February 19, 2003

WHOSE ALLY?:

FRANCE: SADDAM'S ALLY (Dick Morris, Feb. 05, 2003, Jewish World Review)
Throughout the '90s, France constantly pushed for the lifting of economic sanctions against Iraq. Bemoaning the fate of the Iraqi people, the French pushed to allow Saddam to sell oil on the global market (the so-called oil-for-food program). When America and Britain demanded tough controls on the funds from oil sales to be sure they did not go for arms, France objected that such controls would undermine Iraqi sovereignty. Largely as a result of French pressure, the oil-for-food program was implemented, allowing Saddam to sell 500,000 barrels per day on the open market (about a sixth of his pre-war production).

But Saddam couldn't do much rearming with the oil money, because U.N. inspectors were looking over his shoulder. So in November 1997, he announced that he would bar Americans from the 77-member inspection team. The other inspectors withdrew in protest and solidarity with their American mates. The world was plunged into crisis. Once again, France took Saddam's side. President Bill Clinton sent two aircraft carriers to the gulf and vowed that Saddam "must comply unconditionally with the will of the international community." French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine criticized Clinton for giving Saddam the impression that "there would never be a way out of the tunnel [of sanctions]," even if he got rid of all his weapons programs."

France demanded an end to all sanctions and called for unlimited oil sales by Iraq. Then suddenly Saddam seemed to back down in the face of Clinton's pressure and admitted the U.S. inspectors back in. Had there been concessions to Saddam? Oh no, said Deputy National Security Adviser Sandy Berger: "There's no deal. There's no concessions." But the French knew better. As Vedrine said, "The Americans bent a little." Pushed by France, the United States agreed to let Saddam increase his oil sales, ultimately letting sales grow to 2 million barrels per day. A concession to Iraq? No way, said Clinton's people: It was a concession to France; we were not giving in to Saddam. Then, the next year, Saddam barred all U.N. inspectors.

The final nail in the coffin of controls on Iraq came in 1999 when, again as a result of a French initiative, all limits on Iraqi oil sales were lifted. With no U.N. inspectors to inhibit him and $20 million a day in oil revenues, Saddam could build whatever weapons he wanted. Courtesy of France. The only consistency in French policy toward Iraq since the Gulf War has been support for Saddam Hussein to weaken U.N. and U.S. measures against him. [...]

Mark Twain known for his insights and aphorisms, wrote: "France has neither winter nor summer nor morals. Apart from these drawbacks, it is a fine country." Twain died in 1910, but his comment is as timely as ever.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 19, 2003 10:05 PM
Comments for this post are closed.