Economic Sanctions In Iraq Essay Research Paper

Economic Sanctions In Iraq Essay, Research Paper



From all of the turmoil in the Persian Gulf, the most controversial issue is certainly the economic sanctions imposed upon Iraq. These sanctions, constructed by the United States and supported by the United Nations, were meant to target Saddam Hussein and his regimes, but they have had tremendous and terrible effects on the civilian population of the country. Although their purposes were originally sound and honorable, the sanctions that were imposed upon Iraq have caused hundreds of thousands of deaths throughout that nation, and their legitimacy and necessity are a worldwide topic of speculation. A change is regulation is far past due. The United States and United Nations must revamp their policies to save the lives of the remaining Iraqi citizens and to more exclusively target the Iraqi government, if they will not lift the current sanctions completely.

In 1980, Iraq invaded Iran; the Iran-Iraq war began. At this time, the United States (US) was allied with Iraq. This was not an alliance that revealed the feelings the US had about Iraq, but rather about Iran. The Islamic Republic of Iran controlled a rapidly-growing military force, and although the US had no reason to try to squelch this power, the Iraqi invasion served as the perfect opportunity to exercise a tactic which would be later titled “dual containment”. The strategy of dual containment entails siding with one of two opponents to prolong a conflict they have with each other, of which the home country is not a main part of. This keeps both sides occupied with each other, and at the end of the conflict, both nations would be substantially weaker, leaving the home country, in this case the US, much at ease.

The war ended in 1988, with Iraq as the victor. Iraq immediately was on the move again, targeting Kuwait for invasion. But this time they would not have US support, because the Kuwaiti army was a small fraction of the military power that Saddam Hussein controlled, not to mention that the primary objective (sack and pillage) was nothing that the US wanted to be a part of. To the contrary, the US immediately sided with Kuwait, and warned Hussein that there would be severe consequences if he did not withdraw his troops. Now, Iraq was in a tricky position. Because the US and other European allies were the main source of Baghdad’s arms, technology, weapons and seed stock – in other words Baghdad’s power (Bennis 2) – Hussein was faced with a big decision to make. Hussein’s hunger for Kuwait’s outweighed his fear of losing the US as an ally and gaining them as an adversary, and he continued his invasion.

While the US military’s physical presence held the Iraqi military partly at bay, the political leaders were hard at work in Washington. In 1990, The United Nations (UN) Security Council made public a trade embargo, which the US came up with and that the UN deemed a good plan. The restrictions on Iraqi trade were meant to reduce the quality of life in Iraq, and hopefully cause the nation’s public to overthrow Hussein.

The embargo that the UN Security Council passed in 1990 froze all exports and almost all imports. The sale of oil was forbidden, and all import exchanges with Iraq were suspended as well. Even medicine and food imports were prohibited at the start of the sanctions, but were eventually allowed. The sanctions were set in place only a few days after Hussein’s army invaded Kuwait, and they were declared at their introduction to be lifted when Hussein withdrew his forces from Kuwait.

Operation Desert Storm opened in January of 1991. The US, under the authorization of president Bush, sent thousands of troops over to the Persian Gulf to stand in the way of any and all Iraqi soldiers in the region of Kuwait. By land, air and sea the bullets flew, the missiles screamed and the bombs dropped for three months – all the while the economic sanctions were in effect. In April of the same year, a cease-fire was ordered by the UN via Resolution 687, but this bill also served the Iraqi government rigorous conditions to meet (Bennis 3).

The post-April sanctions regime was centered on Iraq’s productions of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). The same economic sanctions were to remain in effect until the time that the Iraqi government complied with the “prohibition on WMD programs” (Bennis 3).

For the next seven years, the US kept close watch over Iraq. Iraqi research and production sites (where WMDs could have been and were once constructed) were under constant surveillance via thorough inspections by the US military. These arrangements went on, not too smoothly but by and large successfully. The “Oil-for-Food” program was enacted in 1996 (suggested in 1991), after Hussein finally decided to cooperate. This plan is titled quite well, as it entails the trading of oil for food. Iraq was allowed to export 5.3 billion per year in oil for the purposes of food only.

Though there was much complaining from Hussein, the same policies continued. The only change in procedure was the “Oil-for-Food” program – until 1998. It was at this time that Hussein refused to comply any longer, realizing that these inspections would go on forever and that the economy had not gotten any better since 1991 when Resolution 687 was imposed. As a warning, the US president, now Clinton, authorized the positioning of US war planes and ships for a strike on Iraq, targeting military and security targets in Iraq that contributed to Iraq’s ability to produce, store, maintain and deliver WMDs. This was simply used as a blatant display of the US’s military power and was just for show – at that time, anyway – and all units were recalled form their attack positions.

