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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 49, August 2000

Ten Years after Invasion of Kuwait, Continuing Crisis in UN-Iraq Relations Widely Lamented

August 2 marked the tenth anniversary of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, the trigger for huge suffering in the region caused by conflict and economic sanctions. The anniversary came at a time of profound deadlock in UN-Iraq relations, with the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) unable to begin work since its establishment by a divided UN Security Council in December 1999, one year after US-UK airstrikes - still ongoing in the 'no-fly zones' in the north and south of the country - effectively terminated the long, unhappy era of disarmament inspections by the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM). The following selection of comment surrounding the anniversary reveals something of the fractiousness of current international discussions over the issue.

Iraq

Lieutenant-General Yassin Jasim, spokesperson for Iraq's Air Defences, August 3: "Iraq is not weak, but rather healthy and strong. Were it weak, Iraq would not have been able to be so persistent and firm in confronting American and British aggression daily in the no-fly zones… Were it militarily weak, why then did Iraq succeed in neutralizing [US and UK] missiles? Why is the US using its most up-to-date weapons and warplanes in the flights over the illegal no-fly zones? … The Kuwaiti and Saudi regimes pay for these flights and finance the daily US and British aggression… Iraq is not isolated. Rather it is the US, that uses sanctions against other countries, including Iraq, which has become isolated…[as we see by] the collapse of the US-led coalition and mounting international pressure…for lifting the sanctions…"

United States

State Department statement, August 2: "The world responded to Saddam Hussein's invasion with unity and resolve. … Today, Iraq under Saddam Hussein refuses to cooperate with the United Nations or comply with the requirements set by the international community in Security Council resolutions. Iraq remains a threat, but its ability to threaten its neighbours and commit atrocities against its own people is held in check by the efforts of the United Nations and the international community. The United States has consistently supported international efforts to ensure Iraq's compliance with United Nations Security Council resolutions and international norms. We continue to deny Saddam Hussein the resources and materials he needs to reconstitute his weapons of mass destruction and long-range ballistic missile programmes. At the same time, through the oil-for-food programme, we are providing food, medicine, and humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people in spite of the regime's attempts to obstruct this assistance. Under the Iraq Liberation Act, we are working with representatives of the Iraqi opposition to bring about a change of regime in Iraq… We are also working to hold Saddam Hussein and his top associates accountable for crimes against humanity and war crimes in Kuwait and elsewhere. We look forward to the day when Iraq has accepted its international obligations… Until that day, the United States and the international community must be vigilant in denying Saddam Hussein the ability to commit further atrocities against his neighbours and the Iraqi people."

Article by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, The Financial Times, August 2: "Saddam still thinks his strategy will succeed. He is determined to continue crushing all signs of opposition within Iraq. He is counting on the world community to forget his past use of chemical weapons, his preparations for launching warheads containing biological arms, and his efforts to build nuclear bombs. He is encouraged by his success in seducing some Governments and NGOs to embrace his disingenuous arguments. He hopes his people's suffering will worsen, so the pressure for lifting sanctions will heighten, and the revenues he needs to rebuild his weapons of mass destruction will once again begin to flow. … Much has changed since August 2, 1990, but there is one constant, and that is the brutal duplicity of Saddam Hussein. … We must honour the memory of those who died as a result of Saddam's aggression by vowing not to permit it to happen again. We must maintain our resolve to lift the siege Saddam has imposed upon the Iraqi people. …"

Pentagon spokesperson Kenneth Bacon, August 2: "Kuwait is free. It's rebuilt. It has a thriving economy. Iraq is contained. It has a broken economy. It is an isolated state. I think that's the fundamental…accomplishment over the last 10 years."

France

Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine, interview published in the Al-Hayat newspaper, August 2: "[The sanctions are] cruel, ineffective and dangerous… They are cruel because they punish exclusively the Iraqi people and the weakest among them. They are ineffective because they don't touch the regime, which is not encouraged to cooperate, and they are dangerous because they…accentuate the disintegration of Iraqi society."

Russia

Foreign Ministry statement, July 31: "Talks took place on July 28 between Russia's Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz… The theme of resolving the Iraq problem in accordance with the rules and principles of international law was discussed in a broad international context. Ivanov noted the importance of strengthening the United Nations' role as a supporting structure of the entire world order, especially in order to counterbalance the well-known ambitions to revise it and build a unipolar world. The principled stand of Russia in favour of an early end to the sanctions imposed on Iraq was reaffirmed. The Russian side pointed out the need for UNMOVIC…to be strictly accountable to the UN Security Council so that it could not be used for perpetuating the sanctions and should not follow in the footsteps of the former Special Commission, which discredited itself. Russia is against interference by external forces in the internal affairs of Iraq, and demands an end to bombings of its territory by US and British aircraft in circumvention of UN Security Council resolutions. Tariq Aziz stressed that Baghdad was highly appreciative of the policy of Russia, playing a central role in the search for a political settlement and the normalization of the situation around Iraq."

