April 22, 2004

THE “UNSCAM” OIL-FOR-FOOD SCANDAL is getting more attention:

It worked like this: Iraq would export under-priced oil, import over-priced goods, and cash in the difference through friendly middle-men. This occurred in plain daylight, right under the U.N.’s nose, with the complicity of hundreds of international companies, and possibly, the knowledge of many governments that had seats on the U.N. Security Council.

Beyond the kickbacks, Saddam was able to smuggle an estimated $5.7 billion worth of oil and fuel out of the country in total violation of the sanctions. Hundreds of trucks would enter Iraq from Turkey filled with goods bought under Oil-for-Food – then drive off again with fuel destined for sale on the black market. Other smuggling routes included a pipeline through Syria, and ships sailing Iranian territorial waters.

This sanctions-busting trade provided no benefit to Iraq’s civilian population. In fact, it created drastic fuel shortages inside Iraq. And again, it could not have occurred without the knowledge, and participation, of Iraq’s neighbors.

Kofi Annan made an excellent choice in appointing former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker to head the independent panel. But let there be no illusions. Despite yesterday’s Security Council vote in support of the Volcker probe, his inquiry will be as popular with the governments of Security Council members as Hercule Poirot’s investigation was on the Orient Express.

Read the whole thing. More background and links here.

UPDATE: Jan Haugland has comments on the Russians’ reluctance to be investigated.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Stefan Sharkansky traces Oil-for-Food money to some American political campaigns. Both Democrats and Republicans are involved.

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