UN In Iraq


The UN no longer has a 'vital role' in Iraq

by Jim Addington

A dangerous hiatus has developed in Iraq since the end of the invasion in May. To those who opposed the war, in just five months several things have become clear. The occupying powers, now called the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) have failed to protect the United Nations

organisation and relief organisations such as the Red Cross from attacks.

As reported by Christian Aid to the donors' conference in Madrid nothing has been done to create the joint organisation to receive and disburse funds for reconstruction called for in UN resolution 1483. The call from UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the French and German

governments for early elections has now been widely accepted, given the pressures on US forces from an opposition which is rapidly building against the occupation. There are now up to 30 attacks each day; one of the most recent killed 15 soldiers in one attack and will have

concentrated minds on the future. Although the US government has not yet given any date for withdrawal Paul Bremer, the chief US administrator told a news conference at the beginning of November that he wished to give Iraq "a path and a timeline" for the transfer of power from the occupying forces to an Iraqi civilian administration. However little has yet come, either from the US State or Defence departments, to support his proposal.

The hopes epitomised on 17th July, in UN Secretary-General Kofu Annan's first report to the UN Security Council following Resolution 1483 have been dashed.  In his report he announced the appointment of Sergio Viera de Mello as his special representative. Tragically de Mello's tenure lasted only until mid Agust when he was killed in the bombing of the UN headquarters.

The initial appointment was only for four months. His successor should have been in place by now, following an energetic beginning in which de Mello was making rapid progress in developing a vital place for the UN and assisting in preparing the ground for self government for Iraq.

Kofi Annan's report set out the structure of co-operation between the UN and the Coalition Provisional Authority and looked forward to possible progress by the end of the year. Now, without the immunity that is essential for the UN to play a major part in the reconstruction of Iraq, and with security crumbling because the occupiers cannot maintain order, the future looks grim.

Some have suggested include handing everything over to the United Nations, as in East Timor. But the UN cannot do this without protection for its operatives. The UN now has no official headquarters in Iraq and although local Iraqi staff have been retained it is having to operate from Cyprus.

Another proposal is to put the emphasis on the earliest possible move towards self government. The most recent resolution (1511) on 16th October declared that the Iraq Governing Council "embodies the sovereignty of the State of Iraq during the transitional period" to full self-government. It called on the Governing Council to provide the UN with a timetable and a programme for the drafting of a new constitution for Iraq, which will provide for future holding of democratic elections, by 15th December.

This must be the earliest possible date for such action. The resolution also called on the Authority (the occupiers) "to return governing responsibilities and authorities to the people of Iraq as soon as practicable".

There must also be doubts whether a multi-national force under a 'unified command' will work. Support for this was also granted in the latest UN Resolution. However The Iraq Governing Council rejected the offer of Turkish troops because their presence in northern Iraq was considered divisive. Forces from many other countries that have offered their support will find it difficult to operate in the present climate of resistance and they can hardly rely on protection from the already beleaguered US force.

Unfortunately this was a typical UN resolution in which the Security Council decides to act, describes in general terms what is to be done and then fails to say who should do it. The wording used this time was "...authorizes a multi-national force under unified command to take all necessary measures to contribute to the maintenance of security and stability in Iraq...". It is taken for granted that, as the leading state to sponsor the resolution, the United States will automatically be responsible for the 'unified command'.

Christian Aid, in a major report presented to the recent donors' conference in Madrid, challenged the occupying forces to explain what has happened to the missing billions that have been received since the war. At least $5 billion (£3.1 billion) has been passed to the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) but the report says that only a fifth of these development funds have been accounted for. The missing 'black hole' of $4 billion will double by the end of the year unless the accounts are made public. Although the recent UN resolution called for immediate implementation of the call made in May for receipts to go into a new jointly administered

international fund, more transparency is required to say what has happened to outstanding amounts and who has received them. Christian Aid say that failure to explain where funds have gone "will fuel suspicion among Iraqis that large amounts are being creamed off by US firms

given contracts to rebuild the country".

The UN story moves on. Passing resolutions that are not implemented, or only in part, can prevent the intended outcome. Powerful states may manipulate, delay or even halt, international action, based on the UN Charter, that has been widely agreed. Until UN member states take back full control of the Security Council these distortions will continue. That is the lesson of Iraq.

If the United Nations is to return to full participation in Iraq the security position must be cleared up. Any proposal will be open to the objection that many Iraqis are determined to have nothing to do with outsiders. However,  it might be possible to get broad agreement if the Iraqi Governing Council, which is gaining additional powers daily, made its own compact with the UN Secretary-General to support its operations. Secondly, if a small part of Iraq was to receive temporary dedication to the United Nations, on the lines of the diplomatic immunity accorded to embassy staff, it could be protected by a UN force chosen from states who were neutral in the recent war.

US forces would continue to undertake the tasks, allotted to occupiers under Geneva Conventions, to maintain order and assist with the return to self-government. They would also have a special duty to ensure that UN officials enjoy right of passage. For these proposals to succeed everything would depend on the knowledge that a date had been set for leaving.