Global Policy Forum

Britain and US Isolated


By Christopher Lockwood

Daily Telegraph - London
August 2, 2000

When Iraq invaded Kuwait 10 years ago today, the world's reaction was swift. Within days, a total trade embargo was imposed. The sanctions remain, but are tottering. Smugglers are breaching them, and deep rifts have opened among the Gulf war victors over whether to continue them.

Critics say sanctions are not working, and are harming the wrong people, especially the young and sick. Last year, the heads of two United Nations agencies in Baghdad resigned in disgust at the human cost, measured in shockingly high infant mortality and in hospitals lacking basic drugs and equipment.

Britain and the United States are now alone on the UN Security Council in insisting that sanctions must remain - saying they cannot be lifted until Saddam Hussein's remaining weapons of mass destruction (nuclear, chemical and biological) have been eliminated.

Sensitive to criticism, however, Britain piloted through a Security Council resolution last year permitting sanctions to be lifted once Iraq allows UN arms inspectors - withdrawn in 1998 - to return, rather than waiting for them to complete their task which might take years.

Baghdad still refuses to do so, saying it has no such weapons left and that inspections are a cover for spying.

Under an agreement already in place, Saddam is allowed to export unlimited quantities of oil and use the money to import food and medicines, although this trade has to be overseen by UN officials. Any shortages of vital items, say Britain and America, are Saddam's fault. But the critics point out that innocent Iraqis pay the real price.

Opponents of sanctions are growing. One convert, Scott Ritter, the ex-US Marine who has led UN inspection teams to Baghdad, says Iraqis suffer a "grievous humanitarian disaster" and that Iraq no longer possesses weapons of mass destruction.

China, France and Russia now favour lifting sanctions even before Saddam allows inspectors back in. But America is unlikely to agree to that. It believes that a sanctions-bound Saddam poses less of a security threat than he might if he were allowed to start rebuilding his economy.

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