Friday, April 15, 2005

BBC NEWS | Americas | US and UK blamed for oil scandal

Mr. Annan claims that because of the kickbacks occured on the US and UK watch, they are partially responsible for the oil scandal.

I suppose that is true but I think in a much more limited way then he suggests.

In an earlier blog, I argued that the sanctions were ineffective and simply too indiscrimate in the manner in which a lot of equipment were to be imported into Iraq. The crux of this issue was what was called 'dual use' equipment i.e. items of a nature that could be used for both legitimate civilian use BUT ALSO for military use. What happened in 1994 was what the US had feared most, Iraq had relaunched their WMD programme (mostly missles which were of a range prohibited by the treaty after the first Iraq war. Defectors also claimed he was restarting his nuclear programme).

The fact that most of these were smuggled rather than imported directly either suggests that the sanctions were working well and hence Saddam was forced to smuggle them in. Or simply that the sanctions failed because Saddam still managed to get them and all the sanctions did were to kill a lot of civilians. The truth is probably somewhere between: The sanctions probably delayed and hindered these programmes and honestly, it would have been hard to believe that Saddam would not have diverted these imports for his own political survival.

After all, the fact that he subverted (with the aid of the nations around him as well as certain members of the Security Council whose companies had oil interest in Iraq i.e. Russia and France) the Oil-For-Food programme which mitigated the ban of exports of Iraqi oil in order to buy necessities for his citizens.

The painful truth is that this could have been a textbook example of successful regime of sanctions. Iraq was landlocked, and surrounded by nations who had no cause to love him, whether from historical emnity (Iran) or the first Iraq War (Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia etc.) so it's very sad to see confirmed for the first time what were persistent rumours, that too many nations thinking Saddam was done and out sought their own short term economic interests at the expense of having Saddam survive and remain a threat to them for so long.

So yes, US and UK were probably to blame somewhat but this was largely symptomatic of the larger sanction problems that were going on at that time. Could they have done more? Well Clinton never had the stomach and too much brains to want to invade and kick out Saddam and then try to run Iraq, and his policy of containment probably was more useful than we give him credit for (the '94 bombings seem to have done a remarkable job)



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