UNITED NATIONS (IPS) - When U.S. President George W. Bush desperately sought
UN assistance last month to organise elections in Iraq and help form a new interim
government, some senior UN officials bragged the United States was crawling
back to the world body on bended knee.
But quickly the shoe has moved to the other foot, say Middle East analysts
and former UN officials.
"I am sorry to say that (UN Special Envoy in Iraq) Lakhdar Brahimi has now
joined (former UN chief arms inspector) Hans Blix on the list of UN appointees
who could not bring themselves to stop bending their knees toward Washington
until it was too late," says Norman Solomon, executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy.
After being marginalized in the selection process of a new interim president
and prime minister for Iraq, Brahimi described the U.S. viceroy in Baghdad,
Paul Bremer, as "the dictator of Iraq."
"He has the money. He has the signature. And nothing happens without his agreement
in this country," Brahimi told reporters Wednesday, after admitting he had been
under "terrible pressure," both from the United States and the U.S.-appointed
Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) which both were able to select candidates of their
"I don't think one can overestimate the impact of this immense setback to the
UN's reputation," says Salim Lone, who served with the United Nations for over
20 years and escaped unhurt during the bombing of the UN compound in Baghdad
Lone suggested that Secretary-General Kofi Annan and his senior staff "need
to sit down and take a very candid look at how the organization can protect
itself from repeated American pressure to sign on the dotted line on all matters
Many people had interpreted Bush's turn to the United Nations as an effort
to have the organization provide a fig leaf of legitimacy for U.S. plans, but
those who knew Brahimi thought his involvement in selecting the new Iraqi leadership
would give the lie to this, Lone told IPS.
"Unfortunately, the critics proved right, with even some mainstream western
commentators taken aback by how readily the United Nations sided with the United
States on this vital issue," he added.
Despite the fact that Bush publicly said that Brahimi would choose the interim
government, the UN envoy failed to have his choices endorsed.
The new prime minister, Ayad Allawi, who has had close ties to U.S. and British
intelligence, was not Brahimi's choice. Nor is the new interim president Ghazi
Yawar. According to the Washington Post, Allawi was backed by Bremer
because he was considered more sympathetic towards the United States.
"After permitting himself to be utilized in a charade, Brahimi complains that
Bremer is 'a dictator of Iraq'. Well, anyone who was paying attention knew that,
and anyone who wasn't afraid to be honest was willing to say so publicly from
the outset," Solomon told IPS.
"We have become accustomed to the disheartening spectacle of UN officials who
pretend that they are not ultimately deferring to the U.S. government; this
pretence is very damaging to the credibility of the United Nations, as well
as to prospects for peace," he said.
Solomon added that one can only speculate as to the motives of UN officials
who fail to stand up for international law and transparency.
"But we need not speculate as to the consequences, which include an increasingly
unipolar world and a United Nations that functions as a sometimes-reluctant
tool of the White House," he added.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a former senior UN official who served
in several peacekeeping missions overseas, told IPS it is a tragedy that the
United Nations is so slow to realise the Bush administration is continuing to
use it as a political front to advance its own agenda.
"I am surprised that the men at the top cannot either comprehend this or
refuse to accept the reality of the situation," he added.
Lone, who was spokesman for Under-Secretary-General Sergio Vieira de Mello
who died in the Baghdad bomb blast, said, "it would have been so much better"
if Brahimi had at a minimum indicated he was reluctantly going along with Allawi's
appointment, since he knew that a close confidante of the Central Intelligence
Agency (CIA) as prime minister of occupied Iraq would immediately undercut the
legitimacy that was so vital for the new government."
But then, Brahimi chose also to side with Bremer, whom he subsequently called
a "dictator," in pushing for another close U.S. ally to be president, against
the strong wishes of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council. "This has cemented
for too many Iraqis the view that the United Nations was fully supporting the
American project in Iraq."
Lone admits the United Nations has to have a "close, mutually-supportive relationship
with the world's sole superpower."
"But there has to be clear limits to this, and at a certain point the United
Nations must publicly disagree with the United States in order to protect its
self interest," he added.
Asked whether Washington manipulated the United Nations, Annan told reporters
Tuesday, "I think it would be wrong to say that the United Nations has allowed
itself to be used."
Brahimi, he added, "did as best as he should."
"And the government that he came up with also includes six women, which is
quite a step forward. We should look at the government as a whole, not at its
(Inter Press Service)