Select Committee on International Development Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40 - 59)



Ann Clwyd

40. But is it not all a lot of bluff, really, because everybody knows that from day one sanctions have been busted and that illegal trade has continued apace? And anybody who has seen what happens on the borders between Turkey and Iraq, Syria and Iraq, Iran and Iraq, knows very well that sanctions-busting goes on every day. So is there not quite a bit of hypocrisy from the international community, from the UN itself that does not police it adequately, and from ourselves who continue to pretend that it is all working?

 (Mr Chaplin) I think there are leakages in any sanctions regime, I guess that is a fact of life. I think the leakages in the case of Iraq should not be exaggerated, it goes on, but, as a proportion of Iraq's pre-sanctions economy activity, I would submit, it is relatively small. And the international community, and the UK in particular, puts a lot of effort into making the sanctions regime as effective as possible; for example, in the Gulf, we take part in the international naval force which intercepts those who are trying to smuggle oil illegally out of Iraq. It is important to do that not only to give the regime the message that there is only one legitimate way of escaping from sanctions but also because the revenue from those illegal sales, of course, does not go to the people it goes to the regime.

41. And to political parties.

 (Mr Chaplin) And there has been some success; recently, the amount of oil being smuggled out through the Gulf route has diminished quite dramatically.


42. How do you monitor that, as it is being smuggled out; presumably, you do not know about it?

 (Mr Chaplin) As I say, there is a naval force in the Gulf, a multinational naval force, which uses all the sources it has, including intelligence sources, to track those who are exporting oil illegally.

43. And what you really mean is that it is not coming out of the Gulf in ships?

 (Mr Chaplin) No, it is; it is usually oil products being smuggled in relatively small ships, where they can use territorial waters, Iranian territorial waters.

44. But there are other means of getting oil out of Iraq other than through the Gulf, are there not?

 (Mr Chaplin) Yes, there are.

Tess Kingham

45. I would like to return to the issue of making sanctions "smarter" and more effective. As you are aware, in Angola there have been UN resolutions 864, 1127 and 1173, imposing sanctions on UNITA; and I think most people agree that these have been totally ineffective. UNITA is, at the moment, overrunning around half the country, they have been able to sell their diamonds internationally, and they have still been able to run their offices and organise internationally too; until very recently, the UNITA office in London was still open and functional. I know there has been a review going on, or this planned review, about sanctions against UNITA, but could you give us your impressions, because you must have some already, about why the sanctions process against UNITA has been so ineffective, and also tell me, I know that DFID are funding part of that review process, but is the Foreign Office, and the Home Office also, being involved in that review, because they were targeted also to try to tighten up the sanctions campaign against UNITA?

 (Mr Brenton) I will let Tony speak to the DFID point in a minute. Yes, we agree that the effects of the sanctions on UNITA have not been satisfactory. It is worth recalling, there was a period, however, when it did look as if UNITA was being coaxed in the direction of a general settlement in Angola, and the failure has been relatively recent. Yes, we are fully involved in the review and are very keen to make the sanctions regime more effective, and we are contributing technical expertise, and so on, to the process which is going on in New York to look at the regime and see what more can be done.

46. Could you say why it has been ineffective, you said it has been effective until fairly recently, but why is it not being; can you put a bit more meat on the bones of that?

 (Mr Brenton) The test of the effectiveness of a sanctions regime is achieving the result that you want, and up until, I do not have the date in my mind, but something like the middle of last year, it looked as if UNITA was co-operating in the process of settlement in Angola, and then it all began to fall apart. So it is from then on that we have had to think again about the effectiveness of our actions.

47. But why did it fall apart; was it because some countries were not implementing it, or were there huge loopholes in the processes?

 (Mr Brenton) No, I think it was a change of attitude within UNITA to the settlement process.