Just one month later, in December of 1998, President Clinton ordered the employment of the US military for Operation Desert Fox. Taking aim at the same targets as before with the intent to fire (this time), the objectives of this operation were to degrade Saddam Hussein’s ability to make and to use WMDs, to diminish his ability to wage war against his neighbors and to demonstrate to Hussein the consequences of violating international obligations. These types of strikes were frequently questioned for legality, but were continually accepted because Iraq had been “elevated to the status of world-class villain.” (Bennis, 3) Bennis continues, “[p]ublic passivity…was exacerbated by a subconscious belief that Iraq is populated by 23-million Saddam Husseins.”

All of these restrictions that targeted Iraqi commerce were originally ordained to influence Saddam Hussein to withdraw his military forces from Kuwait, and afterwards continued to prevent the re-arming of the Iraqi military after the Gulf War, and to prevent Iraq from being able to further construct WMDs. Both of which would have been financed by the oil revenue that Iraq would have accumulated, had there been no oil embargo. This plan was indeed successful. Iraq receives only a fraction of the income that it had before the Gulf War. The Iraqi government’s main concern is no longer greed-fueled, forceful expansion of their enterprises, but the preservation of all Iraqi citizens, who are feeling the weight of the economic sanctions more and more each day.

There is not enough food for the majority of Iraqi citizens, despite the 5.3 million in goods that Iraq is permitted to export per year specifically for that purpose. Unfortunately, one-third of this goes to Kuwait for Gulf War reparations, and the other two thirds are not immensely helpful, due to the Security Council disallowing or putting many of the orders for food on hold. Food and medicine have been scarce since the Gulf War, even after their imports were permitted. As a result of the export embargo’s dramatic limiting of Iraqi funds, neither of these necessities can be afforded by Iraqi citizens in substantial quantities. Plus, Iraq’s oil producers were suffering from a post-Gulf War, dilapidated infrastructure, which kept them from being able to pump enough oil to suit their own needs. Also, due to massive and meaningless bombings, electrical systems and power supplies throughout the country have been destroyed. Raw sewage flows in deathly harmony with Iraq’s drinking water, carrying diseases like typhoid fever, cholera and malaria, which were largely eliminated several years ago but now have reached epidemic proportions. These problems are left unattended as well, for the impoverished nation cannot afford their replacement or even repair.

The U.S. must now “take notice and name the policy for what it is: a tragic failure.” (“Iraqi Sanctions” 2) If all of Iraq’s problems are combined, the result is as simple as 2+2 – or rather 0 + 0. Add together scarce heat and electricity, contaminated water, an insufficient supply of food and medicine and a very low income, the result is death. But how many lives could possibly lost without gunfire? The United Nations International Emergency Fund (UNICEF) estimate that a total of more than one million Iraqi citizens have perished as a result of the sanctions imposed by the US and UN. 500,000 of those lives lost were children under five years of age. The combined loss is more than ten times the amount of those lost during Gulf War combat. It was UN agencies that totaled these statistics. Many would agree that, in the midst of the Iraq conflicts, “[t]he UN itself became a victim of US policy on Iraq” (Bennis, 4). Multiple UN officials have realized this, or worse, and have since resigned:

UN assistant Secretary General Denis Halliday had resigned in October 1998 to

protest…the ‘genocidal impact’ of economic sanctions. His successor, Hans von

Sponeck, announced his resignation a little more than a year later, convinced that ‘every

month Iraq’s social fabric shows bigger holes.’ A day later, the director of the UN’s

World Food Program for Iraq, Jutta Burghardt, resigned as well. (Bennis, 6)

All of this evidence is clearly more than enough to convince anyone that the economic sanctions are literally a “dead end.” (“Iraqi Sanctions” 1) It is foolish to think that Saddam Hussein will ever confess his crimes and make amends to his victims, and so the US and UN must help the mass of Iraqi citizens under him by re-constructing the economic sanctions that are killing the nation (The Economist 6).

There is no reason for such an expense of life, as there is in Iraq. This is especially true when the original reasoning (Kuwait invasion) for the implementation of a plan (economic sanctions) was to protect the lives of others. It can not be argued that Saddam Hussein thinks that ordering the invasion of Kuwait was the shining epitome of his career. Even if Hussein does not regret his actions, or swear that he shall never again try to forcefully acquire the resources of another country, the majority of Iraq’s population would surely do so for him. If the sanctions cannot be lifted entirely, then at the very least a new plan should be implemented for restricting the power of the Iraqi government without involving the non-governing citizens of the nation – beginning with the donation of reparations to Iraq from the US and UN.


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