Anna Lindh's Regrettable Speech on Iraq


PressInfo # 164

 November 12, 2002


By TFF's Board


The speech by Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh for United Nations Day was to a great extent about Iraq. Twelve years ago, the Security Council of the UN decided to take measures to fully disarm Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, by applying sanctions and imposing inspections, in order to remove the threat to international peace and security posed by Iraq, a threat manifested by the nation's aggression and occupation of Kuwait.

What has happened during those twelve years? Highly successful inspections were conducted under the leadership of the Swedish ambassador Rolf Ekéus. Those inspections led to the destruction of most of Iraq's biological and chemical weapons. No reliable expertise claims that Iraq is even close to possessing nuclear weapons. Along with the bombing of Iraq's infrastructure by the United States and Britain (without UN mandate and in total discord with international human rights agreements), the sanctions have crushed the country's economy and produced catastrophic living conditions for its 23 million inhabitants. Apart from a certain import of conventional weapons, the military capacity of Iraq is not even half of what it was during the invasion of Kuwait.

Iraq's leadership since the Gulf War has not threatened anyone, nor committed any aggression, nor brought about civil war. Thus, no criteria for threatening the world have been met. The relations between Iraq and its neighbours have improved and none of them advocates war with Iraq. Even if a country has weapons of mass destruction, WMD, at its disposal, it must also have people and weapons - such as missiles - to carry the WMD to a target. In addition, the philosophy of deterrence works as well on Iraq as it works on any other state that considers using that kind of weapons. Inspectors and others who have been to Iraq - such as former chief inspector Scott Ritter as well as TFF associate and director of the UN humanitarian programme Hans von Sponeck - would definitely not endorse the Foreign Minister's current position.

In sum, the Iraq of today does not represent a threat to international peace and security.

Yet the Swedish Foreign Minister says that Sweden supports a war against Iraq if the UN Security Council estimates that it is the last and only option. On UN Day, one would have expected Anna Lindh to follow Sweden's traditional foreign policy orientation and do an analysis of the actual threat to international peace and security. One would have expected her to speak of the coming inspections led by the former Swedish Foreign Minister Hans Blix and to discuss creative measures to preserve peace in the region and hinder the United States mobilisation for an attack, which is already at a very advanced stage. But instead of giving the inspectors a chance, the Minister chose to support the war option.

Anna Lindh did not discuss the central question of the USA's interest in a war that could provide military, political, and economic control of a country that has the world's second most important oil resources, and which is also the neighbour of Saudi-Arabia, home to the world's largest oil resources. Furthermore, mostly for domestic political concerns, the United States wishes to find a pro-Israeli solution to the ongoing Israel/Palestine conflict. This is the background against which the resolutions proposed by the USA to the Security Council should be seen. The resolutions are called "no tolerance" and they are formulated so that every sovereign state would understand them as an implicit declaration of war.

The Foreign Minister's evaluation that the pressure on Saddam would decrease if Sweden would not support war is based on the assumption that Sweden is a political heavyweight on the international scene, which is an arguable assumption. War has been going on for a while: the United States and Britain have been steadily bombing the country's so-called No-Fly Zone. Additionally, one cannot but interpret the United States' a) threat of war and occupation, b) opening of two CIA offices in Northern Iraq and c) systematic military mobilisation around Iraq even after the latter has accepted the unconditional return of the inspectors and liberation of all political prisoners, as counterproductive signals indicating that no matter what Iraq does, it will be destroyed by the strongest military power in history.

Anna Lindh says, with a double negation, that "it is important not to say that the UN cannot use violence." It gives the impression that Sweden is distancing itself from all of those who today speak out against the war in Sweden, the EU, the Third World and the USA. The UN Charter's first sentence implies that it is the UN's primary goal to stop the war. According to chapter VII, every other diplomatic tool should be tried before weapons are used. Since no UN member state has taken a mediation initiative in this conflict, one cannot pretend that all peaceful diplomatic tools have been tried and that they have not produced satisfying results.

Anna Lindh also pretends that the sanctions are not the main cause of the humanitarian catastrophe the Iraqi people are suffering through; Iraq is only allowed to import essential provisions and medicine. The Foreign Minister explains that the sanctions' negative effects are a consequence of the regime's wrong priorities. But it is the UN Sanction Committee, and not Iraq, that decides which goods the country is allowed to import. According to a group of UN bodies and NGO analysts, at least 500 000 and maybe over a million Iraqis have died due to sanction-related causes during their twelve-year activity. When considering these facts, one should remember that Iraq before the sanctions was in the process of becoming a welfare state with free education and healthcare systems and with important investments in modern infrastructures.

