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http://www.ipacademy.org/unscom.htm International Peace Academy 777 United Nations Plaza New York, NY 10017-3521 Goodbye UNSCOM: a Sorry Tale in US-UN Relations By David Malone Elected in December 1996 with strong support from Washington, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan embarked on an extended honeymoon with the US Administration and media throughout 1997. However, relations between the UN Secretariat and the US deteriorated in 1998 over Iraq’s posture towards the UN Special Commission for Iraq (UNSCOM), the work of which was being seriously impeded by Baghdad. Relations between Annan and UNSCOM Executive Chairman Richard Butler, increasingly perceived to be working in very close conjunction with the US Administration, also appeared to suffer, with Annan staffers complaining of Butler’s aggressive style in dealing with Iraq. When the UN Security Council deadlocked completely over US and UK bombing of Iraq in December 1998, the triangular relationship between the UN Secretariat, UNSCOM and the US Administration disintegrated, amidst allegations that the CIA had used UNSCOM as cover for intelligence gathering in Iraq for purposes extending well beyond UNSCOM’s mandate. This article aims to explore some of the circumstances surrounding these events and advances some tentative conclusions to be drawn therefrom, for both the US and the UN. BACKGROUND The UN Special Commission for Iraq UNSCOM was created further to UN Security Council Resolution (SCR) 687 of 3 April 1991 to monitor the destruction, removal, or rendering harmless of all Iraqi chemical and biological weapons, including the stocks of agents, related subsystems, components and all research, development, support and manufacturing facilities. (The International Atomic Energy Agency was charged with monitoring Iraq for nuclear capability and activity.) The Commission was established as a subsidiary organ of the UN Security Council rather than as a unit of the UN Secretariat. Its Executive Chairmen (first Rolf Ekeus of Sweden from 1991-96 and then Richard Butler of Australia) were appointed by the UN Secretary-General, after consultation with the Security Council, but the Secretary-General exercised no further authority over UNSCOM although Butler formally reported to the Council through him. While this arrangement worked well in UNSCOM’s early years, it was to prove highly problematic in 1998. The UN Secretary-General The UN General Assembly elected Kofi Annan the UN’s seventh Secretary-General on 17 December 1996. His candidacy had enjoyed broad support among Member States who admired his tenure as Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations from 1991-96, none more so than the United States which had tired of Boutros Boutros-Ghali’s cerebral but autocratic approach to the job. The US blocked re-election of Boutros-Ghali and used its full diplomatic weight to ensure Annan’s election. The US had reason to be pleased with its choice early on. Annan made clear that he shared and wished to advance internationally ‘values’ championing human rights and humanitarian action to a greater extent than had Boutros-Ghali. His low-key charm and discreet but real charisma helped usher in a more civil tone in relations between the US and the UN. Senator Jesse Helms, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a sharp antagonist of Boutros Ghali, reacted positively to Annan’s efforts to improve perceptions of the UN within the US legislature. Prodded by US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, with whom he had established a working relationship, Helms soon helped craft a bill to pay off a large amount of the US arrears to the UN. The UN Security Council A period of euphoria was induced at the UN by the success of UN Security Council-mandated ‘Operation Desert Storm’ in reversing the August 1990 Iraqi invasion (and subsequent annexation) of Kuwait. Within months of the deployment of Desert Storm in December 1990, large-scale UN peace operations, featuring complex mandates executed by civilian as well as military components, had been launched in the Former Yugoslavia, Cambodia and Somalia. Smaller UN missions were launched to support the end of civil turmoil in such places as Angola, Mozambique, Rwanda, El Salvador and Haiti. After serious problems in Somalia and Bosnia, Boutros-Ghali concluded that the UN itself could not successfully engage in enforcement operations. The UN’s failure to halt genocide in Rwanda in the Spring of 1994 reinforced the perception that the UN’s own capacity to manage effectively risky peace operations was limited. A pattern emerged involving Security Council authorization of operations by coalitions of Member States to enforce its decisions, with Operation Uphold Democracy deploying in Haiti as of September 1994 and the launch of IFOR in December 1995 to implement provisions of the Dayton Agreement in Bosnia. As of early 1995, the deployment of ‘Blue Helmets,’ which reached its peak in July 1993 with 78,444 troops, began to decline, dropping to 14,374 in November 1998. The period of relative harmony between the Council’s five Permanent Members (P-5) ushered in at the end of the Cold War and marked by genuine P-5 cooperation in addressing challenges