April 22, 2003

April 22, 2003 | News Releases on Middle East

Limit U.N. Role in Iraq to Humanitarian Efforts, Analysts Urge

WASHINGTON, APRIL 22, 2003-Beyond providing humanitarian aid, the United Nations has no legitimate task in the governance of post-war Iraq-and no legal basis to claim any, says a new paper from The Heritage Foundation.

The United States and its coalition partners have not only the right but the duty to lead rebuilding operations in Iraq and to help it establish a self-sufficient government that reflects the will of its people, write Heritage Visiting Fellow Nile Gardiner and David Rivkin, a Washington lawyer who has served in the Justice Department and the White House Counsel's Office.

The Heritage analysis examines-and rebuts-the legal and policy arguments advanced by those lobbying for a larger U.N. role in post-war Iraq.

Gardiner and Rivkin conclude, for instance, that the coalition needs no U.N. imprimatur to administer Iraq. Indeed, under the 1907 Hague Regulations and the 1949 Geneva Convention IV, coalition countries "bear the ultimate responsibility for the safety and well- being of the Iraqi people until the full transition to a new Iraqi government takes place." The authors also note that:

  • It is well established in international law that the coalition can use Iraq's resources to pay for its reconstruction;
  • The new government of Iraq, led on an interim basis by coalition officials whose role will diminish as Iraqis resume running their own institutions, doesn't need U.N. recognition for legitimacy; and
  • U.N. sanctions against Iraq should be lifted and the oil-for-food program ended.

"The legal and policy positions taken by the critics are driven largely by the same ill-conceived impulse to shackle American military and diplomatic power that we saw in the pre-war debates about U.N. authorization of the use of force," say Gardiner and Rivkin. "They are inconsistent with the U.N. charter and violate international law. And there is no surer way to weaken U.N. legitimacy even further than to push the world body to act in ways that exceed its legal powers and managerial prowess."

The United States and Britain should work to establish an interim government quickly and to cede power to the Iraqis as soon as possible after that, Gardiner and Rivkin say. Both nations should see that the new government is vested with full government powers, including the ability to negotiate contracts and borrow money on world markets. And they should seek an end to the oil-for-food program and other programs that served largely to appease the brutal Iraqi dictatorship, they say.

With its successful record of peacekeeping operations and its long history of relations with Arab nations, Britain should lead a post-war security force. And while the coalition should help the Iraqi people begin fact-finding and national reconciliation activities similar to those undertaken in South Africa, the Iraqis themselves must spearhead these efforts.

Finally, the authors write, the coalition should insist on proper sanctions against any companies found to have abetted Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs during Saddam Hussein's rule.

"What happens to the United Nations in the future depends on how it behaves here and now," Gardiner and Rivkin say. "If it settles on a vision for how to run an international system that sometimes disagrees with U.S. aims, there is room for negotiation. But if it allows its agenda to be hijacked by those who seek merely to foil U.S. aims, that leaves nothing to negotiate and no reason for coalition members to respect U.N. initiatives in the future."


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