US Overseer Blames Sanctions by UN for Iraqi Gas Shortages


By Susan Sachs

New York Times
May 5, 2003

Jay Garner, the former lieutenant general who has been in Iraq for nearly a month with a mandate to get the country running again, blamed United Nations sanctions today for the gasoline shortages that have prompted Iraqi anger at the American occupation forces here. Waving his arm to indicate the long lines of cars waiting at a gas station in central Baghdad, General Garner said the economic sanctions still in force on Iraq had stalled deliveries of oil for its domestic needs. "Put in there that the U.N. really needs to lift the sanctions so we don't have all of this," he said.

He spoke in a brief interview after a meeting with Massoud Barzani, the leader of the Kurdish Democratic Party, one of the many Iraqi political groups that are busy networking in hopes of forming a transitional government next month. Also today, the American administrators in Baghdad summoned the city's police force back to work. The call was answered by hundreds desperate to have their jobs back but still too afraid of marauding looters to guard their stations overnight. The persistent lawlessness in Baghdad and lack of public services have angered Iraqis, who take their lives in their hands on heavily traveled roads with no functioning traffic lights and watch helplessly as looters plunder abandoned government buildings in broad daylight.

Frustration has also risen among Iraqi political groups trying to work with the mix of American military and civilian agencies charged with overseeing the country's political and economic reconstruction. Gasoline shortages have kept most public transportation off the streets and discouraged Iraqis from returning to work or driving their children to school, but the exact cause of the shortages is unclear. President Bush has urged an end to the sanctions, imposed by the United Nations Security Council after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990. But the Bush administration, as of Friday, had not put into final form a resolution to be presented to the Council, administration officials said. Since 1996, imports of food, medicine and industrial goods and exports of oil by the Iraqi government were monitored by United Nations officials through the oil-for-food program.

For the last six weeks, Secretary General Kofi Annan has had sole authority to set import priorities and approve aid imports and will continue to have this authority until June 3. Oil exports, which need United Nations approval, stopped on the eve of the war when United Nations monitors were withdrawn for safety reasons. Since the end of the war, no entity has emerged with the internationally recognized authority to sell Iraqi oil. But nothing in the sanctions prohibits the distribution of Iraq's oil and petroleum products inside Iraq. Iraq, with the world's third largest known reserves of oil, is producing just tens of thousands of barrels a day, a fraction of its prewar level, and local oil industry officials said breakdowns in the pipelines and damage inflicted during the war had created bottlenecks in the flow of oil. United Nations officials in Baghdad said Iraq could soon be placed in the unaccustomed position of having to import oil to supply propane and kerosene for cooking and gasoline for cars. General Garner's effort to restore order in the capital and return Iraqi police officers to the streets took on new urgency today. Various groups, beginning with an Iraqi exile who proclaimed himself the mayor of Baghdad but was pushed aside by the Americans, have tried several times to organize a local force. Police officers, who earned an average of $12 a month under Saddam Hussein's government, said they had filled out applications three times to return to their old jobs.

As part of the recruitment effort today, the Americans decided for the first time to turn to the men who had commanded neighborhood police stations before the war. Officers were called to return to their old station houses if they wanted their jobs back, but were asked to dress in a modified version of their old uniforms to project a new image. While many of the former officers seemed eager to take up their posts, most police stations are now in ruins — their windows shattered, furniture stolen and case files burned. And the effort to deploy a police force acceptable both to the public and to the American administrators appeared to suffer from the same lack of manpower that has slowed efforts to get other city services working again. At a police station in the Wayiya neighborhood, residents said dozens of former police officers had come just about every day since the end of the war for about four hours in the morning. They waited this morning again outside the looted building, but no American officials showed up to interview them. But Americans did appear to take applications at a station in the Zaiyouna neighborhood in central Baghdad, where about 100 police officers, as well as their chief, came to reclaim their jobs. The building smelled of smoke from the files and spare equipment that had been set on fire by looters. Case files pulled from file cabinets littered the floor, along with fingerprint cards and photographs of neighborhood residents.

"I want to serve my country," said Hashem Hozam Khaled, a former jail guard at the station who had already bought a notebook to start taking down complaints from neighborhood residents. Not every police officer returned, though. Some were killed by neighborhood vigilantes in the days after American forces entered Baghdad. Some did not come because they knew the local residents would not accept them. "The bad ones didn't dare to come," said Mustafa Ali Karim, another returning officer who was trying to clean up the station. "But those who hurt people only represented themselves, not the force." American officials, meanwhile, provided further evidence today that they would continue to use managers and technocrats who worked under Mr. Hussein.

Tim Carney, a former American ambassador to Sudan who is overseeing efforts to reshape Iraq's state-owned industrial companies, announced that the Ministry of Industry and Minerals would be led by a senior ministry official from the old government, Ahmed Rashid Muhammad al-Gailini. Mr. Carney said American officials were not automatically disqualifying members of Mr. Hussein's Baath Party from taking part in the new government. "The disqualification is based on, were you involved in manufacturing weapons of mass destruction, were you involved in terrorist activities here, or were you involved in significant violations of human rights," Mr. Carney said. [At a farm site near Najaf today, Iraqis uncovered remains from a mass grave of men and women apparently executed in the Shiite uprising in 1991, Reuters reported.] Iraqi political figures were engaged in a different kind of selection process.

A number of former exile opposition groups are now well entrenched in Baghdad, and their leaders are building support to garner what leverage they can for a crucial political meeting, planned for sometime in the next month, at which hundreds of Iraqi delegates will choose a transitional government. Ahmad Chalabi, the leader of the Iraqi National Congress, the coalition of former political exiles, was meeting today with delegations of tribal and religious leaders and all manner of petitioners seeking support or favors. Iraqis mingled with United States military and civilian officials on the lawn of the Hunting Club, which was seized by Mr. Chalabi's forces to serve as a Baghdad political headquarters. Mr. Chalabi, who had not lived in Iraq since he was a child, hopes to challenge the idea that indigenous Iraqi political figures would quickly rise to fill the void left by Mr. Hussein's overthrow. At the same time, Mr. Barzani of the Kurdish Democratic Party, who has operated from northern Iraq for his whole career, was besieged by supporters and favor-seekers at a separate Kurdish headquarters in the capital, even as he was meeting with General Garner.

Shiite religious leaders, pushing to assert themselves in any new Iraqi authority, were running their mosques like ward bosses. They radiated confidence that their numerical majority would translate into a political majority in any representative government. But on the political scene, frustration and anxiety about the American role in Iraq continued. "There are so many American entities dealing with this situation that we are at a loss really to establish a viable liaison and know who is in charge," said Hoshiar Zubairy, a spokesman for Mr. Barzani.

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