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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 62, January - February 2002

News Review

UN Plans Iraq Sanctions Overhaul Amid Fears of New War

Efforts to overhaul the sanctions regime against Iraq took a potentially significant step forward on November 29, when the UN Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 1382 extending existing humanitarian relief arrangements - the 'oil-for-food' programme - until May 30, 2002, at which time a new Goods Review List (GRL) is scheduled to take effect. The GRL, annexed to the resolution but "subject to any refinements...agreed by the Council in light of further consultations", sets out those items requiring approval for import. All other goods, with the exception of a complete embargo on military goods and equipment, will be permitted automatic entry into Iraq.

While the resolution appears a clear-cut victory for the advocates of 'smart sanctions', principally the US and UK, it is clear that other countries, prominent among them Russia, will seek to use the six-month discussion period to work for a general political solution to the crisis in UN-Iraq relations, and more immediately will bring a different vision of the purpose and scope of the GRL to the table. Russia's position was set out in a November 30 Foreign Ministry statement:

"The resolution...reaffirms that the humanitarian programme is in itself but a temporary measure. It is clear that a radical improvement of the socio-economic situation in Iraq requires investment in the restoration of key enterprises and infrastructure facilities of that country. Russia has consistently sought and will continue to seek the removal of artificial barriers in the way of supplies to Iraq of goods, equipment and services necessary for that. It is from this point of view that we will, together with other SC members, work on the Goods Review List in the next six moths, aiming precisely for an end result which would really help the revival of civilian sectors of the economy of that country. It is crucial that in this resolution the Security Council has declared the need to strive for a comprehensive settlement of the Iraqi problem on the basis of the Council's relevant decisions. As the Russian leadership has repeatedly stressed, such settlement is only possible via the deployment in Iraq of international monitoring of non-resumption of Iraqi WMD programmes, tied to suspending and eventually lifting economic sanctions."

US and Russian officials, led by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ordhonidze and Assistant secretary of State John Wolf, held expert-level consultations on the issue in Moscow on December 19-20. According to a Russian Foreign Ministry statement, "a useful exchange of views on specific parameters of the Goods Review List and approval procedures for contracts took place. On some of them mutual understanding was evident, while others still need further clarification." The statement continued: "The Russian side expressed concern that the number of holds on Russian companies' contracts with Iraq in the Sanctions Committee has greatly increased, reaching a total of $860 million in total. The American side announced its...decision to lift the hold on a number of contracts worth $54 million in all, and promised to take necessary measures to unblock other contracts." Russian officials also used the talks to complain about ongoing attacks by US and UK aircraft carried out in patrolling the 'no-fly zones' in the country. Moscow regards the zones as illegal.

On November 25, Iraq made clear that it would refuse to participate in any GRL-based reconstituted sanctions regime. According to Foreign Minister Naji Sabri: "The logical thing for the United Nations is to move for an improvement of the situation, not for tightening the sanctions against Iraq as is the case with the smart sanctions... There will be no deal if the Iraqi government does not accept changes introduced on the oil-for-food agreement... [If there is any change] as a result of pressure being imposed by this member or that member of the Security Council, the agreement would be null and void and Iraq will no longer be committed to it..." Iraq maintains that it has completely discharged the disarmament obligations laid upon it by Security Council resolutions, and that it will not consider the readmittance of UN monitors until all sanctions have been lifted. Even in a post-embargo situation, Iraqi cooperation could not, to judge by comments from Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz on December 3, be guaranteed: "Why should we bring spies into Iraq, to spy on our headquarters where we work and on our legitimate military activities just to please Mr. Bush or the US administration? The answer is no."

On November 26, warning Iraq to allow inspections to resume, President Bush apparently added WMD proliferation as a criterion for assessing possible targets in the war against terrorism: "If anybody harbours a terrorist, they're a terrorist. If they fund a terrorist, they're a terrorist. If they house terrorists, they're terrorists. If they develop weapons of mass destruction that will be used to terrorise nations, they will be held accountable. And as for Mr. Saddam Hussein, he needs to let inspectors back in his country, to show us that he is not developing weapons of mass destruction." Asked what the consequence would be if President Hussein refuses to readmit the inspectors, President Bush replied: "He'll find out."

