Global Policy Forum

Iraq Wins Sanctions Battle?


By Frank Gardner

July 2, 2001

Once again, Baghdad appears to have won the propaganda war against the West. The US-British plan to introduce so-called smart sanctions on Iraq has now been put on hold, pending further discussions in the United Nations Security Council.

But in the Middle East, most Arabs would like it to be quietly forgotten. At first glance, the plan appeared to be answering Arab criticism that 11 years of UN sanctions have hurt only Iraq's people, not its leaders.


The proposed modified sanctions would have loosened restrictions on trade, allowing more goods to flow into Iraq. At the same time, controls would have been tightened on oil smuggling and on any goods that could be used for military purposes.

Above all, the plan would have put a stop to the estimated $1bn a year of oil revenue that has been passing outside UN control and going straight to Iraq's government.

But both the West and the UN have failed to sell the plan effectively to the Arab world. As UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan heard on his recent trip to the region, most Arab countries want the sanctions dropped altogether, not modified.

Oil Dependence

Iraq's Arab neighbours, Jordan and Syria, both felt underconsulted. They complained that plans were being hatched in New York that would have drastic and damaging consequences for their own fragile economies. Jordan depends heavily on Iraq for cheap oil, while Syria is enjoying a growing trade relationship with Baghdad.

Iraq had threatened to cut off oil supplies to its neighbours if they signed up to the plan. So those neighbouring countries will now be heaving a sigh of relief.

For affairs to have reached this state, it shows how far Iraq has been rehabilitated in the minds of many Arabs, and how out of touch with Arab concerns they feel the West has become.

More Information on the Oil for Food Program
More Information on Sanctions Against Iraq
More Information on the Iraq Crisis


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