Global Policy Forum

History of Missed Opportunities

Jordan Times
July 13, 2001

The continuing efforts of Iraqis to free themselves and their country from a harsh, 11-year-old regime of stringent UN sanctions have been greatly aided by many factors. One of the most significant was the intrusive and arrogant behavior of arms inspectors, which, with the passing of the years, grew more humiliating and punitive and less professionally oriented toward the original aims of these missions: arms detection, destruction and control.

The deadly blow later came from Richard Butler's arranged yet incorrect report on Iraqi noncompliance, followed by the unauthorized and hasty withdrawal of arms inspectors in December 1998 to pave the way for air strikes against Iraq.

The changing positions of Russia, France and China - three of five permanent members in the UN Security Council - also contributed to dividing the council on the Iraq issue, rendering automatic agreement extremely difficult, as recently demonstrated by the fate of the "smart sanctions" proposal.

The Anglo-American failure to secure support for these remodelled sanctions because of Russian objection, the gradual disintegration of the sanctions regime, the erosion of the authority and credibility of the new sanctions' two main proponents as a result of their application of double standards - plus the devastating humanitarian and economic cost of the prolonged embargo on the region - have all played heavily in favor of Iraq and directly against the continuation of sanctions.

These are all good reasons for the Iraqis to celebrate, but not bask complacently in a victory which is more apparent than real.

It should be clearly remembered that the victories of the "friends" of Iraq in the Security Council were met with Iraqi noncooperation, as happened with UN Resolution 1284 and Baghdad's refusal to allow the return of arms inspectors.

Also, although the Russians - who should not necessarily take French and Chinese support for granted - could block more US-British resolutions, they will hardly be able to lift the sanctions on their own without a drastic change in the American position, something that is unlikely to happen any time soon.

Hence the best course ahead for Iraq is, rather than firing criticism at France and China, to start a serious dialogue with its sympathizers within the Security Council, to strengthen their hands by demonstrating clear willingness to listen to and heed their advice.

Such a meaningful dialogue can build useful bridges between Iraq and the Security Council and, eventually, with the office of the secretary-general himself, and commence a new era of more productive cooperation which will further consolidate the argument against the indefinite prolonging of the sanctions. But will Iraq learn this time from the many opportunities it missed in the past?

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


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