The facts on Iraqi sanctions

Peter Hain dismisses arguments against the British government policy on Iraq (Letters, 15 January). Here, then, are some facts.

Fact 1: There is no legal basis for the two no-fly zones in Iraq. The UN Security Council has never given the US and UK governments a mandate to carve out two slices of Iraqi airspace and make them their own. This violates international law.

Fact 2: His statement that, in 2000, $16bn was available to the Iraqi people for relief is false. The UN report of 29 November 2000 (S/2000/1132) gives this figure for four years. From 1997-2000, $16.2bn was approved; $8.8bn was actually delivered. This makes $2.2bn per year, or $100 per person per year. How could anyone live on that? Meanwhile, $10.5bn of Iraqi oil revenue was given during that time to the UN Compensation Commission. In other words, more money went to non-Iraqis than to Iraqis.

Fact 3: The UN Secretary-General has repeatedly warned that the ever-increasing value of humanitarian items blocked by the US/UK (at present $2.3bn) is harming the Iraqi population.

Fact 4: There is no evidence that Iraq poses a threat. On 10 January, William Cohen, the outgoing US secretary of defence, briefed president-elect Bush thus: "Saddam Hussein's forces are in a state where he cannot pose a threat to his neighbours at this point."

Fact 5: According to Unicef, as a result of sanctions, the mortality rate of children aged under five has more than doubled.

H C Graf Sponeck
Former UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator for Iraq
Geneva, Switzerland

This article first appeared in the 22 January 2001 issue of the New Statesman, Iraq: the great cover-up