IRAQ: HUMANITARIAN NEEDS, IMPACT OF SANCTIONS, AND THE "OIL FOR FOOD" PROGRAM
CRS Report for Congress
Iraq: Humanitarian Needs, Impact of Sanctions,
and the “Oil for Food” Program
August 13, 1998
Foreign Affairs Analyst
Foreign Affairs and National Defense Division
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
Much of the Iraqi civilian population is suffering from shortages of food, medical care, and
an infrastructure damaged by the 1991 Gulf war. This report discusses these shortages, and
what the “oil for food” program, established by the U.N. Security Council, is doing to
alleviate them. It discusses the conflicting views about the extent and cause of the civilian
suffering and the reliability of the available data. Information on the political and military
situation in Iraq since the 1991 Gulf war can be found in CRS Issue Brief 92117, Iraqi
Compliance with Cease-Fire Agreements. This report will not be updated.
Iraq: Humanitarian Needs, Impact of Sanctions,
and the “Oil for Food” Program
Many private and international humanitarian agencies argue that under the U.N.
sanctions, Iraqi civilians, and especially children, suffer and die from lack of
adequate food and medical supplies despite the “oil for food” program and other
international assistance. They argue that the sanctions are inhumane and should be
lifted immediately. On the opposing side, defenders of international policy argue that
it is not the sanctions causing suffering but deliberate Iraqi policies diverting
resources and even manipulating the humanitarian “crisis”. Some also accuse Iraqi
officials of exaggerating the level of suffering. They point out that Iraq can end the
sanctions at any time by meeting the conditions of its 1991 surrender.
The U.N. Security Council established the “oil for food” program in December
1996 to alleviate the impact of sanctions on the civilian population. Since December
1996, the program has been extended and amended to allow more oil to be sold in the
face of evidence that civilian suffering continues, but Iraq alleges that the U.S. and
British governments deliberately hold up the arrival of humanitarian goods. The
United States and Britain argue that the Iraqi government creates the delays itself.
On June 4, 1998, the latest extension of the “oil for food” program began and
will allow Iraq to sell oil worth up to $4.5 billion to import humanitarian goods and
pay for their distribution during this six month period, bringing the volume of
permitted oil exports nearly to pre-Gulf war levels.
This report discusses the conflicting views on the extent and causes of human
suffering in Iraq and the reliability of data. It describes and assesses the “oil for
food” program, its operation, impact and perceived shortcomings.
Human Suffering in Iraq and Its Causes................................3
The Oil for Food Program...........................................6
How the Program Works........................................6
Shortcomings/ Bureaucratic Delays in the Program...................7
Amended “Oil for Food” Extension...............................8
Impact on Sanctions............................................9
Iraq: Humanitarian Needs, Impact of Sanctions,
and the “Oil for Food” Program
U.N. sanctions were first applied to Iraq after its invasion of Kuwait in 1990.
The 1991 report of a U.N. Under-Secretary General describing near-apocalyptic
destruction in Iraq at the end of the war led the Security Council to establish the
current sanctions regime. Security Council resolution 686, adopted on March 2,
1991, prohibited all trade with Iraq including the sale of oil. No limits were placed
on Iraq’s ability to import food, medicine or other humanitarian goods after the war,
however Iraq’s foreign assets were frozen. Under a special “oil for food” program,
established by Security Council resolution 986 in April 1995, the sale of oil currently
allowed may be used only to purchase goods authorized by the U.N. Security
The “oil for food” program is not the only source of food available to Iraq. The
Iraqi government controls domestic food production and distribution. This system,
prior to the war, provided up to one third of domestic food. The “oil for food”
program is also not the only way Iraq currently sells oil. Some oil (about 100,000
barrels per day at below market rate prices) is exported to Jordan under a
longstanding program tacitly authorized by the United Nations. Press reports indicate
that about $100 million in oil per year is smuggled into Turkey and sold on the black
market. Other oil is also exported through Iran and from seaports in the south such
as Basra for black market sale. It is not clear how much this benefits the Iraqi
The “oil for food” program is not the only source of humanitarian aid to Iraq.
