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Weapons sanctions aren't working.

IN JULY, IRAQ supposedly reached an understanding on long-term monitoring of its weapons production and testing with Roff Ekeus, head of the UN special commission charged with dismantling the country's weapons of mass destruction. Ekeus was gratified enough to say that the talks had broken a "vicious circle" of frustrated UN inspections and Iraqi obstruction which culminated in a dispute over the installation of video cameras at two Iraqi missile testing sites.

Having backed down in a crisis which might have led to yet another American air attack on the country, the Baghdad regime typically announced a series of caveats. Acceptance of UN Security Council Resolution 715, which insists on long-term weapons monitoring, was after all made conditional on Iraq's freedom to sell oil and the abolition of the no-fly zones in the north and south of the country. The implications are serious because evidence suggests that, far from complying with the spirit of UN resolutions, Saddam Hussein retains his ambitions to lead of major military power.

Iraq has successfully rebuilt much of its military potential, and continues to seek sensitive technology abroad, despite UN sanctions, according to a US congressional committee. In a report released this summer, the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on International Security said that the Iraqis have partially or completely rebuilt and re-equipped over 200 munitions factories and other military-linked establishments, and have resumed limited production of Soviet-designed T-72 tanks, artillery, ammunition and short-range rockets.

The facilities (which have been completely rebuilt) include a weapons research and development complex near Mosul codenamed Saad 16, and the Al Rabiya plant at Zaafarniyah. The latter was involved in the production of equipment for Iraq's atom bomb programme. It has been rebuilt despite having been heavily bombed by allied air forces as recently as January this year. An introductory letter to the report written by the author, Kenneth Timmerman, notes that "Iraq has also succeeded in returning to service most of the tanks, artillery and combat aircraft damaged during Desert Storm.

Entitled Iraq Rebuilds its Military Industries, the report stressed that Baghdad's determination to acquire nuclear weapons is undimmed, and expresses the view that inspections by the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have been only partially effective. While nuclear-related equipment has been catalogued and in some cases sealed to prevent it being used without the IAEA's knowledge, "only a handful of state-of- the-art tools and application-specific fixtures have actually been destroyed," said the report.

Recording the IAEA view that Iraq should be allowed to retain production equipment with a potential civilian use since its nuclear bomb programme has been fully dismantled, the report commented: "Few independent experts agree with this sanguine assessment."

The effectiveness of the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM), established to monitor Iraqi compliance with Security Council resolutions, is also called into question. Noting that in 1985-89 Iraq bought industrial equipment (excluding weapons) from the West valued at $14.2b, the report said that "the vast majority of this equipment went into Iraqi weapons plants and has not been found by UNSCOM."

Despite the embargo, Iraq "continues to operate an extensive clandestine procurement network in Europe, the Middle East and possibly in the United States," according to the subcommittee's findings. "Some of the most notorious agents who helped Iraq obtain sophisticated Western technologies for its long-range ballistic missile programmes and its nuclear weapons efforts are still at large."

They include Safa al Habobi, who headed Iraq's key front company in Europe, Technology and Development Group (TDG), which in late 1987 took over the British machine tool manufacturer Matrix Churchill. The report asserted: "British Customs inexplicably waited several months after the international embargo on Iraq and Iraqi assets was in place before raiding the TDC offices, allowing the Iraqis to cart off critical documents that might have exposed their network."

In London, a Customs spokesman said that he would not comment "at this stage". The sensitivity is thought to reflect a desire not to prejudice the judicial inquiry into Britain's arms- related trade with Baghdad.

Germany, a major pre-Gulf war supplier of militarily-useful technology to Iraq, is claimed to be a key focus of sanctions- busting, but no hard evidence has been provided by the subcommittee. The report noted that German Customs have investigated dozens of companies for possible violations but that no charges have yet been brought.

Iraq has rebuilt its military-industrial base "despite the most rigorous international sanctions imposed on any nation since World War II, and despite intrusive inspections of certain weapons facilities" by the UN and IAEA. "Once UN sanctions are lifted," warned the report, "Iraq will be free to procure most of what it needs on the open market, to complete any gaps in technology."

Iraq has made compliance with UN Security Council Resolution 715 conditional on concessions over the sanctions regime. But it seems clear that any significant slackening of the UN embargo on Iraq will only encourage Saddam Hussein to pursue his rearmament policy with increased vigour.

As in past confrontations with the UN and the United States, Iraq places special insistence on its national sovereignty. During July for example, the government daily Al Jumhurriya was customarily vitriolic in its abuse.

Referring to the confrontation over video monitoring, it declared that "the camera isue itself provides conclusive evidence of the wicked and malicious intentions of Ekeus and the criminal designs of those standing behind him." It went on, pointedly, to add that "in a world governed by the logic of force..., one wonders how a state like Iraq can relinquish its defence system to become a target for aggression."

Iraq's capacity to defend itself by its own means clearly remains of paramount importance. By giving an appearance of ceding ground on the issue of weapons monitoring, it hopes to open the way to a gradual lifting of sanctions, with the right to sell oil its top priority.

Saddam Hussein hopes that ultimately the West, increasingly aware of the plight of the Iraqi people, will tire of the embargo. Of course, sanctions will not be lifted at a stroke, but there is a growing mood in the international community (and especially throughout much of the Arab world) for a steady liberalisation which will lead over time to a normalisation of relations. Just as steadily, however, Saddam Hussein will seek to rebuild his arms industry.

In its of July 1993 The Middle East published an article on the UN Human Rights Conference in Vienna entitled "See no evil". The Turnisian Embassy in London has sent a response to the article, of which extracts follow:

Sir, I would like to take exception to the misleading and negative references to Tunisia made in your comments on the UN Conference on Human Rights in Vienna.

The author of the article singles out Tunisia for the harshest criticism and the most baseless allegations, when she is widely acknowledged to have achieved substantial progress in this area perhaps more than any other country in the developing world...

In 1988, Tunisia ratified without reservations the UN Covenant of 1984 against torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment and authorised Amnesty International to open its very first chapter in the Arab world, in Tunis...

The author is, no doubt, aware that in reports published in the months preceding the conference and in its annual report, Amnesty has been critical of no less than 110 countries, among which some of the oldest democracies in the world.

Tunisia, an emerging democracy, has every reason to be proud of its policy of promotion of human rights and the rights of women in particular...

The article reports allegations of human rights abuse, but totally overlooks the fact that they have been refuted by the Tunisian government in its responses to Amnesty International.

Most of these allegations have not been checked and are based almost entirely on the content of propaganda leaflets Amnesty has received from extremist groups whose declared objectives is to take over the country by means of terrorism, intimidation and violence.

Boutheina Labidi, Press Secretary, Embassy of Tunisia, London.
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Title Annotation:weapons embargo imposed on Iraq have no effect
Author:George, Alan
Publication:The Middle East
Date:Sep 1, 1993
Previous Article:Smooth talker on the right.
Next Article:Cleaning up their act.

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