Economic Sanctions and the Use of Force against Iraq by the UN Security Council Essay

The comprehensive sanctions against Iraq, which had been initiated in 1990, resulted in the gross violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of the people of Iraq. This initiative of the US – UN combine is the first of its kind and affects the entire population of Iraq. Even the right to life has been denied to these hapless citizens of Iraq, on account of these repressive policies. The most disturbing aspect of this terrible injustice is that a body, which patently represents the comity of nations, has subjected one of its member states to such repression.

Iraq has been deprived of electricity, water, medicines and consequently any semblance of health services (Kochler, 2004. P. 23). The UN Security Council employed economic sanctions to enforce its resolutions. This was particularly true of the period following the cold war. Prior to the use of force against Iraq, a strategy of economic sanctions had been employed. There is agreement amongst most of the nations to use economic sanctions to bring about compliance with its resolutions.

The popularity enjoyed by these sanctions is due to the fact that the citizens of most of the democracies of the west oppose casualties in their army. As such, economic sanctions are preferable because they compel compliance with Security Council Resolutions, without causing a risk to the life of the army personnel (Payne, 2003). Iraq has the dubious distinction of being the last country to have been subjected to all round UN economic sanctions. Sanction policy of the UN had evolved to the present level due to the Iraqi experience (Wakeham, 2007. P. 15).

Consensus could not be reached among the different nations that had come together to compel Iraq to quit Kuwait. However, some governments do not support such sanctions, as they have a direct and harmful effect on the civil population. Some other governments have opined that the suffering of the Iraqis is a consequence of Saddam Hussain’s adamant stance in refusing compliance with UN Security Council resolutions (Payne, 2003). Such sanctions result in the coalescing of the support of the public for the nation that had been subjected to such sanctions.

The reason for this opinion among the general public is that such sanctions resemble an exercise by foreign countries to interfere in a county’s functioning. Moreover, such sanctions are not restricted to the leaders of the country being subjected to the former. Thus everyone in that particular country gets tarred by the same brush, and is subjected to the same sanctions (Payne, 2003). In order to concentrate more on the recalcitrant leadership, the UN Security Council attempted to modify its sanctions. An example of this new thinking was the 1996 Oil for Food program.

Nevertheless, sanctions cause a lot of grief, for example quite a few people lose their life due to lack of adequate food or medicines. At one point of time nearly 5000 Iraqi children were dying every year (Payne, 2003). On many occasions these economic sanctions do not produce the desired effect and seem to be incapable of modifying the outlook of the country to which they are applied. Such failure can be ascribed to many causes and lack of adequacy to engender the desired result is one of them. Moreover, such sanctions could result in large scale opposition to the UN initiatives in the population.

Such opposition could lead to greater support for that government and that country could commence to look for circumventing these sanctions (Hufbauer, 1990. P. 12). A number of sanctions were imposed against Iraq by the UN Security Council. Moreover, there was to be no trade in commodities or products with any Iraqi or Kuwaiti national. Further, no funds or resources were to be made available to such Iraqi or Kuwaiti entities. However, there was no moratorium imposed against the import of medical and food supplies (RESOLUTION 661, 1990).

By October 1997, Iraq reverted to its arrogant demeanor and reneged on the assurance given to the UN Security Council. Specifically, it refused to cooperate with the arms inspectors of UN and the International Atomic Energy Agency or IAEA. The situation was exacerbated, due to the refusal to cooperate with UN inspectors in 1998. The US and the UK threatened to use significant force against Iraq. Very few members of the UN objected to this threat, because of the proven iniquity, unreliability, high – handedness and isolation of the Iraqi regime.

This apathy by the comity of nations led to the unjustified invasion of Iraq, in 2003 by the US (Weller, 1998). The reluctance of Iraq to submit to such inspections was not to be dealt with by the use of substantial force, as was the intention of the Americans. The morally and legally permissible course of action was to impose trade and other embargos on Iraq. What would have been justified and perhaps also essential was to impose severe economic sanctions against it (Weller, 1998).