Tuesday, January 02, 2001

Notes on Iraq Sanctions: Humanitarian Implications and Options for the Future - Security Council - Global Policy Forum


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In 1990 Iraq invaded Kuwait. This upset the world community. So on Aug. 6th 1990- the UN began sanctions against the country. It turns out that the sanctions hurt the general population - but the military. After the US led attack on Iraq, and their withdrawal from Kuwait- the sanctions continued on a destroyed society. The sanctions continued to hurt the general population and not the leadership. On top of the sanctions War reparations were demanded of Iraq - preventing any possible hope of swiftly rebuilding what the war had destroyed.

Ahtisaari Report to Security Council on humanitarian crisis in Iraq and Kuwait. "Most means of modern life support have been destroyed or rendered tenuous." "Sanctions in respect of food supplies should immediately be removed." No remedy to humanitarian need, "without dealing with the underlying need for energy."
Apr 3 Resolution 687 begins cease-fire, establishes UN Special Commission on weapons, extends sanctions by tying them to Iraq's weapons.

The Future of Sanctions Report of The Select Committee on International Development, of the UK House of Commons, 27 January 2000. Excerpt Comprehensive Economic Sanctions Iraq (paras 17-42)

There is a clear consensus that the humanitarian and developmental situation in Iraq has deteriorated seriously since the imposition of comprehensive economic sanctions whilst, at the same time, sanctions have clearly failed to hurt those responsible for past violations of international law as Saddam Hussein and his ruling elite continue to enjoy a privileged existence.

Not all this humanitarian distress is the direct result of the sanctions regime. It appears that Saddam Hussein is quite prepared to manipulate the sanctions regime and the exemptions scheme to his own ends, even if that involves hurting ordinary Iraqi people. This does not, however, entirely excuse the international community from a part in the suffering of Iraqis. A sanctions regime which relies on the good faith of Saddam Hussein is fundamentally flawed.

Whatever the wisdom of the original imposition of sanctions, careful thought must now be given as to how to move from the current impasse without giving succour to Saddam Hussein and his friends. Any move away from comprehensive sanctions should go hand in hand with measures designed to target the real culprits, not the poor of Iraq but their leadership. Possibil-ities include a concerted attempt to target and either freeze or sequester the assets of Saddam Hussein and those connected to him, and the indictment of Saddam Hussein and his close associates as war criminals.

We find it difficult to believe that there will be a case in the future where the UN would be justified in imposing comprehensive economic sanctions on a country. In an increasingly interdependent world such sanctions cause significant suffering. However carefully exemptions are planned, the fact is that comprehensive economic sanctions only further concentrate power in the hands of the ruling elite. The UN will lose credibility if it advocates the rights of the poor whilst at the same time causing, if only indirectly, their further impoverishment.

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