Middle East Review of International Affairs

Volume 5, No. 4 - December 2001


Sanctions on Iraq: A Valid Anti-American Grievance?
by Michael Rubin *



In the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks, many academics and policymakers cite America's support for United Nations sanctions on Iraq, and the oft-reported figure of one million resulting deaths, as a legitimate grievance against Washington's foreign policy. However, the facts upon which these critics make their case do not hold up under close scrutiny. Not only does the one million dead figure and other statistics originate with Iraqi government (and not UN research as is so often cited), but portions of Iraq are actually doing better under sanctions than before their implementation. One UN study even reported nine years into sanctions that half the Iraqi population was overweight. Comparing the impact of sanctions between opposition-controlled Iraqi provinces and the portions of the country ruled by Saddam Hussein indicates that, while the deleterious impact of sanctions upon the Iraqi population has been grossly exaggerated, what problems do occur are a result of Baghdad's political leadership.

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Note *: Michael Rubin is an adjunct fellow of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, currently resident in Jerusalem at Hebrew University's Leonard Davis Institute for International Relations. He lived nine months during the academic year 2000-2001 as a Carnegie Council fellow in Iraq, where he taught English and history in the universities of Sulaymani, Salahuddin, and Dahuk, and previously was a lecturer in history at Yale University. He has lived in and traveled extensively in Iran, the Arab world, Israel, and Central Asia, and is the author of a newly-published monograph, Into the Shadows: Radical Vigilantes in Khatami's Iran (Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2001). Back