The US has won an emphatic victory without even firing a single shot. It has established the absurd rule that Washington alone decides who must implement United Nations resolutions as well as who need not, and has arrogated to itself the right to enforce that ruling - reducing the UN chief, a Annan, to a virtual errand boy, and the permanent members of the security council to helpless by-standers rather than the independent equals they are supposed to be.
Annan spent three days in Baghdad (February 20-22) and held talks with the Iraqi deputy prime minister Tarik Johannes Aziz as well as Iraqi president Saddam Husain. Upon arrival, he said he was ‘reasonably optimistic’ that a diplomatic solution could be found during his talks but Annan had no brief to negotiate with Baghdad.
His mission - approved at a full session of the 15-members of the security council - was strictly limited to securing unconditional Iraqi agreement to full weapons inspection by inspectors (dominated by Americans) of the UN special commission known as UNSCOM. This was announced by Annan on February 22 before flying out of Baghdad. US officials, however, said that they would like to see the full text before accepting anything. US secretray of State Madeleine Albright said on February 22 ‘it is possible that [Mr. Annan] will come back with something we don’t like, in which case we will pursue our national interest.’
The Americans and their British cousins and backers clearly see the secretary general as little more than an errand boy. Nothing could be more calculated to humiliate - not only Iraq but also Annan and the other permanent members of the security council - than the arrogant language in which their statements were couched after the security council debate. Bill Richardson, the US representative, said after the session that any deal brokered by Annan that did not conform to American conditions or ‘US national interests’ would be rejected out of hand. He warned of ‘very, very serious consequences’ if Iraq failed to comply fully and unconditionally with security council resolutions.
US secretary of State Madeleine Albright was even more explicit and arrogant. ‘The president is commander-in-chief and he will make the decision in terms of our national interests.’ In other words, the authority of the so-called ‘international community’ was subordinate to Uncle Sam’s national interests.
This again means that Washington believes that its stake in the crisis is distinguishable from those of the rest of the international community, which, strangely, has not so far objected to American officials invoking national interests in an issue that is plainly within the jurisdiction of the world body.
The British prime minister, Tony Blair, did not refer to British national interests, as he was merely acting as president Bill Clinton’s poodle, but emphatically urged Baghdad to comply fully, or else, and set the limits within which the UN secretary general could conduct his talks with Iraqi officials. He said on February 18 that he was ‘delighted’ that Annan was going to see president Saddam Husain but added, ‘I think we should be very clear - his mission is within these parameters: There must be full compliance with the UN security council resolutions.’ And, moreover, Britain’s resolve was ‘immovable.’
This clearly means that Washington and its British junior partner reserve the right to reject any deal reached by the UN secretary general with Saddam Husain, and to bomb Iraq without any reference to the security council to protect what the Clinton administration considers to be American national interests. Publicly they insist that their main concern is to destroy the weapons of mass destruction amassed by Saddam to save the world from probable attack by a dangerous madman.
Washington and London assert that they need not apply to the security council for clearance to bomb Iraq to destroy those weapons, citing the 1991 security council resolution which authorized the US-led international coalition to drive Iraqi forces out of Kuwait. But legal experts, even in the west, are adamant that the 1991 resolution, though couched in loose language, is restricted to the liberation of Kuwait and that a fresh mandate is required before the US and the UK can legally attack Iraq. They say that no group of States has the right to interpret and extend the resolution, and that the use of force is open only to the UN and in cases of strict self-defence.
Mark Weller, a Cambridge University don, said on February 21 during a BBC interview that if States were allowed, under international law, to take unilateral action to destroy the weapons of mass destruction possessed by others, there would be utter chaos. Pakistan could attack India to halt its nuclear programme, and Arab countries Israel, he said.
But the reverse is being sought by the US and UK, which want to assert the right to destroy the weapons and technology of any Muslim country considered to be dangerous, even potentially, to western interests or Israel. The two are plainly not exercised about the possession of weapons of mass destruction by the ‘world’s largest democracy’ and by the ‘only democracy in the Middle East,’ as India and Israel are respectively dubbed in the west.
They can get away with such arrogance because the remaining permanent members of the security council and Arab leaders are deferring to them. Russia, France and China say they are opposed to the use of force but they, at the same time, urge Iraq to allow the UN inspectors to disarm it.
Similarly, Arab States which oppose the bombing of Iraq call on Saddam Husain to submit to the authority of UNSCOM and allow them to ensure that Iraq is rendered finally and permanently defenceless. To take only one example, Jordan, which believes it will suffer the most if Iraq is bombed, supports the US and UK interpretation of ‘the UN resolutions’ and wants Baghdad to implement them to their satisfaction. Dr Samir Marwan, the Jordanian minister for information, told the BBC world service on February 21 that ‘we support all the UN resolutions... and Baghdad must fulfil them no matter what’ (emphasis added).
Clinton must be pleased and encouraged that none of the countries professing to prefer a diplomatic solution of the crisis are objecting to the selective implementation of UN resolutions. Israel is occupying Southern Lebanon and Syria’s Golan Heights, as well as the West Bank and Ghazzah Strip in continued violation of UN resolutions. It has also nuclear and missile capability. But no one is steamed up about this to the extent of linking this humiliation of the world body to the Iraqi issue.
Neither the Arab League nor the Organisation of the Islamic Conference has seen fit to convene to consider the issue. And no group of States has found it expedient to call for a UN general assembly emergency meeting (a common occurrence at the height of the cold war) to challenge the bid to establish Pax Americana.
Muslimedia: March 1-15, 1998