News

The Arab League Meeting on Iraq

Iraq News JANUARY 25, 1999

By Laurie Mylroie

The central focus of Iraq News is the tension between the considerable, proscribed WMD capabilities that Iraq is holding on to and its increasing stridency that it has complied with UNSCR 687 and it is time to lift sanctions. If you wish to receive Iraq News by email, a service which includes full-text of news reports not archived here, send your request to Laurie Mylroie .



I.  IRAQI DELEGATION WALKS OUT OF MEETING, MENA, JAN 24
II. SAHHAF PRESS CONFERENCE, IRAQ TV, JAN 24
III. ARAB LEAGUE STATEMENT, REUTERS, JAN 24
IV. IRAQ TO ASK OPEC TO CUT SAUDI QUOTA, IRAQ SATELLITE TV, JAN 24
V.  SEN. MURKOWSKI, OUR TOOTHLESS IRAQ POLICY, WASH POST, JAN 25

   At yesterday's Arab League Foreign Ministers meeting, Iraq's position 
was that the meeting should issue a statement that 1) condemned the US, 
UK strikes on Iraq; 2) called for an immediate lifting of sanctions; 3) 
condemned the no-fly zones; and 4) demanded that Iraq be compensated for 
damage caused by the US/UK strikes, according to MENA, Jan 24. 
   But the Saudi/Egyptian position prevailed and Iraq got none of that. 
After seven hours of debate, following the presentation of a draft final 
statement, the Iraqi delegation walked out, at 6:00 PM, local time, as 
MENA, Jan 24 reported.  The NYT, today, explained that the ministers 
deliberated another four and a half hours, but made no fundamental 
changes in the statement.

   In a press conference, following Iraq's abrupt departure from the 
meeting, broadcast on Qatar's Al-Jazirah television and then on Iraqi 
television, Foreign Minister Muhammad al-Sahhaf explained that Iraq's 
opponents, "particularly Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, resorted to intrigue 
and tricks . . . to formulate a communique that instead of condemning 
the aggression against Iraq, they tried to repeat the past from a biased 
point of view.  Instead of condemning the aggression against Iraq, they 
tried to blame Iraq.  . . . The provisions appear as if they support 
Iraq, but in reality are meaningless. . . We told them that this is 
unacceptable and that this is not the purpose of the meeting; rather, 
this is another kind of conspiracy that gives the Americans and the 
British [an excuse] to repeat the aggression on Iraq."
  In response to a question, Sahhaf further explained that the draft 
statement "did not include a condemnation of the aggression.  The rest 
of the draft statement is made up of general words that mean nothing and 
are worth nothing.  In it, they blamed Iraq and said lies about Iraq, 
saying that Iraq provokes its neighbors, while Iraq is the one being 
attacked . . ."

  Indeed, as Reuters, Jan 24, reported the draft statement called on 
Iraq "to implement United Nations resolutions on weapons inspections."  
It also said, "'The ministers expressed sorrow and displeasure over the 
military option against Iraq.  They called for diplomacy and adoption of 
Security Council resolutions. . . The ministers expressed total 
solidarity with the Iraqi people and their suffering from the embargo 
and stressed there should be international efforts to lift it.' . . . 
[They] called on Iraq 'not to follow provocative policies towards its 
neighbours  . . . and they asked the Iraqi government to prove its 
peaceful intentions towards Kuwait and neighbouring countries verbally 
and practically. 'They decided that Arab governments should all exert 
efforts within the UN and the Security Council to lift the sanctions 
according to a timely programme.'  . . . The statement called for a 
follow-up committee including Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt, Jordan, United 
Arab Emirates, the Arab members of the Security Council [Bahrain] and 
the Arab League head. 'The meeting stressed the Arab stand against 
violations of Iraq's sovereignty, the unity of its lands and 
interference in its internal affairs.'  The statement also said there 
should not be 'double standards' with regard to Security Council 
resolutions, referring to Israel's 'possession of weapons of mass 
destruction as well as threatening Arab lands.'  The communique. . . . 
said there would be more talks on the possibility of an Arab summit."

  Almost certainly, none of this is a surprise to Baghdad.  So, stay 
tuned.  Notably, Iraqi Oil Minister, Gen. Amir Rashid, announced that 
Iraq would ask OPEC to reduce Saudi Arabia's oil quota by one-third, as 
Iraq satellite television reported yesterday.