Both bilateral and multilateral aid continues to flow into the country as it has since
the end of the war. Because U.N. and other humanitarian agencies provide aid to
Iraq both through the “oil for food” program and with other funding, it is difficult
to determine how much humanitarian assistance is provided outside of the “oil for
food” program. It is also impossible to determine the total amount of multilateral and
bilateral aid provided by all donors. But UNICEF alone has spent $200 million since
the end of the war on programs of health, nutrition, water, sanitation, education and
child protection in Iraq. The UNICEF budget for Iraq for 1997, independent of “oil
for food” funded assistance, was $16 million, including $7.7 million donated by the
United States. UNICEF expects to spend $20 million during 1998 and 1999.1
Similarly, the UN Development Program budget included $12.8 million for Iraq in
1UNICEF. Iraq monthly country situation report. December 1997. p. 1
(PVOs) also provide assistance. The European Community’s foreign aid program
has provided $230 million since the end of the Gulf war2.
Prior to the 1990 Gulf war, Iraq had one of the highest per capita food
availabilities in the region due to its relative prosperity, according to the Food and
Agriculture Organization (FAO). Food availability has declined sharply since 1990,
and, because other countries in the region have not seen similar declines, FAO
believes that natural causes are not the reason for the decline. Since the end of the
war with Iraq, numerous surveys and studies have been made of the health and
nutrition status of the civilian population. Most studies show a continuing decline in
health and nutrition of Iraqi civilians, especially children and the elderly. But it is
difficult to determine how much of the suffering is due to the sanctions imposed on
Iraq and how much is due to other factors. Imposition of U.N. sanctions followed a
nearly decade long war between Iraq and Iran, during which spending on the social
welfare system declined. The bombing during the Gulf war damaged or destroyed
much of the public infrastructure such as water and sewage plants and many public
buildings. And since the end of the war, Iraq’s government has repeatedly attacked
with military force its minority populations in both the north and the south parts of
the country leading to destruction of homes and a growing population of displaced
persons. There is a government-imposed internal embargo on the northern Kurdish
areas which limits trade, financial transactions, and other commerce within Iraq.
Much of the information available on the conditions within Iraq is also
questionable. In a closed society such as Iraq, information is provided either with the
concurrence of the Iraqi government or in anecdotal form from people fleeing the
country. The Iraqi government publicizes estimates that the death toll from the
sanctions is 1.5 million, including 500,000 children. Many private and
intergovernmental organizations cite these figures as their own. Other groups
question the accuracy of the statistics, but have no independent sources of
information. All estimates of the number of deaths due to lack of food or medical
care vary widely based on the source. In an April 20, 1998 speech calling for a new
look at the Iraq sanctions, European Commissioner for Humanitarian Affairs Emma
Bonino noted that despite the shortage of reliable information, all the information
gleaned from U.N. and private sources led her to the conclusion that the Iraqi social
fabric is badly eroded.3
Because Iraq has not satisfied U.N. Security Council conditions for a full lifting
of the trade embargo, the “oil for food” program was adopted by the Security Council
as a way of protecting the Iraqi poor while maintaining pressure on the Iraqi
government to abide by the terms of the peace agreement.4 Iraq did not accept the
conditions of the “oil for food” program until December 1996 and the first shipments
of goods did not arrive until Spring 1997. Thus the “oil for food” program has been
2European Community Humanitarian Office. Speech of the Commissioner. Iraq
Humanitarian Meeting. London. April 20, 1998.
3European Community. Speech of the Commissioner.
4For information on the actions of the U.N. Security Council in the post-Gulf war
period, see Iraqi Compliance with Cease-Fire Agreements, by Kenneth Katzman, CRS Issue
Brief 92117. Updated regularly.
in operation for a little more than a year. At the present time, a full lifting of the oil
embargo is tied to certification by U.N. inspectors (UNSCOM) that Iraq has
destroyed all chemical and biological weapons and the equipment and raw materials
to manufacture them in the future. The problems with the “oil for food” program are
political as well as medical and nutritional and have changed over the last year.
