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U.S. Department of State

Department Seal Edward S. Walker, Jr., Assistant Secretary
Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs

Testimony Before Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
Washington, DC, March 22, 2000



U.S. Policy Toward Iraq

Mr. Chairman:

I am pleased to appear before you today to discuss U.S. policy toward Iraq, a key foreign policy issue.

Iraq under Saddam Hussein remains dangerous, unreconstructed and defiant. Saddam's record makes clear that he will remain a threat to regional peace and security as long as he remains in power. He will not relinquish what remains of his WMD arsenal. He will not live in peace with his neighbors. He will not cease the repression of the Iraqi people. The regime of Saddam Hussein cannot be rehabilitated or reintegrated as a responsible member of the community of nations. Experience makes this conclusion manifest. That is why the United States is committed to containing Saddam Hussein as long as he remains in power. But at the same time, we are also committed to working to alleviate the suffering of the Iraqi people who are forced to live under a regime they did not choose and do not want, and to supporting Iraqis who seek a new government and a better future for Iraq.

The first two elements of our policy, containment and the effort to alleviate conditions for the Iraqi people, were strengthened considerably by the Security Council's adoption of resolution 1284 in December of last year. Let me begin by reviewing the elements of containment.

We contain Saddam through UN sanctions which deny him the resources needed to reconstitute weapons of mass destruction, by enforcing no-fly zones in the North and South, and by maintaining a military presence in the region and a readiness to use force if necessary.

We have enforced a no-fly zone over northern Iraq since 1991, and over southern Iraq since 1992. These zones were established to prevent Saddam Hussein from using his air force against the civilian populations of these areas, as he has done so brutally in the past. We have been highly successful in this effort. The zones also provide critical buffer zones to detect any Iraqi troop movements north or south. Iraqi propaganda denounces the no-fly zones as a pretext for ongoing military action against Iraqi forces, a charge which some others have repeated. Let me just state, once again, that the no-fly zones are protective, not offensive, in nature. Since December 1998, following Operation Desert Fox, Saddam Hussein has mounted a sustained challenge to our patrols. Iraqi forces have violated the no-fly zones over 600 times in 1999. Our forces are fully prepared and authorized to defend themselves and we have responded to these challenges with strikes on Iraq's integrated air defense system. Saddam Hussein will not deter us from our commitment to maintaining these zones which are a key element of containment.

An effective disarmament and monitoring regime inside Iraq would strengthen containment by further limiting Iraq's efforts to rearm. In the absence of inspectors on the ground, we must rely on national technical means which cannot provide the same level of assurance as monitoring on the ground. Resolution 1284 re-affirms that Iraq has not fulfilled its obligations under previous Security Council resolutions to declare and destroy its WMD. The resolution establishes a new arms-control organization, the UN Monitoring, Inspection and Verification Commission, or UNMOVIC, to replace UNSCOM. UNMOVIC retains UNSCOM's broad mandate and authorities. It has the right to conduct intrusive inspections into Iraq's past WMD programs, as well as to monitor to prevent future development of WMD. It has the right to immediate, unconditional and unrestricted access to any and all sites, records and facilities.

The UN is moving ahead with implementation of the resolution 1284. The Secretary General has appointed Hans Blix of Sweden, former Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, as Executive Chairman of UNMOVIC, and he took up his duties on March 1. We have met several times with Dr. Blix since his appointment, and he has made clear that he is committed to putting in place a robust, technically proficient body which will accept nothing less than full Iraqi cooperation. He has had extensive experience with the deceitfulness of Saddam's regime and the lengths it goes to in order to preserve its WMD programs.

The Secretary General, in consultation with Dr. Blix and Security Council members, has also named a 16-member College of Commissioners for UNMOVIC to provide advice and guidance to the Executive Chairman. They represent a technically expert group. Assistant Secretary for Non-Proliferation Affairs, Robert Einhorn, has been appointed as a Commissioner. Like UNSCOM's College of Commissioners, we expect that they will meet periodically so that Dr. Blix can draw on their collective expertise. Dr. Blix is now embarked on drawing up an organizational plan for UNMOVIC which is scheduled to be completed by April 15.

If weapons inspectors are allowed back into Iraq, the next step is for UNMOVIC and the IAEA to draw up the key remaining disarmament tasks to be completed by Iraq. If Iraq fulfills these tasks, and cooperates with weapons inspectors for 120 days after reinforced monitoring is fully operational, the Council could act to suspend sanctions temporarily, provided appropriate financial controls are in place, and bearing in mind the humanitarian purposes of the Council's decisions. The embargo on military imports would remain in place, and dual-use items would continue to require prior approval. If Iraqi cooperation ceased, sanctions would be re-imposed automatically. Renewal of the suspension would require a positive Council decision every 120 days.

The condition for lifting sanctions on Iraq--full compliance with UN Security Council resolutions--remains unchanged.

