BY MAURICE WILLIAMS
Threatening that Washington may take military action against Iraq, even without a vote by the United Nations Security Council, U.S. president William Clinton stated January 21 that if Iraqi officials "really believe that there are no circumstances under which we would not act alone, they are sadly mistaken."
Earlier that day, Iraqi deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz had called for a freeze until April on discussions with UN "weapons inspectors" on granting them "full access" throughout Iraqi territory. Richard Butler, the chief UN inspector, rejected the proposal, saying, "I cannot rule out that tomorrow or the next day .. I will authorize an inspection to one of the presidential sites." Baghdad has declared presidential sites off-limits to the UN inspectors.
The day before Aziz's proposal, U.S. Rear Admiral John Nathan declared, "It is perfectly clear to the Iraqi government that if they don't comply with sanctions, then the military option will be the type of option that will make the difference."
Nathan, commander of a group of seven U.S. warships deployed in the Persian Gulf, spoke from the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz as several of its 75 warplanes blasted off its deck to enforce the "no-fly zone" in southern Iraq. "We have great striking power and we certainly are the leverage for the United Nations," he warned.
In addition to Washington's arsenal, London announced January 16 it was sending the aircraft carrier HMS Invincible accompanied by the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Fort Victoria to Gulf region. London is the only government on the UN Security Council backing Washington's willingness to launch military strikes. When Moscow, Paris, and Beijing balked at backing previous White House war moves in mid-November, Clinton was forced to accept a diplomatic solution. Meanwhile, Iraqi president Saddam Hussein announced January 17 that cooperation with UN inspectors would be suspended by May 20 if sanctions against Iraq's oil sales are not lifted. Baghdad asserts that Washington and London intend to manipulate inspections to ensure the embargo, which was imposed during the U.S.-led Gulf War, in which more than 100,000 Iraqis were killed, remains in place indefinitely
An unnamed senior Clinton administration official admitted, "the logic of our position is that sanctions will be in place until he [Saddam Hussein] is gone."
Baghdad has demanded that the U.S. U-2 spy flights flying over Iraqi territory be replaced by French or Russian planes and also called for 1 million volunteers to campaign for an end to the seven-year-old embargo. The Iraqi government organized a rally of 5,000 people January 19 demanding an end to sanctions in front of the UN inspectors' headquarters in Baghdad.
A funeral procession was held that same day for 73 children who died because of lack of medical supplies. Since the sanctions were imposed, infant mortality has increased six- fold. A United Nations Children's Fund report release last November reported that 32 percent of Iraqi children - some 960,000 people - are chronically malnourished as a result of lack of food and medicines due to the UN embargo.
When the Iraqi government imported a batch of growth medium, which is used in hospitals, U.S. and British officials issued allegations that the substance was for use by Baghdad for developing a biological weapons program.
Washington uses these claims to demand the right to snoop on any facility in Iraq; searching detergent factories, breweries, pharmaceutical production, dairy factories, and vegetable processing plants.
Another allegation by Butler that Baghdad was conducting "possible biological testing on human beings" at a prison was disputed by other UN officials. Charles Duelfer, deputy chairman of the United Nations Special Commission to disarm Iraq, said a photograph found more than two years ago of a man with a lesion on his arm touted as evidence proved nothing.
"We certainly cannot draw the conclusion that it's human
testing," he asserted.
Front page (for this issue) | Home | Text-version home