Global Policy Forum

Chorus of Critics of Iraq Sanctions Grows


By Paul Taylor

June 5, 2000

Few specialists expect any move until after the US presidential election in November, given the political sensitivity in the US of any step that could be seen as "going soft on Saddam".

Like a slow-burning fuse, pressure is gradually mounting to ease United Nations sanctions on Iraq despite President Saddam Hussein's refusal to admit U.N. weapons inspectors again.

Few specialists expect any move until after the U.S. presidential election in November, given the political sensitivity in the United States of any step that could be seen as "going soft on Saddam". Criticism of the decade-old embargo on most trade, imposed after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, is no longer confined to the Arab and Muslim world, humanitarian organizations and Baghdad's main creditors and former arms suppliers, France and Russia.

The latest, and perhaps most damaging broadside comes from a man long vilified by Iraq as an American stooge -- former chief arms inspector Richard Butler of Australia. In a BBC radio phone-in program on Sunday, Butler said he believed sanctions were counter-productive to the purpose of disarming Iraq of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and ballistic missiles.

The embargo was harming ordinary civilians but doing no harm whatsoever to what he called the vicious leaders of the Iraqi regime, he said. Confirming what many critics of the policy have long asserted, Butler said, sanctions paradoxically contributed to keeping Saddam in power.

The last two U.N. humanitarian coordinators for Iraq, Hans von Sponeck of Germany and Dennis Halliday of Ireland, both resigned under strong U.S. pressure after highlighting the toll taken by sanctions on Iraqi civilians. But Butler's public criticism of sanctions has extra force in that it comes from the U.N.'s arms control body.

Pressure in Arab world

In the Arab world, Qatar presented a proposal on Saturday aimed at helping lift sanctions to foreign ministers of the six Gulf Cooperation Council states -- Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and Bahrain. Baghdad accused Saudi Arabia and Kuwait of blocking the initiative. In Cairo, the six GCC countries plus Syria and Egypt began a two-day meeting on Sunday to discuss ways of alleviating the suffering of Iraqi civilians after a decade of sanctions.

"We cannot stand idle in front of the suffering of our brotherly people in Iraq," Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa told the opening session. "It is not possible, both politically and humanly, to continue the embargo on our brothers in Iraq without any light at the end of the tunnel."

US won't help Saddam

While some officials in London have begun to think behind closed doors of ways of making sanctions more selective and ease the pain on civilians while retaining financial controls on Saddam, Washington is in no mood to discuss the issue.

"Removing sanctions would raise Saddam Hussein`s stature with the Arabs and give him control of Iraq's oil wealth. If we did that without arms monitoring or verification, all controls on his regime would effectively be gone," a U.S. official said. "There is no way that this administration or any successor, whether Republican or Democratic, would agree to that," the official said.

Another Washington insider said: "I don't think this administration is prepared to admit that sanctions don't work. But there is a growing recognition that they hurt the Iraqi people more than Saddam and his cronies." The public U.S. line is that Saddam, not the sanctions, is responsible for the Iraqi people's suffering.

In the U.S. presidential campaign, the choice is only between being tough and being tougher on Iraq. Robert Zoellick, a foreign policy adviser to Republican candidate George W. Bush, suggested in a recent debate that the next time Saddam provoked the West, the United States should use its air power to "detach" an area of southern Iraq as a base for armed opposition against Baghdad.

More Articles Criticizing Sanctions Against Iraq
More Information on Sanctions Against Iraq


FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Global Policy Forum distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.