NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Saddam's Business Partner: The United Nations

September 25, 2002

Saddam Hussein's biggest business partner is the United Nations, says Claudia Rosett. And selling oil for Saddam is the U.N.'s biggest program.

The U.N.'s Office of the Iraq Program, which supervises the six-year-old Oil-for-Food Program, has had a hand in the sale of more than $55 billion worth of Iraqi oil. Iraq ships oil to U.N.-approved buyers under the terms of the sanctions agreement. The U.N. vets the inflow of "humanitarian" imports into Iraq.

Iraq contracts to import goods, and the U.N. gives the outside vendors cash from the oil sales. The U.N. has approved about $34 billion in such deals so far. The money it hasn't yet doled out -- at least $21 billion -- sits in U.N.-administered bank accounts.

  • Even with its weapons inspectors barred from the country, the U.N. by now has 10 agencies employing 900 international staffers and 3,000 Iraqi nationals inside Iraq to administer the program, plus another 120 or so in New York.
  • Combining Iraq's oil exports and aid imports, they oversee a flow of funds averaging about $15 billion a year, more than five times the U.N.'s core annual budget.
  • The U.N. has reimbursed itself $1.2 billion for the cost of administering the program.

The U.N. sanctions on Iraqi oil sales were meant to stop Saddam from diverting oil revenues to his own uses. But Saddam has been getting around the sanctions via surcharge-kickback deals and flat-out smuggling, to the tune of $3 billion a year, according to the dossier released yesterday by Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Source: Claudia Rosett, "Kofi Annandersen,", September 25, 2002.

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