Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 226

Like other members of the UN Security Council, Moscow has repeatedly called for Iraq to live up to its international obligations and cooperate fully with UN weapons inspectors. But, in the scarcely veiled subtext of Russian policy on Iraq, Moscow has joined with Baghdad in criticizing Butler’s agency–the UN Special Commission for disarming Iraq (UNSCOM)–for allegedly exceeding its mandate and for using the arms inspections as a pretext to maintain sanctions on Iraq. That same attitude may underlie, in part, Moscow’s desire for an immediate review by the UN Security Council of Iraq’s compliance with UN resolutions. According to former UNSCOM chief Rolf Ekeus, the review could in fact turn into a political attack on UNSCOM and a process in which the UN disarmament agency–and not Iraq–is most subject to scrutiny (Washington Post, December 7).

While Moscow has spearheaded efforts to win an easing of sanctions on Baghdad, permanent UN Security Council members France and China have taken similar stances. France, along with Russia, has traditional ties to Baghdad and stands to profit handsomely when sanctions are lifted. Both countries have signed contracts for projects worth billions of dollars to rebuild Iraq–especially its oil industry–following the removal of sanctions. Moscow also sees in the lifting of sanctions an opportunity to collect, at last, on Soviet-era debts owed by Iraq to Russia. More generally, Moscow looks on its friendly relations with Baghdad as one means of restoring some of its lost influence in the Persian Gulf and throughout the Middle East.

Washington and London, long the most vociferous critics of Iraq’s defiance of the UN weapons inspectors, have in recent weeks muted their opposition to conducting a comprehensive review of Baghdad’s cooperation with the UN. According to one report, this new approach is conditioned by a belief that a full review of Iraqi actions in the area of disarmament will prove more harmful than helpful to Baghdad. Indeed, Washington reportedly hopes that the review will help rally opposition in the Security Council to any quick lifting of sanctions on Iraq (New York Times, December 7).