   Finally, Sen. Frank Murkowski, [R, Alaska], chair of the Senate 
committee on Energy and Natural Resources, wrote in today's Wash Post, 
"On the eve of Operation Desert Fox, President Clinton announced to the 
nation that 'we are delivering a powerful message to Saddam.'  That 
message now appears to be that as long as Saddam Hussein refuses to 
cooperate with inspections, refuses to comply with UN resolutions and 
refuses to stop illegally smuggling out oil, he will be rewarded by the 
de facto ending of economic sanctions.  At least, that was the message 
sent by the US Ambassador to the United Nations Peter Burleigh on Jan 14 
when he offered a plan to eliminate the ceiling on how much oil Iraq can 
sell abroad. . . . When the UN reconsiders reauthorizing the 
oil-for-food program in May, the United States should use its veto to 
end this program, which has allowed Saddam Hussein to rebuild his 
political and military support. . . Only then will Saddam Hussein 
realize that cooperation with UN inspectors is the only way to rebuild 
his economy.  The policy predicated on so-called humanitarian 
grounds--oil for food--not only has failed but has ensured the survival 
of Saddam Hussein."  

I. IRAQI DELEGATION WALKS OUT OF MEETING
Cairo MENA in English 1748 GMT 24 Jan 99
[FBIS Transcribed Text]
CAIRO, Jan 24 (MENA)--Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohamed Said Sahhaf and 
members of the Iraqi delegation suddenly withdrew from a closed meeting 
held this evening.
   They went to their residence at the Hilton Hotel near the Arab 
League.
   The Iraqi delegation did not give reasons for its withdrawal when the 
second closed meeting began at 1800 (1600 GMT) Sunday [24 January].  But 
conference sources said Sahhaf rejected a draft of the final communique 
which Arab Foreign Ministers began to discuss Sunday evening.
   Sahhaf is expected to hold a press conference later Sunday evening to 
give reasons for the withdrawal of the Iraqi delegation.

II. SAHHAF PRESS CONFERENCE
Baghdad Iraq Television Network in Arabic 2015 GMT 24 Jan 99
[Unscheduled announcer-read report over video]
[FBIS Translated Text] The al-Jazirah Channel in Qatar broadcast the 
following statements by Foreign Minister Muhammad Sa'id al-Sahhaf after 
leaving the Arab League Foreign Ministers meeting in Cairo:
[Begin al-Sahhaf recording] Regrettably, and because of the same group, 
the Hurghada group [ED: Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Oman], 
meaning that some Gulf countries, particularly Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, 
resorted to intrigue and tricks and all the other nonobjective means to 
formulate a communique that instead of condemning the aggression against 
Iraq, they tried to repeat the past from a biased point of view. Instead 
of condemning the aggression and supporting Iraq, they tried to blame 
Iraq. After this, they introduced some formal provisions, which while 
seeming to be positive, are meaningless. These provisions appear as if 
they support Iraq, but in reality are meaningless. They wanted to say 
that they are upset and worried over the recourse to the military option 
against Iraq and that they will form a committee that will follow up 
with the UN Security Council the issue of how to lift the embargo on 
Iraq, and that Iraq should not participate in this committee. They chose 
countries that are hostile to Iraq like Saudi Arabia as members in this 
committee; therefore, there are unbalanced measures in this draft 
communique. We tried to explain to them. It was clear that there was US 
pressure on some of those present at the meeting that made the meeting 
fruitless and had a very negative effect. We told them that this is 
unacceptable and that this is not the purpose of the meeting; rather, 
this is another kind of conspiracy that gives the Americans and the 
British to repeat the aggression on Iraq.  Just a note: The superficial 
positive points are completely worthless.
[Al-Jazirah correspondent] What exactly was not satisfactory for Iraq? 
Did the draft final statement not include a condemnation of the US-UK 
aggression, a call for lifting the siege imposed on Iraq, your
demands of Arab support for Iraq in the UN Security Council?
[Al-Sahhaf] It did not include a condemnation of the aggression. The 
rest of the draft statement is made up of general words that mean 
nothing and are worth nothing. In it, they blamed Iraq and said lies 
about Iraq, saying that Iraq provokes its neighbors, while Iraq is the 
one being attacked. They claimed that the security of all Arab countries 
-- including countries as far as Morocco, Tunisia, and Libya -- depends 
on Iraq stopping making threats to its neighbors. It is a lie based on a 
lie. Who threatens whom? From where did the planes and missiles that 
struck Iraq come?
[Correspondent] Did you consider this similar to the Damascus 
Declaration statement in that it offers a legitimate framework and cover 
for a new aggression on Iraq?
[Al-Sahhaf] In its meaning and essence, it is a major failure for those 
who tried to make this statement a negative and harmful one.
[Correspondent] What are Iraq's choices? Will it resort to Arab public 
opinion? We know that its options are limited and that the statement you 
rejected is being supported by the majority.
[Al-Sahhaf] Many majority decisions are made without the consent of the 
majority. There is a silent majority, and we believe that the silent 
majority does not support these schemes. The Arab nation is all
behind Iraq.
[Correspondent] Do you think the Americans will move ahead with projects 
to support the Iraqi opposition and to divide [Iraq] after the Arab 
world failed to take a unified stand to express solidarity with the 
Iraqi people and state?
[Al-Sahhaf] These projects are just as miserable and silly as this 
meeting.
[Correspondent] Were there Arab countries in the meeting who supported 
the Iraqi stand in rejecting the draft statement at hand?
[Al-Sahhaf] All the Arab Maghreb countries tried to stop the scheming 
members but all their good efforts regrettably failed.
[Al-Sahhaf] We heard that you had a heated argument with the Kuwaiti 
[foreign] minister; did this really happen?
[Al-Sahhaf] No, he tried -- as usual -- to be slanderous and I answered 
back.
[Video shows video taken from al-Jazirah Space Channel of al-Sahhaf 
making statements to reporters]

