Thursday, April 22, 2004
--France, Russia, and China, though nominally responsible (with the U.S. and U.K.) for overseeing the program, in fact used their positions on the Security Council to promote business with Saddam for their nation's contractors. France and Russian companies especially pocketed fat profits from cut-rate oil sales from Saddam, a percentage of which they returned to Saddam as a kickback in violation of the UN sanctions.
--As UN monitoring grew laxer, Saddam grew bolder, eventually kicking out inspectors. The UN's major response was to vastly expand the scope of Oil for Food spending while complaining often about U.S. and U.K efforts to redress Saddam's rampant violations of the scheme.
By means of this scam, Saddam’s regime ultimately skimmed off for itself billions of dollars in proceeds that were supposed to have been spent on relief for the Iraqi people. When the scheme was reported in the international press—in November 2000, for example, Reuters carried a long dispatch about Saddam’s demands for a 50-cent premium over official UN prices on every barrel of Iraqi oil—the UN haggled with Saddam but did not stop it.
Beyond that, Saddam had also begun smuggling out oil through Turkey, Jordan, and Syria. This was in flagrant defiance of UN sanctions and made a complete mockery of Oil-for-Food, whose whole point was to channel all of Saddam’s trade. The smuggling, too, was widely reported in the press—and shrugged off by the UN. In the same period, Saddam imposed his own version of sanctions on the U.S., demanding that Oil-for-Food funds be switched from dollars into euros. The UN complied, thereby making it even harder for observers to keep track of its largely secretive and confusing bookkeeping.