Human Suffering in Iraq and Its Causes
Observers of the Iraqi situation have identified disturbing health and nutrition
problems affecting the civilian population. These have been tied to the consequences
of war, sanctions, shortcomings of assistance, and the deliberate policies of the Iraqi
regime. While the U.N. “oil for food” program was established to alleviate these
problems, there is controversy over whether any U.N. run program is able to address
them. These problems are:
Malnutrition. Opponents of the U.N. sanctions and critics of the “oil for food”
program cite U.N. health evaluations over the 1991-1997 period to argue that the
civilian population is suffering under current conditions, with children and other
vulnerable groups especially hard hit. These show an increase in infant and child
mortality and malnutrition. The most recent UN FAO/World Food Program (WFP)
Food Supply and Nutrition Assessment was released on October 3, 19975. It covered
the food supply and nutrition situation for civilians in Iraq based on a June 9- July 8,
The mission based its evaluation on discussions with Iraqi Government Ministries
and Departments, UN System Organizations, bilateral agencies and NGOs and on
field visits throughout the country. The mission concluded that although there had
been some improvements in the food supply situation under the revised “oil for food”
program, malnutrition remained a serious problem throughout the country.
A UNICEF survey made in October /November 1997 indicated that nearly 1
million Iraqi children under five years old are suffering from chronic malnutrition in
the center and south of Iraq. The Iraqi government maintains that the infant mortality
rate has risen sharply since the imposition of sanctions, with government estimates
ranging from 5,600 to 6,500 deaths per month in 1998 compared to 389 to 450 deaths
per month before sanctions were imposed. Iraq’s health ministry figures indicate that
57,000 children under five die each year. UNICEF statistics (which are generally
provided by governments) as published in the State of the World’s Children, show
an under five mortality rate of 122 in 1996, compared with 89 in 1989, as shown in
an earlier State of the World’s Children. Beginning in 1991, U.N. assessment
missions have observed cases of marasmus and kwashiorkor, the most alarming
forms of protein energy malnutrition, indicating that the nutritional health of the
population has fallen to dangerous levels. Incidences of stunting, underweight, and
wasting among children under five in Baghdad increased from 12%, 7%, and 3%,
respectively, in 1991 to 28%, 29%, and 12% in 1995, according to a World Health
5Special Report. FAO/WFP Food Supply and Nutrition Assessment Mission to Iraq.
October 3, 1997. Iraqsanc.fao.txt.
Organization survey.6 (The figures for Baghdad in the July 1997 FAO/WFP survey
for stunting, underweight, and wasting of 15%, 11%, and 3.3%, respectively, indicate
that even early in the “oil for food” program, the country has made substantial
progress, at least in Baghdad, though not to pre-Gulf war levels.)
Others, including the U.S. government, argue that much of the malnutrition
seen in Iraq is caused by Iraqi government activities, and is imposed selectively.
Iraqi dissident groups point out that the U.N. ration basket was supposed to be an
addition to what the Iraqi government provided, and was never intended to provide
all the food that the Iraqi population needed. These groups state that the Iraqi
government has completely stopped distributing government subsidized food to some
groups, leaving the U.N. food basket the only food available for many people.
Families of dissidents and army deserters, as well as ethnic and religious minorities
have lost their ration cards. The U.N. Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iraq
noted in his March 1998 report to the Economic and Social Council that “the effect
of the embargo is harsher on members of ethnic and religious minorities, and that
there exists discrimination in the allocation by the authorities of the limited resources
available between rural and urban areas, and against the southern region with respect
to the Marsh people.”7 (It should be noted that the U.N. Human Rights Rapporteur
has not been allowed into Iraq for several years and this information is acquired
second hand.) The U.S. State Department, in a February 28, 1998 Fact Sheet on the
Oil for Food program states that Iraq has reduced its own purchases of humanitarian
goods and diverted its own stocks to the military, or placed them in warehouses for
future use. The United States asserts that Iraq continues to spend its available funds
on arms and benefits for the government elite and its supporters. Finally, the United
States points out, the assessment team was in Iraq during the 2 months when the Iraqi
government refused to sell oil, thereby exacerbating food shortages. In a resolution
adopted by the Security Council to mitigate the effect of this Iraqi shutdown of oil
sales, the Security Council noted in the text that the Iraqi government bore full
responsibility for hardships caused by its decision not to sell oil during the period.
