Lifting U.N. Sanctions in Iraq
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MARGARET WARNER: Now for more on today’s vote and the resolution itself, we turn to John Ruggie, former assistant U.N. Secretary-general from 1997 to 2001. He’s now a professor of international affairs at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. And Charles Kupchan, former director of European affairs on the National Security Council during the Clinton administration; he’s now professor of international affairs at Georgetown University, and author of “The End of the American Era.” Welcome to you both.
Why, John Ruggie, did so many of these Security Council members, particularly France, Russia and Germany, who so vigorously opposed the war, approve this resolution?
JOHN RUGGIE: Well, two reasons, Margaret. One, no one had the stomach to re-fight the battle prior to the war again. You can’t change history, as the German ambassador said. Secondly, the Americans made considerable concessions over the course of negotiating this resolution, which went some way toward satisfying the French, the Russians, the Germans and others. So that today’s vote could be a unanimous vote.
MARGARET WARNER: Charles Kupchan, did you see significant amendments here, enough to bring these countries around?
CHARLES KUPCHAN: I think both sides made some significant concessions in the sense that the United States did give the special representative from the U.N. more authority than the original special coordinator had. Kofi Annan has greater leeway to distribute the funds that are in the oil for food program.
But I think the big picture, at the end of the day, the U.S. got what it wanted, which is essentially legal authority from the United Nations to run Iraq as it sees fit. The Europeans eventually came around, as John said, partly because they didn’t want to see the dispute continue, but also because they were left in a very awkward position of preventing the lifting of sanctions. They therefore had little choice but to go along with the American position.
MARGARET WARNER: But I mean they weren’t afraid of a big fight before the war, what’s really changed for them?
CHARLES KUPCHAN: Oh, I think two things. One is that the war is over and that the key, at this point, in part for public relations reasons, is to get Iraq up and running, to get humanitarian assistance, to get water, to sell some oil. That couldn’t happen without the U.N. deciding to move forward on this resolution.
And also I think the Europeans do want to see some of the ill will disappear. They do want to mend some fences. I don’t think they love this resolution, but they weren’t prepared to go to the mat, in part because the U.S. held essentially all the cards. The U.S. owns Iraq. Therefore the Europeans had very little ability to get the United States to come around to its position. That is to say grant ultimate legal authority to the U.N.
MARGARET WARNER: And John Ruggie, the U.S. and the British really needed this resolution, didn’t they?
JOHN RUGGIE: Well, there were a number of reasons why a resolution was absolutely urgent. Not the least of which is the ability to sell oil depends on some accepted legal framework. Otherwise, there could be contested claims if an oil company sells Iraqi oil, they could be challenged in court; then the thing could be a terrible mess.
So some legal framework, for very practical reasons like that, was necessary. Also, it was highly desirable to put in place a framework that authorized the so-called authority, the United States, and the United Kingdom, gave international blessing to that arrangement, set up the advisory mechanisms in which the U.N. is involved so that everyone knows what the ground rules are going forward.
MARGARET WARNER: Let’s look at some of the concessions at least that the Europeans sought, and John Ruggie staying with you, what about the U.N. role? It was beefed up a little, but describe that, what authority does this U.S. special representative really have?
JOHN RUGGIE: Well, the special representative, as Charlie said earlier, at first it was a simple coordinating role. This is a more robust role. Secondly, the resolution specifies a number of areas in which the U.N.’s participation is now welcomed, which wasn’t the case before, including building up the political and judicial institutions in Iraq, not simply providing humanitarian assistance.
And I think also important; the resolution includes the commitment by the authority, the U.S. and the U.K., to report on a regular basis to the Security Council. There was no sign of that in the first draft. And finally, it includes a provision for revisiting, is the word that’s used, not a legal term to my knowledge, but revisiting the issue of the arms inspectors somewhere down the road, presumably to verify whatever findings the U.S. and the U.K. now come up with.