Non-Governmental Organizations

Letter to the UN Security Council from Human Rights Watch, Global Policy Forum, Mennonite Central Committee, Peace Action Education Fund, Quaker UN Office, Save the Children (UK), August 4: "The approach of the tenth anniversary of the imposition of comprehensive economic sanctions on Iraq prompts us to share with you the following urgent thoughts. In March our six organizations wrote to the Security Council to urge it to address the humanitarian emergency in Iraq in a thorough and transparent manner. We affirm the positive steps that have been taken so far but remain convinced that addition far reaching steps are desperately needed in order to comply with human rights and humanitarian principles. … The deterioration in Iraq's civilian infrastructure is so far reaching that it can only be reversed with extensive investment and development efforts. When comprehensive economic sanctions on Iraq were extended under resolution 687 (1991), the expectation of the Security Council…was that sanctions would be in place for a relatively short time. Whatever the extent of Iraqi non-compliance with the provisions of that resolution, the Council must recognise that the sanctions have contributed in a major way to persistent life-threatening conditions in the country, and that short-term emergency assistance is no longer appropriate to the scale of this humanitarian crisis."

Doug Hostetter, International Secretary of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, August 5: "We are moral citizens first. To those who blame Saddam, I say we're not responsible for the things Saddam does. We are responsible if the actions of our Government keep Iraqi children from food and clean water…"

Other Comment & Developments

Former UNSCOM inspector Scott Ritter has been visiting Iraq to film a documentary about Iraq's current weapons and mass destruction capacity, which he now regards as negligible and no longer warranting the continuation of the UN embargo. Speaking to reporters in Baghdad on July 29, the former US Marine stated that the documentary would be "an attempt to educate the American people, and also the people of Europe, about the reality of the situation…" Ritter said he hoped the film would contribute to "a solution on lifting the sanctions off Iraq and alleviating the suffering of 22 million innocent people who are stuck in the middle of a fight between the Security Council on the one hand and the Iraqi Government on the other hand." The same day, Hussam Mohammed Amin, the head of Iraq's National Monitoring Directorate, told Reuters that Ritter, previously accused by Iraq of spying for the US and Israel, was working to expose "the impact of the unjust embargo…and [to show] that Iraq has no more weapons of mass destruction…" Asked about the visit, White House spokesperson P.J. Crowley noted (July 29): "We can all predict that the places he will go to will be thoroughly sanitized and [that] the Iraqis will try to reap as much PR from this as possible… Obviously we do not agree with Mr. Ritter's assertions. Our own judgment about the continuing danger of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programmes has been formed by years of experience with the UNSCOM inspectors, our own information, and our assessment of Saddam Hussein's past behaviour and future intentions… " On August 2, Crowley added acidly: "Having Iraq host Scott Ritter for a 'thanks for the memories' documentary is lovely, but it doesn't substitute for full cooperation with the UN inspection regime…"

On July 31, prior to departing for a two-week visit to Iraq, Benon Sevan, the Executive Director of the UN Office of the Iraq Programme, defended the efficacy of the oil-for-food programme in affording humanitarian relief. Although conceding that there "is no substitute for the resumption of normal economic activity in Iraq," Sevan argued that "there is no doubt the situation for many in that country is significantly better than it was when the first oil was exported under the programme at the end of 1996. … This is by far the largest humanitarian programme ever administered by the United Nations…"

On August 15, a UN-commissioned report on sanctions, authored by Belgian Professor of Law Marc Bossuyt, argued that the continuation of the embargo against Iraq, despite clear evidence of the number of civilian deaths they were causing, was "unequivocally illegal" under international law. More generally, Bossuyt's report, submitted to the UN Subcommission on Human Rights, argued that the "theory behind economic sanctions is that economic pressure on civilians will translate into pressure on the Government for change. This theory is bankrupt both legally and practically." See next issue for more details and reaction.

On August 14, The Times newspaper in London alleged that Iraq was engaged in talks with Russian companies concerning the possible construction of a factory for making key components for ballistic missiles. The Russian Foreign Ministry reacted to the claim in a statement issued the same day:

"Moscow has taken note of a news item published by The Times…which, citing Western intelligence sources, claims that Russian companies are allegedly conducting secret negotiations with the Iraqi side on building in Iraq a plant to manufacture gyroscopes for long-range missiles. In this connection we would like to state clearly and unambiguously that Russia has strictly abided and continues to abide by its obligations to observe the regime of international sanctions with regard to Iraq. As for the 'canard' launched by the newspaper, the only thing that can be said about it is that it is not conducive in any way to creating a favourable atmosphere for the implementation of the decisions of the international community on Iraq, toward which goal Russia, like a number of other states, has exerted considerable efforts. It is to be regretted that such reports, based on untrue information, are printed by The Times - a newspaper claiming to be objective and respectable."

Reports: Former UN arms inspector arrives in Iraq, Reuters, July 29; Ex-weapons inspector back in Iraq, Associated Press, July 29; UN humanitarian chief visits Iraq, Associated Press, July 31; Russian Foreign Ministry Statement, Document 722-31-7-2000, July 31; Ex-weapons inspector back in Iraq, Associated Press, August 2; West split on Iraq, BBC News Online, August 2; Iraq defiant on Kuwaiti invasion anniversary, Reuters, August 2; Pentagon - Kuwait a free country, Associated Press, August 2; The Tenth Anniversary of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, US State Department (Washington File), August 2; Iraq mocks US statement it is weak and isolated, Reuters, August 3; Groups call on Security Council to address Iraq humanitarian crisis, Human Rights Watch Press Release, August 4; Activists - end Iraq sanctions, Associated Press, August 5; Text - Albright op-ed for tenth anniversary of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, US State Department (Washington File), August 7; Saddam seeks Russian missile deal, The Times, August 14; Russian Foreign Ministry Statement, Document 761-14-8-2000, August 14; Russian Foreign Ministry Statement, Document 763-15-8-2000, August 15; UN Report - sanctions ineffective, Associated Press, August 15.

© 2000 The Acronym Institute.

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