Bush must respect previous U.N. resolution on Iraq

The United States and Britain have announced a plan to draft a new U.N. Security Council resolution requiring a strict new weapons inspection program in Iraq. Although a previous inspection program from an existing resolution is still valid, the United States and Britain are pressuring the council to support a new resolution with a much shorter time frame for Iraqi compliance. While these new requirements are attractive to the Bush administration, which seems determined to use military force, the most appropriate approach would be to use the existing resolution as the conditions Iraq must accept. Only after the Iraqi government has been verifiably noncompliant should any discussion about the use of military force begin.

The U.N. Security Council approved the existing resolution in December, 1999, which was significantly influenced by the United States. The conditions it imposes on Iraq are as strict as those that would likely result from a new resolution. According to the agreement, inspectors have 60 days from the time they enter the country to develop an inspection program. Upon its development, the program is then voted on by the U.N. Security Council, and if approved, the International Atomic Energy Agency would begin its implementation. Iraq would then need to fully comply for 120 days, after which the U.N. Security Council would vote on lifting the sanctions against Iraq for renewable 120-day periods. Any new resolution will encounter a veto threat from the U.N. Security Council’s other permanent members – France, Russia and China.

After President George W. Bush’s speech to the United Nations last week, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein accepted these original terms, stating that “our country is ready to receive any scientific experts, accompanied by politicians you choose to represent any one of your countries to tell us which places and scientific installations they would wish to see.”

Unfortunately, the Bush administration is predisposed to a military solution, and not considerate of the proper steps through which Iraq’s threat can be resolved. While simultaneously trying to appease the United Nations with a new Security Council resolution, Bush has stated that “there are no negotiations to be had with Iraq.” United States Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has further illustrated this sentiment, as he instructed the House’s Armed Services Committee to authorize the use of force against Iraq before the U.N. Security Council makes any decisions.

The existing inspection program is thorough enough to accurately determine Hussein’s weapons arsenal, and not sufficiently longer as to provide Iraq with time to develop any new capabilities. In this first step to ensure Iraqi compliance, the Bush administration must understand the importance of the U.N. Security Council’s previous consensus, and not continue to divide the United Nations with disrespect of its processes.