The United States continues its pressure, dictate, and war against Iraq.
On December 17 1999, the U.S. pushed resolution 1284 through the U.N. Security Council with the aim of sending U.N. weapons inspectors back in to Iraq. The vote was 11-0, with France, China, Russia, and Malaysia abstaining from the vote. The key elements of the resolution include:
- The establishment of the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC). The new inspection agency will replace the previous commission UNSCOM, and will be responsible for inspecting and destroying Iraq's biological and chemical weapons, and the missiles to deliver them. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will remain in charge of Iraq's nuclear weapons program.
- Two months after starting their work, the UNMOVIC and the IAEA will draw up a work program that lists all the disarmament questions they have about Iraq's weapons programs. Four months after the inspectors verify that a system of monitoring is operational in Iraq, they must report to the council on whether or not Iraq has "cooperated in all respects" with inspectors.
- Based on these reports, economic sanctions can be suspended for 120 days initially. The council must vote every four months to either renew or suspend the sanctions for another 120-day period.
- The resolution allows Iraq to sell more oil than currently allowed under the oil-for-food program.
Iraq rejected the U.N. resolution, with Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz saying that the resolution does not meet Iraq's "legitimate demand for the lifting of the sanctions." He added that Iraq is "ready to face all of the consequences in defense of its sovereignty and legal rights."
The U.S. resolution on Iraq is crafted in a way to ensure that Iraq remains under the thumb of U.S. imperialism for the indefinite future.
Paragraph 4 of Resolution 1284 (1999), for example, "decides in particular that Iraq shall allow UNMOVIC [United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission] teams immediate, unconditional and unrestricted access to any and all areas, facilities, equipment, records and means of transport which they wish to inspect in accordance with the mandate of UNMOVIC, as well as to all officials and other persons under the authority of the Iraqi Government whom UNMOVIC wishes to interview..."
The resolution also denies Iraq sovereign control over its oil resources and economy. Even though the resolution allows Iraq to sell more than the $5.2 billion under the current oil-for-food program, it maintains the control of oil sales under the authority of the Security Council.
Paragraph 30 of Resolution 1284 (1999) mandates that the Secretary-General report "on Iraq's existing petroleum production and export capacity and to make recommendations, to be updated as necessary, on alternatives for increasing Iraq's petroleum production and export capacity in a manner consistent with the purposes of relevant resolutions, and on the options for involving foreign oil companies in Iraq's oil sector, including investments, subject to appropriate monitoring and controls..."
The resolution is intentionally vague on the specific amount of cooperation that would trigger the suspension. China's U.N. Ambassador Qin Huasun said it was "highly questionable" whether the resolution could ever be implemented. French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine said "we think it may give rise to an interpretation allowing some countries to keep on forever saying that the cooperation hasn't taken place and that, consequently, the embargo can't be suspended. That's what we fear."
Also, the resolution gives the council the authority to put the sanctions back at any time it decides that Iraq is not compliant. "This is a resolution that is mandatory," stressed Britain's U.N. Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock, who steered the resolution through the council. "It is the law of the globe. Under the U.N. Charter, every member has to implement it. Iraq is a U.N. member."
The Air War
While the new resolution was being discussed, U.S. and British air planes stepped up their attacks against Iraq in the no-fly zones in northern and southern Iraq. The so-called "no-fly zones" were established by the U.S. and its Gulf-war allies arbitrarily in 1991, but they have never been approved by any U.N. resolution.
On December 12, U.S. airplanes dropped bombs near Mosul and Bashiqah in northern Iraq. On December 29, Iraq accused U.S. forces of piracy for detaining a vessel loaded with foodstuffs bought by Baghdad under its oil-for-food deal with the U.N. "Armed American marines in the Arabian Gulf have committed yet another act of piracy against a vessel laden with 14,538 tons of Vietnamese rice imported under the oil-for-food and medicine program," an Iraqi Trade Ministry source stated. He said the ship had been banned from sailing to the Iraqi southern port of Umm Qasr and detained at a check point since December 19. On December 30, Iraq reported that U.S. and British planes bombed civilian targets in Duhok, Arbil, and Nineveh.
The air war against Iraq started after operation "Desert Fox", in which U.S. and British bombers and cruise missiles struck 100 targets throughout Iraq during a four day period. Since December 28, 1998, U.S. and British fighters and bombers have hit Iraqi targets on an average of more than once every three days. In 137 days of bombing, U.S. and British planes dropped 1,200 precision-guided bombs and missiles on about 460 Iraqi targets. "This is the longest (air) operation since Vietnam," according to John Pike, a military analyst.
The Humanitarian Cost
While U.S. and British warplanes continue to wage daily attacks against the people of Iraq, the U.S. and British governments continue to maintain the economic sanctions against the country. The human cost of the economic sanctions continues to pile-up. Iraq's Ministry of Health said that 9,040 died as a result of the economic sanctions in October (6,122 children under the age of five, and 2,918 of the elderly), and the number grew to 10,000 in November. On December 30 1999, Iraq's Ministry of Health provided a full detailed report on the impact of the sanctions on the population in Iraq. The ministry reported that between August 1990 and November 1999, about 1.4 million Iraqis of all ages have died as a result of the sanctions (502,492 are under the age of five). The Iraqi ministry added in its statistics that the mortality rate among infants reached 108 per each 1,000 births, and mortality among women of reproductive age has reached 296 for each 100,000 births. The ministry indicated that the reasons for the deaths mostly result from breathing inflammation diseases, malnutrition, diabetes, heart diseases, high blood pressure, kidney and liver diseases and diarrhea.
The political pressure, economic sanctions and air-strikes against Iraq are a result of the system of domination which U.S. imperialism seeks to impose on the peoples of the Middle East and elsewhere. In addition to trampling under foot the sovereignty of Iraq, U.S. imperialism continues to militarize the entire Persian Gulf region. Its goal is to maintain its economic domination of the strategic and oil-rich part of the world.
A just resolution of the continuing crisis in the Gulf can only come about with the end of the economic sanctions and the recognition of the sovereignty of Iraq. A genuine peace can only come about with the immediate end to the daily bombing, the withdrawal of all U.S. military forces from the region, and the end of U.S. interference and intervention.