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The UN and Iraq – supporting occupation

During the course of the war and the current occupation of Iraq there have been those in the anti-war movement who have put forward the idea of greater United Nations involvement as a counter to the power of the US.   In reality the UN has been complicit the crimes committed against the people of Iraq.  This complicity extends back over a decade, with its endorsement of the1991 Gulf War and the subsequent sanctions regime that resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths.  

The United Nations has actually supported the war against Iraq and the continuing occupation. When the Security Council members, including Ireland, voted unanimously for Resolution 1441 in 2002, they knew that this was a vote for war.   The demands within the resolution were constructed in such a way as to make compliance by Iraq impossible.  It was designed to create a pretext for an invasion that had been planned long in advance.  Although there were arguments as to whether a second resolution was required to approve war, these were really a sideshow.  They certainly didn’t amount to a challenge to the US.  It had announced in advance that it would not be bound by any concept of international law.  

In any case, the concept of legality was a weak basis on which to oppose the war.  The implication of such an argument was that the war should have been supported if it had received an explicit UN endorsement.  This argument has now completely fallen apart with the subsequent endorsement of the occupation by the Security Council.  In May 2003 its members voted for resolution 1483, which placed Iraq under formal occupation.  In October 2003 they backed resolution 1511, which declared that the US appointed Iraqi Governing Council (IGC)  “embodied” Iraqi sovereignty and committed the UN to accept the US-drafted interim constitution.

With the occupation facing increasing opposition the UN has come to aid of the US, providing a veneer of legitimacy for its actions.  This was demonstrated when the leaders of Iraq’s Shiite population rejected the interim constitution, calling instead for direct elections.  In the face of this crisis the UN dispatched its special envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, to Iraq.  During February 2004, he toured the country trying to convince the Shiite leaders that elections were impossible and that an Iraqi government would have to be subordinate to the US military.   The UN also backed the occupation by giving a rubber stamp to the proposed members of the interim government, although they had all been hand picked by the US

The latest UN endorsement of the occupation came on the 8th June when the Security Council unanimously voted for the US/British resolution on the “transfer of sovereignty” to Iraq.  It declares that the current government in Iraq, which is largely made up of CIA stooges and is kept in place by US military force, is the legitimate representative of the Iraqi people.  It endorses the presence of foreign troops in Iraq, demanding that future governments obey any UN resolution giving the occupation a mandate to remain in the country.  The resolution leaves in place all the laws enacted by the occupation authority, and the US-controlled body created to supervise Iraq’s oil industry.

It demands that all Iraqis accept “these arrangements peacefully and in full”, giving the  “multinational force” – the US-led occupation army – the “authorisation” to “take all necessary measures to contribute to the maintenance of security and stability in Iraq”.  This is a green light for the repression of any opposition.  Although the resolution allows for a review of the status of the occupation troops at the end of 12 months, any demands for their removal would have to be approved by the UN Security Council.  However, such a review is meaningless as the US and Britain can exercise a veto.  Despite claims by Tony Blair, an Iraqi government would not have the right to demand the removal of troops.  Anyway, given that the interim government is wholly dependent on these troops for its survival, such a demand is very unlikely to be made.  The designated prime minister, Ayad Allawi, who has recently declared that he is “in touch” with at least 15 intelligence agencies, has called for the troops to remain.  

Although other countries on the Security Council such as France, Germany and Russia have raised concerns about Iraq, they are not concerned about its people.  These states support the idea of Iraq being occupation; the problem for them is that they have no input into how it is conducted.  They fear that the US policy is destabilising the whole Middle East, and putting their interests in jeopardy.  Exclusive US control over the region’s oil, upon which they are dependent, could put restrictions on their future economic development.  This is particularly true of the European states that are attempting to develop the EU as an alternative imperialist power bloc. The Iraq war has already thrown this project into question by splitting the EU between pro and anti war governments.  If the US has a strangle hold on the European economies through control of oil resources, the EU project will effectively be at an end.  It is this inter-imperialist rivalry that is behind the divisions on the UN Security Council.        

If the most recent resolution showed the hypocrisy of the imperialist rivals of the US, it also demonstrated the total bankruptcy of the Arab and Muslim states that pose as the friends of Iraq.  Algeria supported the resolution, as did Pakistan, which also indicted that it would consider sending troops to Iraq.  

The hope that a democratic solution for Iraq can come out of the UN, or that it can be an opposition to imperialism, is an illusion.  It is controlled by the imperialist states and completely beholden to their interests. 


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