Senate Debates Iraqi Sanctions, but Administration Opposes Them

The State Department has advised Congress that while Iraq’s human rights record is “abysmal and appalling,” U.S. sanctions against Baghdad would likely be ineffective.

John Kelly, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern and South Asian affairs, said Friday that if sanctions are imposed, U.S. farmers would suffer and U.S. allies would quickly fill Iraq’s agricultural needs.

He pointed out that Iraq is the second-largest oil supplier to the United States and has oil reserves “second only to those of Saudi Arabia.”

Kelly spoke at a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which is examining various bills that would impose varying levels of sanctions against Iraq.

Among the sanctions proposed are an end to the $1 billion in annual Commodity Credit Corporation credit guarantees to Iraq. Already $500 million of the credit guarantees are on hold this fiscal year because of a Justice Department inquiry into alleged Iraqi abuses of the program.

Sen. Alfonse D’Amato (R-N.Y.), who unhappily withdrew a sweeping sanctions bill last month after several senators said they did not want to pre-empt possible Iraqi peace overtures, accused Kelly’s testimony of being “replete with trade” considerations.

He accused the Bush administration Friday of not doing a “damn thing to galvanize” a multinational effort to take action against Iraq.

SPECTER STILL AGAINST SANCTIONS

D’Amato’s bill was withdrawn after several senators rallied to Iraq’s defense, including Senate Minority Leader Robert Dole (R-Kan.) and two Jewish senators, Howard Metzenbaum (D-Ohio) and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.).

Both Jewish senators, who separately visited Iraq earlier this year, had argued during the initial May 17 hearing that any move toward sanctions should wait a few weeks until after the Arab summit meeting in Baghdad, in the hope of encouraging Iraqi moderation.

As it turned out, Iraq was in the forefront of efforts during the summit to adopt a harder line against Israel.

Metzenbaum criticized Iraqi President Saddam Hussein on the Senate floor last week as having “waged a campaign to supplant the more moderate Hosni Mubarak of Egypt as the leading Arab diplomat.”

“Slightly more than three weeks have elapsed, and I have seen all I need to see,” he said.

But Specter stood his ground at Friday’s hearing, saying now is “not the time to impose sanctions.”

Jewish groups met privately with Specter recently to air their criticisms of his position on Iraq.

At that session, “along with everyone else in the group, I was completely mystified as to the senator’s position,” said Morris Amitay, treasurer of the Washington PAC, the second-largest pro-Israel political action committee.

Specter “feels that he can get Saddam Hussein to negotiate with Israel,” said a longtime friend of the senator.

NEXT STORY