Skip to comments.Shying from a war, France and Russia are happy to make money out of immoral peace
Posted on 02/17/2003 4:56:43 PM PST by MadIvan
THE inadequate statement by Hans Blix, the chief UN weapons inspector, to the UN Security Council on Friday has reinforced the view of those in Paris, Berlin and Moscow - and of the peace parties who marched in major world cities on Saturday - that the inspectors should be given more time to do their job. This is a grave mistake, for two fundamental reasons.
First, it is not the job of the UN inspectors to act as detectives in Iraq, scouring a country the size of France trying to uncover Saddam Husseins weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Public debate in Europe proceeds ignorantly on the basis that it is, encouraged in this false assumption by anti-war politicians everywhere. They should re-read UN resolution 1441, especially in Paris and Moscow; they voted for it in the Security Council and now seem determined to ignore it. The resolution makes clear that Saddam must surrender his WMD - including all the research and development associated with them; it is the job of the inspectors to accept the surrender, verify that it is a full and complete one and then to destroy the weapons and the supporting infrastructure.
Since Saddam continues to deny that he has any WMD to surrender, which under the terms of resolution 1441 is a lie, this process has not happened. Yet the UN, prodded by Paris, Berlin and Moscow, continued to fudge its own unanimously-supported resolution last Friday, preferring instead to give the inspectors more time (and maybe even more resources, but dont count on it). Since Saddam continues to insist he has nothing to surrender and even Mr Blix admits that playing hide-and-seek with the Iraqi dictator is not the way forward, playing for more time is clearly a waste of time.
France, Germany and Russia are not just playing for more time: their strategy is to kick the whole crisis into the long grass so that it is never resolved by military intervention. The peace party has no coherent alternative to war (and is rarely challenged in the European media to produce one). But most of its leading supporters seem to believe that a policy of containment - a mixture of sanctions and inspections - can control Saddam and tame him as a threat to the region. Containment has worked since the Gulf war ended in 1991, they argue; lets persist with it and not go to war. That is the peace partys second fundamental mistake.
The fact is that containment has collapsed - undermined most by those currently most vocal in arguing against military intervention. The sanctions regime is now a joke, riddled with holes - many of them of Russias and Frances making, the rest made by Iraqs neighbours, which have become willing accomplices in sanctions-breaking. The Security Council has never had the stomach to enforce the sanctions on the border with Jordan, through which a huge trade in illegal Iraqi oil exports have seeped from day one of the sanctions, filling Saddams coffers in the process. Nor has it done much to stop illicit trade cross the Turkish and Syrian borders or interfered with the clapped-out tankers smuggling Iraqi oil through the Gulf (they sail through Iranian waters, where Tehrans Revolutionary Guards exact a toll to finance their own black arts, en route to Qatar and the UAE.)
Through the 1990s this illegal oil trade earned the Baghdad regime about $250 million a year - money used by Saddam to keep his goons in champagne and his WMD programme ticking over. In the past few years, however, sanctions have collapsed. Today, Saddam earns about $3 billion a year from the illegal trade in oil and other Iraqi exports - more than 20 per cent of all Iraqi revenues. This has allowed him to secure his regime and mount an international shopping spree, using front companies controlled by Iraqi intelligence, to buy all manner of hardware for his WMD programme.
Iraq is currently pumping 200,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd) through its pipeline with Syria, with immediate plans to boost it to 250,000 bpd (the pipe could carry 800,000 bpd); trucks carry another 40,000 bpd across the Syrian border. In return, Damascus allows Saddam to import whatever he requires. Not to be outdone, the Turks and Jordanians have also allowed a huge increase in their illegal oil trade with Iraq.
Indeed, the illicit oil trade has grown so big that Saddam is siphoning off oil from the legitimate UN-backed oil-for-food programme to supply it. Those who witter on about containment should confront the fact that revenues from Iraqs legal oil trade - meant to pay for food and medicine for the impoverished Iraqi people - fell from $17 billion in 2000 to only $11 billion in 2001 (and continue to fall) while its smuggled revenues increased from around $600 million three years ago to $3 billion today. That means less food and medicine for Iraqi people, more money for Saddams WMD. So much for containment working.
The collapse of sanctions does not end there: Saddam even manages to take a skim from the UN-backed oil sales. For the past three years Baghdad has demanded surcharges ranging between 20 to 80 cents on each barrel sold: those who buy from the oil-for-food programme are forced to pay the surcharge to Iraqi bank accounts outside the UNs jurisdiction - more money for Saddam to spend on his WMD and conventional military.
Last June, the Indian government uncovered that Saddam was buying atomised aluminium powder and titanium engine parts made to such a high quality that New Delhi concluded they could only have been for chemical warfare and ballistic missile production. Two years before, the US discovered that China was building a fibre-optic communications system for the Iraqi government to give its military and secret police state-of-the-art communications. All this while the people of Iraq starve and the children die of malnutrition and lack of basic medical care.
Every time the US and Britain have moved to tighten the sanctions regime, those pillars of the peace party - France, Russia and China have thwarted them in the Security Council. Indeed, despite their current support for containment, they have led the campaign to have sanctions effectively lifted. Last June, Moscow stopped UN efforts to end the Iraqi oil surcharges. The French have excused the Iraqis of their transgressions - including breaches of the military embargo - on every occasion they have been brought before the UN. Both Paris and Moscow have fallen over each other to compete for lucrative contracts from Saddam while undermining what was left of sanctions.
War should only be a last resort, the French are fond of saying, while making millions out of an immoral peace. Under French influence, backed by Russia, Germany and China, the UN last Friday bottled out of what must be done. The prevailing mood outside the U S is to give the inspectors more time to be given the run-around by Saddams goons and to support sanctions which international opinion, led by Paris and Moscow, has never had the stomach properly to implement. It is a dangerous recipe - a primeval soup from which Saddam will emerge stronger than ever and better-financed for his WMD dreams. The Americans and the British are getting no credit for it now, but the world will come to be grateful that Washington and London are made of sterner stuff.
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