Yearly Archives: 2007
In the inaugural issue of the brand new Guardian American Allen Gerson, a former aid to the late UN Ambassador Jeanne Kirkpatrick, tells the heretofore unknown story of how the United States sought to justify the Iraq war before the now defunct UN Commission on Human Rights(UNCHR).
Few can challenge the neo-conservative credentials of Kirkpatrick, so it is surprising that Gerson reveals Kirkpatrick’s deep discomfort with the administration’s attempt to jettison the UN Charter and justify the invasion of Iraq as a pre-emptive war.
Here’s the story: On the eve of war, the State Department sent Kirkpatrick to UNCHR headquarters in Geneva to try and block a resolution condemning the imminent US invasion. Foggy Bottom told Kirkpatrick to make her case by “defending the merits of the US action as justifiable on the grounds that Iraq was engaged in producing and hiding weapons of mass destruction and were ready to export them to terrorist groups like al-Qaida.”
Kirkpatrick, though, was not prepared to advance this position. In fact, in her time at the UN she consistently argued that the right of self-defense (as defined in article 51 of the UN Charter) did not include the right to launch pre-emptive wars. Rather, Kirkpatrick sought to appeal to the rule-of-law to stave off the opposing resolution. To that end, Kirkpatrick argued that the US-led invasion could be justified because Saddam was in material breach of the ceasefire resolution ending the 1991 Gulf War. In other words, military action against Iraq could be seen as a police action to enforce the UN Charter. Incidentally, Kirkpatrick’s argument won the day in Geneva and ended up undermining the a resolution condemning the United States.
The New York Times’ James Traub (perhaps most famous for being the first-ever guest in our Delegates Lounge) just released a smart analysis of the UN in Iraq, which was commissioned by the Stanley Foundation. The PDF is here.
The UN, says Traub, will inevitably assume the responsibility for negotiating a political settlement in Iraq. It the only body capable of acting both as an impartial mediator of Iraq’s internal disputes and as a neutral platform to entice the support of Iraq’s neighbors. The Bush administration is certainly pushing for this expanded UN role — and the Secretary General is receptive.
The problem, of course, is that Iraq’s factions do not want the UN — or anyone — to arbitrate their disputes. Violence is still seen as a profitable way to secure political power, or deny it to others. Further, the United States has not made clear the extent to which it is willing to cede power to the United Nations to accomplish this task. Asks Traub, “Would the White House back a UN diplomat trying, say, to limit Kurdish control over Kirkuk? What if that diplomat needed to promise a timeline for the withdrawal of US troops in exchange for Sunni concessions?” At least for the moment, this does not seem to be the case.
The Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has condemned the recent assassination of the chief executive of a popular radio station.
UNESCO chief Koïchiro Matsuura said “I am gravely concerned about worsening violence against journalists and media personnel in Somalia who are brave enough to fulfil their professional commitments in such a dangerous environment.”
The SG: In Ethiopia over the weekend, the SG is now in the United Arab Emirates. Today he met with Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashed Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, where the two discussed developments in the region, including Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan, and in the Middle East Peace Process.