Examination of Witnesses (Questions 840
THURSDAY 25 NOVEMBER 1999
HAIN MP, MS
840. Could I ask you about the "oil for
food" programme which we understand operates on a six-month
rolling programme. The current phase was due to expire last weekend
and a successor regime was widely expected to be agreed. In the
event, we understand that Iraq was offered a shorter-term extension
of two weeks while the UN Security Council debated a resolution
to implement a longer-term solution. As a result, Iraq rejected
the offer of an extension and announced that it is ceasing all
oil exports in some mistaken view that they could pressure the
Security Council to lift sanctions unconditionally. What is the
current state of affairs in relation to the renegotiation of the
"oil for food" programme and will humanitarian relief
continue to be provided now that Iraq has ceased oil exports and
how will they be paid for?
(Mr Hain) The situation is broadly as you describe
it. It was a predictably cynical response by Saddam Hussein to
the situation at the UN and of course he is in the process of
denying his own people a lot of humanitarian relief, and we estimate
perhaps $0.5 billion is involved. What is happening is that the
"oil for food" resolution has expired, as you said,
and it has been granted a limited extension. What was proposed
was that some of the elements of the wider Security Council resolution,
which I explained to the Committee earlier, including humanitarian
relief provision, one proposal was that that be pulled out and
added to the "oil for food" resolution, but, from our
point of view and indeed the majority of the Security Council,
that is unacceptable because what you need is to tie extra humanitarian
relief by lifting the ceiling on the "oil for food"
programme to a vigorous arms inspection and monitoring regime
in Iraq coupled with the option and the possibility of suspending
sanctions, if those two will fit together, and to pull out would
actually compromise the wider objective. That is why there has
been that response from Iraq, but we will see fairly soon the
new Security Council Resolution come before the Security Council
which will then take us on beyond the "oil for food"
resolution which could be extended for a short period if there
was any time needed to fulfil the negotiations to get the full
Security Council decision and implementation. I hope that is clear.
841. Coming back to the third choice which was
in the Government's memorandum to us where it was stated that
sanctions represent the third choice between doing nothing and
military intervention, the Catholic Bishops' Conference told us
that "military action can be targeted at least to some extent,
whereas the present sanctions [on Iraq] are not so targeted",
and they go on to say that, "it is arguable that sanctions
have caused incomparably more deaths and more human suffering
than even the Gulf War itself". Do you agree that sanctions
can be more damaging than war, although they are cheaper?
(Mr Hain) I think that what you need to look at is
what would have happened had sanctions not been implemented. If
sanctions had not been implemented, then the consequences could
have been horrifying. On the one hand, Saddam Hussein would have
been able to accelerate his capability of weapons of mass destruction,
whereas, on the other hand, he would have had the capacity to
rebuild even more so and threaten his neighbours and indeed terrorise
his own population much more than he has been able to, especially
in the south and the north where the no-fly zones are operating,
so I do not deny that sanctions have not been perfect in the way
that they have necessarily had to be implemented, but I think
that they have been the only alternative and certainly nobody
else has suggested a better one.
842. Minister, with all the exemptions on humanitarian
grounds that have been conceded to Saddam Hussein over the ten
years in which these sanctions have been in place, we really have
got into the position, have we not, that we do not actually have
a sanctions regime against Saddam Hussein, certainly not one that
is effective, and Saddam Hussein is using the excuse of sanctions
to ration and limit the amount of food, medical supplies and other
resources to his own people, thus making them dependent upon him.
Is it not true to say that in fact you could say that sanctions
have actually helped keep Saddam Hussein in power?
(Mr Hain) I realise that this is an argument which,
if I am not mistaken, I think I heard you put in the House of
Commons in the debate on Monday.
(Mr Hain) I would say that sanctions are the only
effective strategy which we are capable as an international community
of implementing in a situation in which military activity needs
to be justified under international law and in other contexts
and supported, and I think that it is the best approach that could
reasonably have been adopted in these circumstances, imperfect
though it is, and, as I say, I have yet to be told of a better
alternative. If there were a better alternative, I would be delighted
to hear about it and, as a Government Minister, take part in implementing
844. One of the alternative policies is clearly
to lift the sanctions. Why not?
