Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq

[electronic version]

The Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq (CASI) is a registered society at the University of Cambridge. Its members are all volunteers; its committee members are students. CASI is exclusively concerned with the humanitarian consequences of sanctions on Iraq. It does not support Saddam Hussein's regime and is not opposed to military sanctions on Iraq.

Welcome to CASI's third newsletter of 1999. The gap between this and its April predecessor betrays our ties to the academic calendar and the irregularity of our summer schedule. It may also reflect the summer's busyness, internationally and for CASI. As to the latter, CASI's upcoming November conference is the largest event that we have ever organised and, from the speaker list, promises to be one of the best conferences on the sanctions in Iraq yet held in the UK.

That we, as a student-based group, are holding this conference, is not only significant in itself but reflects the distance that we have come over this past year. A year ago our activities were confined to Cambridge. Thinking about the task ahead of us, we realised that stalls outside Cambridge's Guildhall would mean little without proper national co-ordination. Out of our efforts to develop greater national co-ordination has developed an ongoing series of National Co-ordination Meetings attended by groups from across the country. The National Petition mentioned below is also a product of these meetings.

Electronic media have also extended CASI's work beyond Cambridge. Nathan Geffen in Toronto and Chris Williams in Leicester have prepared material for CASI's website; Harriet Griffin in Oxford has kept us up to date with news. Our announcements electronic mailing lists have 680 members, only 310 of whom are in Cambridge. Our discussion mailing list, a much more active list that has received over 500 messages this year, has 240 members. The discussion list has allowed us to stay abreast with the latest developments, and to try to ensure that the information being circulated by opponents of the sanctions is accurate.

Our attempts at fair analysis, I think, stand us in good stead. A US business intelligence firm has asked to receive our reports. We have briefed for members of the House of Lords, provided information to BBC radio and television and have received personal invitations to events from the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) and the Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding (CAABU).

This is not only personally gratifying but, I hope, indicative of a growing awareness in the UK that the sanctions on Iraq have not worked. Weapons inspections, which the sanctions were supposed to support (according to UN SCR 687), were intended to last 120 days. While most of Iraq's prohibited weapons seem to have been destroyed, Iraq has not allowed the inspectors back after their departure before the beginning of the US/UK bombing last December. Sanctions have also failed to effect a "regime change ", an overt US policy goal from President Bush onwards. Indeed, Forbes magazine reported this year that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is the sixth richest head of state in the world.

Towering over these failures is the decline in Iraqi social conditions under sanctions. A population that rose up against their leader after the Gulf War has spent the decade paying a terrible price for his mistakes.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office employees tell us privately that they know the sanctions have failed and that their public stance is indefensible. They claim to be desperate to alter their position. It is unclear whether this is sufficient for a policy change.

We have high hopes for the coming year. Our conference and other initiatives should see us continuing to improve our ability to disseminate accurate and fair information about the sanctions. I hope that you find the following useful and look forward to hearing from you.


Colin Rowat
Co-ordinator, CASI


On 6th August 1999 eleven diverse UK groups which oppose the non-military sanctions on Iraq launched the first National Petition to Prime Minister Tony Blair, calling for the immediate and unconditional lifting of non-military sanctions on Iraq. The petition is being distributed electronically, by post and as an insert in the 40,000 copies of the September issue of the New Internationalist, an issue devoted to Iraq. It will be submitted to the Prime Minister on Universal Children's Day, 20 November 1999. Copies of the petition are available from Paper copies can be requested by e-mail at or from 12 Trinity Road, London N2 8JJ.

On 13 - 14 November CASI is hosting a conference in Cambridge entitled, "Sanctions on Iraq: background, consequences and strategies". The likely speakers are Ms Felicity Arbuthnot (journalist), Dr Nadje Al-Ali (Sussex University), Ms Rita Bhatia (Save the Children Fund, UK), Mr Anthonius de Vries (European Comission Coordinator for Economic and Financial Sanctions), Mr Chris Doyle (Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding), Prof. Richard Garfield (Columbia University, USA), Ms Harriet Griffin (Oxford University), Dr Eric Herring (Bristol University), Dr Erica Hunter (Cambridge University), Dr George Joffe (Royal Institute of International Affairs), Mr Ivor Lucas (ex-head, Middle East Department, Foreign and Commonwealth Office), Mr Milan Rai (Voices in the Wilderness UK), Dr Doug Rokke (Jacksonville State University; formerly Pentagon) and Ms Nikki van der Gaag (New Internationalist magazine). For up-to-date details please check the conference page on our website.

