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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Op Ed on "Humanitarian Support for Iraq"
For publication in the International Herald Tribune
July 13, 1998
U.S. Department of State

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For years, Saddam Hussein has been waging an energetic propaganda campaign, claiming the Iraqi people are the victims of sanctions imposed on Iraq by the international community. Let’s get it straight: Saddam Hussein is responsible for the suffering of his people. These sanctions are targeted directly at the Iraqi regime, because of its continued refusal to live up to the conditions it accepted at the end of the Gulf War, including those demanding the elimination of its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) capacity. These sanctions are not directed at the Iraqi people. The fact is that Saddam, eager to keep as much money or supplies as he can grab, has deprived his people and then used their suffering as a means to increase support for lifting sanctions. It is a policy that is both cynical and cruel and that must not be allowed to succeed.

The truth is that the sanctions (which will remain in place until the Iraqi regime complies with all relevant UN resolutions) have never precluded the shipment of humanitarian supplies to Iraq. On the contrary, the international community is committed to ensuring that the Iraqi people have access to the primary humanitarian goods they need.

These sanctions have a very specific purpose: To remove Saddam’s capacity to threaten his neighbors and the world with an arsenal of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Saddam has shown that he is capable and willing to use such weapons against his neighbors and his own people alike. This jeopardizes the security and stability of the region and challenges the vital national interests of the United States.

The good news is that the economic sanctions and the concurrent UN weapons inspections have been very effective in reducing Iraq’s arsenal of WMD, despite the Iraqi’s regime’s attempts to obstruct and reluctance to cooperate. Had Saddam chosen to fulfill his obligations and fully disclose his weapons programs, significant progress toward the lifting of sanctions could have been achieved long ago.

Because of our commitment not to jeopardize the dignity and well-being of the Iraqi people, the UN, led by the U.S., proposed the oil for food program in 1991, immediately after the Gulf War. For almost six years, Saddam said "no" to such a program because he wanted to control the revenues oil sales would generate -- a condition the UN refused to accept. In 1996, Saddam finally agreed to cooperate with the program and sell oil, the profits from which are placed in a UN-controlled escrow account to be used to pay for food, medicine and other basic necessities.

Since then, over $3 billion of supplies have successfully been delivered to the Iraqi people. This effort has substantially improved the diet of the average Iraqi. To even further address Iraq’s needs, the U.S. has strongly supported renewed efforts within the UN to expand the humanitarian relief effort this year.

Under the provisions of UN Security Council Resolution 1153, the largest relief operation in UN history will be made available to the Iraqi people. This program will offer more humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people over the course of one year than was provided by the UN for global humanitarian assistance over the last three years.

Saddam claims that the humanitarian goods paid for from the sale of up to $10.4 billion worth of oil every year under resolution 1153 will not be sufficient, and continues to demand that the sanctions be lifted. But his real motive -- as demonstrated by his record of misrule -- is clearly not to help his people, but to get his hands on hard cash in order to support his own personal and political agenda.

Resolution 1153 not only provides humanitarian goods, it also allows for the reconstruction of Iraq’s civilian infrastructure, including water and sanitation facilities. Under great international pressure, Saddam has submitted a plan, acceptable to the UN, for the distribution of funds among these priorities. The international community hopes that Saddam will indeed move to ease, not impede, the flow of assistance to his people.

But, in the event that the regime reverts to its obstructive behavior, we are consulting with other governments and the NGO community on how best to deliver goods and services to the Iraqi people.

In addition to supplying goods to meet the Iraqi people’s day to day needs, we are working with other countries to supply educational equipment -- so that Iraq will not lose a generation to ignorance and will be able, post-Saddam, to reclaim its historical, cultural, intellectual and political role within the Arab world.

We have made it eminently clear since the implementation of the sanctions that we have the highest regard for the Iraqi people and support the territorial unity and the integrity of their country.

The Iraqi people deserve better than the rule of Saddam Hussein. Until they are relieved of that burden, we are determined to see that everything is done to ensure that they can enjoy as decent a life as is possible under an indecent regime. We will not cease to work toward that objective.

[End of Document]

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