Following the first Gulf War, which left Saddam Hussein in power, most everyone outside of Hussein and his fellow travelers in the Arab world acknowledged the necessity of imposing sanctions against a Hussein-led Iraq to force him to disarm. Unfortunately, although the sanctions were aimed at Hussein, it was undeniable that the sanctions would also visit great suffering on the Iraqi population, especially since Hussein could be expected to – and did – divert whatever resources were available to himself and the effort to maintain his power. Yet the world community, through the United Nations, went ahead with a drastic sanction regime turned out to be fruitless.
Although it seems clear that with the unseating of Hussein, the raison d’etre for the sanctions has been eliminated, France and Russia, whose surreptitious end-run financial dealings with Iraq doubtless doomed the sanction program, are now refusing to approve UN resolutions, canceling them unless the United States accede to their demands. As even The New York Times said in an editorial the other day:
Everyone understands that the main reason for international economic sanctions on Iraq vanished with the ouster of Saddam Hussein. The world no longer needs to worry about keeping Iraqi oil revenues out of the hands of an ambitious dictator intent on buying weapons. Instead, it should be seeking ways to increase that revenue as quickly as possible to rebuild a shattered country and improve the living standards of its people….
Administration officials can hardly relish returning to the Security Council, the scene of their embarrassing failure to win an endorsement for the war in Iraq. Countries on the other side of that fight, like France, Germany and Russia, should see this as the opportunity it is and not as a new occasion to gang up on Washington. Their first concern should be the interests of the Iraqi people.
However, there are those nations, led by France, that are not above sacrificing the needs of the desperate Iraqis in order to persist in their selfish political efforts to blunt American influence, begun in their opposition to Operation Iraqi freedom, and continuing in their mischief in the Security Council, where a new resolution would have to be adopted in order for sanctions to be canceled. As the Washington Post reported last week,
Russia, France and other key Security Council members set the stage…for a new battle over Iraq, signalling that the United States must give the United Nations a broader role in reconstruction efforts before sanctions can be lifted.
The need for “Old Europe” to confront the American colossus as equals, fed immeasurably by the spectacular demonstration of American military prowess in Operation Iraqi Freedom and the attendant global strategic gains in its aftermath, may be real to them and something students of “realpolitik” may appreciate. But from where we sit, we find it hard to distinguish their callousness from the outrages of Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
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