Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Oil for Influence?
When I first wrote about the scandal concerning the UN's Iraq Oil for Food program a year ago, I focused on the need for a speedy investigation, in order to bolster the credibility of the UN and its Security Council to deal with future crises. With Iran now threatening to resume nuclear fuel separation, and Britain's government indicating it might refer the matter to the Security Council, the urgency for a complete picture of what happened during Oil for Food has grown.

Unfortunately, facts and allegations continue to emerge in dribbles, including the latest reports from the US Senate's investigation, suggesting that a high official in the Russian government under Vladimir Putin benefited personally from Saddam's largesse. If this and other allegations concerning officials in other Security Council governments (e.g. France) prove true, then the scope of this scandal expands beyond the merely financial and into the realm of having foreclosed the remaining peaceful options in the leadup to the Iraq War. This must not be allowed to happen in the case of Iran, where the stakes are even higher.

While any corruption within the UN should certainly be uncovered and rooted out, the focus of our attention ought not to rest solely on UN officials or the ultimate accountability of the Secretary General. Compared with the integrity of the Security Council members and possible conflicts of interest in matters of war and peace, the actual administration of Oil for Food is a sideshow. Today's hearings will delve further into these matters and hopefully shed more light on both US and international involvement in subverting the aims of the Oil for Food Program.

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