48. But you feel the actual sanctions process was being implemented, essentially, satisfactorily?

 (Mr Brenton) I think it was helpful. No sanctions process is perfect; as we pointed out, there are always leaks and evasions. Nevertheless, I think the sanctions process helped to demonstrate the determination of the international community to bring UNITA to the table and to help the process in Angola to a satisfactory conclusion.

49. Could it not be argued as well though that it actually acted as a smoke-screen, because it gave the impression that the international community were actually doing something about UNITA; and in reality they were still able to organise, they were still able to get funding, they were still able to sell their diamonds? And all this went on in the background, which helped them to re-arm themselves and then restart their offensive, while all the time there was this impression that the UN resolutions were there and that international sanctions were being imposed, and in reality not a lot was happening, and it gave UNITA the opportunity to re-enter into the war again?

 (Mr Brenton) I think I would resist the word "smoke-screen". We thought, as I say, that things were genuinely moving in the right direction; we were wrong, and we now have to rethink and strengthen the sanctions regime in order to get things back on track.

 (Mr Faint) From the point of view of DFID, I think this is quite an interesting sort of test case for us, of the ability to design smarter sanctions which are well targeted and do not have adverse humanitarian effects. And we have committed a sum, from memory, of $300,000 towards the study of the Angola sanctions regime, to try to make it both more effective and reduce any impact on vulnerable groups, and that study will be going forward, I am not sure if I have an exact timetable, it has not started yet, so we have made a commitment and will be planning and carrying that out. We could send the Committee terms of reference for our study, if it is of interest to you, I do not actually have them with me.


50. Yes, please.

 (Mr Faint) But I think it is very much an example of the kind of approach we would like to see applied to sanctions regimes; oil and diamonds, I think, are the critical commodities that we are trying to target, in this case. This is a multi-donor operation which we are contributing to, we have provided $300,000 out of a total cost of $850,000. At the moment, the study is slightly underfunded, but most of the funds are already there; the whole thing is under UN auspices.

Mr Rowe

51. Did your study show any sign that one of the effects of sanctions was to cause the population to close behind what would be otherwise an unpopular regime?

 (Mr Brenton) I think that is a danger. I am trying to think back, but I do not think I can think of a case where that has actually happened. Iraq, no-one knows. No; it is obviously a danger you need to be aware of, and it is a danger which you address, in the way I have already said, by focusing your sanctions, to the extent you can, on any groups who support the regime.

52. It seemed to me that certainly the propaganda in Cuba has been to the effect that Castro is still there. I myself believe that if there were no sanctions in Cuba Castro would disappear, because the pressure of the population to assimilate American culture and American food would be overwhelming.

 (Mr Brenton) Happily, Her Majesty's Government does not have to answer for sanctions against Cuba.

Mr Rowe: I know; that is right.


53. It is a US-imposed sanction, is it not; is it just the United States?

 (Mr Brenton) I think it is just the United States.

Dr Tonge

54. You all sound so terribly cool about the fact that we can impose sanctions and then they are broken, and, well, that is just in the course of things. I was in southern Sudan earlier in the year and I asked some of the SPLA commanders where they got their arms from, because there is, is there not, an arms embargo, arms sanctions, against them there; and they said: "Oh, no problem, we get them from here and from there," there was just no problem, they could get arms from anywhere, virtually. And I just wonder, during this review, sorry to go back to the review, but have you addressed this problem? I am quite excited, I am quite engaged by the fact that people break sanctions, and yet the FCO and DFID do not seem to be?

 (Mr Brenton) No; if we have given the impression of being cool, of course, we are not.

55. You are very angry, really?

 (Mr Brenton) That is right; absolutely. The training conceals it. Obviously, if we impose a sanctions regime, we are very keen that it should be fulfilled, and we, the UK, are really very scrupulous in observing the obligations we take on, as is usual in international life. It is a sad fact that other countries are less scrupulous, and there are means to encourage them, through EU infractions procedures, through the operations of the various Sanctions Committees in New York, but, as it were, the sanctions to support sanctions are very limited and of very limited effect, and there is no obvious way of remedying that, other than pressure, diplomatic démarches, and so on, of one sort and another. In certain extreme cases, there are the patrols in the Gulf, there are patrols now also in the Mediterranean and the Adriatic, in connection with Kosovo, more visible and material means are used. But, you are right, it is a major flaw in the international system, and if we could think of ways of strengthening sanctions regimes, which we do put quite a lot of effort into, as Tony has said, we would do so.


