NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Trade Sanctions Don't Work

March 19, 2003

Trade sanctions won't work against a determined dictator like Saddam Hussein. Additionally, many feel that the human cost of sanctions may be too great. Consequently, there needs to be a serious rethinking of sanctions policy, says Bruce Bartlett.

In the case of Iraq, the nation has ample reserves of petroleum and does not lack for methods of selling it on the world market despite United Nations sanctions. Indeed, much of the oil Iraq sells is done so legally under a U.N. program that allows limited amounts of oil to be sold to purchase food and medicine.

  • Since 1997, when the program began, and 2001, Iraq received $51 billion from legal oil sales, according to a U.S. General Accounting Office report.
  • The report also notes that Iraq obtained another $6.6 billion during this period through smuggling and illegal surcharges.

Despite increased efforts by the United States and the U.N. to limit illegal oil sales, they appear to be increasing, Bartlett says:

  • Last month, the Wall Street Journal quoted a senior White House official as saying Iraq is getting $3 billion per year from them.
  • The process has become well organized via an illicit pipeline to Syria, and trucks and railroad tankers that cross the borders with Jordan and Turkey.

A recent study by the Institute for International Economics found the Iraq sanctions to be pretty much a failure across the board. They didn't get Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait back in 1991. They didn't force him from power and haven't brought about compliance with U.N. resolutions requiring disarmament. Indeed, by all accounts, Saddam Hussein has continued to build up his military despite the sanctions, says Bartlett.

Source: Bruce Bartlett, "Trade Sanctions Don't Work," National Center for Policy Analysis, March 19, 2003.


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