News Release

Iraq Sanctions: What’s the Policy?


Whether the United States bombs Iraq or not, there are reports that the U.S. is changing its policy to a more sanctions-based approach. While many are claiming that Iraq would be rid of the sanctions if it complied with the weapons inspections, an examination of U.S. policymakers’ statements since the Gulf War suggests otherwise:

    • April 3, 1991: U.N. Security Council passes Resolution 687. It includes many demands but states that once Iraq complies with the weapons inspection regime, the sanctions “shall have no further force or effect.”


    • May 20, 1991: James Baker, Secretary of State: “We are not interested in seeing a relaxation of sanctions as long as Saddam Hussein is in power.”


    • January 13, 1993: Incoming President Clinton: “If he [Hussein] wants a different relationship with the United States and the United Nations, all he has to do is change his behavior.”


    • January 14, 1993: Clinton backtracks: “There is no difference between my policy and the policy of the present Administration…. I have no intention of normalizing relations with him.”


    • January 12, 1995: While inspections were taking place, Ambassador Madeleine Albright said the U.S. was “determined to oppose any modification of the sanctions regime until Iraq has moved to comply with all its outstanding obligations.” She specifically cited the return of Kuwaiti weaponry and non-military equipment.


    • March 26, 1997: Albright, in her first major foreign policy address as Secretary of State: “We do not agree with the nations who argue that if Iraq complies with its obligations concerning weapons of mass destruction, sanctions should be lifted. Our view, which is unshakable, is that Iraq must prove its peaceful intentions…. And the evidence is overwhelming that Saddam Hussein’s intentions will never be peaceful.”


    • November 14, 1997: Clinton: [When Iraq broke the inspections regime] “What he has just done is to ensure that the sanctions will be there until the end of time or as long as he lasts.”


    • November 14, 1997: National Security Adviser Sandy Berger: “He can’t be in compliance if he’s thrown the UNSCOM people out. So it’s a necessary condition. It may not be a sufficient condition.”


    • December 16, 1997: Clinton on Hussein’s actions: “I think that he felt probably that the United States would never vote to lift the sanctions on him no matter what he did…”


    • August 20, 1997: Ambassador Bill Richardson: “Sanctions may stay on in perpetuity.”


    • September 15, 1998: Martin Indyk, Assistant Secretary of State, claims “the Security Council resolutions provide in very specific terms for the lifting of sanctions when Iraq has fully complied with all the Security Council resolutions.”


    • November 10, 1998: State Department spokesperson James Rubin states that sanctions will not be altered until after Iraq complies with U.N. resolutions “…including on Kuwaiti prisoners, Kuwaiti equipment, and, in short, demonstrating his peaceful intentions…” Later, Rubin states: “The Security Council has set out a very simple path to resolve this situation. And all it requires is him doing what he agreed to do, cooperating with UNSCOM…”


Experts available on the current Iraq crisis and the sanctions:

Executive director, Middle East Children’s Alliance
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Ghareeb is co-author of War in the Gulf 1990-91: The Iraq-Kuwait Conflict and its Implications (Oxford University Press, 1997)

Editor, Middle East Report
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Media director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
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Professor of Nutrition at University of Massachusetts; team leader for several Food and Agricultural Organization missions.
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Professor of clinical international nursing at Columbia University; chairperson of the human rights committee of the American Public Health Association. He has studied the effects of the sanctions on Iraq.

Iraq timeline

For more information, contact the Institute for Public Accuracy: Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; David Zupan, (541) 484-9167