This is the largest event that we have ever organised and we have been very fortunate to assemble a range of authoritative speakers. To reserve tickets, please contact Seb Wills at We would also be happy to accept donations as we expect that ticket sales alone will not cover our costs. If you know of appropriate places for posters advertising the conference, do let us know how many we can send you.


Since the start of US/UK bombing or Iraq and the collapse of weapons inspections last December the UN Security Council has been unable to forge a new consensus. The submission, in late March, of the reports of the Security Council's panels on Iraq's weapons, humanitarian situation and Kuwaiti prisoners of war and other claims, was intended to offer suggestions for ways forward.

The two main rival proposed Security Council resolutions in circulation over the year are a French proposal and an Anglo-Dutch proposal. The former is supported by Russia and China, the latter by the United States and many of the non-permanent members of the Security Council. Neither has been presented for voting as the continuing split among the permanent members ensures its failure.

Both proposals emphasise the importance of a new weapons inspection and control regime. Both also allow for reducing the extent to which the sanctions target ordinary Iraqis. The French proposal, for example, would suspend (rather than lift) sanctions once Kofi Annan was convinced of Iraq's co-operation with the new weapons regime. The suspension would then allow much more rapid import of pre-approved goods, thus circumventing the complicated bureaucratic procedure currently in place. The UN would still oversee Iraqi imports and exports and monitor its international financial transactions.

The Anglo-Dutch proposal makes sanctions' suspension contingent upon a longer co-operation period by the Iraqi regime. Thus, neither proposal seems to abandon the existing formula of threatening Iraq's civilian population to pressure its government.

In September, representatives of the permanent members of the Security Council met in London, with the expressed hope of reaching a new consensus on Iraq by the month's end. While they failed to do so, the proposals should nevertheless be regarded as fluid; as the versions outlined above pre-date September's meetings they have been left deliberately vague. France's Foreign Minister, Hubert Vedrine, claimed that the

United States is insensitive to the human catastrophe under way in Iraq. ... Iraq is not just made up of Saddam Hussein himself. ... There are men, women, and children, a whole society which is being destroyed. [25 September, New York Times]

Given the inability to restore consensus on Iraq, it has been asked whether there is interest in doing so at the Security Council. On the one hand, an anonymous US official "with responsibility for Iraq" has been oft quoted as saying that, "We bought seven years and that's not bad ... The longer we can fool around in the council and keep things static the better" [28 January, The Washington Post]. On the other, informal reports suggest that US representatives are concerned about the perception of the breakdown in Security Council consensus, now over Kosovo as well.

At least two other events have shaped the situation in Iraq over the summer. First, the Middle East has been hit by a severe drought. A May UN Food and Agriculture Organization report estimated that the low rainfall had "caused complete failure in germination of about 70% in the rainfed areas [of central and south Iraq], and very low yields (expected) in the remaining 30%". In the north, the drought is more severe than any seen in the 120 years of recorded data. The FAO report noted that "the intervention required to cope with the massive needs of the agricultural sector in general, and the consequences of the prevailing drought is of a large scale and therefore can not be [sic] possibly be met from the SCR 986 [oil-for-food] programme. Consequently possibilities of additional funding should be addressed" [report available on the CASI website].

Against this, world oil prices have risen, allowing Iraq the possibility of reaching its oil sales cap for the first time. Additionally, Iraq has surprised observers with the quantity of oil that it has been able to pump. The increase is largely due to use of a technique called "water injection". Water injection allows an oil field to remain usable by offsetting its natural loss of pressure due to extraction by the injection of water. When done properly, this is a safe procedure.

In a letter to the President of the Security Council, though, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan expressed his concern that, without adequate investment in "spare parts and equipment", this risked "severely damage oil-containing rocks and pipeline systems". He reported that the UN group of oil experts had already seen that a "significant number of producing wells" have experienced a sharp production decline, of which some 20% may be irreparably damaged. He noted that this decline in the absence of "much needed chemicals for drilling mud, perforating, and other equipment and spare parts - some of which have been placed on hold by the Security Council [Sanctions Committee]" [2 July, available from].


This year has seen two important studies on Iraqi mortality. In March, Columbia University epidemiologist Prof. Richard Garfield, made public his report, Morbidity and Mortality Among Iraqi Children from 1990 Through 1998: Assessing the Impact of the Gulf War and Economic Sanctions [available from CASI website]. Prof. Garfield is an expert in the effects of sanctions and war on civilian populations and has been described as the most careful analyst of Iraqi mortality under sanctions. He has consulted for the UN and, at the beginning of the year, was part of a team assembled by the humanitarian panel to conduct fieldwork in Iraq; political manoeuvres in the Security Council blocked the team from visiting Iraq.

