US-British 'Smart Sanctions'

Cable News Network
November 2, 2001

Since the attacks against the United States, the campaign against terrorism and fears of germ warfare, revamping 11-year-old U.N. sanctions against Iraq appears to have slipped in U.S. priorities, diplomats say.

Instead, the United States and Britain may not battle Russia, an ally of Iraq, on the issue immediately but consider new, still undefined, ways to pressure Baghdad into accepting U.N. arms inspectors, who have not been allowed into the country since December 1998. The United States and Britain have to make a decision on the sanctions before Nov. 30, when the U.N. oil-for-food humanitarian program expires.

Their draft resolution, part of that plan, would ease the import of civilian goods to Iraq and attempt to end the smuggling of oil as well as supplies reaching Baghdad through porous borders. Russia threatened last summer to veto the "smart" sanctions proposals and Iraq halted oil flows in June for about a mon th until it was certain the measure was going nowhere.

Several key envoys in the 15-member U.N. Security Council said in interviews they believed the oil-for-food program, which regulates Baghdad's oil revenues and goods imported, will be extended without major changes. The duration could be anywhere from two to six months for the program, aimed at easing the impact of the sanctions on ordinary Iraqis, imposed when Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990. But diplomats stress no decision has been made yet.

Iraq opposes all embargoes but dislikes the "smart sanctions" even more, apparently preferring to circumvent restrictions as much as possible until they are lifted.

"We are very conscious of the need to move forward on Iraq but the context has changed and the way in which we do that has to be very carefully considered," said British Ambassador Sir Jeremy Greenstock, who helped to draft the resolution. "Iraq's possession of an expertise in weapons of mass destruction remains a highly important concern as well as the humanitarian situation of the Iraqi people," he told Reuters.

U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the sanctions controversy arose in talks this week between Secretary of State Colin Powell and Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov. Another State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said, "At the moment that's an issue that is still pretty difficult to see where we're going on that. Frankly, we don't expect to get anywhere on the issue at the moment."

Clear, however, is that unless Russia, which has never engaged in detailed negotiations on the U.S.-British proposals, shows signs of compromise, Washington and London will not mount an intense campaign, only to lose again. Russia, however, has long advocated changes in a key December 1999 resolution, that sets out a course toward easing sanctions if arms inspectors were allowed to return.

Moscow wants the process spelled out more clearly and the embargoes suspended as soon as the inspectors return, a position the United States and Britain reject. "Our proposal is still on the table but we have been given to understand that they don't like it," said Russia's U.N. ambassador, Sergei Lavrov.

But some council diplomats believe many sections of the resolution were deliberately left vague because of lack of agreement and could be expanded without undermining it. "There's wiggle room there," said one council source.

Meanwhile, Russia and the United States are discussing more pressing issues: the missile shield plane, insurgencies in Chechnya and the Caucuses and the former Soviet republics used as bases by Washington for the bombing of Afghanistan.

And with the anthrax scare in the United States, Iraq's potential weapons of mass destruction are getting a higher profile. Experts have said that three countries -- the United States, the former Soviet Union and Iraq -- were known to make the dangerous, high-grade anthrax powder that floats easily in the air and lodges in the lungs. But others say that techniques used in those programs were common enough that a well-trained scientist could have produced similar results.

Still, some U.S. officials have mulled military action against Baghdad, with Britain opposing it strongly without further proof. "The context has changed for the Iraqi sanctions. The options have widened and no one is sure if the traditional approach in the U.N. Security Council can be pursued in the same way," one senior council source said.

More Information on a Turning Point for Iraq
More Information on the Iraq Crisis
More Information on Sanctions Against Iraq

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