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ARAB-US RELATIONS - Jan. 23 - Powell To Scrap Sanctions.

A report in IHT says new Secretary of State Colin Powell is about to begin a quiet revolution in American diplomacy by proposing to scrap many, maybe even most, of the punitive sanctions imposed by the US, the vast majority put in place over the last decade. During his confirmation hearings last week, Powell was almost scornful in describing the use of sanctions, which along with warfare are one of the most enduring tools of foreign policy, dating back to ancient Greece. And he served notice on Congress that he intended to push for change. The pervasive use of trade embargoes and other forms of sanctions "shows a degree of American hubris and arrogance that may not, at the end of the day, serve our interests all that well", Powell told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, adding: "I would like to participate with your in discussing how to get rid of most of them". He appealed to Congress not to apply any new sanctions before letting him have his say: "Stop, look and listen before you impose a sanction. Count to 10, then call me". (About 75 of the world's 193 nations are subject to US sanctions at the moment. Several have been sanctioned for multiple offences, ranging from mislabelling cans of tuna, at one end of the scale, to engaging in egregious human-rights violations and narcotics trafficking at the other.

In contrast, the US currently enforces sanctions against fewer than a dozen countries. One of the ironies for Powell is that many of the US sanctions were initiated by the Republican-controlled Congress, although the president also is empowered to levy embargoes. Powell's proposed reversal would be a boon to American business. USA Engage, a group of more than 670 US companies that wants to ease embargoes, estimates that sanctions cost the US as much as $19 bn annually in lost exports and deprive the economy of more than 200,000 high-wage jobs. A range of industries, from oil and aerospace to agriculture, has been affected. Almost half of the 125 unilateral economic sanctions imposed by the US since World War I were started between 1993 and 1998, according to surveys by USA Engage and the National Association of Manufacturers. Powell's position reflects a growing wariness among politicians and policymakers of both parties. Sanctions imposed only by the US "rarely succeed" in altering behaviour, according to Sen. Richard Lugar, Republican of Indiana. Sen. Christopher Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut, has long called for a review. "In most cases, the issue is rushed to the Senate or House floor, so that Congress can express its outrage at some perceived misdeed", Dodd said. "But there has never been any systematic effort by Congress to review sanctions once imposed, to consider whether they have achieved their objective or have turned out to be counterproductive". During its final two years, the Clinton administration became increasingly reluctant to impose or endorse sanctions because of the unintended consequences they sometimes have on bystanders, such as women, children and neighbouring countries. In 1999, Pres. Clinton pushed to eliminate sanctions on humanitarian goods, opening the way for exports of food and medicine to Libya, Sudan and Iran, among others. Yet sanctions are so central to US policy that only two days before Clinton stepped down, his administration imposed new sanctions on Sierra Leone, restricting the importation of diamonds in response to a UN resolution.

Another set of UN sanctions promoted by the US against Afghanistan, restricting travel by officials of the ruling Taliban and banning military aid, went into effect on Jan. 19, the day before Clinton left office. Supporters of sanctions argue they will continue to play a role. "Sanctions as a tool of foreign policy can be very effective by exerting psychological and economic pressure", says Henri Barkey, a former member of the State Department's policy staff. Along with NATO bombardment, sanctions on the Yugoslav government of Slobodan Milosevic helped isolate him from his own people. Sanctions may have been critical to the process, because the NATO air strikes initially rallied the public around the regime. At his confirmation hearing, Powell acknowledged that sanctions generally have a "noble purpose from their origin". But he offered few details about which countries or sanctions he wants to review, or what he would propose as an alternative when countries transgress international standards. Addressing two specific cases, Powell said he would maintain sanctions on Iraq but favours reassessing current restrictions on India. The US imposed sanctions on India and Pakistan, as required by law, after the two governments tested nuclear devices).
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Publication:APS Diplomat Recorder
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 27, 2001
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