Prof. Garfield's starting point was the recognition that, while UN agencies have been collecting child malnutrition data in Iraq, no UN agency had conducted a national under-five child mortality survey since 1991 (the 1995 FAO survey was conducted in Bagh dad and its results scaled up to the whole country). Child mortality is, however, known to be strongly dependent upon other social indicators (such as adult literacy rates, percentage of children stunted, and percentage of population with access to clean water). As these social data have been collected throughout Iraq since 1991 Prof. Garfield set out to indirectly estimate child mortality on the basis of the social data.

He concluded that the rise in mortality under sanctions:

accounted for between a minimum of 100,000 and a more likely estimate of 227,000 excess deaths among young children from August 1991 through March 1998. About one-quarter of these deaths were mainly associated with the Gulf war; most were primarily associated with sanctions. Mortality was highest in the southern governorates of the country and lowest in Baghdad. Mortality was higher in rural areas, among the poor, and among those families with lower educational achievement. The increase in mortality was caused mainly by diarrhea and respiratory illnesses. The underlying causes of these excess deaths include contaminated water, lack of high quality foods, inadequate breast feeding, poor weaning practices, and inadequate supplies in the curative health care system. This was the product of both a lack of some essential goods, and inadequate or inefficient use of existing essential goods.

In August, Unicef released its own preliminary reports. By randomly interviewing women in 40,000 households across Iraq Unicef was able to conduct the first independent national survey of child mortality since 1991. In its accompanying press release, Unicef's Executive Director Carol Bellamy:

noted that if the substantial reduction in child mortality throughout Iraq during the 1980s had continued through the 1990s, there would have been half a million fewer deaths of children under-five in the country as a whole during the eight year period 1991 to 1998. As a partial explanation, she pointed to a March statement of the Security Council Panel on Humanitarian Issues which states: "Even if not all suffering in Iraq can be imputed to external factors, especially sanctions, the Iraqi people would not be undergoing such deprivations in the absence of the prolonged measures imposed by the Security Council and the effects of war." [12 August]

Their estimate of half a million extra deaths is based on a comparison between the Iraqi child mortality rate, as measured by Unicef, and what it would have been had the average decline of the 1980s continued. Prof. Garfield believes that this assumption of linear decline is reasonable as Iraq's child mortality rate was still high enough in 1990 to allow it. As Iraq's mortality rate began to decline more quickly after the war with Iran ended in 1988, this may even be a conservative estimate. [16 August, posted to CASI website]

The half million cited by Unicef has not been questioned by the British government. Prof. Garfield himself, though, has noted that it depends on two important assumptions: the linearly declining mortality rate, and the assumption that Iraqi fertility has not declined (the fertility rate allows estimation of the number of under five year olds; if their mortality rate is known, deaths can be calculated). Without these assumptions, Unicef's estimate would be lower. [30 September, personal correspondence]

Note also that the Unicef figures do not indicate whether deaths are "caused" by sanctions or not. Both the Gulf War and the 1991 civil war killed directly, and both, by having damaged Iraqi infrastructure, increase sanctions' lethality.

The Unicef figures allow some evaluation of the Iraqi Ministry of Health's figures. In January 1999 the Iraqi Minister of Health announced an additional 1,444,544 Iraqis over five had died under sanctions [Arabic News Service, January 18, 1999]. While these figures are too precise to be correct, his under five child figure was 429,000, close to the Unicef estimate. The MoH figures likely start in August 1990, when sanctions were first imposed.

Most contentiously, Unicef also found a decline in mortality rates in Iraqi Kurdistan, administered by the UN since 1991, since the imposition of sanctions. US and UK government statements have taken this as evidence that the Iraqi regime is intentionally sustaining high mortality rates outside of Iraqi Kurdistan to win sympathy.

Responses to this are two-fold. On one level, causation is irrelevant if one is concerned about consequences: under sanctions at least hundreds of thousands more Iraqis have died. Whether the sanctions that we have imposed are intrinsically lethal or have only been so when manipulated by Baghdad, we have the ability to reduce the suffering.

