8.2.4        Global Economic Sanctions against Iraq

(This is an archived extract from the book Patterns of Power: Edition 2)

International economic sanctions had been imposed on Iraq from 1990 onwards.[1]  These sanctions were credited with persuading the regime to destroy its Weapons of Mass-Destruction (WMD), but that linkage was never proven.  A retrospective assessment indicated that sanctions had failed to weaken Saddam Hussein's grip on power:

“The primary victim was Iraq's civilian population, part of which suffered terrible hardship. Efforts to alleviate this through waivers for food and medical supplies, and by allowing Iraq to sell limited quantities of oil to finance the purchase of other such goods, were largely defeated by the Iraqi regime. It inflamed popular feeling within Iraq against the sanctions-imposing powers, elicited humanitarian sympathy around the world, exploited the black market (and probably also manipulated the oil market) for financial gain, and used its control over scarce foreign exchange and other commodities to reward its supporters and so maintain itself in power.” [2]

In the absence of democratic accountability, the population had no means of putting pressure on the regime – so it could have been foreseen that economic sanctions were inappropriate ( 

© PatternsofPower.org, 2014

[1] The UN Security Council applied sanctions to Iraq on 6 August 1990 with Resolution 661, as a consequence of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait.  It was available in April 2014 at http://www.fas.org/news/un/iraq/sres/sres0661.htm.

[2] On 24 April 2007 the House of Lords Select Committee on Economic Affairs published a report entitled Economic Affairs - Second Report, which provided a comprehensive analysis of the effects of sanctions; it was available in April 2014 at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200607/ldselect/ldeconaf/96/9602.htm.  The suffering of the Iraqi population and the related tightening of the regime’s grip on power were summarised in chapter 3, paragraph 45, for which a direct link was then available at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200607/ldselect/ldeconaf/96/9606.htm#a8.