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Case Studies in Sanctions and Terrorism: Iraq

Case Studies in Sanctions and Terrorism

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Case 90-1
US and UN v. Iraq
(1990: Invasion of Kuwait, Impairment of military capability, destabilization)
See also Case 80-2 US v. Iraq (1980–2003: Terrorism; Chemical and Nuclear Weapons)

| Chronology of Key Events | Goals of Sender Country | Response to Target Country |
Attitude of Other Countries | Legal Notes | Economic Impact | Assessment |
Author's Summary | Bibliography |

Goals of Sender Country

United States

President George Bush
"The United States strongly condemns the Iraqi military invasion of Kuwait and calls for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all Iraqi forces. …We deplore this blatant use of military aggression and violation of the UN Charter." (White House Press Release, 1 August 1990)

"Our action in the gulf is not about religion, greed or cultural differences… [at stake is] access to energy resources that are key, not just to the functioning of this country, but to the entire world. Our jobs, our way of life, our own freedom and the freedom of friendly countries around the world would all suffer if control of the world's greatest oil reserves fell into the hands of that one man—Saddam Hussein." (Washington Post, 16 August 1990, A15)

"At this juncture my view is that we don't want to lift these sanctions as long as Saddam Hussein is in power." (International Trade Reporter, 29 May 1991, 825)

Robert Gates, Assistant to the President and Deputy Secretary for
Security Affairs

"All possible sanctions will remain in place until he [Saddam Hussein] is gone... Because of the invasion of Kuwait and the brutal repression of his own people, Saddam is discredited and cannot be redeemed. His leadership will never be accepted by the world community and, therefore, Iraqis will pay the price until he is gone." (International Trade Reporter, 29 May 1991, 825)

Madeleine Albright, US Ambassador to the United Nations
Avoids mentioning Saddam Hussein's removal as a condition for the lifting of sanctions during a UN Security Council sanctions review and confirms to journalists: "We are not talking about that." Cites "Iraq's failure to take part in the boundary commission demarcating the border with Kuwait, the suppression of Kurds and Shi'ites, and the refusal of Iraq to cooperate with the United Nations personnel charged with eliminating Baghdad's weapons of mass destruction and monitoring its military industries" as obstacles to the lifting of sanctions. (Washington Post, 30 March 1993, A17; New York Times, 30 March 1993, A3)

President Bill Clinton
"Iraq remains a serious threat to regional peace and stability ... My administration will continue to oppose any relaxation of sanctions until Iraq demonstrates peaceful intentions through its overall compliance with all of the UN Security Council Resolutions." (White House Press Release, 6 May 1996)

US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright
"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." (USIS, 13 July 1998)

Clinton Administration, circa 1999
"For all its chinks and ambiguities, [officials say US Iraq policy] can be summed up in four words: containment and regime change. They want to keep Saddam Hussein militarily weak and financially strapped while working, however possible, to force him from power." (Wall Street Journal, 27 August 1999, A10)

Bush administration, 2001
"[US] containment policy ... has three pillars. It aims to deprive Mr Saddam of financial resources for his military and rid Iraq of weapons of mass destruction through UN-backed sanctions; to keep military pressure on him by enforcing, with British help, no-fly zones; and to provide finance for the Iraqi opposition. " (Financial Times, 17 January 2001, 8)

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell
"With respect to Iraq, it has long been, for several years now, a policy of the United States government that regime change would be in the best interest of the region, the best interest of the Iraqi people. And we are looking at a variety of options that would bring that about." (New York Times, 13 February 2002, A1)

United Nations Security Council

Resolution 661
Condemns Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, demands that Iraq withdraws its forces, prohibits UN members from recognizing any provisional Kuwaiti government established by Iraq. (New York Times, 7 August 1990, A1)

Resolution 687
Establishes terms of the cease-fire between Iraq and Kuwait, demands that Iraq unconditionally cooperation in destruction of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons of mass destruction, determines that economic sanctions will remain in force until Iraq complies with UN disarmament demands. (UN Resolution 687, 3 April 1991)

Resolution 1284
Reaffirms Iraq's obligation to disarm, establishes new arms monitor commission UMOVIC, states that once Iraq has meet key disarmament tasks and cooperated with UN inspectors for 120 days sanctions can be suspended. (UN Resolution 1284, 17 December 1999)

United Kingdom

British Prime Minister John Major
Proclaims to the conservative party on May 11, 1991 that Great Britain would use its veto power to make certain sanctions remain until Hussein was overthrown. (New York Times, 21 May 1991, A1)

