Use all necessary means

By Gordon Prather

Congress is about to “authorize” the president to use our armed forces to enforce certain United Nations Security Council resolutions, whenever he or she determines that “reliance on further diplomatic or other peaceful means” is not likely to lead to compliance by Iraq.

Congress declared back in 1998 that Iraq was in “material and unacceptable breach of its international obligations” and urged the president “to take appropriate action” to bring Iraq into compliance.

Following the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq in 1990, the Security Council first invoked Chapter VII, Article 41 of the U.N. charter to impose sanctions on Iraq. Security Council Resolution 678 soon followed, invoking Article 42, authorizing those member states cooperating with the government of Kuwait to “use all necessary means” to restore international peace and security in the area.

A few months later, with the Iraqi aggressors ejected from Kuwait, a ceasefire was obtained, whereupon Iraq agreed to comply with various Security Council resolutions.

Now, who decides when Iraq is in compliance with this or that Security Council resolution? Who decides what means are “necessary” or “appropriate” to ensure compliance? Well, it’s supposed to be the Security Council – not Congress, and certainly not the president.

By 1998, Iraq was – in the opinion of most members of the Security Council – substantially in compliance with all relevant resolutions. They tried to lift the sanctions.

But Slick Willie “vetoed” that. He even got Congress to pass “The Iraq Liberation Act of 1998,” which proclaimed, “It should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove the regime headed by Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq and to promote the emergence of a democratic government to replace that regime.”

Saddam – and the world – then realized that so long as he was in power, the sanctions would never be lifted. Worst case? Clinton might invade Iraq – citing the Iraq Liberation Act – and remove Saddam from office.

However, about that time, Congress was attempting to remove Clinton from office. So, Clinton had to settle for Security Council Resolution 1284, which acknowledged that Iraq had substantially, but not fully, complied with all resolutions. Hence, the sanctions were substantially, but not fully, lifted.

Resolution 1284 also established the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) – replacing the U.N. Special Commission (UNSCOM) – to implement the provisions of previous Security Council resolutions requiring Iraq to be in compliance with U.N. chem-bio warfare conventions.

In addition to assuming the mission of UNSCOM, UNMOVIC was to establish and operate “a reinforced system of ongoing monitoring and verification” at all sites identified by UNSCOM, as well as at any additional sites that could be identified by UNMOVIC.

Resolution 1284 “reaffirms” all previous relevant resolutions, but goes further, requiring that Iraq “allow UNMOVIC teams immediate, unconditional and unrestricted access to any and all areas, facilities, equipment, records and means of transport which they wish to inspect” as well as “to all officials and other persons under the authority of the Iraqi government whom UNMOVIC wishes to interview.”

The role of the International Atomic Energy Action Team remained unchanged under Resolution 1284; namely, to ensure Iraqi compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Note that the lifting of sanctions in 1999 would not have meant that the International Atomic Energy Agency would have quit the field. Iraq understood and accepted the fact that the IAEA would remain in Iraq, indefinitely.

Until last week, Saddam had not agreed to abide by Resolution 1284. Hence, UNMOVIC has never entered Iraq, and the IAEA Action Team hasn’t been in since December 1998. But now – with a cowboy’s gun at his head – Saddam has agreed.

So, what happens “if at any time the executive chairman of UNMOVIC or the director general of the IAEA reports that Iraq is not cooperating in all respects with UNMOVIC or the IAEA or if Iraq is in the process of acquiring any prohibited items”? If Saddam had accepted Resolution 1284 back in 1999, then upon receiving such reports, the Security Council would have re-imposed the sanctions that were substantially lifted by Resolution 1284.

But Saddam has had three years to acquire “prohibited items.” Suppose that – thanks to Slick Willie – Saddam now has nukes. Further suppose the Security Council determines that represents a “threat to the peace.” In that event, the Security Council might well invoke Article 42, authorizing the president to employ all “necessary means” to remove that threat to peace. Then it would be up to Congress – and the American taxpayer – to foot the bill.