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The Iraq sanctions were a near-total financial and trade embargo imposed by the United Nations Security Council against the nation of Iraq. They began August 6, 1990, four days after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait,[1] and continued until May 22, 2003, after the fall of the Saddam Hussein government in the US-led invasion earlier that year. Their stated purpose was at first to compel Iraq's military to withdraw from Kuwait and after that to compel Iraq to pay reparations, and to disclose and eliminate any weapons of mass destruction, and to do certain other things.

Initially the U.N. Security Council had adopted Resolution 661, a resolution that imposed stringent economic sanctions on Iraq.[2] After the end of the 1991 Gulf War, those sanctions were extended and elaborated on, including linkage to removal of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), by Resolution 687.[3][4] The sanctions banned all trade and financial resources except for medicine and "in humanitarian circumstances" foodstuffs.[2] They were perhaps the toughest, most comprehensive sanctions in human history, and caused much controversy over the increased child-and-infant mortality, poverty, and suffering inflicted on the Iraqi people, marked by two senior UN representatives in Iraq resigning in protest.[5]

Contents

Goals

The UN Resolutions had the express goals of eliminating WMDs and extended range ballistic missiles, prohibiting any support for terrorism, and forcing Iraq to pay war reparations and all foreign debt. Some boner, architects of American war policy such as Douglas J. Feith and foreign observers have argued that the sanctions diminished Iraq militarily, in terms of WMDs, and in its capacity for attacks against its neighbors as its supply lines were cut.[6] In a 2004 Foreign Affairs journal article, the scholars George A. Lopez and David Cortright credit sanctions with: "Compelling Iraq to accept inspections and monitoring; winning concessions from Baghdad on political issue such as the border dispute with Kuwait; preventing the rebuilding of Iraqi defenses after the Persian Gulf War; and blocking the import of vital materials and technologies for producing weapons of mass destruction."[7] Cortright and Lopez argue that "the much-maligned UN-enforced sanctions regime actually ... helped destroy Saddam Hussein's war machine and his capacity to produce weapons."[8][9] Hussein told his FBI interrogator [10] that Iraq's armaments "had been eliminated by the UN sanctions."[11]

A non-express goal of the sanctions held by some was the removal of Saddam Hussein. It was openly stated in the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, expressing a sense of the U.S. Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton,[12] that U.S. policy was to "replace that regime" in Iraq,[13] to force Hussein from power, an outcome not referenced in the resolutions. And in 1991, Paul Lewis wrote in the New York Times: "Ever since the trade embargo was imposed on Aug. 6, after the invasion of Kuwait, the United States has argued against any premature relaxation in the belief that by making life uncomfortable for the Iraqi people it will eventually encourage them to remove President Saddam Hussein from power."[14] The economic sanctions failed to topple Saddam, and may have helped further entrench his rule.[15]

The criticism of the sanctions as they persisted for several years stemmed from their immense humanitarian toll. Most research on the subject stated that the sanctions contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children and other Iraqis for health-related reasons owing to disease from lack of clean water from banned manufacture and restricted import of chlorine, lack of medicine, impoverishment, and other factors.[16][17][18]

Effect of the sanctions on the Iraqi people

The modern Iraqi economy had been highly dependent on oil exports: In 1989, the oil sector comprised 61% of the GNP. A major drawback of this over-dependence has been the narrowing of the economic base during the last three decades, with the agricultural sector rapidly declining in the 1970s. So some claim that the post-1990 sanctions had a particularly devastating effect on Iraq’s economy and food security levels of the population.[19]

Shortly after the sanctions were imposed, the Iraqi government developed a system of free food rations comprising of 1000 calories per person/day or 40% of the daily requirements, which an estimated 60% of the population relied on for a vital part of their sustenance. With the introduction of the Oil-for-Food Programme in 1997, this situation gradually improved. In May 2000 a United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) survey noted that almost half the children under 5 years suffered from diarrhoea, in a country where the population is marked by its youth, with 45% being under 14 years of age in 2000. Power shortages, lack of spare parts and insufficient technical know-how lead to the breakdown of many modern facilities.[19]