56. Could I just go back briefly to Mr Edward Chaplin, and you said that the objective of the sanctions regime, I think it was you, or was it Tony Brenton who said the objective of the Iraqi sanctions was not to bring down the regime of Saddam Hussein; if that is so, what was the objective?

 (Mr Chaplin) I tried to explain at the beginning, the objective was to persuade Iraq to comply with all the obligations laid down in the various Security Council resolutions, passed by the Security Council, which, indeed, Iraq had accepted, and they include such matters as giving up its weapons of mass destruction capability, certainly the most important area of most concern to us, and it is because they have not done that, because they have been so determined to hang on to that sort of capability, that the sanctions are still there. But over the years a lot of exemptions have been crafted to try to ensure that as much humanitarian assistance as is needed gets to the people who need it.

57. Yes, but the objective is, you say that Iraq had agreed these things; now that he has managed to evade the sanctions, you spoke of the inadequacy of the inspections regime on biological warfare and chemical warfare, I think, now he has managed to evade any attempts to impose these, what are we going to do now?

 (Mr Chaplin) It is an ongoing process. The Security Council continues to insist that Iraq has to comply with its obligations; the argument tends to be over the extent to which Iraq already has complied. Iraq would claim that they have complied and therefore sanctions ought to be lifted; the Security Council disagrees, so far. So it is an ongoing process to persuade Iraq to go the final steps, and they have come quite a long way, a lot has been achieved in the WMD area, so sanctions have achieved that; it has meanwhile contained a country and a regime with a rather brutal record of aggression against its neighbours and against its own people. So that is an achievement. But, the question of when do you get to the end of the road, you get to the end of the road when Iraq has fully complied, and then sanctions can be lifted, and that is what the Council has agreed.

58. Yes, but supposing Iraq rather likes the sanctions, the regime rather likes them, because they are making a lot of money out of it, you are never going to lift them, are you, because Iraq will never comply?

 (Mr Chaplin) It is up to Iraq to decide where its interests lie, of course, and they cannot be obliged to comply; but, I think, from the strenuous efforts that Iraq has made over the years to try to persuade the Council that sanctions should be lifted, it would suggest to me that Iraq would prefer the sanctions to be lifted.

Ann Clwyd

59. But if the UN is serious about the implementation of sanctions, why does it not police that implementation more rigorously? Anybody who has seen that border trade between Turkey and Iraq, in particular, knows very well that illegal trading goes on every day, and that those huge lorries carry goods into Iraq, sometimes luxury goods, they come back, with their oil tanks full. What is the system of UN policing on those borders?

 (Mr Chaplin) It is up to every UN member to ensure that the sanctions agreed by the Council are implemented properly; it is not for us to tell other countries, though we do make representations to other countries when we spot sanctions leaks, but there is nothing we can do nationally to ensure that they enforce sanctions as rigorously as we would wish. Where there is a multilateral effort, as in the Gulf, as I have described, then we take part in that. You are right, the illegal traffic across the border into Turkey has been a long-standing source of concern; and from time to time we make efforts to try to get something into a new Security Council resolution which would get at that, and that is one of the things that we have proposed should be in the next Council resolution, on which discussions are about to start in New York. Because if you can bring that trade within a regime, it is not so much the objection that oil is being exported by that route, the objection is that the proceeds from that are not going into the humanitarian programme; if we can get that trade brought within the framework of the Security Council resolutions then the revenue from that would be put into the humanitarian programme and not into the pockets of the regime, and that would certainly be very desirable.

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