Containment has been strengthened by the adoption of the resolution. All members of the Security Council--even the four that abstained from the resolution--are committed to implementing the resolution; pressing Iraq to accept inspectors, and maintaining sanctions until Iraq complies with the terms of the resolution.

Sanctions are the most critical element of containment. In the absence of the sanctions regime and a comprehensive international system of controls, Saddam Hussein would have sole control over Iraq's oil revenues--estimated at $20 billion over the coming year--to spend on priorities of his regime, whether it be to rebuild his WMD capacity, produce chemical or biological weapons, bolster his oppressive security apparatus, or to build opulent palaces. In the absence of comprehensive international controls--even if a military embargo remained in place--it is inevitable that Saddam would once again threaten the region and ignore the needs of the Iraqi people.

As long as sanctions remain in place, it is essential that we address the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people. An effective oil-for-food program, which provides the Iraqi people with basic civilian and humanitarian goods while denying the regime access to the most dangerous dual-use goods, serves both humanitarian interests and regional security. Not only is it right for the international community to do all it can to assist the Iraqi people who are the pawns of Saddam Hussein, but doing so minimizes the risk of sanctions erosion and alleviates international pressure to ease or lift the controls which keep Iraq's revenue out of the hands of Saddam Hussein.

UN sanctions have never targeted the Iraqi people and have never limited the import of food and medicine for the Iraqi people. In fact, the United States was an original sponsor of the first oil-for-food program, adopted in 1991. Tragically, Baghdad rejected this program and it was not until 1996 that it finally accepted oil-for-food. Since the first oil-for-food supplies arrived in Iraq in 1997, the program has brought tremendous improvements in living conditions. Iraqi per capita intake has risen from 1,300 calories before the program began to over 2,000 calories now provided by a UN ration basket which is augmented by locally grown produce. Food imports are now at about pre-war levels. In the year before the program began, Iraq imported about $50 million worth of medicines. Since the program began, more than $1 billion worth have been approved. Ninety percent of essential drug needs in hospitals are now being met. Over a billion dollars worth of goods for the water, sanitation, electrical and agricultural sectors have been approved.

Saddam Hussein however, has abused the program to the detriment of the Iraqi people, in an attempt to get sanctions lifted without compliance. Since the first delivery of oil-for-food supplies in March 1997, the government of Iraq has failed to work with UN authorities to maximize the benefit to the Iraqi population. The needs of the most vulnerable groups, including children and the elderly, have been of particular concern. The Secretary General reported earlier this month that Iraq has still not implemented the supplementary feeding programs, recommended for years by the UN, for malnourished children under five and for school children. These programs have been very successful in the North, where oil-for-food is administered by the UN. By contrast, vaccination levels in Baghdad-controlled areas are worse than they were in 1994. Ordering remains slow and erratic, and the distribution of goods after they reach Iraq continues to be a problem. A major reason for this suffering is Saddam's cynical manipulation.

To get the clearest picture of the oil-for-food program and its potential, it is helpful to compare its operation in northern Iraq, where the UN controls distribution, and in southern and central Iraq, where Saddam controls the distribution of goods. A UNICEF report on child mortality in Iraq conducted last year revealed a disturbing rise in child mortality rates--more than double pre-war levels--in south/central Iraq, the parts of the country controlled by Saddam Hussein. But the report also revealed that child mortality rates in northern Iraq, where the UN controls distribution of the oil-for-food program, had dropped below pre-war levels. What these numbers show is that oil-for-food can work to meet the needs of the Iraqi people if the government can be prevented from interfering, or can be compelled to manage the program efficiently with that priority in mind.

Publicity surrounding the release of this survey last year led Baghdad to finally place orders for nutritional supplements--something the UN had long advocated. Early last year, the Secretary General reported that there were $275 million worth of medicines sitting in Iraqi warehouses undistributed. As a result of the publicity generated by this report, stockpiles were eventually reduced. We hope that the Secretary-General's latest report will generate pressure on the regime to introduce supplementary feeding programs, improve distribution of supplies and rationalize the Government's ordering.

Even with the successes of the oil-for-food program, more can and should be done. That is why the U.S. supported resolution 1284, adopted by the Security Council on December 17, which introduces further enhancements of the oil-for-food program. The resolution permits Iraq to sell as much oil as needed to meet the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people. We do not believe there should be any limit on the funds spent on the Iraqi people. As it has in the past, the UN will continue to monitor the program to ensure that the regime spends these revenues only on humanitarian projects. The resolution also streamlines the contract approval process to facilitate the supply of legitimate goods, and authorizes the use of oil-for-food funds to purchase local goods, such as wheat, to provide a boost to Iraq's agricultural sector.

