UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL RESOLUTION IN IRAQ
The UN Security Council, largely handicapped by the Cold War until the late 1980s, has become considerably more proactive over the last twenty-five years. The results are mixed.
One constant for the Council since 1980 is that it has been at grips with conflicts involving Iraq – conflicts with Iraq’s neighbours and also internal strife prior to and particularly since 2003. Every instrument at the Council’s disposal, in- cluding all the coercive ones, have been invoked at one time or another against authorities in Iraq or to assist them. After a promising beginning in helping to end the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88), and in mandating the expulsion of Iraqi forces from Kuwait, which Baghdad had sought to annex in 1990, the Council’s silent tolerance of intrusive interna- tional humanitarian activities in Iraq’s Kurdish provinces as of 1991 was ground-breaking.
Nevertheless, the Council’s post-war strategy for Iraq outlined in Resolution 687 of 1991 wound up over-reaching, involved serious unintended consequences arising from an overzealous sanctions regime (and a related humanitar- ian program the UN did not possess the administrative machinery to oversee effectively), and eventually sundered relations among the Permanent Five (P-5) members of the Council through a series of fractious episodes from 1988 to 2003.
This working paper outlines a three-decade span of Security Council resolutions, actions and impasses on Iraq, investigating closely the period of diplomatic confrontation in 2002-2003 culminating in unilateral military action to remove Saddam Hussein from power by the US, the UK and a very few others without a mandate from the Council to do so. The UN was subsequently mostly side-lined in and on Iraq.
The paper considers damage to perceptions of the Council legitimacy stemming from the events of 2002-2003 and assesses its evolving approach to international security in Iraq and beyond since then.