The Bush Proposal to the United Nations
The Bush Proposal to the United Nations
This analysis is based on available press reports and leaks. The full proposed text is not yet public, so this assessment is necessarily limited.
The draft resolution Bush has presented to the Perm Five at the UN Security Council is clearly designed to prevent UN arms inspectors from beginning their work, to encourage Iraq to back away from its commitment to unfettered access for inspectors by significantly raising the bar of what would constitute compliance. It is crafted to make a US or US-British military attack inevitable and cloaked with some kind of United Nations imprimatur.
Undermining the United Nations
The US-UK language seriously undermines the UN. It renders existing resolutions obsolete, destroys the existing agreements in place between Iraq and the UN to expedite the inspection process, and functionally replaces the UN goal of disarmament with the US goal of overthrowing the Iraqi regime.
One US official said that Washington hopes this new resolution would "replace" all prior resolutions. "Don't think in terms of other resolutions", he said. "This one will stand alone and have everything Iraq has to give us".
The US effort to win support in the Security Council is already leading to the kind of over-the-top bribes and threats that characterized the run-up in 1990 to the passage of resolution 678, authorizing war against Iraq. At that time, every impoverished country on the Council (Zaire, Ethiopia, Colombia) was offered free or extra-cheap oil, courtesy of Saudi Arabia and the exiled Kuwaiti royals, orchestrated by the US Ethiopia and Colombia were both offered new arms packages, after years of being denied military aid because of war and wide-spread human rights violations. China, which had long threatened to veto, was bribed with new long-term development aid and restoration of normal diplomatic ties with the US, which had been cut in the wake of the Tienanmen Square massacre. Yemen, the sole Arab country on the Council, voted no; the Yemeni ambassador was immediately told "that will be the most expensive 'no' vote you ever cast". Three days later the US cut its entire $70 million aid budget to Yemen.
Memories of the "Yemen precedent" remain sharp in UN circles.
The draft declares Iraq already to be in "material breach" of resolution 687 regarding inspections and disarmament, and claims it has violated numerous other resolutions. The finding sets the stage for harsh enforcement measures, certainly including the endorsement of military force. It takes an all-or-nothing position, ignoring the fact of Iraq's partial compliance over the years (as well as the fact that UNSCOM inspectors had become extraordinarily adept at subverting Iraq's efforts to prevaricate. Richard Butler's final UNSCOM report prior to the inspectors pulling out in December 1998 noted several specific instances of Iraqi non-compliance with UNSCOM. And, since Saddam Hussein's February 1998 agreement with Kofi Annan promised "unconditional and unrestricted" access, those instances did represent a violation of the agreement.
However, Butler's own language in the report indicated that those discrete instances of defiance took place in the context of broad overall cooperation. Butler wrote, "In statistical terms, the majority of the inspections of facilities and sites under the ongoing monitoring system were carried out with Iraq's cooperation". He then described problems within that context of "Iraq's cooperation". In other sections of the report, he detailed examples of partial compliance and partial violation. Butler's report did not match the facts even as he stated them. His conclusion stated that "the Commission is not able to conduct the substantive disarmament work mandated to it by the Security Council and, thus, to give the Council the assurances it requires with respect to Iraq's prohibited weapons programmes". There is no mention of the fact that the body of the report itself found that UNSCOM had been able to conduct "most" of its disarmament work
The proposed resolution discards the existing resolution (1284) passed by the Council that includes arrangements for UNMOVIC to work, including plans for a 60-day initial investigation to determine what disarmament work remains unfinished, and then announcement of a work plan and time line for it to finish.
It imposes a 7-day limit for Iraq to declare its acceptance of the new resolution and begin the process of "declaring" all its existing WMD programs, even before the UNMOVIC team goes in. After an additional 23 days, Iraq would have to finally declare all existing WMD programs, with a penalty of "triggering action" for any incomplete or false statement. Also within that 30 days, Iraq would be obligated to open the entire
It appears (unclear since the full text is not yet available) that the UNMOVIC team would only enter Iraq after the 30-day initial time frame above. Whether this means continuing the Vienna talks on UNMOVIC logistics, or abandoning those talks, remains uncertain.
On the Ground
UN inspectors would be accompanied by "representatives" of the US and the other four permanent members of the Security Council. Those representatives would be authorized to accompany inspection teams, pick sites for inspections, and request reports on the results of inspections at those sites.
Any spot in the country would be open to immediate inspections. The Memorandum of Understanding signed by Kofi Annan and the Iraq leadership in March 1998, which became the basis of UN Security Council resolution 1154, outlining arrangements for inspection of Iraq's "presidential sites", would be scrapped. The new resolution calls for absolute open access for arms inspectors "notwithstanding 1154".
The proposal includes at least some of the language crafted in Jessica Tuchman's Carnegie paper, calling for armed, "coercive" inspections. Details have not leaked yet regarding what kind of military accompaniment is anticipated. There is a specific call for military guards - either UN or from allied countries - at least to "protect" the inspectors' base camp and transit routes around Iraq. It is not clear whether it also would authorize actual military engagement as called for in the Carnegie report: with troops and attack helicopters accompanying inspection teams, prepared to respond militarily to "take out" any site where an Iraqi soldier hesitates even for a moment before opening the doors. But with or without this most aggressive version, the impact of this arrangement is to blur any distinction between inspections and war.