to international peace and security, drew to a close in 1998 with Russia and China objecting furiously to US and UK bombing of Iraq and Russia resisting a lead role for NATO in addressing the crisis in Kosovo. By late 1998, the Council was effectively deadlocked on these two key issues, seeming increasingly focused on crises of marginal (if real) importance on which its action was of limited scope and half-hearted at best, as in Sierra Leone. By 1998, the Russian Federation was so enfeebled that few contested the emergence of the US not so much as the sole remaining super-power but, in the words of the Egyptian jurist and diplomat Nabil Elaraby, "the supreme power." Although the European Union (EU) was making strides towards both expansion and further integration, its common foreign policy remained amorphous and unconvincing on international security issues, nowhere more so than at the UN, where the United Kingdom and France not only acted independently of their EU partners but also of each other on certain key issues such as Iraq. China, while essentially passive on most Council agenda items, responded to Taiwan’s occasional diplomatic successes by vetoing Council resolutions relating to Guatemala (1997) and Macedonia (1999). (Ironically, these displays of Chinese self-interest were very much in line with Washington’s contention that all Security Council decisions must somehow serve US interests.) Russia navigated cautiously at the UN, seeming to agree with Western powers on many crises, perhaps acutely aware of the extent of its reliance on Western financial largesse (which was interrupted at the time of a financial crisis in Russia in mid-1998). US Multilateral Policy The most striking trait in US approaches to its multilateral relations was not so much the risk of imperial over-reach (or the equally decried threat of isolationism) but rather its growing reliance on unilateralism and exceptionalism. The latter trait was most clearly on display during negotiations towards a treaty banning the use of anti-personnel land mines (which, in spite of US opposition, came into force for its State Parties in March 1999) and during those which led to the adoption of the Statute for an International Criminal Court in Rome in July 1998. Having moved beyond her early advocacy of "assertive multilateralism" Secretary of State Albright spoke of the US as the "indispensable nation" and explained the short shrift sometimes given by Washington to the views of its partners by claiming that "We stand tall and we see further than other countries into the future." US patience with views at variance with its own was at a low ebb by 1998. The UN, the US and Iraq UNSCOM initially was able to perform with considerable effectiveness. Iraqi weapons of mass destruction programs were documented, plans for future such programs were brought to light and UNSCOM was able to destroy a significant number of weapons handed over by Iraq or found by its inspectors. However, Iraqi compliance with SCR 687 decreased sharply over time. By October 1994 Iraq was threatening to suspend cooperation with UNSCOM and had deployed forces in the direction of Kuwait. The Security Council deplored Iraq’s actions in SCR 949 of 15 October and Iraq subsequently withdrew its troops and resumed cooperation. .Although lifting of the sanctions was linked to unimpeded monitoring of Iraqi weapons (under paragraph 22 of SCR 687), the US and UK were seen by some as "moving the goalposts"when they cited other reasons for maintaining the embargo including human rights violations and ultimately Saddam’s hold on power. Indeed, Iraq’s declining cooperation with UNSCOM may have been due, in part, to the realization that no degree of compliance would deter the US from its chief objective: the removal of Saddam Hussein from power. However, the US did consent to an "Oil for Food" program (adopted under SCR 986 of 14 April 1995) under heavy pressure from other UN Member States concerned about the humanitarian costs of the sanctions regime to Iraqi civilians. On 20 August 1995, the defection from Iraq of a senior member of the regime responsible for weapons programs, General Hussein Kamal Hassan (a brother-in-law of Saddam Hussein), brought to light extensive Iraqi documentation on its "proscribed" programs, which had been deliberately withheld from UNSCOM. UNSCOM having arranged access to the General in Amman, Jordan, where he had sought refuge, little purpose was served for Baghdad in further efforts at dissimulation on this front. Under pressure of these developments, Iraq announced a new policy of complete cooperation and transparency with UNSCOM and the IAEA, but the circumstances surrounding the announcement made clear how reluctant and limited any such cooperation would be. This episode for a time also undermined French and Russian support for lifting of sanctions. Tensions between the US and Iraq mounted in late 1997, resulting in a several showdowns over UNSCOM inspections. On 13 January 1998 Iraq withdrew its cooperation from several inspection teams on the pretext that they included too many individuals of US or UK nationality. Despite a Security Council presidential statement terming Iraq’s actions unacceptable, Iraq continued to assert that it would not permit access to eight so-called "presidential sites". As strains increased between Washington and Baghdad, the US was almost alone in moving military assets into the Gulf region. The US media and public seemed barely to notice how much the broad coalition built by George Bush and Jim Baker in 1990 under the Desert Storm umbrella had withered away. Many of its members no longer supported a sanctions regime seen as punishing a civilian population already severely oppressed by a ruthless dictatorship in Baghdad. Within the UN Security Council, Russia and France deplored the possible use of force and pressed for change in the sanctions regime. Renewed military hostilities, in the form of bombing against Iraq, seemed likely and, in early February 1998, very much desired by the US Administration (as well as, possibly, by Baghdad, always on the lookout for means of whipping up further domestic support for Saddam Hussein’s political position). However, after a disastrous televised performance by several senior Administration foreign policy officials at Ohio State University on 18 February 1998 failed to persuade their audience that the Administration’s objectives were worth fighting for, Washington’s interest in a negotiated outcome increased markedly. Fortified (and seriously constrained) by detailed guidance from the P-5 Ambassadors in New York on the parameters of an acceptable agreement (the bottom line being defined by the US and UK positions), Annan set off for Baghdad. On 22 February, he secured the agreement of Iraq for "unlimited access" by UN inspectors to the presidential sites. A Memorandum of Understanding included several face-saving provisions for Saddam, but achieved all essential US and UK objectives. The US government failed to display much appreciation: "Annan left Baghdad believing that he had achieved not only personal but also institutional vindication – vividly demonstrating the merits of diplomacy and multilateralism. He arrived back in the United States and heard himself denounced as a latter-day Neville Chamberlain by the Senate Majority Leader, Trent Lott. The Clinton Administration, which had arguably been saved from itself, issued not so much as a thank-you." Butler, perhaps concerned at first that Annan might have sold out his operation in Baghdad, on reviewing the terms of the agreement commented: "He brought home the bacon." Many in Washington were dismayed by a comment Annan ill advisedly made about Saddam Hussein in New York following his return from Baghdad: "I think I can do business with him." The remark reinforced an impression already held by some in Washington that Annan was too accommodating to be entrusted with negotiations affecting vital US interests. Annan’s optimistic outlook on relations with Saddam Hussein was soon proved wrong. Although Butler evoked a "new spirit of cooperation between the two sides" after a visit to Iraq from 22-26 March and in spite of visits to the presidential sites from March 26-April 2 by UNSCOM and IAEA inspectors accompanied by a gaggle of senior diplomats, Iraqi compliance with the Aide Memoire soon flagged, further undermining Annan’s credibility in Washington. Iraq refused in August to entertain UNSCOM proposals for verification in the chemical weapons field and on some other issues, viewing them as "endlessly prolonging the process on irrelevant and trivial issues". Further crises led to a break in Iraqi cooperation with UNSCOM on 31 October. Although UNSCOM inspectors were readmitted to Iraq in November (after considerable US and UK saber rattling), the Iraqi government systematically obstructed their work. Following renewed Iraqi withdrawal of cooperation from UNSCOM, and in the face of clear preparations by the US and the UK (no longer joined by any allies) to bomb Iraq, UNSCOM inspectors were withdrawn from Iraq during the night of December 15-16, leaving behind other UN staff, including its humanitarian personnel. Their evacuation was ordered by Butler who did not consult Annan or advise him of his decision until after the fact. Immediately following the evacuation of UNSCOM personnel, US and UK bombing of Iraq commenced. "Based on frustrating experience twice in the past year, the Administration wanted to forestall any third-part intervention, such as the ones made earlier by the Secretary-General, Russia and France." The trigger for the US and UK bombing campaign was a report from Butler to the Security Council that appears to have circulated through US hands before it was shared with the UN Secretary-General or other Member States in New York. The stark tone of this brief report and its dramatic military upshot, combined with a flood of revelations and assertions over preceding months by former UNSCOM senior inspector Scott Ritter on UNSCOM’s troublingly close relationship with Washington, created an uproar in the Security Council, all the more so as the US and UK failed to seek Council authorization for the bombing, relying instead on Iraqi non-compliance with earlier Council resolutions as sufficient legal justification for their policy. Some sympathy existed for the US and UK approach, including, quietly, among several Arab governments. However, many Member States thought that if the US and UK had not stuck so single-mindedly with their hard-line conditions for lifting the