The Impact of War and Sanctions on Economy and Society
UN Resolutions 661 and 687
The embargo imposed on Iraq by the United Nations four days after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait was supposed to hold Saddam Hussein’s government in check and prevent it from ever threatening its neighbors again. Resolution 661 prohibited all UN members from buying oil from Iraq and from having virtually any other commercial, ﬁ nancial, or military dealings with the country. “[S]upplies intended strictly for medical purposes and, in humanitarian circumstances, foodstuffs” were exempted from the resolution. After the war had ended, UN Resolution 687, passed on April 3, 1991, established the conditions of a cease-ﬁ re.
It created the UN Compensation Fund to compensate countries, corporations, and individuals that had suffered from the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, its assets coming from 30 percent of Iraqi oil export revenues. (By 2001, the fund had paid billions to satisfy Kuwaiti claims.
As of this writing, this money is still pouring into Gulf coffers, albeit at a reduced percentage, even after the U.S. occupation authorities purportedly lifted sanctions on Iraq as soon as they had entered Baghdad in April 2003.In January 2008, Iraqi vice president Tariq al-Hashemi appealed to Kuwait to reach “compromise solutions” to Iraq’s war reparations debt.) Furthermore, Iraq was to pay 5–10 percent of the revenues received from oil for UN operations in Iraq, and 13 percent for the Kurdish autonomous zone in northern Iraq.
Peter Pellett, a professor in the Department of Nutrition at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst who joined three missions by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to Iraq in the 1990s, has calculated that the north received 50 percent more aid than south-central Iraq, which meant that “in practice, only about one-half of the original revenue from oil sales [was] available for food and humanitarian supplies for the almost 18 million people dwelling in the area administered by the Iraqi government” (Pellett in Arnove 2002, 191).
The economic sanctions remained in effect for 13 years and were meant to make Iraq also comply with another part of Resolution 687, which called for “the unconditional acceptance, under international supervision, of the destruction, removal or rendering harmless of [Iraq’s] weapons of mass destruction, ballistic missiles with a range over 150 kilometres, and related production facilities and equipment [as well as] provide for the establishment of a system of ongoing monitoring and veriﬁ cation of Iraq’s compliance with the ban on these weapons and missiles.”
As a result of the conditions set by 687, the UN weapons monitoring and veriﬁ cation agency, United Nations Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM), began its ﬁ rst chemical weapons inspection on June 9, 1991. It remained in Iraq until 1998 when U.S. president Bill Clinton, relying on UNSCOM reports from the ﬁ eld, claimed that Hussein’s regime had still not come clean on weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and was being unusually duplicitous about where it was hiding them; this followed after months of tension between the weapons monitoring team in Baghdad and Iraqi government ofﬁ cials.
A four-day bombing campaign of Iraqi sites by the United States and United Kingdom, code-named “Desert Fox,” followed. Having been warned to evacuate by the United States a couple of weeks earlier, UNSCOM decamped in December of that year, but not before leaving telltale signs of espionage and breaches in security. It had long been suspected that UNSCOM team members had been working for various foreign intelligence organizations, including the United States and Israel. According to Tareq and Jacqueline Ismael,
These accusations repeated by the Iraqi regime throughout the crisis and resolutely denied by UNSCOM chief Richard Butler were confirmed when, on 7 January 1999, the US government admitted its intelligence agents had posed as weapons inspectors to spy on Iraq. This admission was further confirmed when, on 23 February 1999, the CIA admitted that it had been in Iraq posing as weapons inspectors for a number of years. The admission saw UNSCOM disbanded, UNMOVIC [United Nations Monitoring, Veriﬁ cation and Inspection Commission] founded and undermined the . . . credibility of the United Nations as an impartial arbiter (Ismael and Ismael 2004, 25).