(Mr Hain) Well, that would play right into his hands.
That would strengthen his position even more and that would mean
that business could go on as usual.
845. But is it not going on as usual?
(Mr Hain) No, indeed it is not. His position is much
more beleaguered as compared with what it would have been without
sanctions. If it was suggested that we just open the floodgates
to virtually everything going into Iraq, he would simply be able
to re-arm, re-equip, rebuild his infrastructure and wait to threaten
another country or wage war on his own people.
846. Does it not occur to the Foreign Office
and you, Minister, that Iraq lies across one of the ancient trading
routes of the world and that sanctions have not prevented Saddam
Hussein benefiting from those trade routes and he constantly and
continuously does, and that sanctions are totally ineffective?
(Mr Hain) In that case, why does he put such a lot
of effort into trying to get them lifted and why are his allies
around the world, both parliamentarians and those in power, so
obsessed with getting them lifted if they are doing him a lot
of good? He wants them lifted and that is one very good reason
why we do not intend to lift them.
Mr Grant: But what about the effect on the people
847. I am not proposing to enter into a debate
with you, Minister, on this question if you make a good point,
but I do not think it is conclusive because if sanctions were
lifted, for example, he would have no excuse, as I think Mr Grant
was suggesting, for treating his own people as he does by starving
them to death and refusing them medical assistance. In that case,
I think we have then a very clear humanitarian case against him.
(Mr Hain) But he was starving a lot of his people,
he was imprisoning them, he had introduced rationing inside Iraq
before sanctions. This is the point I made earlier. The suggestion
is that we had somehow a situation which was toddling along in
quite a rosy fashion until suddenly sanctions came along and spoiled
everything for everybody, but that is not the case at all. We
had a brutal regime, with people starving, food rationing, human
rights unknown in Iraq, and now we have got a situation where
he is under siege, where he wants the sanctions lifted desperately
and people are saying, "Well, why not go ahead and lift them?"
That would play right into his hands.
Chairman: Well, we have had evidence that shows
that he is exporting as much oil as he was before the sanctions
were put on, so it does not seem to me that they are being very
848. Obviously different countries have different
rules. The only time I have ever been to Cuba, it seemed to me
absolutely apparent that if there were no sanctions being imposed
by the United States of America, the influence and the effect
of the United States' economy and so on on Cuba would leave Castro
so out on a limb as to make it impossible for him to stay where
he is. It seems to me, as a layman, that the imposition of American
sanctions on Cuba has kept Castro there for ten or 15 years longer
than he would otherwise have been, so clearly these are important
(Mr Hain) I do not agree with that.
849. You do not?
(Mr Hain) I do not agree with that, but on the general
point, I just make a number of specific points about Iraq to add
to the argument and then a more general one, if I may. First of
all, if sanctions were lifted, it seems to me absolutely no guarantee
that Saddam Hussein would give any more priority to his people
in Iraq than he does now, no guarantee at all; on the contrary.
On the specific issue which I think you raised, Chairman, that
he was exporting as much oil pre the Gulf War and pre the sanctions
as he is now, that may be the case, but it is under the "oil
for food" programme and, therefore, the money that comes
in should be directed at humanitarian relief and most of it actually
is. That is a very, very different situation from enabling him
to use his oil exports to re-arm and re-equip a war machine, as
he would have done. On the general point, sanctions are often,
if not always, difficult and messy. They were in South Africa's
case, they were in Nigeria's case and they were in Libya's case.
In South Africa's case, I remember exactly and if I had been in
front of you, which is very difficult to envisage under those
circumstances, but if I had been in front of you as a Minister
for the Foreign Office, I dare say that exactly the same points
would have been put to me, and perhaps because of the situation
proportionately different, but exactly the same points. "This
has not worked. We have had sanctions for 25 years and the apartheid
regime is still there", but it would have fallen in a matter
of years or months even after you had been putting those very
same questions to me. I would say that the jury is still out on
how effectively the sanctions have bitten Saddam Hussein and I
think we may be quite surprised as events turn out in the future.