sanctions regime, Iraq might have cooperated more extensively with UNSCOM. UNSCOM now became a political football. Attacks on Butler by France, Russia and China grew unrelentingly. These countries called for his resignation, for a lifting of the comprehensive sanctions regime against Iraq and for UNSCOM to be recast completely. With little support for the bombing campaign among UN Member States, the US was in a weak position to defend UNSCOM effectively. Spying Intrigues Indications soon emerged in the US media of a concerted effort by the US to use UNSCOM cover for US intelligence activities targeted at the Iraqi regime. These revelations, while eliciting little surprise from those at the UN informed of the presence among UNSCOM staff of intelligence personnel from several countries, nevertheless seemed to shock much of the UN community. The assertions were flatly denied by US spokespersons, but subsequent leaks only reinforced the credibility of the allegations. On 6 January, individuals described in the Washington Post as "confidants" of the UN Secretary-General were quoted as indicating that Annan had obtained "convincing evidence" that UNSCOM inspectors helped the US to collect intelligence in Baghdad. "The Secretary-General has become aware of the fact that UNSCOM directly facilitated the creation of an intelligence collection system for the United States in violation of its mandate." The reaction in Washington was furious, all the more so as Annan and his associates had been increasingly critical for some weeks both in public and, more so, in private of Butler’s style, described by some as "in your face". Albright and Annan spoke that day, in a discussion described by one State Department officials as "not their friendliest." The Secretary-General’s spokesman stated that "we have no evidence of any kind" to support the allegations. "We have only rumours. Neither the Secretary-General nor any member of his staff has access to classified US intelligence, although UNSCOM has. ... Obviously, were these charges true, it would be damaging to the United Nations’ disarmament work in Iraq and elsewhere." Much, including UNSCOM’s survival, now depended on whether the Administration could convincingly deny allegations of spying on Iraq for strictly American purposes under UNSCOM cover. However, relations between Annan and Washington were already a casualty: "US officials in the Clinton Administration and on Capitol Hill said the incident was likely to damage relations, already chilly, between Washington and Annan" Media reaction varied, but Administration efforts to convince US journalists that Annan was out to force Butler’s resignation clearly found their mark. The Washington Post intoned: "Mr. Annan himself continued the sly undermining of his own UN inspectors." The New York Times was more cautious: "Using UN activities in Iraq as a cover for American spy operations would be a sure way to undermine the international organization, embarrass the United States and strengthen Mr. Hussein. But more information will be needed to know whether Washington acted so irresponsibly." In a Washington Post column by the widely respected Jim Hoagland, the Administration’s hand was clearly tipped. "Annan’s people misjudge the temper of Washington. ‘Their undermining of UNSCOM and economic sanctions will drive people who want to clear up the problem of US back dues and other problems into the confrontation camp and provoke a serious US-UN crisis’ a senior administration aide said to me???The White House, already miffed with Annan over his handling of Iraq, will fight to protect Butler’s head a senior official told me". In spite of protestations by Annan’s spokesman that none of the (anonymous) sources quoted in reporting on the Secretary-General’s views with respect to UNSCOM were authorized to speak for him or in a position to know what Annan actually thought, the Administration seemed bent on turning these (in retrospect rather innocuous) comments into a cause célèbre. While the Administration accused Annan of seeking to decapitate UNSCOM, Washington itself seemed determined to neuter the UN Secretary-General, generating some of unusually sharp media comment. Long-time critic of the UN (and of the Clinton Administration’s foreign policy) A.M. Rosenthal wrote: "Mr. Annan moved into the emptiness created by the failure of American leadership against Saddam Hussein. He brought into his expanding role great charm and wit, and a clear concept of how to handle Saddam – with diligent appeasement. By himself, he has become Saddam’s greatest single asset at the UN." The Clinton Administration’s penchant for scapegoating the UN (most evident following the deaths of 18 army rangers in Mogadishu on 6 October 1993 while under US command and control on an operation aimed at hunting down war-lord Mohamad Farah Aideed neither authorized nor pre-cleared by UN authorities) was once again on display, and once again, much of the quality US media had played along. It was left to The Wall Street Journal (Europe) to raise an issue much on the minds of foreign critics of the US Administration’s stop-and-go brinkmanship with Baghdad through 1998, the extent to which successive crises in relations with Iraq and the year-end bombing campaign were designed to detract