UN Security Council Resolution 1483: Sanctions Against Iraq Lifted

Friday, May 23rd, 2003

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make the original case for war, but it has no relevance to the lifting of Iraqi sanctions; no matter what, Iraq clearly no longer represents any WMD or otherwise military danger to its neighbors or to the international community generally.)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. (more…)

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