The Next Crisis Coming?

Iraq News APRIL 17, 1998

By Laurie Mylroie

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 .

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 

   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 

   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