Others have questioned Iraqi statistics on whether there has been an unusually
large number of civilian deaths, particularly among children under five. According
to the newsletter of the Washington Institute, Iraq’s official 1997 census showed a
population increase of 3.5 million since 1990 which is consistent with a normal level
of births and deaths for the country and a normal rate of infant mortality.8 The
FAO/WFP survey stated that the official Iraqi census showed a population increase
between 1987 and 1997 of 6.62 million.
Health. Another cause of the unnatural rise in deaths noted by UNICEF and the
WHO, especially among children, is said to be disease due to lack of common
medicines, medical equipment shortages and poor sanitation. Critics of the sanctions
6World Health Organization. Health Conditions of the Population in Iraq since the
Gulf Crisis. March 1996. p. 7 WHO/EHA/96.1.
7Report on the situation of human rights in Iraq. p. 20.
8 Clawson, Patrick. ‘Oil for food’ or the end of sanctions. Policywatch. 303. February
argue that they are especially damaging in the health area, leading to unnecessary
suffering and deaths. U.N. Director of the “oil for food” program in Iraq Dennis
Halliday, stated during an interview on March 13, 1998 that “it is tragically the case
that the lack of drugs, equipment, supplies, is, indeed, having a devastating impact
on young children in particular but also adults.”9 The Secretary-General’s March
1998 report10 noted that despite the fact that a large variety of supplies have been
delivered, quantities received to date remain inadequate...often covering only 20
percent of requirements. The report suggested that some of the problems were
caused by inadequate internal transport at all levels which led to an average time of
5 to 6 weeks to distribute supplies from warehouses to the rest of the country, and
that cold chain transport (of medicines which need to be kept refrigerated) is even
worse. Other problems were caused by uncoordinated arrival of supplies, such as
injectable drugs but no syringes. Some problems he blamed on U.N. personnel.
Since the problems exist in both the Northern (U.N. administered) and Central and
Southern areas (Iraqi government administered) area, it seems fair to fault U.N.
administrators, at least in part. Other problems were caused by the lack of
prioritization of needs by Iraqi government personnel, which led to oversupplies of
some drugs and very low or no quantities of others, as well as poor communication
between health care facilities and the Ministry of Health or even within health
facilities. Before the war, Iraq imported an estimated $500 million in drugs and
medical supplies annually, or 75 percent of total needs. The other 25 percent were
manufactured locally. According to accounts in the press, $200 million worth of
medicine was delivered under the “oil for food” program during 1997. 11
Following the changes made by the Security Council and the U.N. Secretary-
General, Eric Falt, U.N. spokesman in Iraq, stated that a May 1998 report by WHO
showed that the time lag for delivery of medical supplies has been cut to under four
months. He noted that during May, 50 percent of patients received their full
prescribed treatment, up from 39 percent six months before. Fifteen percent received
none of their prescribed drugs, down from 25 percent.12
In other health areas, Iraq continues to maintain a high level of health care with
the assistance of the international community. The UNICEF Iraq Monthly Country
Situation Report for December 1997 states that the level of childhood disease
vaccination coverage has been maintained at greater that 90 percent and that 50
percent of women of child bearing age in high risk areas were vaccinated for tetanus.
These statistics are virtually the same as the figures UNICEF provided for 1988-89.
The UNICEF publication State of the World’s Children for 1998 states that no
vaccination funding was provided by the Iraqi government.
Sanitation. Health experts and Iraqi doctors say malnutrition and increased
early childhood deaths are no longer the result of lack of food, as they were before
9Transcript of the NewsHour with Jim Lahrer. March 13, 1998.