David Hannay, British Ambassador to the United Nations
"The instructions I received for conducting the sanctions review do not relate to Saddam Hussein's staying in office." (Washington Post, 30 March 1993, A17)


Response of Target Country

President Saddam Hussein
"We would not allow whoever it is to strangle the people of Iraq without strangling him in return. If we feel the Iraqi people are choking and someone is dealing them a bloody blow, we will strangle all the perpetrators ... all oil installations will be incapacitated." (Washington Post, 24 September 1990, A1)

Iraqi Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs
"America and its allies have gone beyond an economic boycott which in essence means only a non-exchange of goods. They embarked on the implementation of an economic blockade by force of arms against Iraq, including food and medicines, and this is an act of war under world norms and international law." (Washington Post, 19 August 1990, A31)

Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz
"We, as a leadership and a people, are optimistic about the future. This is because sooner or later they will be forced to gradually ease the blockade restrictions. The blockade ... will disintegrate, not by a Security Council resolution, but rather by the natural course of developments." (Cordesman 1997, 155)

Jumhouriya, Iraqi newspaper, commenting on the food for oil deal
"Today, we caused a crack in the wall of the embargo and tomorrow we shall pull it down." (Reuters, 21 May 1996)

President Saddam Hussein
"Iraq has fulfilled its obligations under the Security Council Resolutions ... American conduct wants to prolong the embargo in order to continue killing the Iraqis by denying them food and medicine and by preventing whomever needs to travel from doing so." (Associated Press, 17 July 1997)

Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz
Formally rejecting UNSC resolution 1284, Aziz says the Security Council had "failed to meet Iraq's legitimate demand for a lifting of sanctions" and that Iraq is "ready to face all the consequences in defense of its sovereignty and legal rights." (Washington Post, 19 December 1999, A54)

Iraqi Ambassador to the United Nations Mohammed Aldouri
“For more than 11 years, the people of Iraq have suffered under United Nations economic sanctions, which have been kept in place largely by American influence. ... Iraq is no threat to its neighbors. It certainly is no threat to the United States or any of its interests in the Middle East. Once the United Nations inspection team comes back into my country…I am confident that is will certify that Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction—be they chemical, biological or nuclear.” (New York Times, 17 October 2002, A31)

Attitude of Other Countries


Foreign Minster Ali Akbar Velayati "We cannot accept any change in Kuwaiti borders, neither by land nor in water." (Washington Post, 8 August 1990, A1)


Crown Prince Hassan
"Jordan respects the UN mandate ... but [sanctions] would bring our economy to a standstill ... Clearly in terms of implementing sanctions we just don't turn off the switch in our dealings with Iraq and Kuwait ... Jordan will suffer enormously when it applies sanctions." (Washington Post, 15 August 1990, C12; New York Times, 15 August 1990, A19)

"In late 1995, Jordan decided to cut down on the two way trade and smuggling between it and Iraq. Even though Jordan rejected a US request to cut off trade completely, it decided in early 1996 to cut in half from $400 million to $200 million its trade in food and essential goods with Iraq." (Cordesman 1997, 143)

"For Jordan and its ailing economy, the math is simple. The country saves an estimated $500 million a year from the cut-rate oil it imports from Iraq outside of the U.N. oil-for-food program, or nearly twice what Jordan received from the U.S. in aid last year." (Wall Street Journal, 18 June 2001, A15)

Jordan's Minister of Information Taleb Rifai
"The effort to separate Saddam from Iraq has not worked; there is a sense that sanctions are falling apart. We all feel, as a government and as a people, that it's time for them to be lifted." (Washington Post, 21 September 2000, A21)


Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa
"The Arab world is not going to repeat 1991. All the people of the region have sympathy for the people of Iraq. ... Iraq does not pose any threat the way it did." (Washington Post, 5 November 1998, A56)


USSR Foreign Ministry spokesman Yuri Gremitskikh
"The Soviet Union believes that no contentious issues, no matter how complicated, justify the use of force. Such events totally contradict the interests of Arab states, create new additional obstacles to the settlement of conflicts in the Middle East and run counter to the positive tendencies of improvement of international life." (Release from the Soviet Embassy in Washington, 3 August 1990)

It is in Russia's interest for sanctions against Iraq to be lifted so that Iraq would again be free to sell oil for profit, because "Iraq owed Moscow some $7 billion (for Russian tanks, helicopters, and other weapons dating back to the Iran-Iraq War) and Russia wanted the money." (Talk, September 1999, 200)