attention from the President’s travails in the Monica Lewinsky case: "When convenient, the reports of UNSCOM inspectors were ignored by the US. At other times, the reports appeared to be geared to the Clinton Administration’s political needs, which compromised Mr. Butler. The events that led up to the Desert Fox bombings looked suspiciously as if they had been orchestrated to delay an impeachment vote in the US Congress." Meanwhile, revelations of the US intelligence community’s modus operandi on cooperation with UNSCOM continued to leak out of Washington. The Washington Post (and soon others, using an apparently wide array of US sources) alleged that, as of early 1998, the National Security Agency, while passing on to UNSCOM material relevant to its mandate captured by US technology planted in Iraq on UNSCOM’s behalf, channeled other information pertinent to the Iraqi regime’s struggle for political survival solely to a Washington clientele. A gray zone increasingly drawn to public attention in early 1999 was the overlap between Washington’s technical support for UN intelligence gathering and its efforts to procure information under UNSCOM cover for its own purposes, as reportedly recognized by State Department Spokesman James Foley. The Boston Globe described its significance: "The meaning of the disclosures about electronic eavesdropping on Iraq is not that UNSCOM was spying for a third party but that third parties ...were exploiting their roles as legitimate providers of technical assistance to penetrate Saddam’s police state." That Annan was stoutly defended in the rest of the world for pointing to the consequences of any US spying under UN cover may have further excited the US Administration’s irritation. Once it became clear that allegations of US intelligence gathering for its own account were true, the editorial line of some leading US publications, including traditional strong supporters of the UN, shifted to justifying the US practice. The Los Angeles Times opined: "Iraqi behavior has simply allowed no alternative to using every intelligence means possible to uncover and destroy its provocative and threatening secret arms program." The immediate consequence of this public spat was to render Richard Butler’s already delicate position untenable. He defended UNSCOM’s record with panache and apparent conviction: "I am entirely satisfied with the answers I received [from Washington]. I do not believe that the US piggybacked on us." However, Scott Ritter claimed that a US listening device that Butler had ordered him to install in Baghdad had been under Washington’s complete control from July to December 1998. Ritter asserted that by the end of August 1998, at the time of his resignation, "UNSCOM had not received a single report derived from the vast amount of data collected." "What Butler did was allow the US to take over." With the Russian, Chinese and French governments baying for his blood, Butler volunteered: "I have always said I don’t want this job forever." Deadlock On 13 January 1999, France proposed both the progressive lifting of sanctions against Iraq and the replacement of UNSCOM by a "renewed control commission" that would "have its independence insured and its professionalism strengthened." The French did not offer many details but suggested that their ideas were intended to generate debate on the way forward in containing Iraqi weapons capability. This they managed to do, with the US and UK increasingly isolated and other UN Member States now eager to map out a new strategy. Hints soon emerged of new flexibility in Washington on modalities for the sanctions regime and of a recognition there that Butler’s tenure was now doomed. Annan meanwhile moved to calm the very troubled waters between Washington and the UN headquarters. In a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations and a related op-ed piece in the New York Times, he argued that the Secretary-General’s office cannot be seen as serving the "narrow interests of any one state or group of states." Rather plaintively, he argued that, as Secretary-General of the UN, he could only seek to achieve his ends peacefully: "Whatever means I have employed in my efforts in dealing with Iraq, my ends have never been in question: full compliance with all relevant Security Council resolutions; the disarmament of Iraq; reintegrating its people into the international community; securing the stability of the region; and insuring the effectiveness of the United Nations as a guarantor of international peace and security. By precedent, by principle, by charter and by duty, I am bound to seek these ends through peaceful means." In fact, the Secretary-General’s emphasis on peaceful means here contrasts starkly with his assertion in February 1998 that it was diplomacy "backed by force" (or rather, its threat) that led to the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding with Iraq. Annan’s discourse more broadly has veered between implied sympathy for the use of force in pursuit of humanitarian goals in extreme circumstances (as in his statement following the launch of the NATO campaign against Serb forces in the Former Yugoslavia on 24 March ) and another theme, voiced with varying degrees of conviction, the primacy in international law of the UN Charter’s