U.N. Sanctions on Iraq

The United Nations sanction program against Iraq was designed to

impact the economy, thereby limiting the actions of the countries leader and

creating an atmosphere to direct change (Gordon 18). While there is

considerable research that suggests that the economic impacts of these

sanctions have hurt the general population more than the leadership, there

are a number of solid arguments in support for continued U.N.-directed

sanctions and military support for these sanctions by the United States.

The arguments against sanctions in Iraq are not based in the military issues

or the problems of peacekeeping, but instead in claims that the continued

actions in Iraq violate humanitarian principles (Gordon 18). In the Spring

of 1999, the continued U.S. bombings in Iraq drew attention away from

existing debates about the nature of U.N directed sanctions and their impact

on the Iraqi populous as a whole (Gordon 18). The imposing of economic

sanctions against Iraq under the directives of Articles 41 and 42 of the U.

N. Charter was based in the commitment to peacekeeping efforts and were

based in the belief that by crippling the economy of Iraq, it would be

possible to bring Saddam Hussein into complicity with U. N. directives

(Gordon 18).

The criticisms of the sanctions stem not from the belief that the United

Nations should not have intervened or even from claims against the

directives of the U.S. military, but instead as an extension of the United

Nations commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other

documents created to determine the basic rights of all people to health,

food, water, shelter and safety (Gordon 18). Opponents have argued that the

humanitarian directives of the United Nations should determine the

opposition to the sanctions that have left many women, children, poor,

elderly and sick without basic needs and has resulted in considerably human

suffering (Gordon 18). The following is one perspective on this view:

Although there is controversy over the precise extent of human damage, all

sources agree that it is severe. Voices in the Wilderness, an antisanctions

activist group based in Chicago, has used the figure of 1 million children

dead from the sanctions; the Iraqi government claims 4,000-5,000 deaths per

month of children under 5. Even US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright

does not contest how great the human damage has been, but has said, “It’s

worth the price.” Richard Garfield, an epidemiologist at Columbia University

who analyzes the health consequences of economic embargoes, calculates that

225,000 Iraqi children under 5 have died since 1990 because of these

policies-a figure based on the best data available from UN agencies and

other international sources (Gordon 19).

Further, studies by the Food and Agricultural Organization in 1997 suggest

that chronic malnutrition in the population of Iraqi citizens is high, with

some 27 percent of the population experiencing illness related to a lack of

food (Gordon 19).

In addition, opposition to the sanctions has also stemmed from the fact that

the United Nations has only imposed sanctions twice between 1945 and 1990,

but since the Gulf War, has extended sanctions some 11 times (Gordon 19).

Further, the United States has also become a key player in attempts at

unilateral actions that have taken place in response to opposition to

economic sanctions (Gordon 19). “In 1990, sanctions appeared to be a nearly

ideal device for international governance. They seemed to entail

inconvenience and some political disruption but not casualties…Because

sanctions seemed to incur less human damage than bombing campaigns, peace

and human rights movements found them attractive as well. Indeed, many of

those opposing the Gulf War in 1990 urged the use of sanctions instead”

(Gordon 19). The call for the lifting of economic sanctions has been a

significant factor has been defined by ethical and social issues, rather

than by the necessity for military presence and actions against Saddam

Hussein (Lopez 10).

“For” Sanctions

The supporters of continued military presence and the application of

sanctions against Saddam Hussein have argued that Iraq continues to be a

hostile country that currently controls a significant body of oil wealth and

natural resources that define it as a formidable enemy (Ya’ari 68).

Countries like Israel currently recognize the potential menace of Saddam

Hussein and as a result, concerns have been raised about the overall

security of the Middle East relative to the actions of Saddam Hussein.

Unfortunately for many of the opponents of sanctions, the memories of the

Gulf War of 1991 have faded and the perceived threat posed by Saddam Hussein

has also diminished with time (Ya’ari 68). The support for military

interventions as well as economic sanctions stem from a preventative thread

based in the desire reduce the leaders capacity to do harm, either in the

form of the use of nuclear weapons or through actions that would result in

diminishing availability and free trade of oil products between the

countries of the Middle East and the countries of the European community and

the United States (Ya’ari 68). It has been recognized that even after

continual destruction of much of the Iraqi military and even after the

implementation of an over eight-year embargo, Iraq is still able to invade

countries like Jordan, in relatively short spans of time (Ya’ari 68).

At the same time, economic interventions have only led to a dichotomous view

of the society of Iraq; the poor appear to be getting poorer, while there

has been little true knowledge of the changing roles within a culture or the

long-term implications. “Iraq despite its present predicament is considered

potentially the single most powerful Arab state, the only one that combines

enormous oil wealth, freshwater and land sufficient for cultivation with

skillful manpower, an almost uninterrupted track record of military

endeavors, and a fierce ambition to achieve regional hegemony (Ya’ari 69).

The level of control currently being exerted by Saddam Hussein may be a

costly factor to address, but also may resolve itself under the heavy wait

of his own knowledge.

The scenarios do not boad well for the removal of United Nations sanctions

in the foreseeable future, based on the supposition that Saddam has

reemerged as a regional player with considerable military support, and the

lifting of United Nations sanction, which is based on an element of control,

would have negative implications. Further, the resuming of United States

military actions in the region have also defined a presence that supports

continued sanctions. Though the economic issues and the humanitarian

opposition to the application of sanctions is a recognizable view point, it

should also be noted that the control of Saddam Hussein should not be

underestimated and the challenges against the United States less than 10

years ago initiated the American involvement in the Gulf War. Supporters of

sanctions hope that the application of sanctions will reduce the chance of

another military interaction.

Economic sanctions without military support appear to be purely punitive in

nature, and if this were the case, it would be more than possible to argue

the ethical issues regarding the nature of current U.N. sanctions and their

implications for the citizenry. At the same time, it is impossible to assess

the level of suffering that has occurred or the current situations in this

region without considerable military presence, and the necessity for

American action, either in intervention or in direct support, has been

viewed as a component of the necessary process in this region.


Like the issues in other countries through out the world, the reemergence of

challenges by Salaam Hussein in recent months has determined a call for a

reassessment of the legal directives defined by the UN Security Council’s

resolutions. The UN Security Council initiated some 12 resolutions adopted

prior to the onset of the Gulf War and a number of subsequent resolutions

that occurred after US and UN involvement following the invasion of Kuwait

(The Markland Group, 1990). At the same time, economic issues have also been

played out in the current literature,

The sanctions that were imposed on Iraq have resulted in what some political

analysts believe has been a relative level of control over the actions of

Saddam Hussein, and this cannot be ignored. Though the United Nations has a

directive for preserving human rights, this would not be possible if the

United Nations did not also have a military presence to support their

decisions, and this shapes the view of the American military as the

foundation for the application of U.N. sanctions.

There are viable explanations for both sides of this argument, and it can be

argued effectively that the outcomes of economic sanctions have little

impact on Saddam Hussein himself, and as a result, only impact the people of

the Iraqi community. At the same time, the world appears to wait and listen

to the reactions to continued United Nations sanctions which were going to

be relatively short-lived. Until another more effective option can be

defined in the containment efforts of Saddam Hussein, it is plausible that

this area of economic development will continue to separate those who have

from those whom do not.

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