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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 36, April 1999

UN Disarmament Panel Makes Recommendations on Iraq

To the backdrop of continuing military confrontation between Iraqi anti-aircraft forces and US and UK warplanes in the no-fly zones in the north and south of Iraq, diplomatic efforts to revive UN-Iraq relations have been continuing. In late January, the Security Council established three panels - on disarmament, on humanitarian issues and on Iraq-Kuwait issues - to report by 15 April. On 29 March, the disarmament panel (see Disarmament Diplomacy No. 34, for details of the panel's mandate and composition) submitted its key recommendation: that an intrusive monitoring of former and potential Iraqi weapons-of-mass-destruction (WMD) facilities be put in place as soon as possible. The question was left open, however, of which auspices the monitoring should be under, the former United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM), or a new, or radically revamped, body. In any event, UNSCOM's mission of intrusive inspections of new sites, in order to finally certify that Iraq no longer had any WMD stocks or infrastructure, is clearly not back on the agenda and appears to have been decisively terminated by the US-UK December 1998 bombardment of Iraq designed to allow UNSCOM to complete its mission.

According to the disarmament panel's report, the monitoring mission proposed would be "if anything more intrusive than the one so far practised." Conceding that "important elements still have to be resolved" from UNSCOM's work, although the "bulk" of the work had been satisfactorily completed, the panel stresses that "the retention of the right to investigate any aspect of proscribed weapons programmes would be a fundamental element of the [new] integrated system." The report continues: "It is in the hands of the Security Council to devise ways of ensuring that Iraq accepts such monitoring and verification. ... [H]ow this acceptance is obtained is the fundamental question before the Security Council." Overall, the report was sombre about the scale of the task facing any new regime, even a highly empowered one:

"[It is] essential that inspection teams return to Iraq as soon as possible...[to prevent] the loss of technical confidence in the system...[becoming] irretrievable. ... The current absence of inspectors has exponentially increased the risk of compromising the level of assurance already achieved, since it is widely recognised that the re-establishment of the baseline will be a difficult task."

The panel's report also alluded to the many recent reports that the US used American members of UNSCOM to obtain intelligence information. In the words of the report, under the "renovated" system "the substantive relationship with intelligence providers should be one-way only."

The hope of the panel is clearly that the intrusive nature of the proposed new regime will appeal to the Americans and British, while the chance of moving beyond the UNSCOM-era will appeal to the other permanent members of the Council, China, France and Russia. Initial US reaction was certainly favourable. In the words of State Department spokesperson James Rubin (29 March), the "report recognises that there are outstanding disarmament issues in Iraq and that an intrusive monitoring regime is required to prevent rearmament. ... In fact, the report states that the monitoring system approved by the Council [should] give inspectors the rights, privileges and immunities necessary to do the job."

The Security began considering the report on 7 April. It heard a summary of the panel's assessment and recommendation from the Chair of all three panels, Celso Amorim, Brazil's UN Ambassador: "In essence, the report presents one basic recommendation: namely, that a reinforced on-going monitoring and verification [OMV] be implemented to carry out further the objectives of the Security Council resolutions on Iraq. ... It was obvious to panel members that the longer inspection and monitoring activities remain suspended, the more difficult the implementation of...resolutions becomes. ... Any threat to the stability of the region that is attributable to the absence of inspections will, of course, bring serious damage to the credibility of the UN... To sum up, the status quo is not a viable option..."

Amorim was also reporting on the findings of the other panels. The central recommendation of the panel of humanitarian affairs, consisting of four senior UN officials, is a gradual easing of the effect of sanctions, such as repermitting private investment both to help Iraq rebuild its oil-production capacity, to allow for the maximum purchase of humanitarian goods, and to help it increase the production of a number of key items and supplies such as fertilizer, dates and nuts. In the panel's vivid summary, since the imposition of UN sanctions following the invasion of Kuwait in 1990, Iraq has "experienced a shift from relative affluence to massive poverty," one horrific indicator of which is the highest infant mortality rate in the world. The panel did not, however, recommend lifting the key sanction, the oil embargo.

The panel on Iraq-Kuwait relations concluded that Iraq had not yet honoured its obligations under UN resolutions with regard to Kuwaiti citizens missing since the occupation of their country, or to the return of stolen property.

There was no expectation that the Council would come to a quick determination on the way forward. Tensions in the Council were illustrated on 15 April when Britain and Russia put forward markedly dissimilar draft resolutions. The British resolution, co-sponsored by the Netherlands and supported by America, called for a new disarmament agency to replace UNSCOM, with "immediate, unconditional and unrestricted access" to Iraqi facilities, and with UN sanctions against Iraq to remain fully in place until the new agency completed its mission and could certify to the Council that Iraq was essentially a WMD-free zone. The Russian resolution, supported by China and France, endorsed the goal of a "reinforced" system of monitoring but also advocated the lifting of sanctions as soon as that system was in place. Sergei Lavrov, Russia's UN Ambassador, was confident about the fate of the rival resolution, telling reporters on 16 April: "What I know for sure is that the British-Dutch draft is going to be rejected because it doesn't have any hope for Iraq, any roadmap for Iraq to follow..." Speaking on the same day, US Ambassador Peter Burleigh was equally firm on the weakness of the Russian draft: "We would like to have inspectors back on the ground in Iraq...but we're not prepared to pay in terms of 'inducements' for Iraq in order to accomplish that."

While the UN has been locked in debate, Iraq has been making clear its rejection of the findings of all the panels. On 31 March, UN Ambassador Saeed Hasan stated simply: "Our position is clear: short of lifting sanctions, I don't think there is a way out." The Ambassador continued: "Lifting sanctions is something Iraq might live with, not transferring certain disarmament issues to monitoring. We think all disarmament requirements have been achieved..." On 8 April, Iraq submitted its full reaction in a 24-page memorandum note to the Council calling for the immediate and unconditional lifting of sanctions. The note reads: "The new integrated approach uses practically the same procedures previously used but under a new label... This unfortunately provides the enemies of Iraq with the pretext for future aggression. ... The net result of the recommendation is disappointing and falls short of the goal which should have been recognised and recommended, namely putting to an end the prolonged regime of sanctions..."

The language of the memorandum was described by Slovenia's UN Ambassador, Danilo Turk, on 9 April as "disturbing," while the UK's Ambassador, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, complained (9 April): "It's the results of what happens in the Council that should be of interest to Iraq. Why doesn't Iraq wait and see what comes out of it?"

Reports: UN Panel recommends monitoring Iraq, Associated Press, 29 March; UN Panel recommends intrusive inspections in Iraq, Reuters, 29 March; Panel recommends 'rigorous' arms inspections in Iraq, United States Information Service, 30 March; UN - investment recommended in Iraq, Associated Press, 30 March; Iraq Ambassador - lift sanctions, Associated Press, 31 March; UN seeks new Iraq relationship, Associated Press, 31 March; Security Council must reestablish UN presence in Iraq, Panel says, United States Information Service, 7 April; UN starts Iraq policy debate, Associated Press, 7 April; Divided Security Council seeks new policy on Iraq, Reuters, 7 April; Iraq rejects UN recommendations, Associated Press, 9 April; UN hopes Iraq reconsiders plan, Associated Press, 9 April; UN haggles over new Iraq policy, Associated Press, 15 April; Iraq rejects UN inquiries on weapons, sanctions, Reuters, 9 April; Iraq proposals circulated at UN, Associated Press, 16 April.

© 1999 The Acronym Institute.

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