The Security Council that Betrayed its Mission


By Hasan Abu Nimah *

Jordan Times
May 28, 2003

Apart from lifting the 12-year-old sanctions on Iraq, but for entirely different reasons than helping the Iraqi people, the latest Security Council resolution on Iraq, 1483, has been a flagrant betrayal of the UN Charter, a scandalous resultant of power politics and opportunistic superpower compromises, and a dangerous submission to the fait accompli of war and aggression, at the expense of principle and international legality.

Earlier, in the weeks leading to the war, the council had stood firm in the face of immense American and British pressure, boldly refusing to prematurely undercut the arms inspection programme in favour of a resolution providing legal international cover for the military action against Iraq which was already planned by the US and Britain. The view, in the council, of those who strongly opposed the hasty resort to war, France, Russia, Germany, China and others, was that any further council action would have to wait and be based upon the final report of the arms inspectors whose mission was last reconfirmed and defined in Security Council Resolution 1441. The international community, world official and popular public opinion, in addition to those defiant and courageous voices in the Security Council, were gravely concerned and deeply outraged by the threat to established international order the US-British war on Iraq without council approval would have implied. That effort, spearheaded by the French-declared warning to use the veto, had successfully blocked the war resolution, rendering the attack on Iraq an illegal, naked aggression.

While some accused the Security Council of failure and inaction, others, more appropriately, valued the council inaction as proper and compatible with the council's basic mission of preventing the use of force for settling conflicts. It is true that the council could not stop the war, and that is because it had no available physical means to do that, but it did, however, act correctly by depriving the war of any legitimacy. Additionally, and although the council had the power to condemn the war and demand a ceasefire, it was clearly understandable that any such move in the council would be aborted by an American or a British veto and that, for purely pragmatic reasons, many believed that any ceasefire would have only prolonged the life of a brutal regime which did not deserve to be saved.

It is amazing how, on May 22, the council dramatically abandoned its steadfast position by suddenly legitimising aggression, endorsing devastation of an innocent country and its weary people, and by licensing their indefinite, unwarranted occupation.

The latest Council Resolution is an extraordinary catalogue of contradictions and flaws, a striking example of hypocrisy and acquiescence to power politics. Therefore, it will leave a very dark stain on the already inglorious record of the United Nations.

While the resolution opens by "affirming the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq", it recognises further "the specific authorities, responsibilities, and obligations under applicable international law of these states [the US and the UK] as occupying powers under unified command (the `Authority')", and the Authority here means Washington. The resolution fails to clarify how the sovereignty and integrity of any country can be preserved under an occupation which has, in the case of Iraq, left the country in total chaos, at the mercy of looters, criminals and thugs, without any services, vital survival basics or governing authority since the total breakdown of law and order in early April. Neither does the resolution explain how the partition of the country by the "Authority" into three separate units along sectarian and ethnic lines guarantees any territorial integrity.

Surprisingly, and while the desperate efforts of the occupiers to find any of the alleged huge arsenals of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMD), which predicated the war, have reached the point where the occupiers started advertising awards of millions of dollars for anyone who would lead them to any WMDs location, the resolution "reaffirms the importance of the disarmament of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and of the eventual confirmation of the disarmament of Iraq".

The resolution obviously needed to affirm the existence of the WMDs to save the occupiers the embarrassment, indeed the legal responsibility, of waging a war on false basis; and that the resolution did. The council also needed to confirm the exact opposite, which is that Iraq is free of any WMDs, not only to justify the lifting of the sanctions, but because it is an established fact now; and that, the council failed to do because it contradicts the interests of the resolution authors and sponsors, the occupying powers, which the resolution was designed to serve.

Earlier attempts by the occupying powers to secure council approval for lifting the sanctions in order to pave the way for their full control of Iraqi wealth and natural resources were in fact met with French, German and Russian resistance. The opposing group rightly demanded that the closure of the sanctions file required the final liquidation of the WMDs issue, either by occupier admission that they found no weapons or by allowing the inspectors to return to Iraq and finish their mission. Evidently neither option suited the occupiers' purposes, as the last thing they would like to settle is the WMDs issue in order to endlessly delay any troubling negative conclusion. Consequently, this counterargument was also suddenly abandoned, and the issue was treated in the resolution by a most arbitrary and unassertive manner, "underlining the intention of the council to revisit the mandates of the United Nations Monitoring and Verification Commission and the International Atomic Energy Agency as set forth in resolutions 687, 1284, and 1441." That practically means nothing.

Other idiosyncrasies in the resolution included peculiar stuff such as:

1) "Stressing the right of the Iraqi people freely to determine their own political future and control their own natural resources...", at the same time as the resolution legitimises the occupation, and grants the occupying "Authority" full unlimited control of Iraq's resources.

2) The UN resolves to "play a vital role in humanitarian relief, the reconstruction of Iraq, and the restoration and establishment of national and local institutions for representative government", when it is very clear that both the appointment of a special adviser for the secretary general, welcomed in the resolution, and the appointment of a special representative, demanded by the resolution, to upgrade the offer for those insisting on an active UN role meant, in reality, to serve no better purpose than disguising the fact that the UN will have no role and its officials will have no power of their own, except perhaps as useful tools in the hands of the "Authority".

3) The UN "stressing the need for respect for the archaeological, historical, cultural, and religious heritage of Iraq, and for the continued protection" (the protection never started, to be continued) of such heritage, comes a bit too late, after the occupiers left those historic treasures to be pillaged and destroyed right in front of the eyes of their soldiers, to the great bewilderment and pain of the whole watching world.

More alarming is the bizarre council invitation for "other states that are not occupying powers" to join the occupation and to work "now or in the future under the Authority". Furthermore, and clearly to meet the occupiers' need for other states' support to maintain their control in occupied Iraq, the council "welcomed the willingness of member states to contribute to the stability and security in Iraq (meaning to help the occupier to keep control) by contributing personnel, equipment and other resources under the Authority". How could this be anything but an open UN invitation to its member states to support an illegal occupation, rather than the UN taking charge of the situation itself, as required by its Charter, building its own UN force under the UN flag and moving in as a rescue mission to rebuild destroyed Iraq, and to free its people?

But the resolution descends from bizarre to ridiculous when it "determines that the situation in Iraq, although improved, continues to constitute a threat to international peace and security". Clearly, this was an entirely thoughtless justification for the council to act under chapter seven of the Charter; but it turned out to be so absurd that no amount of wild imagination could explain how a country which has completely collapsed, whose army disintegrated, whose government disappeared, that the occupation allowed to be ravaged and pillaged, that descended into total chaos, whose every function has been paralysed and that is totally under the control of its occupiers could be a threat to world peace. And what kind of world do we live in that could be threatened by such a non-existing danger?

And those are just few examples.

It was the precious hope of many, since the eruption of this major international crisis, that those who stood firm by the principle at the UN, insisting that the rule of law, not the blind arrogance of power, should prevail as the guiding force in international relations, as a guarantee for our peaceful future, would stay firm on their position. They, sadly, did not, as the current resolution proves. The question is: Is this the end of the battle or just a temporary set back in a long, ongoing fight between the forces of conquest and evil and the rule of law. The answer is hidden somewhere in the Security Council chamber.

* The writer is former ambassador and permanent representative of Jordan to the UN. He contributed this article to The Jordan Times.

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