MARGARET WARNER: So Charles Kupchan, when the French foreign minister says, as he did, I think, last night, the United Nations is back in the game, is that an overstatement, or are they? In terms of the pay post war Iraq is going to be ministered and the way it’s going to evolve?
CHARLES KUPCHAN: Well, I think the U.N. is more in the game than I was before. And one of the motivations for Europeans coming around and getting behind this resolution is to restore the U.N. to a functioning role because let’s be honest, the Europeans have much more influence in a forum like the U.N., partly because of the veto wielded by some European countries, than they do in the broader international landscape, so it was very much in their interests to get the U.S. to come back to the table, to seek a legal framework for lifting the sanctions.
And that, I think, does restore the U. N., not really to what it had been before the standoff over Iraq, but it does bring it back into the game, and therefore give the Europeans more influence over the situation in Iraq, than they had before today.
MARGARET WARNER: As John Ruggie mentioned, as we mentioned, the resolution does also talk about the fact that the U.N. will “revisit” the issue of the U.N. weapons inspectors. Paul Wolfowitz said today in his testimony, speaking of the nuclear inspectors, we’re happy to have them come, and said they’re in talks. Is there a shift in the U.S. position on this, and how far would you expect this to go?
CHARLES KUPCHAN: Well, I think the U.S. did actually make some significant concessions — 90 some odd language changes occurred from the first draft. And one of the important ones is the question of getting both the atomic energy, but also the chemical and biological weapons inspectors back in. The latter, the chemical and biological weapons folks, have not yet been formally welcomed back by the United States. I wouldn’t be surprised if that does happen.
And in that sense, the U.S., I think, is bending over backwards to try to get the Europeans to feel that they have a voice in this game. And that’s partly because the U.S. does have control, it can afford to be somewhat relaxed. But my guess is it’s also because the U.S. sees that it is a bit of a nightmare running Iraq, it may well want to hand off some of the responsibility before too long. Who’s going to pick up the slack, essentially the U.N., so the U.S. I think is in part investing in having a partner down the road.
MARGARET WARNER: And also, John Ruggie, there was the matter of these pending contracts that had been negotiated or established under oil for food, and from the reporting it looks like a lot of them were held by the French and the Russians. Are there concessions there, which more of the contracts will be honored than perhaps under the original draft?
JOHN RUGGIE: The major concession there was to extend the oil for food program by six months, which means that contracts already issued in the area of food and medicine are going to be honored. It’s questionable, we still don’t quite know the details, whether other kinds of goods would also be included under the provisions of this resolution. But that clearly was a gesture to the French and to the Russians, and also in recognition of the reality that you can’t simply yank away the oil for food program, on which two thirds of the Iraqi people depended before the war for their daily livelihoods.
MARGARET WARNER: So John Ruggie, how involved do you expect the major European powers to get into the reconstruction of Iraq? I mean, do you expect them to get involved, or are they U.S. and Brits pretty much on their own?
JOHN RUGGIE: Well, I think the U.S. and the United Kingdom are the authority in Iraq. But I think this resolution makes it easier for the Europeans to come on board with development assistance, with reconstruction assistance, and working with the U.N. and with the authority to help rebuild Iraq and get the country back into the mainstream of international life. I think the resolution is a big help in that regard.
MARGARET WARNER: And briefly, Charles Kupchan, do you think we’ll see the Europeans want to do this?
CHARLES KUPCHAN: I think the Europeans are still, to some extent, holding their nose about this whole episode, but they also realize that it’s in their interest both to try to repair relations with the U.S. and to have some influence over what happens in Iraq. I don’t expect NATO, for example, to get involved. I do think Poland will step up to the plate, send some troops to Iraq, perhaps a few other European countries will send troops.
But my guess is that we will see this as a bit of an end game, everyone will say, we’ve mended fences, but I don’t think the Europeans are going to cozy back up to the United States and see this as an event that says all is now well in the transatlantic home.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Charles Kupchan and John Ruggie, thank you both.