During the 1990s, when Hussein was concealing his weapons of mass destruction, the Russians did everything they could to lift sanctions. Indeed, in 1999 Russia refused to support the resolution renewing weapons inspections. It showed not the slightest concern about these WMDs when they were controlled by Hussein, a man who invaded two neighboring countries, attacked two others and used chemical weapons to kill tens of thousands of innocents. But now that Iraq is run not by a local mass murderer but by an American president, Russia has acquired a sudden concern about Iraq's WMDs -- and wants to keep sanctions imposed, and the Iraqi economy starved, until those concerns are satisfied.
Russia's breathtaking cynicism is matched by France's. The French, however, are more subtle. The WMD pretense is simply too transparent. The French speak instead of clarifying "modalities" before ending the embargo.
"Modalities" is French for "payoff."
Having decided not just to sit out the war but to actively oppose the liberation of Iraq, France, like Russia, has only one card left to play in post-Hussein Iraq. Under U.N. rules, the sanctions can be lifted only by a positive vote of the Security Council, which means that France and Russia have veto power. Their concern about weapons of mass destruction and "modalities" is nothing more than blackmail.
What are they after? They want a continuation of the oil-for-food program -- Tommy Franks correctly called it the "oil-for-palace program" -- under which the United Nations has been using Iraqi oil proceeds to buy tons of goods largely from France, Russia and Syria (including equipment for "educational TV" and boat "accessories," as Claudia Rosett notes in a devastating exposé in the New York Times). They want the honoring of the enormous oil-exploration concessions that Hussein gave them (in return for their services to him at the United Nations). And they want the new Iraq to be saddled with the huge and reckless loans they made to Hussein to build his palaces and buy his weapons.
Until then, Iraq starves. This is blackmail so brazen that it is hard to believe the French and the Russians will have the courage to carry it out. Because of "the public relations aspects," a Security Council diplomat told The Post, "I don't think they can hold the Iraqi economy hostage."
Monday, April 21, 2003
Krauthammer says we should lift the sanctions now. Make the Security Council vote and if France and Russia veto it, then just lift them anyways.
Posted by Betsy Newmark at 6:45 AM