December 15, 2006

Iraq War Illegal

Carne Ross*, First Secretary in the UK Mission to the United Nations in New York from December 1997 until June 2002, has testified that the Iraq war was illegal. He bases this on two reasons expanded on below:

1) No United Nations Authorization.
2) US and UK initiated war actions via no-fly-zone attacks before US declared Iraq was not complying with UN resolutions.

The following are exerpted from Carne Ross' tetimony to the Butler Inquiry [1].

1) UN Resolution 1441 did not alter the basic framework for inspections established by the earlier UN Resolution 1284. Resolution 1441 did not authorise the use of force in case of non-cooperation with weapons inspectors. [T]he UK sold 1441 in the Security Council explicitly on the grounds that it did not represent authorisation for war.

Later, after claiming that Iraq was not cooperating, the UK presented a draft resolution seeking authority to use force. The resolution failed to attract support.

The UN charter states that only the Security Council can authorise the use of force (except in cases of self-defence). Reviewing these points, it is clear that in terms of the resolutions, the subsequent invasion was not authorised by the Security Council and was thus illegal. The clearest evidence of this is the fact that the UK sought an authorising resolution and failed to get it.

2) The No Fly Zones (NFZs) were never authorised by the Security Council, but we would justify them on the grounds (as I recall it, this may be incorrect) that we were monitoring compliance with resolution 688 which called for the Iraqi government to respect the human rights of its people.

However, reading the press in the months leading up to the war, I noticed that the volume and frequency of the attacks in the NFZs considerably increased, including during the period when UNMOVIC was in country inspecting sites (ie before even the UK/US declared that Iraq was not complying). I suspected at the time that these attacks were not in self-defence but that they were part of a planned air campaign to prepare for a ground invasion. There were one or two questions in Parliament about this when the Defence Secretary claimed that the NFZ attacks were self-defence. His account was refuted at the time by quotations by US officials in the press and by later accounts, including Bob Woodward's "Plan of Attack", which confirmed that the attacks did indeed comprise a softening-up campaign, of which the UK was an active part.


[1] Transcript of Carne Ross Testimony to Butler Inquiry

* Who is Carne Ross: Ross was First Secretary in the UK Mission to the United Nations in New York from December 1997 until June 2002. He was responsible for Iraq policy in the mission, including policy on sanctions, weapons inspections and liaison with UNSCOM and later UNMOVIC.

During that time, he helped negotiate several UN Security Council resolutions on Iraq, including resolution 1284 which, inter alia, established UNMOVIC (an acronym Ross coined late one New York night during the year-long negotiation). He took part in policy debates within HMG and in particular with the US government. He attended many policy discussions on Iraq with the US State Department in Washington, New York and London.

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