The overall literacy rate in Iraq had been 78% in 1977 and 87% for adult women by 1985, but declined rapidly since then. Between 1990 and 1998, over one fifth of Iraqi children stopped enrolling in school, consequently increasing the number of non-literates and losing all the gains made in the previous decade. The 1990s also saw a dramatic increase in child labor, from a virtually non-existent level in the 1980s. The per capita income in Iraq dropped from $3510 in 1989 to $450 in 1996, heavily influenced by the rapid devaluation of the Iraqi dinar.[19]

Iraq had been one of the few countries in the Middle East that invested in women’s education. But this situation changed from the late eighties on with increasing militarisation and a declining economic situation. Consequencently the economic hardships and war casualties in the last decades have increased the number of women-headed households and working women.[19]

Researcher Richard Garfield estimated that "a minimum of 100,000 and a more likely estimate of 227,000 excess deaths among young children from August 1991 through March 1998" from all causes including sanctions.[20] Other estimates have ranged as low as 170,000 children.[9][21][22] UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy said that

if the substantial reduction in child mortality throughout Iraq during the 1980s had continued through the 1990s, there would have been half a million fewer deaths of children under-five in the country as a whole during the eight year period 1991 to 1998. As a partial explanation, she pointed to a March statement of the Security Council Panel on Humanitarian Issues which states: "Even if not all suffering in Iraq can be imputed to external factors, especially sanctions, the Iraqi people would not be undergoing such deprivations in the absence of the prolonged measures imposed by the Security Council and the effects of war." [16]

The sanctions resulted in high rates of malnutrition, lack of medical supplies, and diseases from lack of clean water. Chlorine was desperately needed to disinfect water supplies, but was banned from manufacture in the country and its import severely restricted due to the potential that it may be used as part of a chemical weapon.[23]

On May 12, 1996, Madeleine Albright (U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations at the time) appeared on a 60 Minutes segment that she later criticized, claiming:

Little effort was made to explain Saddam's culpability, his misuse of Iraqi resources, or the fact that we were not embargoing medicine or food. I was exasperated that our TV was showing what amounted to Iraqi propaganda.[24]

Lesley Stahl asked her "We have heard that half a million children have died. I mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?" and Albright replied "we think the price is worth it", though in her 2003 autobiography she wrote of her response (answering what she regarded as a loaded question):[25][26]

I should have answered the question by reframing it and pointing out the inherent flaws in the premise behind it. Saddam Hussein could have prevented any child from suffering simply by meeting his obligations. … I had fallen into a trap and said something that I simply did not mean. That is no one’s fault but my own.[24]

Denis Halliday was appointed United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Baghdad, Iraq as of 1 September 1997, at the Assistant Secretary-General level. In October 1998 he resigned after a 34 year career with the UN in order to have the freedom to criticise the sanctions regime, saying "I don't want to administer a programme that satisfies the definition of genocide"[27] However Sophie Boukhari a UNESCO Courier journalist reports that "Some legal experts are skeptical about or even against using such terminology." and quotes Mario Bettati (who invented the notion of "the right of humanitarian intervention") "People who talk like that don’t know anything about law. The embargo has certainly affected the Iraqi people badly, but that’s not at all a crime against humanity or genocide." and reports that William Bourdon the secretary-general of International Federation of Human Rights Leagues said "one of the key elements of a crime against humanity and of genocide is intent. The embargo wasn’t imposed because the United States and Britain wanted children to die. If you think so, you have to prove it."[28]

Halliday's successor, Hans von Sponeck, subsequently also resigned in protest, calling the effects of the sanctions a "true human tragedy".[29] Jutta Burghardt, head of the World Food Program in Iraq, followed them.

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Infant and child death rates

Iraq's infant and child survival rates fell after sanctions were imposed.