10Report of the Secretary-General Pursuant to Paragraph 4 of Resolution 1143 (1997).
S/1998/194. March 4, 1998.
11Reuters. June 7, 1998.
12Reuters. June 4, 1998.
the “oil for food” program. Rather they are caused by lack of safe drinking water and
inadequate sanitation. This leads to intestinal diseases that can dehydrate and
eventually kill children, especially in rural areas where people are poor and have little
knowledge of preventing these problems.13 UNICEF’s December report on Iraq
expresses concern that only half of the people in rural areas have access to a water
supply from a network, public tap or well, compared to 96 percent of people living
in towns and cities. Only 34 percent have a sanitary type of latrine, compared to 97
percent of the urban population. But a comparison with UNICEF’s State of the
World’s Children for 1991 (which covered the years 1985-88, before the Gulf war)
shows similar statistics, with nearly all urban dwellers and 54 percent of rural
residents having access to clean water. There were no statistics on sanitary latrines.
Water and sanitation are clearly problems which predate the sanctions. The U.N.
Secretary-General’s most recent report estimates the cost of rehabilitating the water
and sanitation system at $500 million.
Education. A growing concern is the state of education in Iraq. According to
the Iraqi Minister of Education, $170 million is needed for immediate rehabilitation
of 7,550 schools at the primary and secondary levels and for essential supplies for
students. According to the March 1998 report of the Secretary-General, only 12
percent of the educational supplies of the first year’s program have been delivered,
which made it impossible for him to assess the program. UNICEF’s report on Iraq
states that in 1995, only 58 percent of Iraq’s 4 million school age children finished
primary school, compared to 71 percent completing primary school in 1985-87. This
discrepancy may be due in part to internal political disputes which have halted
teacher pay by the government in the northern Kurdish areas and the large increase
in the number of displaced persons due to Iraqi and Kurdish military activity.
The Oil for Food Program
How the Program Works14
Security Council resolution 986 permits Iraq to sell limited quantities of oil over
six-month periods. The money generated is deposited into a bank of Iraqi choosing
and is used to provide humanitarian goods to Iraqi civilians under close U.N.
supervision. The funds are also used to compensate victims of the invasion and
occupation of Kuwait and to pay for UNSCOM investigations and other U.N. costs
in Iraq. (Thirty percent is provided for compensation and about 5 percent for other
U.N. costs, though these percentages can be changed.) After the U.N. Security
Council adopts a resolution authorizing the sale of oil for a six month period, the
government of Iraq must provide the U.N. Secretary-General with a plan outlining
how the Iraqi government plans to spend the oil revenue, which also must be
approved by the U.N. Security Council. This must include an agreed upon proportion
13Struck, Doug. “Iraqi ingenuity aids survival”. Washington Post. May 3, 1998. A22.
14For more detailed information on the organization of the U.N. sanctions regime, see
Iraqi Compliance with Cease-Fire Agreements, by Kenneth Katzman, CRS Issue Brief
of aid for the Kurdish areas of the country. The Government of Iraq distributes
humanitarian supplies in the south and center of the country and the U.N. Interagency
Humanitarian Program distributes supplies in the north due to the internal embargo
against the Kurdish areas in the north. But the “oil for food” program provides funds
for the entire country. U.N. observers are stationed throughout Iraq to ensure equity
and to prevent diversion of food and other humanitarian aid from civilians and to
prohibit the misuse of dual use equipment like ambulances or laboratory equipment.
The program establishes a ration basket, which, under the latest resolution provides
2500 calories per person per day. Additional assistance is provided directly to
vulnerable groups, such as widows with children, the elderly and the handicapped,
by U.N. agencies and PVOs throughout the country.
Originally, the “oil for food” program was to be a supplement, available
primarily to the poor and vulnerable, in addition to the ration which has been
provided by the Iraqi government for many years. However, it has quickly become
the only source of food for many Iraqis.
