Global Policy Forum

Iraqis Confident That Sanctions

ABC News
October 27, 1999

Baghdad - Iraq these days is getting a lot more sympathy - and looking a lot less isolated. From Russia's oil minister, to industry executives representing America's Gulf War allies who are now in search of Iraqi business, and even at the United Nations, the U.S. policy of pushing sanctions appears to be losing support. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan chastised the United States on Tuesday for holding up $700 million worth of contracts for goods that he said could alleviate the suffering of Iraqis after nearly a decade of sanctions that were imposed after Saddam Hussein's forces invaded Kuwait in 1990. "These holds are having an undesirable impact on our humanitarian activities," Annan said. "In some instances, have to sit and wait because a part of it has either been withheld or is not in."

U.S. More Isolated

The United States wants Saddam to again allow U.N. weapons inspectors into Iraq, and until he does, it wants him isolated. But the Americans are finding themselves increasingly lonely in their position. "Ten years is a long time, and things cannot but change after those 10 years of suffering and hardships for us," Nizar Hamoon, Iraq's undersecretary of state for foreign affairs, told ABCNEWS. Iraq's infrastructure is crumbling, with bridges and roads in disrepair. Children are suffering and malnourished - and that brings sympathy for the Iraqi people, and a feeling it's time to ease up on the regime there. "The government says that this is all due to nine years of deprivation," said U.N. humanitarian aid coordinator Fabrice von Sponeck. "Others will have another answer … and UNICEF and myself and others will say that whatever the causes are, this is the reality and one must try to overcome this reality to avoid unnecessary death of children."

Businesspeople want the right to invest in and export to Iraq, a country once among the economic leaders of the Arab world. "We hope the embargo will be lifted very soon," German businessman Arne Frantz said recently in Baghdad.

Life's a Little Better

There is some optimism in Iraq. Many Iraqis say life is a little better now than in recent years. But most importantly, they say they believe they have been through the worst, and things can never be as bad again. A U.N. program in place since 1996 lets Iraq sell about $5 billion in oil every six months to pay for food and medicine. It has since been expanded to include other sectors including water, utilities and spare parts for the oil industry. The U.N. Security Council decided earlier this month to increase Baghdad's export cap by more than $3 billion for the current six-month phase. And Iraq, for the first time in a long time, is growing enough fruit and vegetables to feed its people. Smugglers get around U.N. sanctions and have restocked Iraq's markets with everything from designer rip-offs to VCRs to $1,800 refrigerators. "Even though we have sanctions, things are now OK," said appliance salesman Abu Alis.

That may be part of the reason why Iraq's government is feeling very little pressure to let weapons inspectors - who were removed late last year as U.S.-led forces mounted attacks on sites that may have been building banned weapons - back in at all. As for the other American demand, that Saddam leave power, many people in Iraq say their president survived George Bush, and will, without question, outlast Bill Clinton, as well.

ABCNEWS' Sheila MacVicar and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

The American Response:
U.S. Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations Peter Burleigh on Tuesday defended the U.S. holds on products bound for Iraq, expressing concern that Saddam Hussein's government could redirect equipment toward weapons production. "We put contracts on hold for a variety of different reasons including potential dual use, contracts that are sponsored by questionable firms, and contracts which are not justified under the humanitarian oil-for-food program," he said.

More Information on the Iraq Crisis


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