A May 25, 2000 BBC article[30] reported that before Iraq sanctions were imposed by the UN in 1990, infant mortality had "fallen to 47 per 1,000 live births between 1984 and 1989. This compares to approximately 7 per 1,000 in the UK." The BBC article was reporting from a study of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, titled "Sanctions and childhood mortality in Iraq", that was published in the May 2000 Lancet medical journal.[31] The study concluded that in southern and central Iraq, infant mortality rate between 1994 and 1999 had risen to 108 per 1,000. Child mortality rate, which refers to children between the age of one and five years, also drastically inclined from 56 to 131 per 1,000.[30] In the autonomous northern region during the same period, infant mortality declined from 64 to 59 per 1000 and under-5 mortality fell from 80 to 72 per 1000, which was attributed to better food and resource allocation.

The Lancet publication[31] was the result of two separate by UNICEF[16] surveys between February and May 1999 in partnership with the local authorities and with technical support by the WHO. "The large sample sizes - nearly 24,000 households randomly selected from all governorates in the south and center of Iraq and 16,000 from the north - helped to ensure that the margin of error for child mortality in both surveys was low," UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy said.[16]

In the spring of 2000 a U.S. Congressional letter demanding the lifting of the sanctions garnered 71 signatures, while House Democratic Whip David Bonior called the economic sanctions against Iraq "infanticide masquerading as policy."[32]

Casualty Estimates

Estimates of casualties during the sanctions regime remain a highly contested subject,[16][33] due to differences in methodologies and practical difficulties.[34] A short overview of claims:[33]

  • "probably ... 170,000 children", Project on Defense Alternatives, "The Wages of War", 20. October 2003[35]
  • 350,000 excess deaths among children "even using conservative estimates", Slate Explainer, "Are 1 Million Children Dying in Iraq?", 9. October 2001.[36]
  • "Richard Garfield, a Columbia University nursing professor ... cited the figures 345,000-530,000 for the entire 1990-2002 period"[37] from multiple causes including sanctions.[38]
  • Iraqi Baathist government: 1.5 million.[21]
  • Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark: 1.5 million (includes sanctions, bombs and other weapons, depleted uranium poisoning).[39]
  • Iraqi Cultural Minister Hammadi: 1.7 million (includes sanctions, bombs and other weapons, depleted uranium poisoning) [40]
  • Unicef: 500,000 children (including sanctions, collateral effects of war). "[As of 1999] [c]hildren under 5 years of age are dying at more than twice the rate they were ten years ago."[16][41]
  • Editor (then "associate editor and media columnist") Matt Welch,[42] Reason Magazine, 2002: "It seems awfully hard not to conclude that the embargo on Iraq has ... contributed to more than 100,000 deaths since 1990."[21][38]
  • British Member of Parliament George Galloway: "a million Iraqis, most of them children."[43]

Culpability

The Lancet[31] and Unicef studies observed that child mortality decreased in the north and increased in the south between 1994 and 1999 but did not attempt to explain the disparity, or to apportion culpability: "Both the Government of Iraq and the U.N. Sanctions Committee should give priority to contracts for supplies that will have a direct impact on the well-being of children," UNICEF said.[16] However, others did attempt to explain this disparity, or use this to apportion culpability. In The Nation, 2001, David Cortright argued that Iraqi government policy, rather than the UN Sanctions, should be held responsible. He wrote:

The differential between child mortality rates in northern Iraq, where the UN manages the relief program, and in the south-center, where Saddam Hussein is in charge, says a great deal about relative responsibility for the continued crisis. As noted, child mortality rates have declined in the north but have more than doubled in the south-center. ... The tens of thousands of excess deaths in the south-center, compared to the similarly sanctioned but UN-administered north, are also the result of Baghdad's failure to accept and properly manage the UN humanitarian relief effort.[44]

In The New Republic, 2001, Michael Rubin argued that

The difference [t]here is that local Kurdish authorities, in conjunction with the United Nations, spend the money they get from the sale of oil. Everywhere else in Iraq, Saddam does. And when local authorities are determined to get food and medicine to their people--instead of, say, reselling these supplies to finance military spending and palace construction--the current sanctions regime works just fine. Or, to put it more bluntly, the United Nations isn't starving Saddam's people. Saddam is.[45]

