Wither United Nations sanctions on Iraq?
By Dave Muller

South News commentary Dec 21

There is something particularly hypocritical in the US claim of a right to prevent destroy Iraq's ability to create "weapons of mass destruction" -- and using the latest high-technology weapons of mass destruction to do so.

Yet the conclusion of US-British air strikes on Iraq met with widespread relief around the world on Sunday but failed to eliminate the uncertainty and resentment provoked by the shattering of the international consensus on Iraq and UN policies.

The UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) set up after the 1991 Gulf War to disarm Iraq and dismantle its nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programmes, seem unlikely to resume its work after the end of US-led air strikes against Baghdad.

Under the 1991 Gulf War ceasefire resolution 687, UN sanctions on Iraq will not be removed until the UN Security Council via its monitoring organisations, UNSCOM and the IAEA affirms that Iraq has satisfactorily disarmed.

Germany and Australia are continuing to call for resumed Iraqi cooperation with UN weapons inspectors even though Washington has said it now accepts there is almost no chance they will ever be able to return. It comes as no surprise that the government of Iraq will not help the US intelligence community gather information that will used for yet another US funded covert assassination attempt on its President.

While many question US president Clinton’s raids’ motives on Iraq, there is also an acute sense of embarrassment at Australian Richard Butler's erratic conduct and his cultural insensitivity in dealing with Iraq. The perception of Butler in the Arab world, the publicity-seeking head of the UNSCOM is that he is an Australian doing the bidding of the US.

The tone of Butler's report was in contrast with one from the International Atomic Energy Agency, summarizing Iraqi cooperation with UN weapons inspectors following the resumption of cooperation on November 14.

Iraq said that on Dec. 5, among the sites inspected by one team were the offices of two singers identified as Karim Al-Khaliji and Mohammed Al-Ralal, the shop of a calligrapher, the office of a lawyer, two supermarkets and other premises.

Butler’s case against Iraq is always presented as a possibility of Iraq having chemical or biological weapons, and then these unproven statements are used to build a whole scenario about what could happen if Iraq uses these weapons. We should not forget that most UNSCOM information is built on mere speculation from CIA sources and unproven remarks from disenchanted exiles.

But French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine has said the methods of UNSCOM, the UN unit charged with overseeing the dismantling of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, had clearly failed. A form of "continuous monitoring" should be envisaged for the future.

French President Jacques Chirac urged a "fundamental review" of relations between Baghdad and the United Nations on Sunday Dec 20. He called for a "new organisation and a new method" to vet Iraq's weapons programmes; a review of the UN embargo on Iraqi oil sales, and an improvement in living conditions for the Iraqi public.

During the past eight years, more than one million Iraqi civilians have died from insufficient food and medicine. According to an UNICEF 1998 report, one million Iraqi children under the age of five are suffering from severe malnutrition.

Pope John Paul II has "uneqivocally condemned" the sanctions against the Iraqi people saying that "the weak and the innocent cannot pay for mistakes for which they are not responsible." There is no justification for continuing the blockade, let alone renewing US military attacks.

The United Nations General Assembly and the Non-aligned Movement have recently called again for the end of coercive economic measures as a means of political compulsion on nation states.

The resolution reaffirms the ``inalienable right of every state to seek economic and social development and to choose the political, economic and social system'' that it deems the most appropriate for the welfare of its peoples. It again urges all states ``not to recognise or apply extraterritorial coercive economic measures or legislative enactments'' unilaterally imposed by any state.

But Clinton’s endorsement of “The Iraq Liberation Act of 1998”, which seeks to overthrow the government of Iraq is a clear violation of the wishes of the world.

Yet the Security Council sanctions on Iraq, taking a devastating toll on the Iraqi people, remains the major problem and governments throughout the world are now asking "Is there a better way?".

Related: Non-aligned Movement deplores US strike on Iraq