I'm back after spending a few days in the mountains with spotty internet access, so blogging should return to normal.
Back in September, I wondered what the deal was with the sanctions on Iraq. I had assumed that they had been lifted following the 2003 invasion, but they hadn't been. Well, now they have. The UN sanctions at least:
In a statement, the Security Council said it "recognises that the situation now existing in Iraq is significantly different from that which existed at the time of the adoption of resolution 661" in 1990.
The council also voted to return control of Iraq's oil and natural gas revenue to the government on 30 June and to end all remaining activities of the oil-for-food programme, which helped ordinary Iraqis cope with sanctions.
But there are still some sanctions that remain in place:
UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon said Iraq must make efforts to agree a border with Kuwait and to agree on a dispute over war reparations if all sanctions were to be ended.
Baghdad still pays 5% of revenues from its oil sales into a fund which pays reparations to Kuwait.
I find it remarkable that the sanctions would not have been immediately lifted in 2003. For the last seven years Iraq has been suffering from devastatingly high unemployment, and few public finances (that weren't provided by foreign governments) to provide security and services to the Iraqi people. These conditions have been identified in many studies as contributing to terrorist and insurgent activity*. As a strategic matter, it seems incredibly short-sighted to invade a country, dismantle the government, privatize the state-run industries (thus causing massive unemployment), and then try to provide security and keep the public from turning to violence, all while preventing access of that state's one primary industry to international markets.
Further, Kuwait should forgive all reparations immediately. We know from history that impoverishing a rival nation following a conflict can be counterproductive, especially following a regime change. Keynes saw it in 1919, and Kuwait would be wise to begin building peaceful relations with Iraq sooner rather than later. If Steve Walt is right that Kuwaitis still have a high regard for the U.S. -- and they certainly still enjoy the security that the U.S. provides -- then the U.S. may have some leverage here. We should pressure the Kuwaitis to forgive Iraq's debt, and explain how it is in their long-run security interest to do so. And ours too. Getting the Iraqi economy moving is the best way to improve its security.
The Iraqi people have been punished enough for the sins of Saddam Hussein.
*The "What Causes Terrorism?" question is anything but resolved, see e.g. this post from Phil Arena, but I think everyone would agree that economic deprivation doesn't have a positive effect on peace and stability.