UNITED NATIONS - Faced with an unwinnable five-year war in Iraq, the United
States may be looking towards the United Nations to extricate it from the growing
military quagmire, according to diplomats and political analysts.
"With the war turning out to be a huge political liability for the ruling
Republican Party at the upcoming elections in November," an Asian diplomat
told IPS, "it is a safe guess the White House may eventually dump Iraq
on the United Nations."
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who appears more pliable to the administration
of President George W. Bush than his predecessor Kofi Annan, told news reporters
in Baghdad last March he was considering "increasing" the UN's presence
in Iraq, as the political and military situation in the country improved.
"The United Nations has been actively participating and helping Iraqi
people through various means humanitarian, economic, and political facilitation,"
Ban said, just after he instinctively ducked when an explosion shook Baghdad's
Green Zone during a televised news conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri
He also said that UN activities "have been somewhat constrained, largely
because of the situation on the ground."
The United Nations downsized its operations in Iraq following a bomb explosion
in August 2003 when 22 died, including UN Special Envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello.
Currently, most UN staffers operate either out of Cyprus or neighboring Jordan.
Last month, a London newspaper quoted an unnamed former official of the Bush
administration as saying the White House may opt to gradually hand over many
of the current US responsibilities to the international community, including
"an expanded UN involvement in overseeing Iraq's full transition to a normal
Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan famously said that the US war on Iraq
was "illegal" because it was not sanctioned by the Security Council.
But the current secretary-general, usually tightlipped on sensitive political
issues, has not expressed similar views on the ongoing conflict.
Norman Solomon, executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, said
it is logical that Bush would now be interested in the United Nations helping
out with Iraq.
"While turning Iraq into a land of carnage, the US government has also
done enormous damage to the United Nations by violating the UN Charter with
the invasion, and then bringing the Security Council to heel as an endorser
of the occupation," he told IPS.
"After creating and stoking a bloody disaster of huge proportions
and after strong-arming, undermining and ignoring the United Nations as convenient
the White House is now seeking UN help in shouldering future responsibility
and blame for the continuation of illegitimate and catastrophic military intervention
in Iraq," said Solomon, author of "War Made Easy: How Presidents and
Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death."
Mouin Rabbani, contributing editor at the Washington-based Middle East Report,
said: "I do not know how the situation in Iraq will develop in the months
and years to come, but with the increasingly firm predictions of a US exit
combined with disintegration/ partition of Iraq, it has at one level clear echoes
of the situation in Palestine during the late 1940s."
In both cases, he said, "an imperial power (Britain in Palestine, the
United States in Iraq) ended up unable to sustain occupation designed as a grand
strategic project on account of opposition from native insurgencies, and increasingly
as the years went by, insurgencies by their protégés."
In 1947, Britain ended up referring the Palestine question to the United Nations
which recommended its partition and thereby laid the groundwork for what are
now six decades of conflict and four of occupation.
"It is unclear whether the United States would do same in 2007, and if
it indeed does so, how the United Nations will react," Rabbani said.
"One would nevertheless sincerely hope the United Nations would, if faced
with such an eventuality, take stock of its indispensable contribution to creation
of the Arab-Israeli conflict and failure to resolve it since the middle of the
20th century and not repeat its mistakes in Iraq," he told IPS.
Such a situation, he argued, "would I believe create an even more extensive
catastrophe than has been the case in Palestine/Israel since 1948."
Rabbani said the UN Security Council's refusal to endorse the 2003 US war on
Iraq can be said to offer hopeful signs in this regard.
"Widespread opposition among UN staff to becoming instruments of US policy,
which will increase in ways never experienced in the 1940s, should such a scenario
come to pass, also provide cause for optimism."
"Against this I don't really see a possibility that Washington will permit
the United Nations to play a genuinely autonomous role in seeking to resolve
the Iraqi crisis," Rabbani added.
Solomon of the Institute for Public Accuracy said that as long as the US
government continues with its policy of making war on Iraq, the United Nations
can do little to mitigate the suffering there.
On the other hand, if Washington were to end all of the Pentagon's activities
in Iraq and if the US and British governments were to recuse themselves
from any and all future UN decisions and actions related to Iraq the
United Nations could potentially play a very constructive role, he added.
"The horrible truth is that the US government is committed to war-keeping
not peacekeeping in Iraq," Solomon said.
As long as that is the case, he pointed out, Washington's efforts to draw the
United Nations into a US war can only further discredit the United Nations
to the extent that the Security Council agrees to go along with the charade.
"Other than providing whatever humanitarian aid is feasible under these
dire circumstances, the only proper UN role would be to strongly oppose the
US occupation of Iraq," he declared.
(Inter Press Service)