For our part, we are examining our own national procedures for reviewing oil-for-food contracts, to ensure that they are optimized to meet our priorities: maximizing assistance to the Iraqi people while denying the regime access to goods it could use to reconstitute its WMD programs. The United States has been criticized by many for the numbers of holds we have placed on oil-for-food contracts. We recognize that some of this criticism reflects humanitarian concern, and we are reviewing our procedures with this concern in mind. However, we must also be objective, as well as compassionate, in assessing the big picture.

The regime of Saddam Hussein has used chemical weapons against its own people and its neighbors, it has developed biological weapons and had an active nuclear program. It has obstructed weapons inspectors for nine years in an effort to conceal these programs. This regime has the expertise and the will to produce weapons of mass destruction. We can not hand it the goods it needs to turn those intentions into reality. Particularly in the absence of weapons inspectors, we will continue to hold on dual-use goods which can be used in WMD development.

At the same time, it is critical that we do all we can to ensure that the Iraqi people receive the goods they need. Not only is it right for the international community to do all it can to assist the Iraqi people who are the pawns of Saddam Hussein, but doing so minimizes the risk of sanctions erosion and alleviates international pressure to ease or lift sanction in the absence of Iraqi compliance with UN Security Council resolutions.

At the same time as we work in the UN to strengthen containment, we continue to support Iraqis who are supporting the removal of the current Baghdad regime and its replacement by a new government in Baghdad under which Iraq can resume its rightful place in the Arab and international communities. We continually tell the Iraqis that they alone must be the ones to determine the future of Iraq; we will assist them as we can, but we will not, indeed should not, be the ones to decide who will be the next leader of Iraq.

Using funds appropriated by Congress, free Iraqis held a broad-based National Assembly in New York in October. At the conference, the Iraqi National Congress elected a new leadership. Frank Ricciardone has been working intensively with them to channel fresh U.S. support to the Iraqi opposition as they identify ad plan specific operational goals and activities:

--developing and broadcasting a vision for the restoration of civil society in Iraq and for Iraq's reintegration as a responsible member of the international community.

--building the case for the prosecution of Saddam Hussein and key members of the regime for war crimes and crimes against humanity;

--channeling training, information and material support, under the Iraq Liberation Act, to the forces of change inside Iraq.

--channeling humanitarian assistance to Iraqis in need, in the face of Baghdad's obstruction and monitoring Saddam Hussein's performance in providing for the basic needs of the Iraqi people.

--building stronger ties to and between the internal resistance and with regional states.

Using congressionally appropriated funds, the State Department and the INC will sign an initial grant worth over a quarter of a million dollars this week. The grant will enable the INC to continue its efforts to reach out to constituents and to establish the infrastructure necessary to accomplish its objectives and to take advantage of other congressionally mandated programs.

In particular, we hope and expect that the INC will soon have the organization and staffing needed to take full advantage of training and material support that we will be ready to provide under the Iraq Liberation Act. As you know, four INC members were invited to participate in a first military training course under the ILA in November at Hurlburt Air Force Base. The Iraqis participated side by side with colleagues from other Arab countries for the first time in many years. Now, the Defense Department is preparing a more extensive list of training options for free Iraqis. We anticipate that by late spring, many more Iraqis will be in line for training enjoyed by other allied and friendly officers in areas related to logistics, civil reconstruction, management, and public relations.

Another important area the INC will be working on is providing humanitarian assistance to Iraqis inside Iraq. This is an important area that dovetails with our own national goals and we look forward to working with them on it. The INC would develop an infrastructure to deliver critically needed humanitarian goods to segments of the Iraqi population that Saddam Hussein has ignored.

As a government, we are also stepping up our efforts to gather evidence to support the indictment of the top Iraqi leadership for crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes. We are gathering evidence from U.S. Government files. We are also supporting the work of NGOs that make important contributions to this effort. We have already provided $2 million in congressionally appropriated funds to four separate but related activities: making captured Iraqi documents available on the Internet; gathering videotape and imagery of Iraqi crimes against humanity; gathering witness statements to justify indictments of top Iraqi officials and helping to generate the international public on the crimes committed by the Baghdad regime. We expect the Iraqi Opposition to make a major contribution to the campaign to bring the Baghdad regime to justice.

This heightened attention by NGO's to crimes of the Iraqi leadership has already borne fruit, as we saw by the precipitous departure of an Iraqi regime leader from Austria last September and with Tariq Aziz' decision shortly thereafter not to participate in a forum in Italy. We have increased our diplomatic activity on the issue, discussing the possibilities of a UN tribunal or committee of experts with other UN members and ensuring that documents in US control are available for use in any eventual legal action.

I cannot predict with any certainty when this brutal regime will be gone. But by maintaining sanctions, enforcing the no-fly zones, committing to use force if Saddam Hussein crosses our red lines, and supporting the opposition, we increase the pressure on the regime and we contain the threat it poses to the region and the Iraqi people.

I welcome any questions you may have.

[end of document]


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