- The Washington Times - Monday, December 27, 1999

Saddam Hussein was given the opportunity last week to assuage the medieval suffering of his people. In order to do so, Saddam had only to honor agreements he had already made with the international community. Unsurprisingly, Saddam declined.

After a long and contentious debate, the United Nations Security Council last Friday reached a tenuous consensus on a general weapons inspection scheme that Iraq would have to comply with before economic sanctions against his country would be suspended. Under the council's resolution, which was passed 11 to 0, sanctions would be suspended as long as Saddam's regime cooperated with weapons inspections for a test period of 120 days. Additional suspensions of sanctions would be reviewed every 120 days thereafter.

Given the terms that ended the 1991 Persian Gulf War, which established that sanctions against Iraq would stay in place until the regime proved it had eliminated weapons of mass destruction, the resolution should have been uncontroversial. Nevertheless, only two permanent members of the council, the United States and Britain, voted for the resolution while France, China and Russia abstained in the vote. Saddam, as expected, said that he wouldn't cooperate with its terms.

Although quite characteristic of him, Saddam's rejection of the resolution was especially ungracious because the Security Council granted Iraq some very generous, unconditional provisions. It lifted the cap on oil that Iraq can export to pay for food and medicine, which under the oil-for-food program is limited to $5.26 billion a month. It is impossible to know Saddam's motivations, but his blusterous rejection of the resolution may have been a tacit attempt to pressure the Security Council into sending a "political" inspection team to Iraq, undetermined to ferret out weapons of mass destruction. What clearly didn't enter his calculations is the desperation of his people. According to a State Department report, Iraq has ordered only $1.7 million of $25 million recommended by the United Nations to be used for nutritional supplements for children and pregnant and nursing mothers under the oil-for-food program. The report also said that the Iraqi government refuses to give its people much of the supplies delivered by the program and that large quantities of medical supplies are stockpiled in warehouses. U.S. officials estimate that Saddam has spent roughly $2 billion on 48 palaces. Meanwhile, hundreds of Kurds have been killed and 900,000 made homeless in a new round of repression in the north, and the homes of 160 Shiites in the southern village of al-Masha were bulldozed in late June in response to protests against inadequate distribution of food and medicine.

Clearly, the economic sanctions on Iraq contribute to the people's suffering in that country. It has become increasingly clear, however, that the Iraqis' suffering will continue until the day Saddam is deposed. For humanitarian and strategic reasons, the United States must actively seek to unseat this brutal despot, and find allies to support the effort.

France presumably can be counted out. By abstaining in the vote on the resolution, France joined the undistinguished ranks of Russia and China. The socialist French government shamelessly put its potential financial interests in Iraq above principle and gave Iraq leverage to reject the resolution. In order to get rid of Saddam, the White House must be willing to provide the Iraqi opposition with more than office equipment and "non-lethal" training as it has done in the past lest his people and the rest of the world suffer his rule much longer.

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