However, in Reason Magazine, 2002, Matt Welch acknowledged this but replied that the sanctions are not "'exactly the same' in both parts of Iraq" because

Under the oil-for-food regime, the north, which contains 13 percent of the Iraqi population, receives 13 percent of all oil proceeds, a portion of that in cash. Saddam's regions, with 87 percent of the population, receive 59 percent of the money ... none of it in cash. And there are other factors affecting the north-south disparity...[21]

Author Anthony Arnove also writes that the situation is more complicated:

Sanctions are simply not the same in the north and south. Differences in Iraqi mortality rates result from several factors: the Kurdish north has been receiving humanitarian assistance longer than other regions of Iraq; agriculture in the north is better; evading sanctions is easier in the north because its borders are far more porous; the north receives 22 percent more per capita from the oil-for-food program than the south-central region; and the north receives UN-controlled assistance in currency, while the rest of the country receives only commodities. The south also suffered much more direct bombing...[46]

Oil for Food

As the sanctions faced mounting criticism of its humanitarian impacts, several UN resolutions were introduced that allowed Iraq to trade its oil for goods such as food and medicines. The earliest of these resolutions were introduced in 1991.

UN Resolution 706 of 15 August 1991 was introduced to allow the sale of Iraqi oil in exchange for food.[47] UN Resolution 712 of 19 September 1991 confirmed that Iraq could sell up to $1.6 billion US in oil to fund an Oil For Food program.[48]

Iraq was in 1996 allowed under the UN Oil-for-Food Programme (under Security Council Resolution 986) to export $5.2 billion (USD) of oil every 6 months with which to purchase items needed to sustain the civilian population. After an initial refusal, Iraq signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in May 1996 for arrangements for the implementation of that resolution to be taken. The Oil-for-Food Programme started in October 1997, and the first shipments of food arrived in March 1998. While improving the conditions of the population, Denis Halliday who oversaw the programme believed it inadequate to compensate for the adverse humanitarian impacts of the sanctions.

Thirty percent of the proceeds were redirected to a Persian Gulf War reparations account.

The U.S. State Department criticized the Iraqi government for inadequately spending this money:

In a stinging letter issued recently, the United Nations has pointed out the extent of Saddam Hussein's callous disregard for the welfare of his own people. ... In the ... six-month phase of the program (June to December, 2000), Saddam Hussein's dereliction in providing for the Iraqi people and the nation's economy is laid bare. During this period, US$7.8 billion were available to Iraq for purchases during this period, yet Iraq submitted purchase applications worth only US$4.26 billion - barely 54 percent of the amount available for purchases to help the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people.[49]

In 2004/5 the Programme became the subject of major media attention over corruption, as Iraq had systematically sold allocations of oil at below-market prices in return for some of the proceeds from the resale outside the scope of the programme. Individuals and companies from dozens of countries were implicated.

Lifting of sanctions

Washington DC marchers against sanctions and invasion of Iraq, 2002 or 2003

The sanctions did not end until the Iraq War. Accepting a large estimate of casualties due to sanctions,[50] Walter Russell Mead argued on behalf of such a war as a better alternative than continuing the sanctions regime, since "Each year of containment is a new Gulf War."[51]

While UN resolutions subsequent to the cessation of hostilities during the Persian Gulf War imposed several requisite responsibilities on Iraq for the removal of sanctions, the largest focus remained on the regime's development of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, and in particular its laggard participation in the UNSCOM-led disarmament process required of it. The goal of several western governments had been that the disruptive effects of war and sanction would lead to a critical situation in which Iraqis would in some way effect "regime change", a removal of Saddam Hussein and his closest allies from power.

