Global Policy Forum

Iraq Turns Down 'Evil' UN Plan to Ease Sanctions


By David Hirst

Guardian, London
December 20, 1999

Iraq has roundly rejected a new UN Security Council resolution, under which UN inspectors would return to the country to supervise the dismantling of its weapons of mass destruction in return for a move towards the lifting of sanctions.

The Iraqi response to the so-called "omnibus" resolution, the outcome of long and tortuous wrangling at the UN, has raised new fears in the region that the US and Britain will again consider military action. Iraq is already signalling its readiness to confront any attack.

Thousands of Iraqis, mobilised by the Ba'ath party, poured into the streets of Baghdad on Saturday chanting "No to the Anglo-American-Zionist resolution", "No to the Security Council", and "Yes to the lifting of the embargo".

President Saddam Hussein presided over a special meeting of the ruling Revolutionary Command Council. He also awarded 42 medals, in what some have interpreted as an attempt to prepare public opinion for the possibility of a new military showdown.

The deputy prime minister, Tariq Aziz, said that the resolution was "just a trick, laying down a long series of conditions that are complicated and impossible to fulfil". He said it imposed "restrictions on Iraq's sovereignty, economy and resources". Baghdad believes the US is determined to control Iraq's finances even after sanctions are lifted, part of a strategy to bring the regime down.

On the face of it, the Security Council's resolution 1284 marks a softening of conditions for the removal of UN sanctions in place since Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990; it also lifts the ceiling on the amount of oil Iraq can export under the "food-for-oil" programme. A new agency- the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection commission (Unmovic) would replace Unscom, which oversaw Iraqi disarmament until it pulled out of the country a year ago, just ahead of Operation Desert Fox, the last and heaviest Anglo-American military raid since the Gulf war.

If Iraq "cooperates in all respects" with Unmovic for a period of 120 days, sanctions would be "suspended" under a complicated and lengthy procedure. Sanctions would only be lifted altogether when the UN was satisfied that it had disarmed fully. Until now, Iraq has been entitled to sell $5.6bn (£.5m) worth of oil every six months to buy food, medicine and other relief supplies. The new resolution would allow it to export as much it likes, and- among other things- ease restrictions on the import of parts desperately needed for the upkeep and repair of its decaying oil industry.

Iraq's outright rejection came as no surprise since, for weeks now, it has been warning that it would reject this "evil British-sponsored resolution", and insisting that it wants a full and final lifting of sanctions. According to the newspaper Babel, published by President Saddam's son Udai: "Iraq will neither respect nor apply this criminal resolution, which transforms Iraq into a protectorate governed from outside with Iraqi money, and indefinitely maintains the oil embargo." Al-Ba'ath newspaper called it the plan "still- born".

It appears that, in striking this defiant posture, Iraq has derived some comfort and confidence from the fact that the UN vote was not unanimous- France, Russia, China and Malaysia abstained. "This is a victory for Iraq," said the Baghdad daily al-Thaurah, "because after eight months of contacts, pressure and blackmailing, the US and Britain failed to secure a consensus".

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