And for what? Everyone realises sanctions did not penalise the regime’s leaders. Nor did they weaken its grip on the population: the introduction of rationing enabled the Ba’ath party to keep tabs on everybody, and the regime could have survived for years. But sanctions do explain the problems now encountered in rebuilding the country. Those problems are due not only to a rise in armed resistance, but also to the dilapidated state of infrastructure.

Another factor, which should not be underestimated, is the determination of the US to monopolise reconstruction contracts. Getting the electricity supply working again would have meant involving Siemens and ABB, the German and Swedish firms that built Iraq’s modern electricity grid. In the case of the telephone system, help was needed from Alcatel (France), which had installed the network and knew the terrain. But Washington was out to punish Old Europe – and secure juicy contracts for a number of companies that fund the Republican party.

Sanctions caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians. What is more, they destabilised one of the key states in the region. Who will be tried for these crimes? What committee will report on these errors? And who will guarantee that the US and the UN will not again choose to impose sanctions on a country and punish all of its people for the crimes of its leaders?

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