2003 April 17 Thursday
Axis Of Weasels Refuse To Lift UN Sanctions On Iraq

Some things are so predictable. I never for a moment doubted that the Russian and French governments would use their leverage as permanent UN Security Council members to keep sanctions on Iraq unless they get favorable commercial terms for dealing with the new Iraqi government.

UNITED NATIONS, April 17 -- Russia, France and other key Security Council members set the stage today for a new battle over Iraq, signaling that the United States must give the United Nations a broader role in reconstruction efforts before sanctions can be lifted.

The French and Russians used their close relations with Iraq to get business from Iraq to the exclusion of other countries. They are now afraid the tables will turn so heavily and the very ability of a state to control where some contracts will go will be used against them. But it was alright when it worked in their favor. In the existing United Nations system for selling Iraqi oil the proceeds going into the UN Oil-for-Food fund which has a panel that decides how the money can be spent.

Claudia Rosett reports on the lack of transparency in how the UN doles out the money.

As for the program's vast bank accounts, the public is told only that letters of credit are issued by a French bank, BNP Paribas. Kurdish leaders in northern Iraq, entitled to goods funded by 13 percent of the program's revenues, have been trying for some time to find out how much interest they are going to receive on $4 billion in relief they are still owed. The United Nations treasurer told me that that no outside party, not even the Kurds, gets access to those figures.

Of course the tens of billions of dollars of the fund are kept in the accounts of a French bank.

You have to love the reason Russian foreign minister Ivan Ivanov sites for not lifting the sanctions: we haven't discovered whether Saddam had weapons of mass destruction.

"This decision cannot be automatic. It demands that conditions laid out in corresponding UN Security Council resolutions be fulfilled," Mr Ivanov said. "For the Security Council to take this decision, we need to be certain whether Iraq has weapons of mass destruction or not."

So then should UNMOVIC inspectors be sent back into Iraq to tear the place apart for a couple of years before sanctions are lifted?

The Mexican government agrees with the Russians.

"The sanctions were imposed to assure that Iraq does not possess weapons of mass destruction," said Mexican Ambassador Adolfo Aguilar Zinser, the Security Council's president. "There is a great deal of interest in the council to finalize this issue."

George W. Bush's supposed buddy Vicente Fox continues to oppose US policy toward Iraq. Someone tell Karl Rove.

The existing UN Oil-for-Food program is another battleground where the French and Russians fight for advantage.

A virtual guerrilla war is going on in the UN sanctions committee, which decides which humanitarian contracts can be honoured, with the UK and US on one side, and Russia and France on the other.

Currently Kofi Annan plays the role in the Oil-for-Food program that the Iraqi government used to play in applying for food purchases and other deals.

Anticipating such difficulties, the Security Council adopted a resolution on March 28 nine days after the start of the US-led invasion authorising UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to take over the running of the oil-for-food programme for 45 days.

There are a few problems here if the UN Security Council doesn't act. One problem is that Kofi Annan's authority will expire. Another problem is that the program itself needs to be renewed on June 3 and that mandate is what allows Iraq to export oil under the UN sanctions regime. Another problem is that technically it is illegal (to the extent that one really believes there is something called international law) to trade with Iraq or to bring in aid outside of the purchases made thru the Oil-for-Food program. The huge influx of aid by private organizations, the US government, and other entities can be argued to be a violation of UN sanctions.

Of course the regime in Baghdad that had sanctions brought against it is history. There is no real government of Baghdad at the moment. The fiction in international law is that a country is a nation is a state. But Saddam's regime was not a nation-state. It was the possession of a single man and it was the proper object of any sanctions passed by the United Nations. To treat the territorial entity called Iraq as legally equivalent to the regime that ruled it seems ludicrous.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 April 17 10:07 PM  UN, International Institutions

Mike said at April 18, 2003 5:41 AM:

The absolute moral rot, stench and decay at the UN is staggering, and the more light that shines on the UN and it's members the worse it gets.

The US needs to be finished with this filth and boot these jackels and vultures out of New York immediately, and freeze all contibutions to and assets of the UN.


bill said at April 18, 2003 11:12 AM:

Simple enough. Iraq changes its name the Republic of Iraq. Then, none of the old sanctions would apply. (Hey, it worked for the USSR/Russia).

Bob said at April 19, 2003 8:30 PM:

The UN is irrelevant. It has amply demonstrated that it won't enforce its own sanctions, and (bluntly) the US has a veto on the security council too.

If France and Russia want to refuse to trade with Iraq, I say so be it: That just means there is more business for the US, Britain and their assorted friends.

Given that France has shown its true colours (ie. France supports torture and oppression while opposing liberation), I don't think we need to pay them much attention. Apparently, they think they were better off as a subject country of the Third Reich.

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