WASHINGTON — Iraq's violations of U.N. resolutions in recent weeks have resulted in "significant" deaths of Iraqi Shiite Muslims during a new military offensive and have virtually blocked humanitarian efforts by relief organizations, according to new details released by Bush Administration sources Monday.
Although U.S. officials refused to be specific, one source said the death toll in the Shiite-dominated south is "growing daily" and has reached a level high enough to "draw a lot of attention."
"The offensive over the past three weeks is the most serious fighting inside Iraq since the end of the war and the uprisings last year," he said. Tens of thousands of Iraqi troops have been sent to the south, U.S. sources contend.
The regime of President Saddam Hussein also is blocking international aid efforts by delaying visas for relief workers and paperwork needed to transport aid material, including tons of food and medicines, the sources said. Of the 1,350 U.N. and relief personnel in Iraq, about 500 work on humanitarian issues, the State Department said.
After months of virtually ignoring Baghdad's increasingly bold attitude toward the 23 U.N. agreements and the U.S.-mediated cease-fire accord, the Administration is now going on the offensive over the multiple violations.
"The President will be citing these and other points more and more in coming days," a ranking official said. U.S. sources said Iraq's southern military offensive is likely to lead to the next confrontation between Washington and Baghdad.
That offensive is in violation of a host of U.N. provisions--including Resolution 688, which requires Baghdad to ensure the human and political rights of all Iraqi citizens, and a cease-fire agreement that prohibits Iraq from using fixed-wing aircraft.
On the aid front, UNICEF, the World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization, the U.N. Refugees Commission, CARE and several others are finding it difficult getting both people and goods into Iraq. In addition, several groups are having trouble getting the paperwork required to rotate relief workers out of Iraq, Administration sources say.
Iraq also has refused to negotiate an extension of the memorandum of understanding on the activities of U.N. and international relief groups working in Iraq. Although the groups are authorized to operate by U.N. Resolution 688, Baghdad's failure to extend the protocol is now "creating great uncertainty" about their programs, a State Department official said.
"Saddam has charged us with preventing babies from getting their milk and children from eating, when in fact he is the one most hurting his own people," said another ranking official.
Under terms of Resolutions 706 and 712, the Iraqi leader also is allowed to sell limited amounts of oil to provide basic needs for his people--terms that he has so far refused.
Another on the growing list of violations is a campaign of sabotage and subversion in northern Iraq, against Kurds as well as U.N. personnel. A "handful" of Kurds have been killed and two U.N. guards injured in the most recent incidents, which are widely blamed on Hussein's henchmen.
Officials also cite Hussein's refusal to disclose the whereabouts of more than 500 Kuwaitis and third-party nationals who have been missing since the war.