Resolution 1151: A Famous Victory or an Infamous One?

The Washington Post is suggesting that the passage of Security Council Resolution 1511 is not a major victory for the Bush administration as “a range of analysts said the final vote, while far better than a withdrawal or a resolution approved with numerous abstentions, is too weak to be considered much of a victory.”

Not so fast. At first glance, Resolution 1511 is a very big win for US contractors seeking to profiteer from the Iraqi reconstruction — and those firms will no doubt make their gratitude felt to the Administration in a tangible way.

One serious and under-appreciated problem the Administration has faced in Iraq is that the US-backed puppet provisional governing Council is not recognized as a true government. Never mind the question of legitimacy — it's not been recognized as a government because among other things, it lacks the authority to govern. All its decisions have to be approved by the local US viceroy.

Lack of recognition has consequences. First, that the US is bound by the Hague and Geneva conventions, and by customary international law, to play the role of the occupying power until there is a government. As such, US is not supposed to make too many permanent economic decisions, especially when it comes to disposing of natural resources such as oil.

Similarly, international bodies such as the IMF, and many foreign aid donors, have also been reluctant to help in Iraq until they had a proper government to deal with.

In that context, three paragraphs of the Security Council's latest are potentially important. The Security Council

4. Determines that the Governing Council and its ministers are the principal bodies of the Iraqi interim administration, which, without prejudice to its further evolution, embodies the sovereignty of the State of Iraq during the transitional period until an internationally recognized, representative government is established and assumes the responsibilities of the Authority;

13. Determines that the provision of security and stability is essential to the successful completion of the political process as outlined in paragraph 7 above and to the ability of the United Nations to contribute effectively to that process and the implementation of resolution 1483 (2003), and authorizes a multinational force under unified command to take all necessary measures to contribute to the maintenance of security and stability in Iraq, including for the purpose of ensuring necessary conditions for the implementation of the timetable and programme as well as to contribute to the security of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq, the Governing Council of Iraq and other institutions of the Iraqi interim administration, and key humanitarian and economic infrastructure;

20. Appeals to Member States and the international financial institutions to strengthen their efforts to assist the people of Iraq in the reconstruction and development of their economy, and urges those institutions to take immediate steps to provide their full range of loans and other financial assistance to Iraq, working with the Governing Council and appropriate Iraqi ministries.

(bold added; italics in original)

In other words, (to the limited extent it cared) Resolution 1511 may solve the Administration's legal problem under international law. Thus it's open season for privatizing and selling off Iraqi assets, and locking down long-term agreements with US firms.

Plus, the IMF and the donors are told that they no longer have their favorite legal excuse to avoid turning on the aid spigot. Not that they may not think of a new one.

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