Domestic political support for a US military campaign against Iraq would be considerable. On December 20, the House of Representatives adopted, by 392 votes to 12, a resolution (H.J. Res. 75) describing Iraq's refusal to allow inspectors to resume their work as a threat to the national security of the United States. After the vote, Democratic Representative Joseph Crowley spoke for many of his colleagues in referring to Saddam Hussein as "a man who must be dealt with, once and for all." One of the dozen opposing Representatives, Republican Ron Paul, told reporters: "I hardly see it as a threat to our national security. This desire to immediately go into Iraq presents a threat to our security more than it helps."

On December 7, nine prominent members of Congress - Senator John McCain (Republican), Senator Jesse Helms (Republican), Representative Henry Hyde (Republican), Senator Richard Shelby (Republican), Representative Harold Ford, Jr (Democrat), Senator Joseph Lieberman (Democrat), Senator Trent Lott (Republican), Representative Benjamin Gilman (Republican), and Senator Sam Brownback (Republican) - wrote to President Bush urging the US to actively organise and support the overthrow of the Iraqi government: "[W]e must directly confront Saddam, sooner rather than later. ... [A]ll indications are that in the interest of our own national security, Saddam Hussein must be removed from power. Let us maximize the likelihood of a rapid victory by beginning immediately to assist the Iraqi opposition on the ground inside Iraq..." In a speech at Georgetown University on January 14, Senator Lieberman stated: "Trying to manage the Iraqi threat under Saddam is like trying to cool a volcano with a thermostat. We must therefore declare a new objective. Our clear, unequivocal goal should be liberating the Iraqi people and the world from Saddam's tyranny, as we should have done in 1991". The same sentiment was expressed more viscerally by Senator McCain, visiting US troops in the Arabian Sea on January 9: "Next up, Baghdad!"

International opinion is substantially massed against major US military action against Iraq. On December 10, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan remarked: "Any attempt or any decision to attack Iraq today will be unwise and could lead to a major escalation in the region... I hope that will not be the case." On December 1, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder cautioned: "We should be very careful about discussing new targets in the Middle East. More could blow up around our ears than any of us are able to deal with." On November 28, Egypt's Foreign minister Ahmed Maher said action against Iraq would "have a negative impact... While Afghanistan may require the use of force, it should not become the rule." The same day, Amr Moussa, the Secretary-General of the Arab League, argued that an attack on Iraq would have "dangerous repercussions": "Arab public opinion is completely outraged because of what is happening the occupied territories... If a country like the United States were to conduct any decisive and final diplomatic effort, it should be directed at [Israel Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon..." In similar vein, Saleh Qallab, a spokesperson for the Jordanian government, said on November 28 that his country "rejects the use of force [or] external interference in Iraq's affairs and meddling with its integrity... Any military action will only lead to deterioration, depression, frustration and negative consequences that are extremely dangerous and would surpass the borders of the region." On December 5, Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer said simply: "We don't want an American operation concerning Iraq."

Reports: Iraq says will reject oil deal with UN if changed, Reuters, November 25; Iraq - no changes to sanctions, Associated Press, November 25; Bush says Iraq must permit weapons inspections, Washington File, November 26; Bush cites terror war, urges Iraq arms inspections, Reuters, November 26; Arab League - don't attack Iraq, Associated Press, November 28; Egypt denounces US force on Iraq, Associated Press, November 28; Security Council extends Iraq 'oil-for-food' programme for six months, adopting resolution 1382 (2001) unanimously, UN Press Release SC/7229, November 29; UN Security Council renews Iraqi oil-for-food program, Washington File, November 29; Security Council adopts resolution to continue UN humanitarian operation in Iraq, Russian Foreign Ministry Statement, Document 2238-30-11-2001, November 30; Aziz says Iraq ready to defend itself if attacked, Reuters, December 3; Powell - Iraq remains a concern, Associated Press, December 5; Bush must deal with Iraq issue, Associated Press, December 5; Text - nine Congress members call for stepped-up action against Iraq, Washington File, December 7; In Norway, Annan warns US against attacking Iraq, New York Times, December 10; Text - House passes resolution on Iraq's weapons program, Washington File, December 20; Russian Foreign Ministry Statement, Document 2397-20-12-2001, December 20; Russian Foreign Ministry Statement, Document 2398-20-12-2001, December 20; House warns Iraq on weapons inspectors, Reuters, December 20; Congressional Report, December 21; Attack on Iraq would have support, Associated press, January 9; Text - Lieberman outlines long-term strategy to deal with terrorism, Washington File, January 14.

© 2002 The Acronym Institute.