Setting Iraq free

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 August, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 August, 2002, 12:00am

The United Nations' chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix, has made an observation that it is hoped will concentrate minds in the White House on the real issues in Iraq. Mr Blix pointed out in a recent media interview that the barely veiled threats of military action emanating from Washington are not going to help persuade the Iraqi leadership to allow weapons inspectors back into the country. On the contrary, if they felt that a military attack was inevitable, they would have no incentive to co-operate with the United Nations.

What the international community wants is for Iraq to allow in weapons inspectors and give them the freedom to do their job. If they do find evidence of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, then the world community must insist of the Iraqi leadership that these are destroyed. If there is no evidence that Iraq possesses these weapons, then sanctions against Iraq must be lifted and the Iraqi people must be allowed to rejoin the rest of the world.

The talk of regime change in Iraq emanating from the Bush White House has only served as a distraction from the issue at hand. Overthrowing Saddam Hussein is not a decision for the US government to take. It is only the Iraqi people who have the right to decide how, and by whom, they are governed. At present, ordinary Iraqis are trapped between a hostile West, which has imposed sanctions, and a cynical leader who has exploited these sanctions.

There are those who argue that the people of Iraq are in no position to change their leader, as any dissent is brutally suppressed by Saddam. The history of the past two decades in Eastern Europe is replete with examples of communist regimes that were thought to be impregnable being brought down by people power. If the people of Iraq are freed from the choke-hold of sanctions and Western threats, there is little doubt that they will find the means to choose their own government.

It is important that international attention focuses on getting the inspections back on track and ensuring that Iraq is free of stocks of weapons of mass destruction. The ultimate goal must be to lift sanctions against Iraq as soon as possible.