Academic journal article Journal of Political Studies

UN Sanctions against Iraq: From Ailment to Chronic

Academic journal article Journal of Political Studies

UN Sanctions against Iraq: From Ailment to Chronic

Article excerpt


Since its inception after World War II, the UN has resorted to sanctions as a coercive enforcement tool whenever there is any threat to international peace and security or act of aggression from a country. In fact, of the very few instruments available to the UN Security Council (UNSC) to prevent the breach of international law, to maintain or restore world peace and security and for implementation of its decisions, sanctions are considered one of the most effective tools. However, prior to the disintegration of Soviet Union, the UNSC could not to take comprehensive and effective measures towards the conflicts between states or a folly act of a state as it refrained to apply tool of sanctions due to the Cold War politics. Nevertheless, the end of Cold War provided the prospect to revert to the notion of collective security and there has been an increase in the use of sanctions by the UNSC.

A well known and distinct example of UN sanctions regime is its 'Comprehensive Economic Sanctions' (CES) which was used against Iraq also called, "the Mount Everest of sanctions in the post-Cold War era" (Hufbauer et. al., 2007, p. 132) It was originally established under UNSC Resolution 661 after Iraqi President Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990. Eventually these sanctions were extended by UNSC Resolution 687 mainly to pressurize Iraq to give up its Weapon of Mass Destruction (WMD) programme. A chief amendment in the sanction regime occurred when the UNSC approved Resolution 986, which established the Oil-for-Food Program (OFFP) allowing Iraq to sell a limited quantity of oil under strict UN supervision to buy humanitarian supplies in return.

Surprisingly, the Sanctions were imposed for an unlimited period having some ambitious motives of United States of America (US) particularly and some other members like UK and France which were the driving force of the UNSC. As a result, sanctions created multiple effects on Iraq and its people. The broad-brush sanctions completely restricted the country from engaging in most international trade as a consequence, Iraq's economy was badly damaged. While the social cost that UN sanctions exerted was serious, however, the Iraqi ruling elite remained largely unaffected by the sanctions. In 2003, when Iraq was still in a catastrophic situation, the U.S. launched a war and invaded Iraq on the pretext of Iraq's WMD and its link to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Shortly after the U.S. invasion, a bulk of UN sanctions was lifted in 2003.

The imposition of these sanctions on Iraq has led many, within and outside the UN, to say that this tool is largely "antithetical to the fundamental mission of the UN" (Gordon, 2010, p. x). Writers like Mueller, Simon and Gordon have described sanctions as "the UN's weapon of mass destruction, as a genocidal tool and as modern siege warfare" (Farral, 2007, p. 5). While sanctions got much criticism, the tool of comprehensive sanctions has not been excluded from the peace and security toolbox of UN. The case of Iraq provided a lens through which the present perception regarding sanctions can be examined.

UN Sanctions: Meaning, Objectives and Kinds

The word 'Sanctions' is derived from a Latin word sanctio, meaning "a law or decree that is sacred or inviolable" (Answers, "Sanction", para. 1). Oxford Learners' Dictionary defines sanctions as "an official order that limits trade, contact etc. with a particular country, in order to make it do something, such as obeying International Law" (Oxford Learners Dictionary, "Sanction", para. 1). In the contemporary world, the UNSC possesses the authority to impose sanctions which now form a prominent feature of the backdrop of international relations. "Unlike the generic term 'sanction' applied to international trade, UNSC imposed sanctions are forceful actions that are internationally legitimized" (Joyner, 2003, p. 330). In the past few decades, increased economic interdependence, the desire to avoid the costs of military action, and increased international collaboration through the UN have made sanctions a striking option for states wanting to coerce other states short of war. …

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