UNSC authority denied

By Gordon Prather

As did President Clinton before him, President Bush has been searching for a rationale for removing Saddam Hussein from power.

Last month, Congress formally authorized the president “to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to – 1) defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and 2) enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq.”

What are the “relevant” UNSC resolutions?

When Iraq invaded and “annexed” part of Kuwait in August 1990, the Security Council demanded – in UNSCR 660 – that Iraq immediately withdraw all its armed forces and henceforth respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Kuwait.

UNSCR 661 was the first attempt to enforce UNSCR 660, requesting member states to impose – at the source – an embargo on air, sea and land shipments of “military” goods to Iraq. UNSCR 665 requested that member states enforce – in transit – the maritime embargo with their naval forces.

In November, when the embargo hadn’t caused Saddam to withdraw from Kuwait, UNSCR 678 authorized member states to “use all necessary means” to enforce UNSCR 660 and supplementary resolutions.

It then took about three months for a coalition of member states, led by the U.S., to liberate Kuwait.

UNSCR 686 is the Gulf War ceasefire resolution. It requires Saddam Hussein to accept and abide by all previous UNSC resolutions – including UNSCR 678 – “which remain in force.”

UNSCR 678 is the only resolution that has authorized the use of “all necessary means” by member states against Iraq. It is important that we know exactly to which UNSC resolutions it applies.

Clearly, if Saddam does something that is deemed to be a “material breach” of UNSCR 686, such as invading Kuwait, again, then member states are authorized to use all necessary means to eject them.

But what about resolutions passed subsequent to UNSCR 686?

Immediately following the ceasefire, U.N. observers entered Iraq and discovered that Saddam Hussein was in substantial noncompliance with several U.N. arms limitation conventions, including the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Their discoveries led to UNSCR 687.

UNSCR 687 imposes economic sanctions which are not to be lifted until Iraq is once again in substantial compliance with all U.N. arms conventions. All chem-bio weapons and the facilities capable of making nukes and chem-bio weapons were to be destroyed – under the supervision of the U.N. Special Commission – and never rebuilt.

By mid-1998, most members of the commission were of the opinion that Iraq was in substantial compliance with UNSCR 687 and wanted to lift the economic sanctions. President Clinton refused, however, making it clear he would never allow the sanctions to be lifted so long as Saddam Hussein was in power.

Clinton attempted to get a new one-step resolution – to supersede UNSCR 687 – that would trigger an immediate invasion if Saddam was ever discovered not to be in total compliance.

The UNSC rejected Clinton’s request. They did pass – in 1999 – UNSCR 1284, which partially lifted the sanctions imposed by UNSCR 687. However, a “material breach” of UNSCR 1284 could only result – automatically – in a re-imposition of the UNSCR 687 sanctions. UNSC authorization of “all necessary means” to enforce UNSCR 1284 would require a separate UNSC resolution.

With the congressional authorization to enforce “relevant” UNSC resolutions in his pocket, Bush also attempted to get a new one-step resolution – to supersede UNSCR 1284 – that would trigger an immediate invasion if Saddam was ever discovered not to be in total compliance.

The UNSC rejected Bush’s request, too. Only the UNSC can determine whether Saddam has materially breached a UNSC resolution or not, and only the UNSC can decide what the appropriate remedial action is.

In particular, if U.N. inspectors stumble upon a few vials of camelpox, then the UNSC is unlikely to judge that a material breach. If the U.N. inspectors discover that Saddam has weaponized smallpox, the UNSC may – or may not – consider that a casus belli.

So, here’s the bottom line: Unless Saddam Hussein invades Kuwait again, we won’t be able to invade Iraq on the pretext of enforcing UNSC resolutions. That means that President Bush will have to convince Congress that Saddam and his camelpox poses a continuing threat to our national security. That’ll be a hard sell, of course, since we’ve never had many camels in our army.