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Myths and Facts About Iraq

Released by the Department of State, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs August 2, 2000

Myth: Everything that’s wrong with Iraq’s economy is because of sanctions.

Fact: Iraq enjoyed a strong economy until Saddam Hussein took power and
launched attacks against his neighbors âEUR” Iran in 1980 and Kuwait in 1990 âEUR”
with devastating results for Iraq. It took 5 years for Saddam to accept the
oil-for-food program. Saddam also has failed to implement policies that would
boost economic growth and generate job opportunities to improve the
population’s living standards.

Myth: The Iraqi people do not have an adequate supply of medicine because of
sanctions.

Fact: Sanctions have never prohibited or limited the import of medicine. In
fact, the UN has urged the Iraqi regime to order more basic medicines, but
Baghdad has refused. Saddam has been criticized by the UN for intentionally
hoarding medicines in warehouses in government-controlled Iraq instead of
distributing it to civilians.

Myth: Sanctions prohibit humanitarian contributions to Iraq.

Fact: Sanctions do not prohibit humanitarian contributions, Saddam does.
Since June 1998, Saddam has publicly refused a number of humanitarian
contributions while claiming that his people are suffering.

Myth: Sanctions prohibit the import of pencils, books and journals, and desks
for schools.

Fact: Basic educational supplies including pencils, books, and desks have
never been prohibited by UN sanctions. They have been sent to Iraq regularly
since 1991 and nearly $64 million of supplies for the education sector,
including photocopiers, and printing and lab equipment, have entered Iraq
under the oil-for-food program.

Myth: Sanctions prohibit Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) from working
in Iraq and the UN can run whatever programs it wants in country.

Fact: Saddam has refused to allow most NGOs into Iraq and sometimes impedes
UN workers trying to oversee oil-for-food programs. In fact, Saddam launched
a series of terrorist attacks against NGO and UN workers in northern Iraq in
the early 1990s.

Myth: Sanctions prevent Iraqis from going on the Hajj.

Fact: Sanctions have never prevented Iraqis from making the Hajj. The
Security Council exempted Hajj flights from flight restrictions and has
offered the use of oil-for-food revenue to fund private Iraqi Hajj travel,
but Baghdad rejected the plan.

Myth: Sanctions prevent travel to the Muslim holy sites in southern Iraq.

Fact: Sanctions have never prohibited travel in or out of Iraq. The UN
Sanctions Committee approved a ferry service allowing pilgrims in the region
to travel to An Najaf and Karbala.

Myth: Sanctions have crippled Iraq’s ability to export oil.

Fact: Iraq’s oil exports are approaching pre-war levels. Prior to the Gulf
War, Iraq was exporting about 2.6 million barrels per day of crude oil. Its
current crude oil exports have averaged about 2.2 million barrels per day in
recent months, and the regime said it plans to increase exports to about 2.7
million barrels per day by yearend, which is higher than pre-war exports. In
addition, Iraq is smuggling 2.8 million barrels of oil per month through the
Persian Gulf.

Myth: Sanctions on Iraq will never be lifted.

Fact: Sanctions remain in place because Iraq refuses to comply with Security
Council resolutions. The requirements for lifting sanctions have not changed
since they were first imposed in 1991. UN Resolution 1284, which Iraq
rejects, lays a path for the eventual suspension and lifting of sanctions.

Myth: The international community has not taken measures to care for the
Iraqi people.

Fact: The UN designed the oil-for-food program in 1991 âEUR” unprecedented in
size and scope–to provide food and medicine for the Iraqi people. Saddam
rejected it outright for four years and then slow-rolled it for another year
and a half. The substantial expansion over the years has increased provisions
for Iraqis. The international community continues to look for ways to improve
the program, despite Saddam’s effort to undermine humanitarian efforts.

Myth: The oil-for-food program has failed to meet basic needs of the Iraqi
people and it never will.

Fact: Oil-for-food has made significant improvements in the lives of the
Iraqis and will continue to do so. The increase in revenue under the
oil-for-food program from $4 billion in the first year of the program to a
projected $20.4 billion this year means there is a tremendous amount of money
available for humanitarian goods. The government of Iraq must choose to make
that happen. In northern Iraq, where the UN controls the humanitarian relief
programs, child mortality rates are lower than they were before the Gulf War.
However, in southern and central Iraq, where the Iraqi Government controls
the oil-for-food program, mortality rates have doubled.

Myth: There is a limit on the amount of food Iraq can import.

Fact: There has never been a limit on the amount of food Iraq can import.

Myth: Contract holds have kept a majority of goods from entering Iraq.