On the second level, if one is concerned about causation, various statements make clear that the difference between Iraqi Kurdistan and South/Central Iraq is due to a wide variety of factors. Anupama Singh, Unicef representative in Baghdad, explained that:

... the UN's direct role in the north did not account for the widely different results in infant mortality, especially since the oil-for-food deal went into effect only in 1997. She suggested that differences could be explained partly by the heavy presence of humanitarian agencies helping the Kurdish population, a factor that helped improve malnutrition rates. According to Ms Singh, the oil-for-food money includes a cash component, allowing the UN, for example, to train local authorities and more effectively implement and monitor programmes. In the centre and south under Iraqi regime control, no funds are allocated to ministries for fear they would be used for more sinister purposes. The government may receive sanitation equipment, for example, but not have the resources to pay for contractors to install it. [13 August, Financial Times]

Ms Singh's statements are expanded upon by a 16 September Unicef Baghdad document entitled, "UNICEF: Questions and Answers for the Iraq child mortality surveys". Its answer to, "How does UNICEF explain the differences in the current levels of child mortality between the autonomous northern governorates and the rest of Iraq?" states that

... the difference in the current rate cannot be attributed to the differing ways the Oil-for-Food Program is implemented in the two parts of Iraq. The Oil-for-Food Program is two and a half years old. Therefore it is too soon to measure any significant impact of the Oil-for-Food Program on child mortality over the five year period of 1994 - 1999 as is reported in these surveys. We need to look at longer-term trends and factors including the fact that since 1991 the north has received far more support per capita from the international community than the south and center of Iraq. Another factor maybe that the sanctions themselves have not been able to be so rigorously enforced in the north as the border is more "porous" than in the south and center of Iraq.

As the discrepancy between north and south has been known for some time, albeit in the context of mortality's correlate, malnutrition, other UN reports also refer to it. The report of the Security Council's Humanitarian Panel [March, 1999. Annex II of S /1999/356, available at] says this:

44. The North of Iraq is clearly doing better than the Center/South for a variety of reasons. The per capita allocation of funds under the 986 programme is higher, distribution of food and medicine through UN agencies is comparatively more efficient than distribution by the Government, and the Northern border is more permeable to embargoed commodities than the rest of the country. ... Although the historic vulnerability of the North, as recognized in paragraph 8 (b) of resolution 986 (1995) would seem to justify the special attention it receives, it is a matter of concern that the situation in the Center/South is, in general terms, comparatively worse - a circumstance which most UN agencies felt should not be overlooked. It was also noted, in this context, that the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Iraq has been consistently upheld by Security Council resolutions.

Finally, Prof. Richard Garfield, wrote to the New York Times on 13 September, saying that:

... the embargo in the North is not the "same embargo".... The North enjoys porous borders with Turkey, Syria, and Iran, and thus is effectively less embargoed than the rest of the country. It benefits from the aid of 34 Non-Government Organizations, while in the whole rest of the country there are only 11. It receives 22% more per capita from the Oil for Food program, and gets about 10% of all UN-controlled assistance in currency, while the rest of the country receives only commodities. Food, medicine, and water pumps are now helping reduce mortality throughout Iraq, but the pumps do less for sanitation where authorities cannot buy sand, hire day laborers, or find many other minor inputs to make filtration plants work. Goods have been approved by the UN and distributed to the North far faster than in the Center or South. The UN Security Council treats people in that part of the country like innocents. Close to 20 million civilians in the Center and South of the country deserve the same treatment. Spokesman James P. Rubin said that "We can't solve a problem that is the result of tyrannical behavior." He probably was referring to Saddam Hussein. As one involved in providing assistance throughout Iraq, I must admit that the arbitrary, ineffective, or destructive control sometimes exercised by the Security Council over Iraqi funds for food and medicine seem no less tyrannical. A good faith effort to meet basic needs in Iraq would create a better basis to negotiate an end to the Iraq conflict. Instead, every problem is blamed on Saddam. This politicization of the Oil for Food program only delays and weakens our ability to address the urgent humanitarian needs created by this most comprehensive embargo of the 20th century.

Against all of these factors, the Iraqi government has certainly failed to act perfectly. Some of the failures are enhanced by sanctions: UN reports paint a picture of administrative collapse; the civil service is demoralised and cannot afford to pay their employees. Other failures are politically motivated: officials at the UN Office of the Iraq Programme in New York claim that the Government of Iraq prevents its departments from making oil-for-food planning decisions in longer than 180 day periods, an attempt to deny that oil-for-food might be a long term programme. Private conversations suggest that the Iraqi government prefers to purchase goods from "friendly" suppliers, increasing the length of time taken to prepare import contracts and often decreasing the quality of the imported goods. Finally, Iraq has refused to allow NGOs active in Iraqi Kurdistan to work in South/Central Iraq.

Since the last newsletter three new UN reports have been released: a two year review of the oil-for-food programme [28 April, S/1999/481], the 180 day (end of period) report for phase V [18 May, S/1999/573] and the 90 day (mid-period) report for phase VI [22 August, S/1999/896]. These all provide the basic data on the functioning of oil-for-food. They also further refute the British claim that the Iraqi government has been deliberately hoarding medicines in an attempt to keep mortality rates high. The British interpretation was first refuted in the 22 February 90 day report, S/1998/187, from which the British government took its data.