provisions on authorization of the use of force). John Ruggie, a widely respected former Dean of Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and now a Special Adviser to Annan, commented on more directly on the criticism of the Secretary-General: "On his return from Baghdad last February, the Secretary-General readily acknowledged that force and diplomacy can work together effectively, when he credited the threat of allied force with boosting the success of his diplomatic initiative to open presidential sites in Iraq to weapons inspections for the first time ever. ‘No promises of peace and no policy of patience can be without limits’ he added in a statement to the Security Council at the time. These are hardly the words of an appeaser ... " Turning to Annan’s difficulties with Butler and his team, Ruggie wrote: "Whatever differences the Secretary-General may have had with UNSCOM largely have been on matters of style, not substance. On occasion, provocative remarks and indiscretions by UNSCOM personnel have permitted UNSCOM itself to become an issue of contention, both on the ground and in the Security Council. Such diversions have not helped UNSCOM’s cause, but Iraq’s, and the Secretary-General has consistently sought to curtail them." On January 12, Butler suspended flights over Iraq of US U-2 aircraft gathering information for UNSCOM. The Commission was now history. Seymour Hersch captured the essence of the outcome: "The result of the American hijacking of the UN’s intelligence activities was that Saddam survived but UNSCOM did not." Butler’s term was up in late June 1999. Earlier that month, the Council on Foreign Relations in New York announced that he would be joining it for a period as a diplomat-in-residence. The US maintained its hard line against Annan. A senior State Department official was quoted on January 30 as stating: "What Washington expects of Mr. Annan is that he start each sentence on Iraq by accusing Saddam Hussein of being the direct cause of all suffering by Iraqi civilians. If he does not, Washington will not be able to work with him, or, by extension, with the UN." However, some US news media belatedly admitted that the UN had fallen victim to shoddy treatment by Washington. Further to more detailed revelations of US spying under UN cover published on 2 March 1999, the Washington Post editorialized: "It turns out that American intelligence used UN cover to conduct a secret, Americans-only operation spying on Iraqi communications. All this took place while the United States was denying Iraqi charges that it was exploiting the agreed-upon UN inspections for purposes of American espionage. ... The outcome adds to the difficulties facing the United States and others in designing another arms-monitoring scheme to replace the one lost in December ... What happened is not a moral crime, but it is a blunder." On 30 January, building on an initial proposal by Canada, the Security Council established three panels to provide a "comprehensive review" on UN approaches to Iraq. The relevant panel report, transmitted to Annan on 27 March 1999, concluded that intrusive inspections remained needed in Iraq under a reconstituted UNSCOM, thus providing some support for US and UK approaches to the challenge of keeping weapons of mass destruction out of Iraq, but contained few suggestions on practical steps forward. In September, the Security Council was still debating how to proceed on this front, with a UK text, slightly modifying the sanctions regime, at the center of debate. The UK, increasingly under pressure domestically and internationally to moderate its enthusiasm for the sanctions regime, had signaled as early as December 1998 growing sensitivity to the humanitarian consequences of sanctions. However, after the intense bombing of Iraq for four days starting 16 December 1998, the US and UK continued to strike sporadically, totaling over 1000 sorties by August 1999, but to little apparent effect. Some immediate consequences Among the consequences of the intense irritation with Annan and the UN in Administration circles was Washington’s growing lionization of NATO and its purportedly expanding "out of region" capabilities and legitimacy in the run-up to the April 1999 NATO Summit. The US was increasingly reluctant to allow the Security Council a look in at Contact Group and other strategies to address the Kosovo crisis. The Administration also refused to allow the UN Secretary-General any meaningful role in securing a negotiated outcome to the conflict which broke out on 24 March between NATO and Belgrade after failure of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to sign on to the Rambouillet agreement. This confined the UN role to implementation of the agreement reached among G-8 governments in Bonn on 6 May 1999 and enshrined in Security Council resolution 1244 of 10 June 1999. Jamie Rubin, Albright’s spokesman, stated some days before the G-8 agreement was reached and at a time when Annan appeared eager to play a diplomatic role in ending the conflict: "They [the EU] were clearly looking to involve the United Nations in the process. We expressed our welcome of Kofi Annan's position in making clear that President Milosevic needed to reverse course and accept the basic conditions NATO has laid