Iraq: Oil-For-Food Program, Illicit Trade, and Investigations [Updated January 9, 2006] [open pdf - 145KB]
"The 'oil-for-food' program (OFFP) was the centerpiece of a long-standing U.N. Security Council effort to alleviate human suffering in Iraq while maintaining key elements of the 1991 Gulf war-related sanctions regime. In order to ensure that Iraq remained contained and that only humanitarian needs were served by the program, the program imposed controls on Iraqi oil exports and humanitarian imports. All Iraqi oil revenues legally earned under the program were held in a U.N.-controlled escrow account and were not accessible to the regime of Saddam Hussein. The program was in operation from December 1996 until March 2003. Observers generally agree that the program substantially eased, but did not eliminate, human suffering in Iraq. Concerns about the programs early difficulties prompted criticism of the United States; critics asserted that the U.S. strategy was to maintain sanctions on Iraq indefinitely as a means of weakening Saddam Hussein's grip on power. At the same time, growing regional and international sympathy for the Iraqi people resulted in a pronounced relaxation of regional enforcement - or even open defiance - of the Iraq sanctions. The United States and other members of the United Nations Security Council were aware of billions of dollars in oil sales by Iraq to its neighbors in violation of the U.N. sanctions regime and outside of the OFFP, but did not take action to punish states engaged in illicit oil trading with Saddam Hussein's regime."
CRS Report for Congress, RL30472