The central focus of Iraq News is the tension between the considerable, proscribed WMD capabilities that Iraq is holding on to and its increasing stridency that it has complied with UNSCR 687 and it is time to lift sanctions. If you wish to receive Iraq News by email, a service which includes full-text of news reports not archived here, send your request to Laurie Mylroie .
I. RCC, PARTY CALL FOR IMMEDIATE LIFTING OF SANCTIONS, INA, APR 16 II. ANNAN: IRAQ NEEDS $300 MILLION IN EQUIP'T FOR OIL INDUSTRY, REUTERS, APR 16 Today's NYT reported that UNSCOM's biannual report on Iraq's proscribed weapons programs was given to Kofi Annan on Wed and will go to the UNSC shortly. The report concluded Iraq was no closer to meeting the requirements for lifting sanctions than it was at the time of UNSCOM's last report, in Oct. Also, A.M. Rosenthal wrote today, "Next month, the month after that—-anytime it suits his interests, Saddam Hussein will again create a crisis that will bring the world press to Baghdad by the hundreds." In preparation, he recommended that journalists [and all others] read the latest report by Max Van der Stoel, former Foreign Minister of The Netherlands and, since 1995, the UN's special rapporteur on human rights in Iraq. Van der Stoel recently reported, in a document formally titled United Nations Document E/CN.4/1998/67, that, among other gross abuses of human rights, 1,500 people were executed in Iraq last year alone, mostly for political reasons. And the next crisis already seems upon us. Yesterday, Iraq's Revolutionary Command Council and Bath party leadership met in joint session and issued a statement calling for the "immediate and undelayed implementation of Paragraph 22 of Resolution 687" following the UNSC sanctions review to be held before month's end. The statement described the agenda of the RCC-Bath party meeting. Four issues were reviewed and a decision was reached. First, "The conferees discussed a number of political issues, led by the legitimate Iraqi demand that the blockade be lifted, starting with the implementation of Paragraph 22 of Resolution 687." Second, "The conferees discussed in depth, responsibly, and comprehensively the unjust blockade, imposed on our great mujahid people for eight years under the influence of arrogant, evil forces and biased parties whose malicious souls are so filled with evil that they have lost any ability to see the right path." Third, "The conferees reviewed and deeply considered all the lessons of the relationship with the UN Security Council and the Special Commission." Fourth, they "reviewed the great extent of harm being done to our people—women and men, elderly and children—as a result of the blockade and the chaste souls that have perished in these hard times." Thus, "It has been decided that we will urge the Security Council and all forces and figures in the world, including the good forces among all mankind and in our [Arab] nation, to sound the alarm that it is pointless for Iraq and the Iraqis to be patient just for the criminals to play for extra time on this issue, which is so crucial to our people." The statement then explained, "If the relationship between Iraq and the Security Council is to be balanced and continue on a sound basis, then it will be time for discussion of the embargo at the end of April to lead to the immediate and undelayed implementation of Paragraph 22 of Resolution 687 as a prelude to the complete and comprehensive lifting of the embargo and all things that come with it." Para 22 prohibits Iraqi oil exports until UNSCOM gives Iraq a clean bill of health on its proscribed weapons programs. The additional demand for a "complete and comprehensive lifting of the embargo" refers to imports. Until UNSCOM clears Iraq on its weapons programs, imports are approved by the UN sanctions committee. If UNSCOM ever did clear Iraq, imports are supposed to be subject to permanent supervision, in accord with UNSCOM's long-term monitoring. The statement might indicate that Iraq rejects long-term supervision of its imports, as it rejects many of the provisions of the UNSC resolutions intended to maintain permanent restrictions on its rearmament. The statement ended somewhat ominously, "Only those with evil ambitions will stand guilty of the deaths of our people, whose lives were taken away under the embargo and the military operations that were launched under a well-known cover. If they oppose the lifting of the embargo, they—and they alone—will carry the burden of the previous crises as well as the crises to come and for any harm inflicted on our people." What are the consequences of standing "guilty of the deaths of our people" and what does it mean to "carry the burden of the previous crises as well as the crises to come"? Possibly, Saddam long had this deadline in mind. On Nov 27, Iraq's National Assembly issued a statement calling on UNSCOM "to expedite the closure of its files and end inspections in Iraq within a maximum period of six months as of the resumption of its activities on 20 November." In his Jan 17 speech to mark the anniversary of the start of the Gulf war, Saddam said, "Unless the UN Security Council decides to fulfill its obligations toward Iraq as stipulated in the unfair resolutions, which it adopted itself without Iraq's participation as reciprocal obligations of the Council, then Iraq is determined to take a stand that conforms with the recommendations of the people's representatives in the National Assembly, and will take responsibility for such a position. This is because there is no way or alternative other than this position." Minimally, Saddam seems to be planning another challenge, akin to the two that have already occurred. To review them: On Oct 29, the RCC ordered the expulsion of the US members of UNSCOM. The ensuing confrontation ended with the Nov 20 Perm-5 agreement in Geneva to hold an emergency session of the UNSCOM commissioners to explore, among other issues, ways to make UNSOM's work more effective. Both NSC Adviser Berger and Sec State Albright denied that that was in fact an extraordinary session or that it was a quid pro quo for Iraq [see "Iraq News" Nov 21]. But it was and it set the ground for the next crisis. The next crisis began when UNSCOM Chairman, Richard Butler, visited Baghdad Jan 19-21. He was told that "presidential sites," would be barred to inspectors. The confrontation that followed ended with Annan's Feb 23 accord, the diplomat-supervised inspections, and the introduction of the UNSG into weapons inspection procedures. Each crisis weakened the regional coalition against Iraq, while it strengthened Iraq's position at the UNSC, as Henry Kissinger, "Clinton's Short-sighted policy on Iraq," LAT Syndicate, Mar 22, observed. Also, during the first crisis, the idea of "a little carrot" was raised, in the form of increased oil sales under UNSCR 986. That proposal materialized in the second crisis, when on Feb 20, the eve of Annan's visit to Baghdad, UNSCR 1153 was passed, more than doubling the amount of oil Iraq is allowed to sell, and which would have made Iraq the world's eighth largest oil exporter, if it could export all the oil it is allowed to. But Iraq does not have the capacity to do so because of damage to its oil industry over two wars, going back to 1980, and yesterday Annan proposed to the UNSC that Iraq be allowed to import $300 million in equipment to repair its oil industry. Saddam has benefited for provoking each of the past two crises, while he has suffered no penalty. Why shouldn't he provoke a third? Or possibly do something more dramatic? We are engaged in appeasing an aggressor. And we do not really understand him. As today's NYT observed, Iraq's demand to lift sanctions was unexpected. "Many diplomats here did not expect [such pressure] in earnest until the next sanctions review in October." Saddam's calculations are different from those of most of us. He has a rare understanding of how to use force and violence in political affairs. Thus, he surprises. And he sees weakness in Washington. If the administration fails to get its act together and respond properly to Saddam's next challenge, or even, one wishes, pre-empt it, there will be more challenges from Iraq, with consequences that are difficult to foresee.