Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 80

Discord among UN Security Council members over policy toward Iraq, so evident during two recent crises involving Baghdad and UN weapons inspectors, seems likely to resurface again today as the Council begins its twice-yearly review of sanctions imposed on Iraq. Today’s deliberations follow a move by Moscow late last week to introduce a resolution that would formally “close the file” on Iraq’s nuclear weapons program. Such an action would signify the UN’s satisfaction with Iraq’s progress in providing information on its secret nuclear weapons program. Approval by the Council would result in a shift by the International Atomic Energy Agency from active to a less intrusive “passive” monitoring of Iraq’s known nuclear research facilities. The lifting of UN sanctions against Iraq depends on “closing the files” on all of Iraq’s programs for development of weapons of mass destruction, including its chemical and biological weapons, as well as its long-range missiles. (AP, April 24; Washington Post, April 25)

The Russian draft resolution introduced late last week is consistent with Moscow’s earlier calls for the UN to provide Iraq with “incentives.” Those incentives, Moscow argues, would encourage Iraq to comply with UN weapons inspection efforts by gradually closing the various weapons files as Iraq fulfills the necessary conditions. This more flexible policy enjoys the backing of France and China, and has been strongly opposed by the United States and, to a lesser degree, Great Britain. Pointing to a broader pattern of defiance by Iraq of UNSCOM–the UN Special Commission charged with searching out prohibited weapons in Iraq–Washington has argued against rewarding Baghdad on the nuclear weapons issue. According to one source, Washington’s opposition has derailed plans for discussion of the Russian resolution by Council members today. (New York Times, April 25)

That move suggests that Washington and Moscow will once again find themselves at loggerheads on Iraq. This was the case earlier this year when the United States threatened military air strikes against Baghdad while Russia called for a diplomatic solution to the crisis. Tensions among Security Council members on the issue are likely to be exacerbated by both Iraq’s demand last week that UN sanctions be lifted without conditions, and its insinuation that Baghdad authorities are prepared to resume their campaign against UN inspections if that demand is not met. Indeed, even Moscow found itself the object of Baghdad’s criticism. Yesterday an Iraqi minister complained that Russia’s UN proposal to end inspections of suspected nuclear facilities does not go far enough. The Russian proposal, he said, will actually “serve the American purposes of diverting discussions from the main issue in order to prolong the sanctions.” (AP, April 26)