Wednesday, June 11, 2008

United States in Iraq, a United Nations Mandate, and What Iraq's Leaders Want

There's another deadline coming in Iraq. The United Nations Security council's mandate for the multinational coalition that America has been leading in Iraq runs out this December.

That's important, since only the United Nations has the right to decide what nations Iraq's new government deals with: right? Not exactly.

Mandate? What Mandate? Iraq, the Coalition, and the United Nations Security Council

That mandate is a pair of United Nations Security Council resolutions, United Nations Security Council Resolution 1483 (2003) and 1546 (2004). The first one said that "the occupying powers under unified command" were the legal government of Iraq. The second one is a little more complicated.

"In June 2004, Security Council Resolution 1546 stipulated that 'by 30 June 2004, the occupation will end and the Coalition Provisional Authority will cease to exist, and that Iraq will reassert its full sovereignty.' Subsequently, as sovereign Iraq has moved by stages through elections and complex deliberations to the formation of its current government, the United Nations has renewed the mandate for the multinational force at the request of successive Iraqi prime ministers — Ibrahim al-Jaafari in 2005 and Nuri Kamal al-Maliki last year." ("Occupational Hazard" The New York Times (August 29, 2008))

That Was Then, This is Now: Iraq's Sovereignty and Status Among Nations

Iraqi prime ministers have asked for extensions of the United Nations mandate. Now, it looks like some Iraqi leaders want the mandate to end. And, I think they have a good point.

A CNN article points out that Iraq under a United Nations mandate and a free and sovereign Iraq isn't the same thing, at least in the eyes of some prominent Iraqis.

"Iraqi, American death tolls down in May" (CNN (May 31, 2008)):
    "...Many Iraqis suspect that the potential agreement could lead to the establishment of bases, a long-term presence of American troops and a weakening of Iraqi government control.
  • "Powerful Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has said that any such agreement should be put to a popular referendum, a position reflected in demonstrations in several Shiite Baghdad neighborhoods Friday.
  • "Al-Sadr's chief Shiite political rival, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, said that only Iraqis should control Iraq.
  • " 'From the beginning, we were and we still insist on the importance of not having any resolution that can challenge our national sovereignty,' al-Hakim said.
  • "Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, a leader in Iraq's largest Sunni Arab bloc, worries that a security agreement could compromise Iraqi sovereignty, which he calls a 'red line that should not be bypassed.' "
The Iraqi leaders, and people, have a legitimate concern. Their government is trying to run a country that's been mis-managed for three decades, with serious economic, infrastructure, and ethnic issues.

They're reasonably concerned that Iraq be recognized as a 'real' country, a sovereign nation with a legitimate government with the power to make its own treaties and agreements. That comes out in the next few paragraphs.
  • "A U.S. diplomat in Baghdad tried to allay those fears.
  • " 'These are bilateral negotiations between two sovereign countries,' U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Mirembe Nantongo said. 'As with all negotiations, the resulting agreement will have to satisfy the interests of both countries. Our focus is to achieve an agreement that is fully consistent with Iraq's sovereignty.'
  • "The countries have not publicly discussed details of the talks. If an agreement is reached, Nantongo said, it 'will set the legal framework for the continued drawdown of U.S. troops' and replace the parameters set by the U.N. Security Council mandate that expires in December...."
Sounds radical, from some points of view: an agreement between two nations, without either asking permission from the United Nations. Radical, maybe, but sensible: in my opinion.

The United Nations as World Leader, and Another Scandal

I ran into a pretty good discussion of Iraq, America, and the United Nations - among other things - today:

"Right now, our presence in Iraq is legally authorized under a UN Security Council Resolution. That provides the legal basis that enables us to use military force in Iraq. We would have preferred to just renew the Security Council resolution. It expires late this fall. The Iraqis didn't want to be viewed as a ward of the United Nations anymore. They wanted to be treated like a sovereign country. Sovereign countries do Status of Forces agreements with the U.S., they don't do UN resolutions. We didn't want that for a variety of reasons. Amongst which being, there are more countries in Iraq than just the U.S. The UN Security Council resolution is an umbrella authorization for all of them to operate in Iraq. If instead you go to a Status of Forces deal, that has to be done bilaterally for every power operating in Iraq. We failed to get the Iraqis to agree to renewing the Security Council resolution." ("Iraq Outlook Improves But Sustained U.S. Military Presence Remains Essential" (CFR (June 10, 2008)) [emphasis mine]

That article is a well-written defense of the importance of a United Nations mandate for military action in Iraq. I still think those Iraqi leaders have a point.

Aside from the matter of national sovereignty and international perceptions, I think Iraq's leaders are well-advised to be cautious about relying too heavily on United Nations assistance.

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) handles a great deal of money. It got in the news over a year ago, in a way that United Nations boosters probably didn't appreciate. "Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has announced that an external audit will be conducted of the UN Development Program in North Korea after the United States alleged that the program had funneled millions of dollars to Kim Jong Il's regime." ("UN aid program in North Korea faces audit" (International Herald Tribune (January 24, 2007))

That external audit has been done, and a report made. I've found two places to read about the results: The news isn't good. The FOXNews article starts:
  • "After more than two years of accusations and probes into the operations of the United Nations Development Program in North Korea, a weighty report finally reveals how routinely, and systematically, the agency disregarded U.N. regulations on how it conducted itself in Kim Jong-Il's brutal dictatorship, passing on millions of dollars to the regime in the process.
  • "The report depicts an organization that for years apparently considered itself immune from its own rules of procedure as well as the laws and regulations of countries that were trying to keep weapons of mass destruction out of Kim’s hands.
  • "It also shows that UNDP apparently considered itself above the decisions of the United Nations Security Council itself when that organization tried — as it is still trying — to bar Kim from gaining the means to create more weapons of mass destruction.
  • "That is the same Security Council whose decisions, U.N. officials argue, have the weight of international law when applied to the United States and the rest of the world...
I'm glad to see that the United Nations as a whole permitted an audit and report like this to be made, and published.

I'd be more glad if this didn't follow pattern of scandals "from rape by peacekeepers in the Congo, to theft at the World Meteorological Organization, to a Human Rights Commission crammed with despots; from inadequate auditing to botched management to wasted money to running the biggest heist in the history of humanitarian work--the Oil for Food program in Saddam's Iraq."

I know that 'nobody's perfect,' and that the same can be applied to governments and organizations that may want to be governments. However, the United Nations carries that principle a bit beyond the edge of my comfort zone.

Nations whose leaders don't have what it takes to join the ranks of Kim Jong Il and the late Saddam Hussein might be well-advised to have as little as possible to do with the United Nations and its agencies.
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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.