Hussein was at this point widely seen as a tyrant whose nominal cooperation concealed malign aims. With him in power, there was a general inclination to be skeptical about whether Iraq would disarm, and about whether it would be open and cooperative about the inspection process, particularly after revelations of post-war concealment forced a reevaluation of the extent of the country's biological weapons program.. Hussein's son-in-law is heard speaking of concealing information from UN inspectors on audiotapes released in 2006.[52] [53] Hussein may have considered the many governments' displeasure with him, but particularly that of two veto-wielding UNSC members, the United States and United Kingdom (both of which took the hardest lines on Iraq), as a no-win situation and disincentive to cooperation in the process.[54]

Additionally, UNSCOM had allegedly been infiltrated by British and American spies for purposes other than determining if Iraq possessed WMDs.[55][56] Former inspector Scott Ritter was a prominent source of these charges. While not agreeing with Ritter fully, former UNSCOM chief inspector David Kay said "the longer it continued, the more the intelligence agencies would, often for very legitimate reasons, decide that they had to use the access they got through cooperation with UNSCOM to carry out their missions.".[57][58]

Saddam, who portrayed all this as a violation of Iraq's territorial sovereignty, became less cooperative and more obstructive of UNSCOM activities as the years wore on, and refused access for several years beginning in August 1998. Ultimately Saddam condemned the US for enforcing the sanctions through the UN and demanded nothing less than unconditional lifting of all sanctions on its country, including the weapons sanctions. The US and UN refused to do so out of concern that Saddam's regime would rebuild its once-powerful military and renew its WMD programs with the trade revenues. (But Douglas Feith reports that in 2001 "before the 9/11 attack, United States Secretary of State Colin Powell advocated diluting the multinational economic sanctions, in the hope that a weaker set of sanctions could win stronger and more sustained international support."[59]) Renewed pressure in 2002 led to the entry of UNMOVIC, which received some degree of cooperation but failed to declare Iraq's disarmament immediately prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, for which it was withdrawn and became inactive in Iraq.

U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, who called the sanctions "the most intrusive system of arms control in history",[60] cited the breakdown of the sanctions as one cause or rationale for the Iraq war.[61]

The sanctions regime was finally ended on May 22, 2003 (with certain arms-related exceptions) by paragraph 10 of UN Security Council Resolution 1483.[62]

Footnotes

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  3. ^ ""UN Security Council Resolution 687"". http://www.mideastweb.org/687.htm.  
  4. ^ ""UN Security Council Resolutions relating to Iraq"". http://www.casi.org.uk/info/scriraq.html.  
  5. ^ New Statesman - John Pilger on why we ignored Iraq in the 1990s
  6. ^ Feith, Douglas J. (2008). War and Decision: Inside the Pentagon at the Dawn of the War on Terrorism. New York: HarperCollins. p. 193. ISBN 0060899735.  
  7. ^ Cortright, David (2004-06-19). "Containing Iraq: Sanctions Worked". Fourthfreedom.org. http://www.fourthfreedom.org/Applications/cms.php?page_id=162. Retrieved 2009-05-30.  
  8. ^ Cortright, David (2001-09-11). "Containing Iraq: Sanctions Worked". Fourthfreedom.org. http://www.fourthfreedom.org/Applications/cms.php?page_id=159#bio1. Retrieved 2009-05-30.  
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  13. ^ Search Results - THOMAS (Library of Congress)
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  27. ^ John Pilger New Statesman - John Pilger on why we ignored Iraq in the 1990s on why we ignored Iraq in the 1990s] New Statesman, 4 October 2004
  28. ^ Sophie Boukhari Embargo against Iraq: Crime and punishment UNESCO website.
  29. ^ BBC News | MIDDLE EAST | UN sanctions rebel resigns
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  32. ^ "Global Policy Forum", weekly update at GPF Feb. 14 - 18 2000
  33. ^ a b "Secondary Wars and Atrocities of the Twentieth Century", list of minor conflicts and casualty claims with sources 1899-1997
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  39. ^ (The Wisdom Fund, "[Clark] Charges US, British and UN Leaders," 20. November 1996)
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  53. ^ ABC News: Tapes Show Son-in-Law Admitted WMD Deception
  54. ^ The myth of lifting
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