850. I am surprised that you used the analogy
of South Africa because the difference in South Africa was that
the ANC and the people in South Africa wanted the sanctions to
be applied. I do not think that is the position in Iraq.
(Mr Hain) Yes, it is. The Iraqi opposition fully supports
851. The opposition are outside Iraq.
(Mr Hain) Mr Grant, really now you are picking and
choosing between who you think is legitimate opposition and who
is not. Exactly that same argument was used over South Africa.
The Iraqi opposition is fully behind our policy of sanctions,
it is fully behind our efforts to get a new Security Council Resolution
and I think we should take heed of that, as are the Kurds who
have been the most brutal victims of Saddam Hussein's rule for
852. The majority of the people in Iraq, as
far as I am aware, inside Iraq have not supported the sanctions
and that is different from the case of South Africa, but a point
(Mr Hain) I would just like to respond to that, if
I may. You are a good friend and colleague, but exactly that argument
was used by apologists for Pretoria to me personally. They said
that they knew better what the South African black majority felt
about sanctions than the ANC did, but they did not, and I do not
think you should in the Iraqi case either.
853. Maybe you are misunderstanding what I am
saying. What I am saying is that the opposition inside South Africa
as well as outside South Africa, the people of South Africa were
supportive of sanctions and indeed asked for extra sanctions to
be put on, including financial sanctions.
(Mr Hain) Well, their organisations did, such as the
ANC, the PAC and so on.
854. That is right.
(Mr Hain) But nobody actually knew what the people
wanted. You are claiming that the people of Iraq do not want sanctions
applied and I just look to the organised opposition and they are
enthusiastically behind us, including the representative of the
Kurds, and that seems to me to be game, set and match, if I may
855. The point I wanted to come on to is that
in relation to the sanctions, before the sanctions, there was
the Gulf War, and I went to Baghdad before the Gulf War and the
people of Iraq were thriving, there were no problems, except for
certain specific areas in Iraq and after the Gulf War, then the
sanctions regime was put in place and then there were problems,
the particular problems in terms of Saddam Hussein oppressing
his people, so that is the historic truth.
(Mr Hain) Well, I do not accept that version of history.
I think in the case of the Kurds and the Marsh Arabs and many
others, they were suffering very, very badly, and I am sure you
would agree with that as somebody who has taken a great interest
in international humanitarian issues and human rights.
(Mr Hain) As for the question of human rights, virtually
everybody in Iraq was not only suffering, but if they got in his
way, they got killed, so I do not see how that can be a situation
in which you say everything was okay. I am sure you do not really
857. I am not saying that everything was okay.
(Mr Hain) It was pretty awful.
Mr Grant: I am saying that for certain people
there was the humanitarian issue, but that for other people in
Iraq, which is what you are not conceding, and some would argue
that they were the majority of people in Iraq, life went on as
858. Well, I do not think we need to continue
the debate, Minister. We will, as a Committee, think about what
you have said to us and try to make a judgment as to what we believe
in Committee, but your evidence has been extremely valuable to
us because we have had a great deal of evidence on both sides
of this argument and we will try to come a balanced view on it
and issue a report, we hope, which will be helpful and useful.
We would be very grateful if you would give us that information
you promised particularly as soon as possible because we would
like to issue this report so that it can influence the future
sanctions regimes, not just in Iraq, but throughout the world
since they are being discussed when you are President of the Security
Council, I believe, in December or January, is it?
(Mr Hain) December, next month.
859. So if we could get something out earlier
or as quickly as possible, it might be helpful, so thank you very
much indeed for coming and giving us your views so strongly and
supported so well.
(Mr Hain) Thank you very much and I will certainly
get that to you as soon as I can.