United Nations

No Immediate Evidence of Banned Weapons

Charles J. Hanley, "Evidence of Iraq Weapons Remains Elusive" (AP article in The Hartford Courant, 3/25/03):

[T]he British government issued a dossier Feb. 3 on Iraq's "infrastructure of concealment," a paper praised by Powell in his own indictment of Iraq before the Security Council two days later. But the British dossier was subsequently determined to have been lifted in large part from published articles and a researcher's paper -- not from fresh intelligence.

Powell's UN presentation was densely detailed, speculating on the meaning of satellite photos, audio intercepts and other, unattributed information. But his claims drew a rebuff from Hans Blix, chief U.N. weapons inspector. Among other things, Blix said that a satellite photo the American secretary contended showed movement of proscribed munitions "could just as easily have been a routine activity."

By the time of his next report, March 7, Blix was referring to such U.S. statements as "contentions" and "claims."

Two months after U.S. officials said they had begun providing "significant" intelligence to the inspectors, Blix told the council he was still awaiting "high-quality information." He said no evidence had emerged to support U.S. contentions Iraq was producing chemical or biological weapons underground or in mobile laboratories.

The inspectors, privately, disparaged the "leads" they were receiving from the U.S. government.

United Nations Options

UN Security Council meets today -- possible prologue to an emergency session of the General Assembly and consideration of a "Uniting for Peace" vote under Resolution 377? (The Hindu, 3/26/03):

At this stage, it is not clear if the 15-member Security Council will be pushing for a formal resolution at the end of this open session calling for an end to the hostilities and withdrawal of all foreign forces. Those in favour of such a resolution will have to first make sure they have nine votes to pass the resolution. Even then the U. S. and Britain will most certainly exercise their veto.

One scenario is that if a resolution is killed by a veto in the Security Council, the Arab League could call for an Emergency Session of the 191-member United Nations General Assembly.

To get this going, a petition signed by at least 97 States is required. This will not be difficult; and the chances of a resolution condemning the U.S.- led attack on Iraq passing the General Assembly is also high given the existing sentiments.

A resolution cannot be vetoed in the General Assembly. At the same time, resolutions are not legally binding unlike the case of the Security Council, but are seen as reflecting the views of the world opinion.

Reaction: Hans Blix

Hans Blix reacts to the war (The Independent, 3/21/03):

Mr Blix told BBC Radio 4's Today that he was not sure Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and said UN inspectors had been getting more co-operation from the Iraqis before the US and Britain pulled the plug on their efforts. He did not believe the Security Council had intended the inspection process, initiated by resolution 1441 in November, to last less than four months. . . .

Intelligence given by the US to his team during their inspections had been largely discredited, he said. "We have never maintained or asserted that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, whether anthrax or nerve gas. What we have said is that their reporting on it demonstrated great lacunae in the accounting.

"But having something unaccounted for is not the same thing as saying it does exist ... If they don't have it, then it is very difficult for them to give the evidence. When the Americans go in, they will be able to ask people who will no longer be in fear and if the Iraqis have something, they will probably be led to it.

"I am very curious to see if they find something. The paradox is, if they don't find something, then you have sent in 250,000 men to wage war in order to find nothing."

Making 1441 a Justification for War

Josh Marshall (3/18/03) on the United States's hypocritical citation of Resolution 1441 as a sanction for invasion. Security Council members like France, Russia, and China clearly supported the resolution because they were confident that the Council retained the authority to evaluate Iraqi compliance and sanction any further response. What's more, that's exactly what the United States promised at the time. Marshall cites Maggie Farley and Maura Reynolds in the Los Angeles Times, 11/8/02:

U.S. officials said Thursday's concession on the language showed that the United States is genuinely committed to a multilateral process.

"There's no 'automaticity' and this is a two-stage process, and in that regard we have met the principal concerns that have been expressed for the resolution," U.S. Ambassador John D. Negroponte said. "Whatever violation there is, or is judged to exist, will be dealt with in the council, and the council will have an opportunity to consider the matter before any other action is taken."

The compromise reassured diplomats who have suspected that despite engaging in negotiations at the United Nations, the U.S. will ultimately attack Iraq with or without the sanction of the Security Council. If the U.S. is sincere about involving the U.N., said Russia's ambassador, Sergei V. Lavrov, then the process has been valuable.

"We know the position of the United States," Lavrov said. "But if they say that this resolution is not about an extra authorization, [that] it's a genuine effort to have inspectors on the ground and to fulfill entirely the mandate, then it's quite important."

How Bush Avoided UN Accountability

More on the origins of Resolution 1441's ambiguity (Mary Dejevsky in The Independent, 3/21/03):

The White House was divided over the wisdom of seeking international support for this venture, but by August 2002 Mr Bush had decided to take the United Nations route on Iraq. The one remaining question was whether he should call formally for a UN resolution that authorised the eventual use of force -- and then whether there should be just one resolution or two. Only 24 hours before Mr Bush addressed the UN General Assembly, British officials were confident that their argument -- for a single UN resolution -- had prevailed.

Mr Bush makes his decisions, apparently, rather like a diner contemplating a sushi restaurant conveyor belt. He watches as the options are paraded before him, then grabs one that matches his view, and another, and perhaps another, even if they are not necessarily compatible. The 28th draft of his speech was what Mr Bush delivered at the UN on 12 September 2002. The crucial sentence relating to the resolution, though, was missing from his autocue. Knowing it should be there, he improvised, with one crucial error. He called for "UN resolutions", in the plural.

What seemed a tiny distinction took on huge importance in talks over the resolution that became 1441. France and Russia insisted on two resolutions -- one to get weapons inspectors into Iraq; the second to authorise military action, if necessary. That same dispute, essentially, is what finally scuppered UN diplomacy.