The draft U.N. resolution on Iraq introduced in the Security Council Friday calls for the lifting of more than a decade of sanctions and gives the United States and Britain primary responsibility for running the country until an Iraqi government is formed.
France and Russia, opponents of the U.S.-led war have huge financial interests in Iraq and are concerned they could loose billions of dollars in post war reconstruction contracts, some of which have already been awarded to American firms. But, avoiding a repeat of the diplomatic battles and damaged relations that led up to the war may be an incentive for both countries not to block this resolution.
For the first time since the Iraq war, this proposed resolution describes the United States and Britain as occupying powers and predicts they will remain so for at least a year and perhaps longer, while Iraqis themselves establish an interim government.
The measure would phase out the U.N.'s oil-for-food program and transfer control of Iraq's oil revenue to an account overseen by the United States and Britain, to be used in financing the country's reconstruction. Already, the Bush administration is moving ahead with awarding contracts to American companies to do that, with one worth nearly a billion dollars going to the California-based Bechtel Corporation, another to a subsidiary of Houston's Halliburton, which used to be run by Vice President Dick Cheney.
That could anger countries such as Russia and France which could loose billions of dollars if U.N. sanctions end and American firms are awarded the bulk of the reconstruction work.
But after a long and bitter Security Council debate before the war, Boston University's professor of international relations Michael Corgan expects both countries will now find it in their political interests to ensure this resolution passes. "For one thing, the Europeans, particularly the French and the Germans and even to some extent the Russians, realize they have somewhat marginalized themselves, that events have gone past them and if they want to have any control at all they have to sort of work on this one," he said.
Russia has opposed any lifting of sanctions until the United Nations first certifies Iraq is free of weapons of mass destruction, the main rationale for the war. "Russia for one, has about a $1.5 billion worth of oil contracts in Iraq right now that it has signed previously that looks like they will be honored and that might get Russia to go along," said Michael Corgan.
Others agree. Lawrence Korb was an Assistant Secretary of Defense during the Reagan administration. "The French and the Russians do not really want to be in a position of really holding the people of Iraq hostage here," he said.
Passage of this resolution would also give U.N. backing to a foreign military presence in Iraq something the world body did not give to the war itself. Tommy Franks, the American General in charge of all coalition forces in the country, is not ready to predict how long a stabilizing force will be needed. "There are a lot of variables associated with all of this and I think right now, what the future will hold, a year two, three ahead of us is not exactly knowable," said General Franks.
The United Nations would have an advisory role. But one thing not mentioned in this resolution is a return of U.N. weapons inspectors, a task the Bush administration says its forces are now doing, although they haven't found any banned substances yet.
The United States would like to have this sanctions-lifting resolution approved before Iraq's current oil for food program expires next month. And, despite all the differences over whether the allies or the United Nations should oversee the country's future, neither France nor Russia are threatening a veto.