AMMAN, THE KINGDOM OF JORDAN
19 JUNE 2001
TWO FORMER UN ASSISTANT SECRETARIES-GENERAL VISIT IRAQ
THREATENED BY NEW SANCTIONS POLICY
Amman—Two former heads of the United Nations Oil for Food Programme in Iraq,
Denis J. Halliday and Hans von Sponeck, have just concluded a ten-day visit
to the Middle East.
Starting in Amman at the invitation of the Speaker of the Jordanian
Parliament, they explained their deep concern over recent US/UK proposals
before the UN Security Council for the adoption of a “smarter” sanctions
approach to Iraq. This innovation, were it to be implemented, would
compound the damage of almost 11 years of the most comprehensive and
civilian-targeted embargo ever imposed on a sovereign state. The Speaker,
addressing the Jordanian/Iraq border controls proposed by the new sanctions
resolution, spoke of the devastating impact the strangulation of trade with
Iraq would have on the economy and employment of the people of Jordan.
Traveling to Baghdad, they had the opportunity to review the all-pervasive
damage to Iraq’s socio-economic well-being with senior Government officials,
including the Speaker of the National Assembly, the Ministers of Education,
Health, and Social Welfare as well as the Ministers of Oil and Information.
They had extensive discussions with the Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz on
the continuing confrontation between Iraq and the UN Security Council and
the potential impact of the “smarter” sanctions proposals which gave the
false impression that the embargo against Iraq was being eased. Also
reviewed was the Baghdad response to the intrusive changes suggested by the
US and UK which would further compromise Iraq’s sovereignty, in particular
the use of Iraqi oil revenue to defray costs for the proposed monitoring
system along Iraq’s borders. The Deputy Prime Minister also reviewed with
von Sponeck and Halliday his Government’s stance vis-à-vis the Iraqi Kurds
of the northern Governorates, including the issue of autonomy and the desire
for a peaceful domestic resolution of differences in the best interests of
After these talks, and welcomed by Baghdad, the former UN officials traveled
north, accompanied by three officials of the Foreign Ministry, to renew
their contact with the leaders of the two Kurdish factions – Mr. Masood
Barzani in Erbil of the KDP and Mr. Talal Talabani of the PUK in Suleymania.
This part of the visit to Iraq was in fact in response to a Kurdish
invitation to obtain a better understanding of the Iraqi Kurdish position on
the current embargo, the impact of the changes proposed and their thinking
on autonomy and possible ways of reconciliation with Baghdad.
Returning from the north, they participated in the inauguration of new
primary school facilities in Mosul financed by a former graduate and now UK
Before departing Iraq, they spoke at two conferences on UN sanctions and
international law – one at the ancient and famous Beit Al Hikma and the
other at the Law Faculty of Baghdad University.
Asked what new insights they had obtained during this visit to Iraq, the
former UN officials stated that they had found at all levels of contact a
deep sense of frustration mixed with anger that after almost 11 years, the
UN would even consider a proposal for greater strangulation of the Iraqi
economy, the same economy that demands capital investment, prohibited by the
Security Council, to end the high mortality rates, the social and economic
misery and the damage to Iraqi culture and education. Von Sponeck and
Halliday consider the new proposals dangerously provocative, dishonest in
their intentions and politically unrealistic as they would damage further
the sovereignty of Iraq while at the same time infringing on that of their
neighbors Turkey, Syria and Jordan. The border trade controls proposed by
the UN would deny Iraq the hard currency it currently obtains outside the
Oil for Food programme needed to run a nation of 23 million people. Its
absence would not only affect all parts of Iraq including the Kurdish north
but also quickly create unemployment and hardship for large numbers of
civilians in neighbouring countries, particularly Jordan and Turkey. Life
in Iraq as anywhere else on earth is not only about food, it is about
fundamental human rights such as housing, education, health care, family
life, the very right to life itself, including opportunities for happiness.
The return to Iraq of electric power, potable water, adequate sanitation,
telecommunications and transportation as well as purchasing power for
average Iraqis requires employment combined with a restored dinar and an
economy free of UN bureaucracy.
Further the people of Iraq have an expectation and right to dignity in their
daily lives and a return to normalcy, not possible under the US/UK
proposals. Controls and lists of civilian goods allowed into Iraq without
restrictions are not what make for a sound economy and contented people.
The same people, the UN and its Charter are legally obliged to protect and
support in peace and well being . Expanded importation of civilian goods
without purchasing power is unlikely to help the majority of Iraqi families.
These are families traumatized by an unending embargo and tragic loss of
life within their immediate communities, together with fear of bombing in
the so called No Fly Zones.
In the Iraqi Kurdish north, the former UN officials report similar views and
a sense of being caught between the pain of sanctions and the value-added of
the oil revenue obtained directly under UN auspices. The impact of the
“smarter” sanctions would appear to devastate the growing economy the north
is now enjoying form the cross border trade with Turkey and others.
However, in the absence of an agreement with Baghdad on what form of
autonomy would be appropriate today, there is anxiety about an end to the
embargo before arrangements for security, revenue and some form of democracy
are obtained through peaceful dialogue.
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