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[casi] Uphill Struggle: US/UK at the Security Council ARROW Anti-War Briefing 30

The US And UK Battle For A New UN Resolution
ARROW Anti-War Briefing 30 (23 February 2003)
WAR PLAN IRAQ Update Number 9

A second UN Resolution on Iraq is politically vital to
British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and would be
important in the post-conflict period when the US
hopes to shift responsibilities to UN agencies. Opinion
polls have clearly indicated that a majority of the
British people oppose war without a second
Resolution, but would support it if there was UN
        However, support for war even with UN
backing is dropping. When YouGov asked on 20/21
Feb. 2003, ‘Should Britain take part in a war against
Iraq if there is a second resolution backing it?’ 59 per
cent of people said ‘Yes’, down from 72 per cent a
month earlier. 30 per cent of respondents said ‘No’.
Without UN endorsement, only 21 per cent support
war. (Sunday Times, 23 Feb., p.13) Note that a second
Resolution is unlikely to explicitly ‘back’ military action
against Iraq. (See Briefing 28: Second Resolution, on
why even an explicit Resolution would not make this a
legal or just war.)
        In order to secure a new Resolution, nine of the
15 members of the UN Security Council have to vote
positively in favour of the Resolution, and the five
permanent members of the Security Council have to
be persuaded not to use their vetoes. Already in
favour of war are the US, UK, Spain and Bulgaria.
Definitely opposed are France, Germany, Russia, Syria
and China.
        ‘Diplomats at the UN say opposition to war
hardened last week among the “middle six” countries
on the security council - Chile, Mexico, Angola,
Cameroon, Guinea and Pakistan. One American
estimate suggested that the balance on the council was
11—4 in favour of giving the UN inspectors more
time.’ (Sunday Times, 23 Feb., p. 2)

China, Russia and France are capable of vetoing the
US/UK resolution. Chinese academics have been used
to indicate China is unlikely to veto a US resolution.
(FT, 22 Feb. 2003, p. 6) China has a lot to lose,
particularly with the sensitive North Korean crisis on
its borders, in which the US is a key player.
        The Russian Foreign Minister, Igor Ivanov, ‘was
perched so firmly on the fence it must have hurt’. He
suggested at first that ‘there was no reason to speak
about using the right of veto’ at the Security Council,
then added, ‘Russia does not object to the right of a
veto.’ (Sunday Times, 23 Feb. 2003, p.13) Ivanov
recently met Tom Lantos, a US congressperson, who
offered the Russians the inclusion of three Chechen
rebel groups on the US list of international terrorists
‘something the Russians had long wanted.’ ‘He also
hinted that should the regime in Iraq change, the £5
billion debt it owed to Russia would be honoured. The
likelihood of Russia receiving the money, said Lantos,
“clearly would be dramatically enhanced if Russia
stood with us in this encounter.” ’ (Sunday Times, 23
Feb., p.14)
        France remains a problem. One French official
said, ‘We won’t accept any hidden ultimatum giving a
sort of legal stamp for the use of military force.’ (FT,
22 Feb., p. 6) ‘France has already threatened to veto a
new resolution containing the words “serious
consequences”.’ This has led to a watering down of
the US/UK draft text. (Sunday Telegraph, 23 Feb., p.

‘A Bush administration official, speaking on condition
of anonymity, told the Guardian the US was not
making economic threats—“but that's not to say these
countries are not aware that we provide them with
assistance”.’ Chile fears for its free-trade agreement
with the US, awaiting ratification by both countries’
legislatures, while ‘a no vote could end Mexico's hopes
of negotiating a better deal for the millions of Mexican
illegal immigrants in the US’. Guinea receives $40m a
year in aid from the US. (Guardian, 22 Feb., p. 4)
        A lengthy article in the FT recalled the
‘inducements’ offered to UN Security Council
members to secure UN Security Council Resolution
678, before the 1991 Gulf War. Simon Chesterton of
the International Peace Academy in New York noted
that these ‘included promises of financial help to
Colombia, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia and Zaire’. There
was, he said, an agreement with the Soviet Union to
help keep the Baltic states out of the 1990 Paris
summit conference, and cash inducements from
Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. China’s abstention appears
to have been secured by agreements to lift trade
sanctions in place since the 1989 Tiananmen Square
massacre, and to support a World Bank loan. ‘Yemen,
one of the two states to vote against the resolution,
had $70m (£43m) in annual aid from the United
States cut off. Minutes after the vote was taken, a
senior US diplomat reportedly told the Yemeni
representative: “That was the most expensive No vote
you ever cast”.’ (FT, 12 Feb., p. 6)
        ‘Speaking before the Senate budget committee
yesterday, [Colin] Powell made clear that US political
and military allies would benefit from handouts. The
$28.5bn foreign budget for 2004 “will allow the
United States to first target security and economic
assistance to sustain key countries supporting the war
on terrorism and helping us to stem the proliferation
of weapons of mass destruction”.’ (FT, 12 Feb., p. 6)
        ‘The hope is that if those votes [of the ‘middle
six’] are gained then the veto-wielding major powers
who are threatening to oppose an imminent attack
might find themselves forced to abstain rather than
appear to challenge the majority will of the UN.’
(Guardian, 22 Feb., p. 4)
        However, the US has problems with half of the
‘middle six’: ‘France has considerable influence over
the three African members, Guinea, Cameroon and
Angola. It has also struck up a close relationship with
Mexico (which has clashed with the Bush
Administration on other fronts). In short, if France
backs a resolution, it will pass; if France doesn’t,
probably won’t.’ (Times, 12 Feb., p. 18) The question
is whether France is committed to opposing war—it
can scupper the Resolution either by veto or by
securing African abstentions.

