Sunday, April 20, 2003
The issue of Iraqi sanctions - 20th April 2003, 18.13

Over the last week, France, Germany and Russia have demonstrated that they will impede the reconstruction of Iraq by using their power and influence within the United Nations to obstruct the lifting of sanctions and prevent the passing of a UNSC resolution that legitimates the actions of the coalition. Their economic and diplomatic interests happily coincide: pressure on the United States to ensure that their Iraqi debts and oil contracts are not forgiven or annulled; diplomatic obstruction within the United Nations to show that US influence is not opposed and acting in concert to cement their partnership as a counterweight.

The United States did not anticipate that the diplomatic conflicts of February would be revisited after the Iraqi war. In an attempt to flank the initial hostility to their call for the lifting of sanctions, thay have conceded to their opponents by proposing a phased lifting of the sanctions.

However, as the 'counterweight coalition' have already called for the United Nations to take over the administration of Iraq, this small concession is unlikely to be received with reciprocal concessions on their part. There are a number of issues that they could utilise in their diplomatic offensive: the 'oil for food' programme, the inspections and the extension of United Nations recognition to any successor regime within Iraq. If they do decide to fight all of these battles, France, Germany and Russia may fall into the same trap that they sprung two months ago. By doling out verbal concessions to prolong the diplomatic tussles but without cooperating to resolve the outstanding issues, they run the risk of alienating the United States. The Bush administration is ideologically unsympathetic to the United Nations and, if they concluded that the UN was no longer adding value to US diplomacy, could withdraw their support. The 'counterweight coalition' has demonstrated that its tactics are predictable and need to show a willingness to engage with the issues if they do not wish to court irrelevance.


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