UN Security Council Resolution 1483: Sanctions Against Iraq Lifted

Yesterday the UN Security Council voted 14-0 for a resolution to lift the UN sanctions on Iraq that dated to Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait of August, 1990, and thereby to grant allied forces now present in Iraq considerable international authority in the occupation and rebuilding of the country. For a while it had looked as if the Security Council would fail to agree on such a lifting of sanctions in much the same manner as it had failed to agree on authorization for the attack on Iraq, and with the same core of opposition from France, Germany, and Russia. While the American-British “coalition” argued that, with Hussein’s regime consigned to history, the sanctions’ purpose and target had clearly disappeared, so that the legal framework needed to be restored for international transactions undertaken for the benefit of the Iraqi people (most especially oil sales), these latter countries recognized that such UN approval represented the last leverage they had left to insert the UN and the international community generally into some sort of position of influence over what is to become of Iraq. There was also the issue of trying to head off any sort of cancellation of debts incurred by Hussein’s regime to their countries and/or companies of their nationality, and they were unwilling to make any gesture that could be construed as an ex post facto approval of the war that the Security Council never approved before it was unleashed. So French, German, and Russian diplomats and their political bosses in the past few weeks have tried to head off the lifting of sanctions by adopting the rather cynical pose that, after all, sanctions were imposed subject to lifting only when Iraq had been cleared of the presence of weapons of mass destruction, and that had not happened yet. (The fact that extensive searching has yet to uncover significant signs of Iraqi WMD could very well be important, in the sense of making a case for a certain element of deception having been employed to make the original case for war, but it has no relevance to the lifting of Iraqi sanctions; no matter what, Iraq clearly no longer represents any WMD or otherwise military danger to its neighbors or to the international community generally.)

But now sanctions are lifted, and by a unanimous Security Council vote minus the abstention of Syria – that is, completely lifted, and not just “suspended,” as had been a mooted halfway-house solution during the recent diplomatic stand-off over the issue. True, to get here there were certain concessions made from the allied side – e.g. enhanced powers for the UN special representative – but it’s unclear just how much of a sacrifice they represented in the allied position. Were there winners and losers here, or was a solution reached that was truly satisfactory for all? You can get the “allied” viewpoint yourself from your favorite American/British press outlet(s), but it’s EuroSavant that can let you know what they’re saying on the “other side.” As is my habit, I start with France.

In an article entitled Une résolution de compromis – “A resolution of compromise” – Libération adopts the “victory for all” line. Yes, this new Security Council resolution #1483 does grant the occupying powers a large measure of control over Iraq and what will be happening there in the near future. But that could mean no more than the next twelve months; the resolution provides for its revision by the Council at that time. And Libération counts as an important concession the agreed six-month prolongation of the UN’s “oil-for-food” program. (The probable reason, although not explicitly stated by Libération, is that French – and Russian – companies have contracts with Iraq under that program that they would like to fulfill and be paid for.) French UN ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sablière’s verdict: “the resolution that we have just adopted is not perfect . . . but it offers a credible framework” for the process of reconstruction in Iraq.

Le Monde is willing to be frank in its article Retour aux réalités – “Return to realities.” France has decided at the Security Council to vote in favor of a resolution which denies those very principles of the centrality of the United Nations in international affairs which only a short time ago had her brandishing her veto to prevent any resolution giving UN authorization to the War in Iraq. Indeed, this Resolution 1483 must be seen as offering the sort of ex post facto approval to Iraq’s conquest that the Americans desire. Consistency would require France to veto it; but now is not the time for such principled consistency, when it would also mean implied disapproval for the fall of Saddam Hussein, and when France herself is isolated within Europe on this matter, isolated even from her former German and Russian colleagues in the bloc des refusés.

Then, in an article published a day later entitled Le Crise entre Paris et Washington n’est pas encore surmontée – “The crisis between Paris and Washington is not yet overcome” – Le Monde sets the sanctions vote in its larger context. That vote preceded by a little over a week President Bush’s trip to Evian (France) to attend the G8 summit; it preceded by only one day a visit to Paris by US Secretary of State Colin Powell to prepare for that summit and to offer his own official view on the state of US-French relations, and also the first telephone conversation between Bush and French President Jacques Chirac (who initiated it) since 15 April. That telephone call would not have happened had France cast its Security Council veto to block the lifting of Iraqi sanctions, or probably even if it had just abstained; and the atmosphere around Powell’s visit to Paris and Bush’s to Evian would have been truly glacial. Still, Chirac denied any link: “we didn’t approve anything unacceptable at the UN, but the American offer had been considerably improved,” Le Monde quotes him as saying.

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Comments are closed.