III. ARAB LEAGUE STATEMENT
Arab Statement Calls for Iraqi U.N. Compliance
CAIRO, Jan 24 (Reuters) - Arab League foreign ministers meeting in Cairo 
issued a statement on Sunday calling on Iraq to implement United Nations 
resolutions on weapons inspections which are crucial 
to any lifting of sanctions. 
   It also called on Iraq not to make any "provocative actions" towards 
its neighbours, including Kuwait, which Baghdad invaded in 1990 and 
occupied for seven months. 
   The communique was given to reporters by Arab League officials after 
Iraq walked out of the talks in protest over what it called a biased 
final statement. 
   The ministers continued their talks after the Iraqi protest, 
suggesting there could be changes to what they had intended to be the 
final statement. 
   "The ministers are still discussing the final statement," an Egyptian 
official told Reuters. 
    The meeting of the 22-member Arab League had sought to unify the 
Arabs' position on Iraq after U.S.-led air strikes against the country 
in December. 
   "The ministers expressed sorrow and displeasure over the military 
option against Iraq. They called for diplomacy and adoption of Security 
Council resolutions," the statement said. 
   The ministers called on Iraq to cooperate with the United Nations in 
implementing the resolutions. 
   The air strikes by the U.S. and Britain were launched last month 
after U.N. weapons inspectors reported that Baghdad was not cooperating 
with them. The inspections must prove Iraq has rid itself of any weapons 
of mass destruction before the eight-year old sanctions can be lifted. 
  "The ministers expressed total solidarity with the Iraqi people and 
their suffering from the embargo and stressed there should be 
international efforts to lift it," the statement said. 
   It called on Iraq "not to follow provocative policies towards it 
neighbours...and they asked the Iraqi government to prove its peaceful 
intentions towards Kuwait and neighbouring countries verbally and 
practically. 
   "They decided that Arab governments should all exert efforts within 
the U.N. and the Security Council to lift the sanctions according to a 
timely programme." 
   It made no mention of what one Arab League source had earlier said 
was a line in the final statement implying Iraq recognised that it made 
a mistake over Kuwait and refused to apologise. 
   The statement called for a follow-up committee including Saudi 
Arabia, Syria, Egypt, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, the Arab members of 
the Security Council and the Arab League head. 
   "The meeting stressed the Arab stand against violations of Iraq's 
sovereignty, the unity of its lands and interference of its internal 
affairs." 
   The statement also said there should not be "double standards" with 
regard to Security Council resolutions, referring to Israel's 
"possession of weapons of mass destruction as well as threatening Arab 
lands." 
   The communique, issued after seven hours of talks, said there would 
be more talks on the possibility of an Arab summit.

IV. IRAQ TO ASK OPEC TO CUT SAUDI QUOTA
Baghdad Iraq Satellite Channel Television in Arabic 1700 GMT 24 Jan 99 
[Announcer-read report]
[FBIS Translated Text] Oil Minister Lieutenant General 'Amir Muhammad 
Rashid has announced that Iraq will ask OPEC to reduce Saudi Arabia's 
oil production quota by one-third, and said Saudi Arabia is responsible 
for the drop in the oil prices.
  The oil minister said that his ministry took several measures in light 
of the thorough analysis of his Excellency President Saddam Husayn to 
expose the Saudi oil policy and the harm that has befallen the
oil-producing countries from the drop in prices.