Russian Ambassador to UN Sergei Lavrov
"The Security Council never authorized creation on any no-fly zones ... and the Security Council never presented the task of undermining the regime in Baghdad. ... If the unilateral [American] actions continue, then I don't believe the atmospherics would be right for any hope for success." (Washington Post, 14 April 2000, A21)

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov
Russia "is calling for the economic sanctions against Iraq to be lifted as soon as possible in conjunction with the restoration of international control over Baghdad's military programs that have been banned, in line with the resolutions of the UN Security Council." (FBIS-SOV-2000-1113, 13 November 2000)


French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine
"First and foremost, the international community must be capable of preventing any new development of weapons of mass destruction by Iraq, either through the use of remaining stocks that may have escaped control or destruction, or through new prohibited arms programmes. This task would be accomplished by a renewed, independent and professional control commission under the authority of the Security Council. ... It would then be possible to lift the export embargo on oil and petroleum products. This embargo no longer has a raison d'étre. It is inflicting cruel and unnecessary suffering on a people held hostage." (Financial Times, 18 January 1999, 12)

French President Jacques Chirac
"We have never been in breach of the UN sanctions, even though we consider this sanctions policy dangerous, inhuman and inappropriate." (Financial Times, 13 September 2000, 8)


"China finds it ironic that the United States is seeking to persuade it to support economic sanctions against Iraq while keeping sanctions in place against China." (Washington Post, 27 November 1990 A16)

Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan
Urges Iraq to cooperate with U.N. weapons inspections stating that although China is opposed to sanctions, Iraq needs to respect UN resolutions. (Washington Post, 8 January 2000, A14)

Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan
"China resolutely condemns the air attacks that have caused great civilian casualties and property losses and intensified the situation. The establishment of the no-fly zones by some western countries violates the UN charter and norms of international relations and ignores and tramples the sovereignty of Iraq." (FBIS-CHI-2000-1128, 28 November 2000)

Legal Notes

Iraq Sanctions Act of 1990

Endorses sanctions imposed under executive orders; the President must notify Congress at least 15 days before terminating sanction but authority remains with the executive branch under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) and the United Nations Participation Act of 1945. Additional sanctions imposed through the legislation can only be terminated 60 days after the President certifies that: (1) the Iraqi government has demonstrated substantial improvement in respect for human rights; (2) the Iraqi Government is not acquiring, developing, or manufacturing ballistic missiles or chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons or components for such weapons, has foresworn the first use of such weapons, and is taking steps to dispose of such weapons; (3) the Iraqi Government does not support international terrorism; (4) the Iraqi Government is in compliance with international law; and (5) the President determines that such waiver is in US national security interests; or 30 days after the President certifies that: (1) there has been a fundamental change in the leadership of the Iraqi Government; and (2) the Iraqi Government has provided assurances that it respects human rights, will not acquire, manufacture, or use and will destroy chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, will not provide support for international terrorism, and will comply with obligations under international law. (Public Law 101-513, Title V)

Excerpts from UN Security Council Resolution 661, 6 August 1990

"[A]ll states shall prevent the import into their territories of all commodities and products originating in Iraq or Kuwait ... any activities by their nationals or in their territories which could promote or are calculated to promote the export or transshipment of any commodities or products from Iraq or Kuwait ... the sale or supply, by their nationals or from their territories or using their flag vessels any commodities or products, including weapons or any other military equipment whether or not originating in their territories but not including supplies intended strictly for medical purposes, and, in humanitarian circumstances, foodstuffs, to any person or body for the purposes of any business carried on in or operated from Iraq or Kuwait, and any activities by their nationals or in their territories which promote or are calculated to promote such sale, or supply or use of such commodities or products." All investment in Iraq, Kuwait is banned, including all payments, transfers. UN members are prohibited from recognizing any provisional government established by Iraq. UN Secretary General is to report on compliance with sanctions, establish committee to monitor enforcement of embargo. (New York Times, 7 August 1990, A9)

UN Security Council Resolution 687, 3 April 1991

Defines rules and procedures for the demarcation of boundary between Iraq and Kuwait, for the return of stolen property to Kuwait and the repayment of debt as well as compensations. It also provides that all economic sanctions imposed on Iraq in Resolution 661 and subsequent resolutions will be maintained until Iraq: allows on-site inspections of all nuclear, biological, chemical and missile capabilities and their destruction; undertakes not to use, develop or acquire any of these items; reaffirms its obligations under the Treaty of Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. (UNSC Resolution 687 , 3 April 1991)

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