25th February 2001
Attack on Iraq: slur on UN?
Plus| Business| Sports|
NEW YORK— The 1991 Gulf War, whose 10th anniversary was commemorated last week, left the Iraqi political leadership wounded but not disabled.
The United States, which led the Western alliance against Iraq, has had three presidents since the beginning of the war: George Bush Sr., Bill Clinton, and now George W. Bush Jr.
But over the 10 year period, both Saddam Hussein and his authoritarian presidency have survived — despite the devastation caused both to the country and its political leadership.
So there was some truth in the light-hearted remark made by Bush Sr. who seemed mockingly envious of Saddam Hussein's continued leadership of Iraq.
"It seems unfair," said Bush, "that while I am out of a job, he continues to have a job."
After the Gulf War, the Iraqis were so enraged with Bush that they laid a floortile of the US president's mirror image at the entrance to a big hotel in Baghdad so that every guest had to step on Bush's face before walking into the building.
Last week, George W. Bush, the son of the Gulf War architect, threatened to follow in his father's footsteps by flexing his military muscles and authorizing air strikes over the "no-fly zone" inside Iraq.
The air strikes brought strong condemnation by virtually all of the key Arab states, and by Russia and China, two permanent members of the Security Council.
Since he was planning to hold talks with the Iraqis beginning next week, particularly on the question of resuming UN arms inspections, Annan described the timing of the aerial bombings as "a bit awkward" for the United Nations.
Although the "no-fly zone" was established by the US, Britain and France outside of the UN Security Council, the French have not been a party to the recent spate of bombings.
The "no-fly zone" was never authorized by the Security Council and therefore does not have the blessings of the world body.
Both US and British fighter planes have been flying over these unilaterally designated "no-fly zones" originally intended to provide protection to the minority Kurds.
The Iraqis have responsed by activating their air defence systems and thereby provoking retaliation by US and British combat aircraft.
Last week, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan admitted that the United Nations has also recorded over 200 aerial violations of Iraq's demilitarised zone (DMZ) since 1999.
But he pointed out that in the majority of cases, however, it has not been possible for the UN Iraq-Kuwait Observer Mission (UNIKOM) to identify the aircraft involved or to determine their nationality.
The fighter planes just zoom in and out of the "no-fly zone" as a warning to Iraq never to invade any of its neighbours — and occasionally the pilots unleash their bombs on military targets.
But Annan emphasised that the inability of UNIKOM to identify the States that are resonsible for conducting such flights is in no way meant to condone these aerial bombings.
Since it was established in 1991, UNIKOM has monitored the demilitarised zone and has reported violations committed on land, in the airspace, and since 1999, in the waters within that zone.
"These violations have been recorded on a regular basis and have been reported in the six-monthly reports that I have made to the Security Council on the work of that Mission," Annan said in a letter to Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammed Said Al-Sahaf.
Annan was responding to a letter of protest from Iraq over the most recent bombings by British and American fighter planes.
In his letter to Annan, the Iraqi foreign minister condemned the bombings as an "act of aggression" by the US and Britain, and called for urgent and concrete action to prevent its recurrence.
The Iraqis argue that both countries are in violation of a zone created by the Council, of which they are veto-wielding, permanent members.
Annan said that the "no-fly zones" were declared over parts of the territory of Iraq "by certain members of the Security Council, claiming authority under resolutions of the Security Council."
But he virtually conceded that he does not have the authority to move in the matter.
The British and the Americans are interpreting Council resolutions to suit their own hidden agendas.
"In this connection, I should like to recall what has always been, and remains, my consistent position, namely that it is for the Security Council to interpret its own resolutions."
Consequently, he said, only the Council itself is competent to determine whether or not its resolutions are of such a nature and effect as to provide a lawful basis for the "no-fly zones" and for the actions that have been taken for their enforcement.
Therefore, Annan told the Iraqi foreign minister, it is for the Council to address the lawfulness or otherwise of the actions 'to which you refer in your letter."
Speaking to reporters Monday, Annan also pointed out that he had not been consulted either by the British or the Americans before the bombings proving once again that the two big powers will continue to ignore the United Nations — as and when it suits them.
Editorial/ Opinion Contents
Please send your comments and suggestions on this web site to