Iraq’s decision to accept the United Nations Security Council resolution, passed unanimously on November 8, sets in motion a tightly scripted plan for UN arms inspectors to return to Iraq. Baghdad’s ambassador, Muhammad al-Douri, delivered his government’s acceptance letter to Secretary General Kofi Annan on November 13, telling reporters, “We are prepared to receive the inspectors within the designated timetable.”
Despite an angry parliamentary recommendation to reject the resolution, Iraq’s acquiescence was widely anticipated. It reflects the relentless pressure brought to bear on the country, from the Arab League and from such Council members as Syria, France and Russia, as well as Washington’s escalating threats of war for “regime change” virtually regardless of Iraq’s compliance.
In general, antiwar forces in the United States and around the world can claim the recent UN resolution as a partial victory. The resolution does not endorse the use of force; it redefines the Iraq crisis, at least in the international arena, as one of disarmament, not regime change; and it will at least delay a US attack. It provides a powerful tool to fight for US accountability to multilateralism and the UN. But it still reflects the heavy-handed domination of the UN and the rest of the world by the United States and ultimately sets the terms for war.
The real victory lies in the fact that the Bush Administration felt it necessary to go to the UN at all. Only last summer the Pentagon’s “chickenhawks” appeared to have derailed any UN-based strategy for Iraq. But the Joint Chiefs of Staff remained skeptical of war; polls showed less than a quarter of Americans supported attacking Iraq without the UN; and hundreds of thousands of protesters filled the streets. Washington’s closest allies, from Germany to Mexico and even Tony Blair’s own Labour Party, railed against growing US unilateralism. The superhawks didn’t want this resolution, but they lost.
That the anti-UN Bush Administration took eight weeks to negotiate the terms of Resolution 1441 reflects the enormous international and domestic opposition to its planned war for oil and empire. The resolution puts additional pressure on Washington to at least appear to be acting in concert with the international community. While the Republican sweep of the midterm election will certainly further empower the Administration’s most unilateralist voices, diminishing US public support for a solo attack, bolstered by the UN resolution, may act as a brake on that trajectory.
The United States made significant concessions to win support for its text. But backroom deals with France and Russia regarding oil contracts in a postwar Iraq were a big part of the picture. And the impoverished nation of Mauritius emerged as the latest poster child for US pressure at the UN. The ambassador, Jagdish Koonjul, was recalled by his government for failing to support the original US draft resolution on Iraq. Why? Because Mauritius receives significant US aid, and the African Growth and Opportunity Act requires that a recipient of US assistance “does not engage in activities that undermine US national security or foreign policy interests.”