Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 99

Amid the continued standoff over Kosovo, Russia and the United States reopened an earlier diplomatic confrontation this week involving UN sanctions against Iraq. UN policy toward Iraq has been paralyzed since December, when the United States and Britain launched air strikes against Baghdad for its failure to cooperate with UN arms inspectors. Since that time, the Security Council has been deeply divided on the related issues of weapons inspections and sanctions.

The latest confrontation pits two competing draft resolutions on Iraq against each other. One of the resolutions, drafted by Britain and the Netherlands, proposes changes that would ease sanctions on Iraq while leaving the old sanctions regime basically in place. Among other things, the proposal would allow investments by foreign oil companies in Iraq while lifting the ceiling on the amount of oil that Iraq could sell.

Russia, in turn, had reportedly drafted a resolution of its own that called for lifting sanctions on Iraq entirely. Moscow has since modified the proposal, however. It is now offering a draft that proposes suspending the UN sanctions against Iraq for one hundred days following a report by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan indicating that a new system of monitoring Iraq’s weapons–another controversial issue–is operational. Under the Russian proposal, the suspension of sanctions would roll over every hundred days unless Annan reports that the monitoring system is not working effectively.

Both the Russian and the British-Dutch drafts call for the formation of a new arms commission to monitor Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. But the two sides differ on the composition and the duties of the new commission, with the British-Dutch version seeking to establish a system closer to the previous regime overseen by UNSCOM.

The United States backs the British-Dutch draft, while China and France have lined up behind the Russian version. The latter three countries have concluded a series of lucrative business deals with Iraq, and all stand to profit handsomely in the event that sanctions on Iraq are finally lifted (Reuters, AP, May 19).