The proposal calls for the "removal" of some scientists, presumably those involved in WMD-related research, and "others" for questioning outside of Iraq. The proposal is explained by the legitimate fear such scientists might have in speaking to inspectors, given the likelihood of retaliation by the Iraqi regime. But the impact of such an arrangement would be to strip Iraq of much of its intellectual and scientific base and capacity, since most scientists (particularly in the nuclear field) have been working on civilian programs since the mid-1990s, and since most scientists "removed" for questioning would be unlikely to return. Given the 12-year-old sanctions-driven decimation of Iraq's once first-world level education system, the consequences would be dire.
The "other" category implies that UNMOVIC would play the role of evaluating and determining the legitimacy of potential asylum seekers. It again blurs the role of UN weapons inspectors into the goal of undermining and overthrowing Iraq's regime.
Scope of Inspections
The new US proposal calls for absolute and unconditional access with no notice at any site anywhere in the country. It uses the specific language "notwithstanding 1154", referring to the existing Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed in March 1998 between Iraq and the United Nations that sets in place arrangements for UN inspection of so-called "presidential sites". This would completely undermine the capacity of UNMOVIC to move quickly to begin inspections - since they are predicated on existing arrangements.
The meetings scheduled to begin in Vienna on 30 September are supposed to deal with logistical issues of housing, transportation, communication, etc. If Iraq is suddenly informed that existing agreements with the UN are null and void, there is a serious danger those talks will collapse, preventing the rapid beginning of inspections. US officials appear to be hoping for just such an outcome.
Despite President Bush's claimed concern about the relevance and enforcement of UN resolutions, it is clear his concern is as limited and partial as ever. There is no mention in the new draft of the fact that many of the resolutions referenced are NOT taken under Chapter VII of the Charter, do NOT call for military enforcement, and do NOT authorize any country or group of countries to act alone in the name of "enforcing" UN resolutions.
There is no recognition that UN resolutions, all signed by the United States, routinely refer to protecting the territorial integrity of Iraq - something ignored by US actions. This includes resolution 688, which the US claims justifies its creation and military enforcement of "no-fly" zones in northern and southern Iraq, despite the fact that neither 688 nor any other UN resolution ever authorizes or even mentions creations or enforcement of such zones. In fact, resolution 688 reaffirms "the commitment of all Member States to the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of Iraq and of all States in the area".
There is no reference to Article 14 of resolution 687, which calls for Iraq's disarmament of WMDs to be a step towards establishing throughout the Middle East region a "zone free from weapons of mass destruction and all missiles for their delivery, and the objective of a global ban on chemical weapons".
It is possible that some version of the US-British proposal could be put on the table at the Security Council as early as the week of 30 September. But it may be delayed, depending on how steadfast the current level of French and Russian resistance is. There is a serious danger that the US effort is designed to provoke Iraq into walking out of the Vienna talks, in the hope that French and/or Russian opposition might then collapse.
The current diplomatic efforts underway in Paris and Moscow probably include serious efforts to simultaneously bribe and threaten Chirac and Putin. The offers will likely include agreement that a "post-Saddam Hussein" government in Iraq, which would be beholden to and dependent on the US, would inevitably rule existing oil contracts (signed by Russia and France in expectation of an eventual lifting of sanctions) null and void, but MIGHT be willing to allow some new contracts with Paris and Moscow IF there is no veto.
The entry of Germany to the Security Council could strengthen the French position. Even though Germany won't have a veto on the Council, having European backing will be important for France, especially since NATO- and EU-wannabe Bulgaria will likely back the US-UK position uncritically. But Germany may be threatened as well. Despite Schroeder's absolutist opposition to a war in Iraq, relations with the US remain key, and Washington may ratchet up the pressure, telling Germany there will be no return to normal close relations if Berlin votes against the US
Ultimately, existing international opposition will stand or fall based on how much US pressure is brought to bear. If domestic opposition in the US continues to grow, if demands that the US follow the UN, not undermine it, continue to expand, two competing consequences will emerge. First, if they think they cannot win public and/or congressional support without it, the stakes of winning a UN resolution rise for the Bush administration. Second, the chance of winning their version of the UN resolution drop because international opposition rises and becomes more empowered as US opposition rises. If the 350,000 demonstrators on the streets of London protesting Tony Blair see widespread opposition expanding across the United States, they will reach 500,000 next week. If Gerhard Schroeder sees massive congressional opposition to Bush's strong-arm tactics on the rise, he will be far less likely to cave to the inevitable US pressure.
What happens to the United Nations, whether it remains a viable instrument of internationalism and global consensus, or collapses under the weight of US domination and command, and whether or not the sanctions-devastated Iraqi population will now face a new and bitter war, depend on how powerful a US opposition movement in the streets, in the media, in the churches, and in Congress, can be built.