Shortcomings/ Bureaucratic Delays in the Program
The October 1997 FAO/WFP report criticized the slowness of the “oil for food”
program. It noted that in the first six months of the “oil for food” program, only 43
percent of the wheat flour and 20 percent of the rice had been received. Some other
foods and salt had not arrived at all. The report noted many other examples of delays
in both food and medical supplies. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in his
February 1998 investigation of the delivery system, agreed with many of these
complaints. He spoke of “exceptional and unprecedented complexity” in the “oil for
food” bureaucracy. He pointed out other delays, noting that only 25% of the phase
I and II water and sanitation equipment budgeted has arrived in the south and central
parts of Iraq. Though distribution is adequate, delays have occurred in the
installation of equipment due to lack of funds and qualified technicians. In the
northern governates, 21% of supplies have arrived. 15
While not disputing bureaucratic slowness, others argued that much of the delay
has been caused by the Iraqi government. The March 1998 report of the U.N. Special
Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iraq noted that twice the Iraqi government had
stopped pumping oil for many weeks, choosing to wait for the Security Council to
adopt a new resolution, rather than continuing to pump oil in anticipation of the
resolution. “The Special Rapporteur notes that rather than taking every opportunity
to facilitate the distribution plan in order to alleviate the suffering of the Iraqi
population, the Government of Iraq insists upon arguing about procedural
mechanisms.”16 In a similar comment, Britain’s International Development Secretary
was quoted in the press as saying: “With the volume of resources now available to
15Report of the Secretary-General pursuant to paragraph 4 of resolution 1143(1997).
March 4, 1998.
16Report on the situation of human rights in Iraq, submitted by the Special Rapporteur,
Mr. Max van der Stoel, in accordance with Commission resolution 1997/60. March 10,
the government of Iraq there is simply no reason why children should be starving.
But they are, and we must help them.”17
Supporters of the “oil for food” program also argue that the program can and has
been improved since it began. Since his February 1998 report, the Secretary-General
has worked to improve the response time by recommending that Iraq formulate a
distribution plan that will prioritize applications and deliveries. The Security Council
Sanctions Committee adopted procedures to process applications within two business
days, issue approval letters on the basis of anticipated revenues, and release funds
more quickly. Other options are also being adopted to improve the processing time
of the program. The monthly WFP emergency report on Iraq, dated April 24, noted
that the pipeline has improved greatly, and though some supplies are not sufficient
to meet all needs, the supply has become more regular. During April, only rice and
infant formula were insufficient, and those were to be supplied from government
stocks. The U.N. spokesman in Iraq was quoted in the press as saying that the June
ration would be complete, except for legumes (such as peas or beans).18 WFP’s
emergency operation for vulnerable groups, including malnourished children,
pregnant and nursing mothers, those in hospitals and other institutions, the internally
displaced and refugees, continues to provide aid to 893,000 people with funds
provided by donors.
Amended “Oil for Food” Extension
The Security Council adopted SC res. 1153 (February 20, 1998) in response to
the problems identified both in the FAO/WFP 1997 study and the U.N. Secretary-
General’s February 1998 study. The resolution amended the “oil for food” program
to more than double the amount of oil that can be sold in order to raise and improve
the caloric content of the ration basket and to provide one time infrastructure repair
in water, sanitation, electricity, agricultural production, mine clearance, reforestation
and education. Thus the purely humanitarian nature of the program has been
broadened to include some rebuilding of the country.
The FAO/WFP study of October 1997 reported that the U.N. ration was
inadequate in a number of nutrients and provided a low quality of protein. It
concluded that sustained improvement in civilian nutrition would require a
significant investment in rehabilitating the country’s agricultural sector, including
better seed, more fertilizer, pesticides, farm machinery, animal feed and vaccines.
It also called for repair of irrigation systems, and water and sanitation equipment.
Under the new “oil for food” extension, $3 billion will be available for
humanitarian assistance. Of this, $1.113 billion will be for the food sector, to
improve the ration basket and address storage and distribution problems. The plan
allocates $308 million to the medical services sector with 60% for import of required
items for rehabilitation of hospitals and health centers and 40% for medicines. The
plan allocates $210 million for rehabilitation of water and sanitation facilities, $411
17Reuters. April 20, 1998.