out." Strategic leaks in Washington invited Annan to butt out of negotiations: "The United States told the United Nations ... not to meddle in the Kosovo peace talks ... " While the desire to keep channels to Milosevic clear and unencumbered was understandable, and the risk of mixed signals through multiple negotiators very real, the message was couched in characteristically dismissive tones. The quandary created for the Secretary-General by Washington’s stance was all the more acute as the give and take involved in UN-style mediation was unlikely to have yielded a more satisfactory outcome than NATO’s hard line with Milosevic, as delivered in Belgrade by Finnish President Ahtisaari and Russian Special Envoy Chernomyrdin. In particular the question arises as to whether the Secretary-General, bearing Russia’s status as a permanent member in mind, could have resisted successfully Russia’s subsequent demands for military control of a "sector" of Kosovo. And yet, it is the Secretary-General’s function to offer his good offices and to seek to bring about peaceful settlement of disputes (which normally requires a considerable degree of compromise on the part of belligerents). The UN’s plight was further highlighted when SCR 1244 gave it the lead role in Civilian Administration of Kosovo while imposing significant roles for both the European Union (EU) and the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) without the UN having had any opportunity to shape their or its own role or prepare for its major new responsibilities in a timely way. On the one hand, the UN seemed resentful that it had been called upon to play a role more thankless than that of NATO in restoring order and civilian life to Kosovo. On the other, Annan had signaled that he wanted a lead role for the UN in running the Kosovo protectorate (presumably if only as a means of reasserting the UN’s centrality in the international system and overcoming the embarrassment over its marginalization in the search for an outcome to the conflict). The UN’s role in Kosovo, championed by some European states, Canada and Russia, seemed barely tolerated in Washington. US Secretary of Defense William Cohen and General Henry Shelton, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff were unreasonably fast off the mark and sharp in mid-July 1999 in criticizing the UN for its pace of police deployment into Kosovo, all the more so as G-8 governments were unable to agree until early June on the allocation of responsibility for policing in Kosovo to the United Nations. It was clear, if anybody had doubted it until then, that the UN’s new mission in Kosovo would provide many a stick with which Washington could beat it. Conclusions With no remaining alternative centers of power, the USA has developed a marked and growing impatience with the constraints of multilateral diplomacy. The give-and-take required within the UN Security Council in order to secure support for US policy initiatives is perceived in Washington increasingly as an unnecessary tyranny. There is also a decreasing disposition to convince allies and others of the wisdom of Washington’s views: it is deemed sufficient that they be stated. Any disagreement with US policy is perceived by many in Washington as driven by irrational anti-American sentiment or as posturing. These attitudes led the US seriously astray in its approach to Iraq within the UN Security Council in 1998 and 1999, causing it, apparently through a mixture of absent-mindedness and bloody-mindedness, to allow the Desert Storm coalition to fray beyond recognition and repair. To the extent that "good company" and multilateral endorsement of its policies continue to matter to Washington, it will need to combat its impulses towards unilateralism. The contradictions in its policy towards Iraq seem to be apparent everywhere but in Washington: "The problem ... is that we can’t demand compliance with Security Council resolutions while simultaneously shunning the Security Council by pursuing a unilateral campaign to remove Saddam from power." While Washington has demonstrated that it can behave cavalierly with a UN Secretary-General or two, can the same approach work with other countries? As suggested by the US preference for a multilateral strategy to address the crisis of democracy in Haiti, 1991-94, Washington does value "good company". The desire to include others in the tasks of intervention does not arise solely from a wish to share the burden, financial and otherwise, of military campaigns often serving only tangentially the core interests of the US, but also from a desire to share political responsibility for initiative with others (and thereby deflect some of the criticism invariably attached to action by leading powers). In effect, the US in these circumstances seeks legitimation for its actions which "good company" (sanctioned or not by the Security Council) can be seen to provide vis a vis international and domestic public opinion. From this perspective, the requirement to act alone or nearly alone is dangerous when not absolutely necessary. Washington’s antipathy towards Boutros Boutros-Ghali intensified after the Mogadishu fiasco for which Washington unfairly blamed the UN. Boutros-Ghali’s efforts to set the record straight enraged Washington. His