Editorial/Opinion p. The Bush administration now faces one of its greatest foreign-policy challenges. How might the U.S. persuade the United Nations Security Council to end the economic sanctions against Iraq? The task involves tough choices of style and substance. Proclamations by Bush advisers such as Richard Perle that we have entered the “post-U.N. era,” or assertions that the U.S. might render U.N. sanctions irrelevant by ending its own, reflect a wrongheaded approach.
It is in the interests of the U.S. and the U.N. that the U.N. take the lead in a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq. The U.N. has the best track record in post-conflict administrative managementwhether it be in Cambodia or Bosniaand can disabuse many of U.S. imperial intentions or overstaying our welcome.
Political paybacks aimed at making France and Russia “toe the line” via a bullying U.S. strategy are self-defeating. Rather, the U.S. needs a creative, collegial approach heavy on political acumen and short on bravado.
Such a strategy begins with recognizing that every nation and company anxious to do business with Iraq needs the legal end to sanctions. There are no other options. The majority of the council believes that sanctions cannot be legally ended until Iraq is certified as weapons-free.
These realities point to a practical interim approach made possible by a Security Council resolution in December that permits the suspension of sanctions for 120 days if Iraq is undergoing weapons inspections. That can lift the sanctions and preserve the legal continuity and integrity of the U.N.’s role in Iraq.
The French already have indicated that such a plan is acceptable. This solution also creates the political space needed on all sides to mend fences and assess the next steps. Among these is integrating the U.N. into the weapons-assessment process and engaging the U.N. to help Iraq establish itself as a legitimate member of the international community. As in the past, an intelligent and magnanimous call to action by the U.S. will prompt council consensus.
With such diplomacy, Iraq sanctions can soon move from suspension to termination. To opt instead for power struggles in a winner-take-all approach will cost the U.S. the peaceand Iraqis the prosperitythat lies within our grasp.
George A. Lopez is a professor of government and international studies at the University of Notre Dame and co-author of five books on U.N. sanctions