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Wednesday 29 January 2003

So it's war then? [lurks]

I want to talk about Iraq. Now before I do, here's an executive summary of the events leading up to today.
Back in September, a mild mannered 72 year-old Swede called Dr Hans Blix was sent into to Iraq as head of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (Unmovic). There he was to act on the latest UN security council resolutions and directly oversee the weapons inspection process. The mandate of this process was the result of the accelerated response to the US and Britain's demand that there be brought some closure to the existing breaches.
This new accelerated timetable is loosly bound under UN Resolution 1441, and this is important because of Iraq is held in material breach of this resolution, then it wont just be the US and Britain backing military action - the UN Security Council wont really have any option but to ratify military intervention.
What Iraq has had to do in order to comply with Resolution 1441 is to provide full and complete documentation on it's entire military capability. It must also document weapons of mass destruction and prove that these are being destroyed - preferably being overseen by Unmovic. What it did was provide a huge document detailing most of what was asked for with a lot of extra smoke and mirrors. It also failed to account for any of the weapons of mass destruction which were previously discovered in Iraq by weapons inspectors before that process ground to a halt thanks to Iraqi non cooperation.
When we say that it fails to account for those weapons, this includes 6,500 chemical warheads and tons of VX nerve gas. These weapons did exist, they were seen. To comply with 1441 they should have been listed in the document with proof that they had been destroyed or Unmovic informed and asked to oversee said destruction. Instead there was no mention whatsoever.
This is actually a material breach of UN resolution 1441. However various moderate UN members have been dead set against the logical conclusion that this would pave the way for military action. That in itself is not surprising since Iraq has been in breach of a great many UN resolutions for the last 11 years.
Now today, we're at the final stage of the implementation of resolution 1441. Hans Blix has made his final report on the state of Iraqi disarmament. The key thing to remember here is that Hans Blix's teams were not in Iraq looking for WMDs or 'smoking guns' as Western media is calling them. They are actually there to oversee Iraqi's disarmament. It seems to me there's a great misunderstanding on what Iraq has been ordered to do. Hans Blix was not supposed to go looking for WMDs, he's supposed to be overseeing the destruction of those which Iraq possessed at the time of the gulf war.
That's what lead Hans Blix to say today;

'Iraq appears not to have come to a genuine acceptance - not even today - of the disarmament which was demanded of it.'

So where do we go from here? Various people are calling for more time. They'll get it because it's going to be awhile until forces are in place anyway. Nothing will become of this, probably Iraq will start getting antsy and obstructive as they ready for conflict and the weapon inspectors will need to pull out. This is most likely to happen inside of a month.
Now what? The UN security council is comprised of 5 permanent members. These guys have veto, ultimately, in military action. That's the UK, Russia, France, China and of course the United States. Let me tell you what happens. If there is a motion for military action; the UK and USA will go 'Yes'. Russian and China will grumble away and abstain their vote. France will also complain bitterly but ultimately vote 'Yes'.
So that's the permanent five resolved. Now all that is required is the rest of the 9 votes. There's ten elected members of the security council. Given the 3 votes on the permanent five, that leaves 6 more votes required. Here's the other members; Germany, Guinea, Mexico, Pakistan, Spain, Syria, Angola, Bulgaria, Cameroon and Chile.
Without writing an even longer blog on the reasons, here's how I predict how the temporary security council voting will go; Germany will vote no. Guinea, Mexico, Pakistan and Spain will vote yes. Syria will probably vote no. Angola, Bulgaria, Cameroon and Chile will probably vote yes. That's 8 yes votes most likely with the 3 on the permanent 5 as well taking it to 13 votes. Motion carried. War.


  1. Well, it's hardly shocking to be honest. The UN is never going to have the bottle to tell the US where to shove it, and regardless, in this case the Yanks are actually right. Saddam has to go. (He should have gone 10 years ago, but the past is the past.)
    However, the US (and indeed the west in general) need to be very careful about relying too heavily on Iraq's breech of UN resolutions as a causus belli. Wasn't it Hans that found that webpage comparing Israel and Iraq, wars started, territories illegally annexed, UN resolutions breeched, etc?

  2. Well that's the flipside. The UN is quite fond of making resolutions and doing nothing when they are breached. It doesn't do a lot for it's credibility when they do nothing. At the end of the day, not only do you need breeched UN resolutions but you need at least some of the 'big five' with a vested interest in military repurcussions.
    Can someone find that Iraq vs Israel UN resolutions breach page? It was a good example. In that case we can all agree Israel has been very naughty but it's just not in any of the big five's interests to see Israel punished. Obviously the big part about that is that Israel isn't a threat to the big five.

  3. This isn't the one that Hans found... in fact, it's a bit suspect, given the source: Al-Jazeerah. But it's the only one that I could find on Google directly comparing Israel and Iraq.
    That search also kicked up this list of UN Security Council resolutions being violated by countries other than Iraq. Israel has by far the most violations, as one would expect. The next most frequently occuring countries are Turkey and Morocco.Actually, regarding it not being in any of the big five's interest to see Israel punished: yes that's true, but with the exception of America (with their big Jewish lobby), it wouldn't really cause any significant repercussions to any of the big five to censure Israel... and would some sort of reprimands/sanctions on Israel not go a long way towards diffusing the rampant anti-Western sentiment that seems to be quite widespread in Muslim countries at the moment?

  4. Yes, it probably would. However it's all most complex than that isn't it. Israel is a valuable ally in the region. Any sanctions need to be enacted via the security council, remember any of the big five can veto it and that obviously includes the US. I have a feeling things would have been different had 11th of September not happened. I'm afraid that whatever the (pretty valid) reasons for them doing it, Palestinians suicide bombing the Israelis is really not doing them any favors in the west. It's messy as hell.
    So the UN kicks back and condemns Israel from their ivory tower with no real prospect of anything being done about it because none of the big five consider their interests served by doing so. I think that this the kind of summary that will be explained to school children about this era in history in years to come;
    If a country does naughty things, the UN will issue a resolution calling on you not to be naughty. If you do naughty things and one of the UN good-old boy countries doesn't like you, you will get sent to bed with no dinner and possibly spanked as well.

  5. So, the UN, regardless of whatever humanitarian goals it may have accomplished, is following in the political footsteps of the League of Nations. What a cheery thought. :/

  6. The latest escalation of events is that our government is now saying Iraq is sheltering Al Qaeda operatives. This follows Bush saying the same thing at his State of the Union address. He's said he'll present evidence of this claim next week. With our government giving some inconsistent stories from it's spokesmen, it's tricky to see exactly what's being said here as well.
    It's smoke and mirrors at the moment. If they put up and demonstrate any Iraqi connection with Al Qaeda I suspect that even the left softy pacifists will harden somewhat. In reality they're probably not going to reveal that but we might see some shifting of the positions of world governments if they are privately shown such evidence. I guess we'll wait and see.