN sanctions remain in effect as long as possible. Such an agreement is said to be the cornerstone of the United States "dual containment" policy whereby Tehran and Baghdad are to be squeezed into cooperation. Iran, like Iraq, could also drive the price of oil down were the US sponsored embargo of its oil industry lifted.
The United States has countered such rumors by arguing, ironically, that the sole reason for the recent change of heart by some of the Council members is economic. "US officials hit back at France and Russia by telling reporters 'off the record' that the two countries had selfish reasons for showing a more tolerant attitude toward Saddam than the US" (Neff 3). Apparently, both countries were major arms suppliers to Iraq before the Gulf War. Also, both hold large debts from Iraq and could expect to profit once the oil embargo is lifted and Iraq begins reconstruction of its infrastructure.
It is apparent that the citizens of Iraq are in fact being punished for the misdeeds of their political leader, Saddam Hussein. A continued enforcement of the sanctions in light of Iraqi compliance and the deplorable standards of living they have created, leads one to the conclusion that the initial objectives of the sanctions have undergone a radical transformation. Today, it is obvious that the United Nations organization functions at the mercy of US foreign policy and that the Security Council resolutions and sanctions have become the personal tools of the United States in the great chess game that is the Middle East. Unfortunately, it is the average citizen of Iraq who plays the pawn in this all too morbid game.
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