Nationally, May saw the sudden death of Derek Fatchett, the Foreign Office Minister responsible for Iraq. Geoffrey Hoon, his replacement, immediately established his credentials in a speech to the Carlton Club on 25 May:

Many argue that the best way to help the Iraqi people is to lift sanctions. I do not agree. The British government would be pleased to see sanctions lifted - provided the requirements laid down by the international community are met. Given the political will in Baghdad, that could happen swiftly. While the Iraqi regime pursues a different course - using its people's suffering to persuade us to lift sanctions without meeting its obligations - we must continue to contain their aggressive instincts and do all we can for the Iraqi people.

Hoon himself has since been replaced by Peter Hain, a switch apparently made for administrative reasons. Mr Hain's promotion gave some cause for hope as he is well-known as an anti-apartheid activist. Unfortunately, in an appearance on BBC's News Night [22 September], he continued to attribute all suffering in Iraq to Saddam Hussein and misrepresented Unicef's August report. He also re-iterated the claim that Iraq, like South Africa, left no alternative to sanctions; he did not provide evidence for this claim. As he appeared distinctly uncomfortable throughout the interview he was probably aware that he had papered over a number of large differences between the two countries, including:

1. Bodies regarded as representing a large number of South Africans (e.g. the ANC) supported the sanctions against their own country; this is not the case in Iraq.
2. South Africa was largely self-sufficient in food; Iraq imported roughly two thirds of its food.
3. The sanctions on South Africa were never rigorously enforced, being opposed by the US and the UK governments; those on Iraq have been much more strenuously enforced.
4. The suffering caused by sanctions in South Africa does not seem to have been on the same level as that in Iraq.

Against this, there seems to have been an acceleration in the hints that a shift is taking place behind the official government line. Furthermore, initiatives across the country seem to be increasing. The September issue of the New Internationalist magazine was devoted to Iraq. The Mariam Appeal has sent a double-decker London bus to Baghdad with medicines for Mariam, who is in remission, and other children. Mark Thomas' show recently featured his failed attempts to export a teddy bear to Iraq. As th is newsletter goes to press, a Welsh councillor leaves for a tour of Iraq. Public meetings are being planned in Cardiff, and the British Youth Council has passed a motion against the sanctions. The Anglican Church, led by the Bishop of Coventry, and with the full support of Canterbury, have hosted a recent delegation of Iraqi clerics. The three, representing Iraq's Christian, Shiite and Sunni communities, were hosted in the US by Billy Graham, possibly the best known, most influential and respected pas tor in the country. This delegation is a response to an Anglican delegation to Iraq in May.


Over the summer, CASI co-ordinator Colin Rowat met with Richard Garfield and OIP officials in New York. More locally, he has given presentations to Cambridge chaplains, local churches and peace groups and wrote an invited piece for the Labour Left Briefing.

Since the spring, Elinor Wakefield has been leading CASI's research into the state of education in Iraq, which has included motions of support from Cambridge's Student Union. Seb Wills and Abi Cox have been working tirelessly to prepare the November conf erence, aided by Eliza Hilton's willingness to add this work to her three other jobs and her studies. Harriet Griffin has continued to expand our network of contacts.

Finally, with the publication of this newsletter, we are now able to take up Chien-hui Li's offer to photocopy at cost. Thanks!


If you are wondering how you can get more involved in campaigning for a lifting of the non-military sanctions on Iraq, please drop us a line. We are always happy to discuss ideas or point you to groups in your area.

Currently, CASI expects a period of higher financial outflows than usual. We aim to do what we feel to be important, hoping that the necessary funds will become available. As a result, most of the newsletters that we distribute are to "non-members", people who have not made donations to CASI. We have been able to sustain this expense. As our bank account has never had more than about 400 pounds in it, we are more worried about the November conference. We have assumed responsibility for speakers' travel and accommodation expenses; this will involve flying two speakers in from the US and one from Belgium. Combined with our advertising expenses and low ticket prices we expect the conference to make a loss, possibly in the vicinity of 1000 pounds. While some of our members are willing to personally assume this debt we would very much appreciate any financial support that you might be able to provide.

CASI membership costs 5 pounds; we are happy to accept larger donations. Upon disbanding, all CASI funds will be donated to a charity working in Iraq.

The CASI website is at CASI can be reached by email at, by telephone on 0468 056 984 or by post at CASI, c/o Colin Rowat, 393 King's College, Cambridge CB2 1ST.

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