by Crescent International (Occupied Arab World, Crescent International Vol. 31, No. 7, Rabi' al-Awwal, 1423)
If the purpose of the new sanctions rules, passed by the UN on May 14, is – as the media imply – to relieve the Iraqis’ suffering, and shift the blame for their ordeal from the US and its allies back to Saddam Hussain, then Washington must think again. The new cosmetic measures will make little difference to the dire conditions gripping a country that was once prosperous, and will not make innocent those responsible for ravaging it.
Resolution 1409 only tinkers with the old sanctions. It abolishes the sanctions committee that decided what goods – apart from food and medicines – Iraq is allowed to import, and passes its functions to UN agencies. This is an improvement of sorts, as the committee was cumbersome and caused considerable delays, and was also subject to US control. Resolution 1409 also calls for examination of the old rules (resolution 1284) by negotiations in the security council to resolve issues blocking the lifting of the sanctions. Russia has proposed the lifting of sanctions for six months while Kofi Annan negotiates with Baghdad, but the US insists that the sanctions must remain until the weapons inspectors see and report that all Iraq’s nuclear and chemical weapons have been destroyed.
The first amendment will undoubtedly increase slightly the goods Iraq can import. But control of imports and exports will remain in the hands of the UN, and the money that Baghdad gets from oil-exports will not be spent on repairing infrastructure and institutions, nor invested in local industries such as agriculture. Iraq has the second-largest oil-reserves, yet it cannot spend income from legal exports on improving its oil-output by restoring oil installations destroyed during the Gulf war.
The second ‘amendment’ is also of dubious value. Washington is merely using the weapons-inspectors to oppose the end of sanctions. According to James Richter, former UN weapons-inspector, Iraq has no nuclear or chemical weapons and does not object to the return of weapons-inspectors. In a recent BBC interview he said that the weapons-inspectors had destroyed all weapons in Iraq’s possession before leaving Iraq, adding that it was the US that was responsible for their departure, not Saddam. Baghdad seeks only a guarantee that the inspectors will be fair when they return, but the US will not hear of this, he added.
It is US policy to prevent Muslim countries from acquiring sophisticated weapons, in an attempt to preserve Israel’s ‘military edge’, and the Bush administration is even more vulnerable than its predecessors to pressure from the Church groups, extremist Republicans and zionist lobby that are the mainstay of its support. There is also the problem of Bush’s personal interest in the Iraqi question. His father led the coalition war against Baghdad in 1990. Bush senior not only failed to remove Saddam but also lost the election that would have given him a second term. So Bush junior has a family interest in punishing Saddam and securing his own re-election.
Bush has never expressed any interest, until recently, in the harm Saddam’s rule is doing the Iraqi people. He referred to the Iraqi regime as ‘dangerous’ during his recent visit to Europe. After noisy demonstrations against his visit to Germany, he told a German television station that the Iraqi regime was dangerous to the extent of gassing its own people — a reference to a massacre in August 1988 in which tens of thousands died. "Iraq ought to be on the minds of the German people because the Iraqi government is a dangerous government," he said. "This is a government that has gassed its own people." This comes from a president whose European tour was partly to secure backing for his campaign against Iraq, including support for the sanctions.
Naturally the Iraqi people will not be taken in by Bush’s false concern. They are not only angry about the humiliation and suffering that the war and sanctions have inflicted, but also furious at Israel’s war crimes in Palestine and Bush’s support for Sharon, whom he has called ‘a man of peace’.
The Iraqis may not feel much respect for their dictator, but they will not rise against him while the Americans pursue a policy that is obviously meant to suppress Iraq and secure military superiority for Israel. If the US were really against Saddam, it would embrace him as an ally; that would drive the Iraqis to oppose him. As it is, Saddam’s survival suits the Americans because it helps them to isolate Iraq.
In recent weeks, Washington has been floating various reports that there is no plan to attack Iraq, and that its emphasis is on toppling Saddam. There are reports that the US chiefs of staff may be opposed to war against Baghdad because it would cost thousands of American servicemen. Apart from the fact that European leaders will not back any military attack on Iraq, the Bush administration has recently adopted the policy of giving the media false information as part of a misinformation campaign to support its ‘war on terrorism’.
In these circumstances its explanation of its role in the new sanctions regime cannot be taken seriously. The only reliable light by which to view them is America’s own perception of its interests.