V. SEN. MURKOWSKI, OUR TOOTHLESS IRAQ POLICY
Our Toothless Policy on Iraq 
By Frank H. Murkowski
Monday, January 25, 1999; Page A21 
   On the eve of Operation Desert Fox, President Clinton announced to 
the nation that "we are delivering a powerful message to Saddam." That 
message now appears to be that as long as Saddam Hussein refuses to 
cooperate with inspections, refuses to comply with U.N. resolutions and 
refuses to stop illegally smuggling out oil, he will be rewarded by the 
de facto ending of economic sanctions. 
   At least, that was the message sent by the U.S. Ambassador to the 
United Nations Peter Burleigh on Jan. 14 when he offered a plan to 
eliminate the ceiling on how much oil Iraq can sell abroad. This 
proposal was in reaction to a proposal (made by France and supported by 
Russia and China) to end the Iraq oil embargo. Do not be fooled. The 
distinctions between the U.S. plan and the French plan are meaningless. 
This is the end of the U.N. sanctions regime. Security Council 
Resolution 687, passed in 1991 at the end of the Gulf War, requires that 
international economic sanctions, including an embargo on the sale of 
oil from Iraq, remain in place until Iraq discloses and destroys its 
weapons of mass destruction programs and capabilities and undertakes 
unconditionally never to resume such activities. This, we know, has not 
happened. 
   But the teeth in Resolution 687 have effectively been pulled, one by 
one, with the introduction and then continued expansion of the so-called 
oil-for-food exception to the sanctions. Although the humanitarian goals 
of the oil-for-food program are worthy, Saddam Hussein already has 
subverted the program to his own benefit by using increased oil capacity 
to smuggle oil for hard cash and by freeing up resources he might have 
been forced to use for food and medicine for his own people. 
   The increase in illegal sales of petroleum products coincided with 
implementation of the oil-for-food program in 1995. Part of this 
illegally sold oil is moving by truck across the Turkish-Iraqi border. A 
more significant amount is moving by sea through the Persian Gulf. 
Exports of contraband Iraqi oil through the gulf have jumped some 
50-fold in the past two years, to nearly half a billion dollars. 
Further, Iraq has been steadily increasing illegal exports of oil to 
Jordan and Turkey. 
   Oil is Saddam Hussein's lifeline; it fuels his ability to finance his 
factories of death and rebuild his weapons of mass destruction. Revenue 
from oil exports historically has represented nearly all of Iraq's 
foreign exchange earnings. In the year preceding Operation Desert Storm, 
Iraq's export earnings totaled $10.4 billion, with 95 percent attributed 
to petroleum. Iraq's imports during that same year, 1990, totaled only 
$6.6 billion. 
   The United States proposes to lift the ceiling on the only export 
that matters. In addition, it is prepared to relax the scrutiny applied 
to contracts for spare parts and other equipment needed to get Iraqi 
industry working better. 
   France, China and Russia, of course, did not support Desert Fox, and 
have wanted to lift the Iraq embargo for some time. They are willing to 
put economic gain before international security, because these appeasers 
of Iraq stand to earn billions in a post-sanctions world. In fact, 
earlier this month, the U.N. released more than $81 million under the 
expanded oil-for-food program to enable Iraq to buy electrical 
generating equipment, nearly all of which ($74.9 million) will come from 
China. Will these new turbines merely guarantee an uninterrupted power 
supply for Saddam Hussein's poison gas facilities? 
   Why is the Clinton administration prepared to take this course? 
Because our Iraq policy is bankrupt. We have relied on Kofi Annan and 
the Iraq appeasers to sign meaningless deals with Saddam Hussein 
regarding inspections that were useless from the moment they were 
signed. When we called back our aircraft at the last moment in October, 
despite the unanimous support of the Security Council for the attack, 
our Iraq policy suffered a near-fatal collapse. It finally did collapse 
when we decided to strike at a time when the president's credibility was 
at its lowest and the approach of Ramadan guaranteed Saddam Hussein 
easily could outlast our attack. Indeed the absurdity of our policy is 
reflected in the fact that in December our bombers targeted an oil 
refinery in Basra and at the end of the attack we pledged support to 
rebuild Iraq's oil-export capacity. 
   The inept policies that have brought us to this point must be 
reversed. As a first step, the administration ought to turn back from 
its path toward lifting, rather than tightening, the sanctions on Saddam 
Hussein. Second, when the U.N. reconsiders reauthorizing the 
oil-for-food program in May, the United States should use its veto to 
end this program, which has allowed Saddam Hussein to rebuild his 
political and military support. 
   We can bring Saddam Hussein to his knees by eliminating his ability 
to market any of his oil, thereby cutting off his cash flow. Not only 
should the United States strengthen oil interdiction and inspection 
operations, the administration should consider adopting a policy similar 
to the air blockade we enforce in the "no-fly" zone. A strictly enforced 
"no-oil-export" policy is what is called for. 
   Only then will Saddam Hussein realize that cooperation with U.N. 
inspectors is the only way to rebuild his economy. The policy predicated 
on so-called humanitarian grounds -- oil for food -- not only has failed 
but has ensured the survival of Saddam Hussein. 
The writer, a Republican senator from Alaska, chairs the Senate 
Committee on Energy and Natural Resources