Fact: Since the oil-for-food program was implemented in March 1997, the UN
Sanctions Committee has approved about 90% of Iraqi contracts received.

Myth: The Iraqi Government is doing all it can to make the oil-for-food
program work.

Fact: The regime is slow to order and distribute goods and Saddam’s lack of
cooperation on monitoring makes it difficult to ensure goods are equitably
distributed to the Iraqi people. Baghdad has rejected UN recommendations to
increase protein-enriched goods for malnourished children and pregnant women.
The Iraqi Government has also rejected assistance by all but a few
Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and other outside groups.

Myth: The UN provides substandard goods under the oil-for-food program.

Fact: Under oil-for-food, Saddam, not the UN, chooses what is purchased and
from whom. Saddam’s choice of suppliers is politically motivated. Over
one-third of all contracts have gone to Iraq’s three most vocal supporters on
the Security Council. Iraq also continues to oppose placing mobile testing
laboratories for humanitarian goods under oil-for-food at UN entry points
that would insure the quality of goods delivered.

Myth: Iraq does not have the resources to support the Iraqi people.

Fact: Baghdad has significant resources available to alleviate much of Iraq’s
humanitarian suffering, but Saddam does not spend the money on the Iraqi
people. The oil-for-food program allows Iraq to sell as much oil as required
to meet humanitarian needs. From December 1999 to June 2000, Iraq earned
approximately $8.3 billion from oil sales.

Myth: There is little food available in Iraq.

Fact: More than 13 million metric tons of foodstuffs have arrived in Iraq
since the first deliveries of the oil-for-food program began in 1997. In
fact, Baghdad has been caught exporting dates, corn, and grain outside of
Iraq while claiming the Iraqi people are starving.

Myth: Iraq is in compliance with UN Security Council Resolutions.

Fact: Iraq has not complied with UN Security Council Resolutions that call
for dismantling weapons of mass destruction programs, and returning Kuwaiti
and other nations’ missing persons and POWs and Kuwaiti property seized
during the Gulf War.

Myth: Iraq has accounted for all Kuwaiti POWs and missing persons during the
Gulf War.

Fact: Iraq has still not accounted for some 600 missing Kuwaitis. For over a
year, the regime has refused to cooperate with the ICRC in this humanitarian
endeavor. Baghdad also will not allow the UN Kuwaiti Issues Coordinator entry
into Iraq to discuss POWs or the property Iraq stole from Kuwait.

Myth: UNSCOM inspectors behaved badly and deserved to be thrown out of Iraq.

Fact: The inspectors were not thrown out of Iraq. Iraq’s obstructionism and
refusal to cooperate with the weapons inspectors, who were carrying out a UN
Security Council mandate, prevented the inspectors from fulfilling their
mission and they had no choice but to leave.

Myth: Saddam is not more brutal than other dictators.

Fact: Saddam’s gassing of the Kurds in northern Iraq in 1988 was one of the
largest chemical weapon attacks ever waged against a civilian population.
Even today, Saddam continues to practice systematic torture, executions,
forced displacement, and repression against the Iraqi people. The U.S. is
currently seeking an indictment of senior regime officials for these
atrocities.

Myth: Only ethnic minorities (not Sunnis) in Iraq are subject to harsh
treatment by the regime.

Fact: Any group opposed to Saddam Hussein’s regime is subject to brutal
repression. The regime has moved against its people âEUR” be they Arab, Kurd, or
Turkoman, Sunni, Shia, or Christian âEUR” through expulsion from their homes,
razing of villages, arbitrary arrest, execution, and torture.

Myth: Iraq is no longer a threat to its neighbors.

Fact: As a result of its refusal to cooperate with the UN disarmament regime,
Iraq maintains the capacity to produce missiles and chemical, biological, and
nuclear weapons. The absence of UN inspectors from Iraq has afforded Saddam
the opportunity to reconstitute his arsenal of weapons of mass destruction.
Saddam has already launched two bloody wars; one against Iran in 1980 and the
other against Kuwait in 1990. In the last couple of years, Saddam Hussein has
repeatedly issued public threats against his neighbors, including calls for
the overthrow of a number of regimes.

Myth: Coalition air strikes are aimed at the Iraqi people.

Fact: The air strikes are not targeted at the Iraqi people. They are the
direct response for self-defense of the forces that protect the Kurds in the
north and the Shia in the south from the regime’s civilian repression.

Myth: Saddam’s palaces are used by the Iraqi people.

Fact: The nearly 80 palaces and VIP residences in Iraq are purely for the
enjoyment of Saddam, his family, and key supporters as a reward for their
loyalty. Saddam’s inner circle is immune from harsh living conditions facing t
he general population.

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