It is true that since 1999 Iraq can sell unlimited quantities of oil. But the country is entitled to a mere 53 percent of the total revenues while the rest is reserved for compensation for the war against Kuwait, for the Kurd population in Northern Iraq and to cover the operative costs of the UN in Iraq. In exchange for its oil, Iraq receives food, medicines as well as other specific goods but no money from the UN. Moreover, it is the Sanction Committee that decides which goods Iraq is allowed to import, and at the moment the import of goods amounting to a value of 6-7 billion dollar has been forbidden because it is thought that these goods could be eventually used for a military purpose (dual purpose).

Also, the comparison Ms Lindh makes between Iraq and Cuba is impracticable. Cuba has not been made the object of all of the UN nation states' sanctions: only the United States applied sanctions against Cuba. Unlike Iraq, Cuba has not been actively prohibited to import equipment and goods to clean its drinking-water. What happened and is still happening in Iraq is a social and economic mass murder among a population of 23 million. It is deeply troubling that Sweden's Foreign Minister now places Sweden on a circuit that defends this totally inhuman situation based on false information.

After completing an independent conflict analysis and conducting interviews in Iraq, TFF can affirm that it is practically impossible to find a humanitarian or other international organisation in Iraq that supports the sanctions or thinks that a war would be a solution to a problem or could possibly contribute to international peace and security.

Anna Lindh claims that "Iraq knows that if they co-operate with the UN inspections, they will avoids the sanctions." Iraq does not know that at all. In the contrary, what Iraq knows is that, since in whatever circumstances it is physically impossible to be one hundred percent sure that there is nothing hidden in a range of a million square kilometres, the sanctions will never be lifted and the only 'reward' for cooperating is to avoid bombing and invasion.

After all, it was not Iraq in 1998 that sent the inspectors away. Iraq refused to cooperate with the inspectors after it was discovered that some experts among the group were conducting pure spying operations. The credibility of the group directed by ambassador Ekeus' successor was thereby undermined, the inspectors were called back home, and parts of the country were consequently exposed to intensive bombings.

It is good that the Minister sustains that it is dangerous and not right if the US are "going it alone" and that it is not the UN's duty to remove Saddam. But it takes more than hopes and words about moderation to avoid a war with extraordinarily comprehensive local, regional and global consequences.

The Foreign Minister knows for sure that the Bush administration is doing all that it can to get the support of the UN in its planned war. It is deeply worrisome for the future of the UN. If the war against Iraq goes against human rights - and it does if Iraq is not a threat to peace and security - it becomes humanely unacceptable even if the Security Council would take a resolution with a formulation so unclear that the United States could interpret it as a mandate to satisfy its own expansionist ambitions. What the Minister should have underlined is that a UN decision about the use of violence can never be delegated to a Member State.

Many in the world expect totally different, more independent, genuine conflict management and peace-promoting measures from Sweden. Behind these expectations lies the most important and internationally respected tradition of active peace promoting, which during a century has been fostered by Hjalmar Branting, Osten Undén, Olof Palme and Ingvar Carlsson.

There should be a well-informed group of analysts at the Foreign Ministry working in close contact with Swedish and other countries' ambassadors in Baghdad. But Sweden has no representation in Iraq. Instead, it monitors what is probably one of the most dangerous conflicts in the world today from Jordan! The Foreign Ministry is therefore not very well informed about the true situation in Iraq and cannot, through personal face to face dialogues, make its own evaluation of the situation, of the way Arab way of thinking, of Iraqi politics or of the decision-makers' psychology. They cannot even listen to the "other" side.

Secondly, there must be an elaborated political initiative that offers an alternative to war. The risk of a fully fledged war is bound to increase as long as war is 'the only plan in town' and that doing nothing is thereby perceived as an alternative to war.

If the EU had a vision and a creative foreign policy, the support and influence of independent foreign policy thinking in Sweden would be a golden opportunity to show that the EU can be a main actor on the international scene and can be a constructive alternative to US domination. Since the EU is divided on the Iraq issue, one would have wished that Sweden and the current Chairman of the EU Council, Denmark, would have, in an eventual cooperation with Germany and France, put forth a well developed proposition for a mediation process between the United States and Iraq.

It is not politically correct to rally for war: anyone who is not personally affected by the conflict can do that. To be politically correct is to try intensively to find solutions to very serious problems by using intellect rather than muscles. It is all about "building peace by peaceful means" (UN Charter) and about the preventive diplomacy and new conflict management smartly praised over and over again in the publications of the Foreign Ministry and the Social Democratic Party.



© TFF 2002



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