18Reuters. June 4, 1998.
million for rehabilitating electric power generation units. The $250 million allocated
to rehabilitate the agricultural sector will include $80 million to rehabilitate irrigation
equipment and $50 million to increase poultry production. The rest will be used for
equipment and supplies to enhance domestic food production. The plan allocates
$100 million to rehabilitation of schools, $150.5 million to improving the
telecommunication system and $300 million for rehabilitation of oil production
equipment and facilities. In all of these areas, specific allocations are made for the
three Kurdish governates. In addition, $55 million is dedicated to rebuilding Kurdish
cities and towns and $11 million for mine clearance activities in Kurdish areas.19
Impact on Sanctions
Though support for the current sanctions is less unified among Security Council
members than it has been in the past, thus far, no Security Council member has
indicated a willingness to end the sanctions entirely. The next vote on continuing
them will be in September. Nonetheless, Under Secretary for Political Affairs
Pickering stated in testimony during May, that after eight years of sanctions, “most
states in the world either do not understand or do not care that the Iraqi Government
is fully responsible for the Iraqi people’s suffering--they just want that suffering to
end.”20 The Iraqi government has continued to press for an end to the sanctions as
the only way to relieve the suffering population, and has received support from many
governments and international organizations, both private and governmental. In a
July 2, 1998 press release, the Executive Director of the U.N. Iraq Program described
the “oil for food” program as a mixed success, excellent in some sectors and not
impressive in others. He stressed that the U.N. effort was never meant to meet all the
humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people. U.N. Special Envoy to Iraq Prakash Shah was
quoted in the press as noting that there is greater awareness among U.N. member
states, including Security Council members, of the harm being done to the Iraqi
population by the sanctions. He also stated that no country expected the sanctions
to go on forever.21
Some critics argue that authorizing the sale of $4.5 billion in oil per half year
or a total of $9 billion per year in oil sales is actually an end to the sanctions.
Average Iraqi oil exports during the 1981-89 period were $9.54 billion per year,
adjusting for inflation, or slightly more than will be allowed under the new “oil for
food” extension. In addition, the Iraqis are guaranteed the sale of all the oil at a price
higher than the current market sale price, which has been moving downward recently.
The new extension of the “oil for food” program allows Iraq to import nearly the full
range of imports that it would be making without sanctions (the exception being
19 Enhanced Distribution Plan Submitted by the Government of Iraq to the Secretary-
General of the United Nations in accordance with the Memorandum of Understanding of 20
May 1996 and Security Council resolution 1153 (1998). U.N. Security Council document
S/1998/446. May 29, 1998. p. 3-9.
20Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Pickering. Testimony before
the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. May 21, 1998. Press release.
21Reuters. May 25, 1998.
motor vehicles) at about half the pre-war level and to invest in infrastructural
Supporters of the increased oil sales, on the other hand, say that the tactic will
reduce suffering among Iraqis and make it more difficult for the Iraqi government
to maintain anti-American/British sentiments and nationalistic fervor. 23 As long as
the oil revenue is kept out of the control of the Iraqi government, it hinders Iraq’s
ability to produce, store, or threaten to use chemical or biological weapons of mass
Finally, some express concern about a post-sanctions Iraq and how the sanctions
should be ended. Kurdish separatist groups are expressing alarm at the potential end
of an egalitarian distribution of oil revenue generated supplies and wonder what their
future will be in light of the continuing Iraqi internal embargo. Others question how
long the Iraqi population will have to wait for their country to be rebuilt and how
patient they will be after such a long period of shortages. What safeguards can be put
in place to make sure that the Iraqi government will use oil revenue for rebuilding
Iraq, given the U.S. and British insistence that the current Iraqi government will try
to divert revenues to building up the Iraqi military capability?
22Clawson, Patrick. p.1.
23Weiss, Thomas G. and Crawford, Neta. A humane way to lessen Iraqi suffering.
Boston Globe. December 24, 1997.