High Noon: Dueling Resolutions at the UN

High Noon: Dueling Resolutions at the UN By Col. Dan Smith (Ret.) March 14, 2003 Editor s: John Gershman, Interhemispheric Resource Center ( IRC ) Editor’s Note: This piece was commissioned under the auspices of the Project Against the Present Danger . 0303hinoon.pdf [printer-friendly version] George Bush of “Osama bin Laden–dead or alive” fame, should feel right at home. At the UN, there are at least three draft Security Council resolutions being circulated. It’s five minutes to High Noon, and the sheriff, alert for bushwhackers (veto-wielders), is strapping on his guns, preparing to walk onto the street to face down–his allies. That’s right. Allies, this time including his most steadfast deputy, Great Britain. Facing a revolt against his Iraq policy in his cabinet, in his parliamentary party, and among his people, British Prime Minister Tony Blair has been desperately trying to find middle ground between the other major powers of “old Europe”–France, Germany, and Russia–and the United States. Last week, he induced the White House to incorporate a new paragraph into the original U.S.-UK-Spanish draft resolution, which set a March 17 deadline for Iraq to have “demonstrated full, unconditional, immediate, and active cooperation” and to be “yielding possession…of all weapons, weapon delivery and support systems and structures”–or it will be declared to have failed to seize “the final opportunity afforded by resolution 1441 (2002).” While the U.S. military does not require the participation of the 45,000 British troops now in the Gulf, the White House needs the diplomatic cover that Downing Street affords. But the Bush administration seemed unduly impatient with the delay caused by the need for additional UN Security Council (UNSC) debate on the proposed amendment, particularly when Europe’s “old axis,” led by France, declared the March 17 deadline unacceptable. Another problem with the U.S.-UK-Spanish draft was the lack of objective criteria against which to compare Iraq’s performance. Sensing that a resolution without “benchmarks” would be DOA (dead on arrival) in the Security Council–even the “middle six” (Pakistan, Chile, Mexico, Angola, Cameroon, and Guinea) UNSC members were uncomfortable with this omission–London tried again. The new effort enumerated six steps that the Baghdad regime would have to implement to avoid war. First, Saddam Hussein would have to publicly admit in Arabic to owning and concealing weapons of mass destruction (WMD), and declare he was ready to surrender them. Second, he must allow 30 key scientists to be interviewed outside Iraq. Third, he must give up all remaining chemical and biological stocks, especially anthrax, or provide credible evidence of their destruction. Fourth, he must provide full disclosure of Iraq’s unmanned drone aircraft programs. Iraq must also (fifth) commit to the destruction of its “mobile laboratories” and (sixth) to all proscribed missiles. Critically, the determination of the completeness of Iraq’s compliance would be left to the UNSC, not to the chief inspectors. The last three benchmarks would seem easy to do, as would the second, although the latter probably would take more time to arrange and implement than Washington is willing to grant. (Indeed, the White House was insisting until March 13 on a vote while not giving any extension on the March 17 deadline.) The third could also take considerable time because UN inspectors would have to evaluate the “evidence” presented by Iraq. The real showdown would come early, on the first point: whether Saddam would swallow his pride and lose face by admitting “guilt” as detailed in UNSC resolution 1441. In fact, this benchmark is a trap for Saddam. If he admits possession of WMD, he stands in automatic “material breach” of 1441 and is subject to “serious consequences” by UN member states, which for the U.S. means war. (While this might not trigger immediate hostilities, such a humiliation could embolden some within Iraq to stage a coup.) On the other hand, should he not admit possession of WMD, the White House would also have its excuse to invade. Late Thursday, the Brits seemed to recognize this conundrum as they reportedly removed this benchmark from the latest proposal. France, which has objected to any hint of “automaticity” or “quickdraw” resort to military action, along with Germany and Russia, circulated a competing draft resolution whose first operative paragraph sets a deadline of June 1 for Iraq to “completely comply with all the demands of resolution 1441.” This draft also requires the UN inspection chiefs to develop time lines for Iraq to meet “unfulfilled requirements,” authorizes a UN military force inside Iraq to dissuade Iraqi interference with inspections, and asks that the military forces currently massed along Iraq’s border remain in place until June 1, at which time a final report will be given to the UNSC. If this report credits Iraq with full compliance with 1441, economic sanctions will be lifted, a UN long-term arms control monitoring system and human rights observer presence will begin, and political reforms leading to 2004 elections will be undertaken in conjunction with the Iraqi government. But should Iraq be judged by the chief inspectors–not the UNSC, as in the UK draft–to have failed, then member states would be authorized “to use all appropriate measures to enforce resolution 1441.” This would seem to allow the automaticity opposed by France. But the fact that the chief inspectors would make the call and then report their findings to another meeting of the UNSC provides a speedbump on the road to hostilities. Obviously, the “old axis” draft is also dead on arrival, if for no other reason than Washington would never agree to waiting until June. In fact, the White House had earlier been dismissive of a rumored compromise draft resolution by the “middle six” for a 30- to 45-day compliance deadline, as well as of a suggestion by Canada of a March 31 cut-off date. The administration claims it is near the nine votes needed for UNSC approval (barring a veto) of a new resolution. But horse operas are like other operas; they’re not over until the sun sets in the West (the equivalent of “the fat lady sings”). As long as the clock doesn’t strike Noon, anything–including a diplomatic breakthrough in the UNSC or Baghdad–can happen. (Dan Smith < dan@fcnl.org > is a military affairs analyst for Foreign Policy In Focus (online at www.fpif.org ) is a retired U.S. army colonel and Senior Fellow on Military Affairs at the Friends Committee on National Legislation.) Weekly multilateralism / unilateralism analysis via our Progressive Response ezine. This page was last modified on Friday, March 14, 2003 5:57 PM Contact the IRC’s webmaster with inquiries regarding the functionality of this website. Copyright © 2002 IRC. All rights reserved. Recommended citation : Col. Dan Smith (Ret.), “High Noon: Dueling Resolutions at the UN,” (Silver City, NM & Washington, DC: Foreign Policy In Focus, March 14, 2003). Web location : http://www.presentdanger.org/commentary/2003/0303hinoon.html Production Information : Writer: Col. Dan Smith (Ret.) Editor: John Gershman, IRC Layout: Tonya Cannariato, IRC