‘At the moment it looks as if the United States and
Britain would struggle to get the nine votes and avoid
a veto,’ said a Security Council diplomat. ‘But it only
needs another Iraqi violation to turn the momentum
back the other way. The next two weeks are going to
be decisive.’ (Sunday Telegraph, 23 Feb., p. 28)
Eminent British military commentator Lawrence
Freedman notes that ‘if the inspectors are mildly
hopeful, and a majority in the Security Council
concurs, it will be difficult for Britain and the US to
use force without a second resolution. They would
have to demand that inspections be abandoned
abruptly so that war could begin.’ (Financial Times, 12
Feb., p. 17)
        This is essentially what happened in Dec. 1998,
when the chief UN weapons inspector Richard Butler
was called in by US Ambassador to the UN Peter
Burleigh, and advised to be ‘prudent’ with the safety of
UNSCOM staff: ‘Repeating a familiar script, I told him
that I would act on this advice and remove my staff
from Iraq.’ (Richard Butler, Saddam Defiant, p. 224)
        Blix is not Butler. While Blix’s first major report
to the Security Council on 27 Jan. favoured the US (he
even ‘flashed the thumbs-up... to John Negroponte,
the hawkish United States ambassador to the United
Nations’,  Telegraph, 28 Jan., p. 2), his second ‘update’
was noticeably more balanced.
        Blix’s key sentence on 27 Jan. was: ‘Iraq appears
not to have come to a genuine acceptance—not even
today—of the disarmament which was demanded of
it.’ (FT, 28 Jan., p. 9) On 14 Feb., Blix spoke of
UNMOVIC’s ongoing and future activities, talked of
Iraqi cooperation on substance as well as access, and
said, ‘Inspections are effectively helping to bridge the
gap in knowledge that arose due to the absence of
inspections between Dec. 1998 and Nov. 2002.’ (See
‘Recent Items’ <>)
        ‘As Blix continued, Powell’s expression was icy...
There was almost an audible gasp in the chamber as
Blix turned to the “clinching” evidence that Powell
had presented to the Security Council the previous
week. It was ambiguous and unconvincing, Blix said...
Blix described the inspectors brief as theoretically
“open-ended”.’ (Observer, 16 Feb., p. 18) ‘It wasn’t
exactly a bag of goodies, was it?’ remarked one senior
British diplomat after Mr Blix had finished speaking.
(FT, 15 Feb., p. 6) A key Downing St official described
Blix’s statement as ‘A disappointment. We thought he
would be tougher. It’s not been the best of days.’
(Observer, 16 Feb., p. 17)

US Secretary of State Colin Powell has said explicitly,
‘The question isn’t how much longer do you need for
inspections to work. Inspections will not work.’
(Independent, 23 Jan., p. 1) As predicted by a top US
Senate official way back in May 2002, ‘The White
House’s biggest fear is that UN weapons inspectors
will go in.’ (Time magazine, 13 May 2002, p. 38)
Inspectors are an obstacle to war, they are part of the
problem, not part of the solution as far as the US is
        Thus US opposition to the French proposals
circulated in the Security Council on 11 Feb. ‘The
French proposal, also sent to the arms inspection
team, was reported last night to include doubling or
tripling the number of inspectors, increasing aerial
surveillance to make sure a site remains “frozen” after
inspectors have seen it and using mobile customs
teams to tighten up on illegal smuggling by Iraq.’
(Telegraph, 12 Feb., p. 14)
        Hence the US opposition to the fulfilment of the
provisions of UN Resolution 1284, passed in Dec.
1999, which requires the drawing up by weapons
inspectors of a ‘work programme’ including ‘the key
remaining disarmament tasks to be completed by
Iraq’. Security Council members may press for these
‘key disarmament tasks’ to be set out clearly and
precisely (as Resolution 1284 requires) in any new
UN Resolution. The US and UK are resisting such
ideas: ‘They are worried that this would invite another
interminable series of discussions over whether Iraq
has disarmed and whether inspectors should be given
more time, and may invite a third resolution.’
(Telegraph, 22 Feb.,. p. 14) (See ARROW Briefing 31
for more.)

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