other displays of independence, his arrogance and his inability to communicate well with the American public and political world in English were all held against him. Having achieved his ouster and his replacement by its own chosen candidate, Washington might have been expected to work hard to retain good relations with a UN Secretary-General universally seen as well-disposed towards the US. However, this was not to be. A poor choice of words by Annan on his return to New York from Baghdad in February 1998 and Saddam Hussein’s repeated violations of his agreement with Annan were sufficient in Washington to cast the UN Secretary-General as an appeaser hostile to US interests. Annan’s known reservations over Richard Butler’s modus operandi were interpreted in Washington as an attack on its own policies. When detailed allegations of US spying against Iraq under UNSCOM cover came to light, Washington seems to have considered that the best defense would be a strong offense - against Annan, who became the target of a concerted Administration campaign to discredit him. The UN, never particularly adept at "spin," and the Secretary-General, notoriously unconfrontational by nature, were ill-equipped to fight back. By the time allegations of US spying became irrefutable through the accumulation of damning leaks (mostly in Washington), the damage had been done. The Administration had undermined (perhaps only temporarily) the potential usefulness in Washington (and consequently some of the usefulness elsewhere) of a UN Secretary-General of its own choice. Washington’s irritation with Annan and his decision to stand his ground elicited a sympathetic response from the vast majority of other Member States who saw him cleaving to the impartiality that lies at the heart of his functions. However, the support of the overwhelming majority of Member States may not be as valuable as a constructive working relationship with today’s supreme power. The question soon arose in the diplomatic corridors of New York as to whether a second term for Annan, should he seek one, was now likely. Annan, to his credit, seems serene on this front. Washington’s disposition to devalue the reputation and place at risk the potential usefulness of this UN Secretary-General, combined with the US’s campaign to rid itself of Boutros-Ghali in 1996, raises the question of whether Washington accepts that a UN Secretary-General must respond not only to the interests and desires of the world’s premier power but also to the terms of the Charter and the wishes of the 184 other Member States. In commenting on the sour grapes conveyed in Boutros-Boutros Ghali’s autobiography, State Department Spokesman Jamie Rubin stated (one imagines, tongue in cheek) that Boutros-Ghali had neglected his core duty: "smooth cooperation with the United States" Obviously, blind subservience of the UN Secretary-General to Washington would serve neither the UN nor the US well over time. At the same time, Annan and his key advisers may need to reflect on whether the Secretary-General himself should engage in sensitive negotiations engaging the interests of key Member States rather than designating credible representatives to do so on his behalf. He might be in a better position to manage his relationship with major powers were he not as directly and personally involved as he was in Baghdad in February 1998. While Richard Butler was accurately seen in Washington as a courageous implementer of his mandate under SCR 687, the tensions his high-profile and publicly confrontational approach to his responsibilities eventually created in his relationship with Kofi Annan ultimately served Washington poorly. This contrasts strongly with the quiet success of the first UNSCOM Executive Chairman, Rolf Ekeus, known for both his firmness and his discretion. The difficulties between Annan and Butler suggest that it may have been a mistake to establish UNSCOM as a subsidiary body of the Security Council, reporting through but not to the Secretary-General. The Council should think long and hard before repeating this formula. In covering the events chronicled here, the editorial pages of several US newspapers hewed disturbingly close to the Washington Administration’s line, seemingly suspending disbelief. While reporting, notably by the Washington Post’s Barton Gellman, and the Boston Globe’s Colum Lynch proved excellent and insightful, editorial bombast in support of what later proved to be misleading positions peddled by the Administration (or segments thereof) suggests both the depths of the UN’s problems with US media opinion-makers (even those not inherently hostile to the organization), but also editorial standards that seem to fall well below those achieved by several European media organizations more constitutionally skeptical of their governments’ spin operations. The flare-up between Washington and the UN Secretary-General over the ignominious end of UNSCOM and related events reveals not only some of Washington’s less palatable pathologies but also points at approaches Washington must seek to avoid or moderate. In this, it represents not only a sadly colorful case-study but perhaps also an instructive one. ----------------------------------------------- FREE! 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