Did Kofi Annan miss an
opportunity to stop the war?


PressInfo # 177

 March 18, 2003


Jan Oberg, TFF dirctor and Hans von Sponeck, TFF Associate


Yesterday Washington "recommended" that the inspectors from IAEA and UNMOVIC as well as all UN humanitarian staff, UNOHCI, leave Iraq as soon as possible. The UN mission in the demilitarised zone on the border between Kuwait and Iraq (UNIKOM) was already evacuating.

These missions are UN missions. They are in Iraq because of a Security Council decision. They are there to help bring about peace by peaceful means and to help the citizens of Iraq.

After a short Security Council meeting behind closed doors, Secretary-General Kofi Annan informs the world that these missions have been ordered to evacuate.

Thus, it seems that one member issues an ultimatum "recommendation" and the UN obeys and leaves the Iraqi people behind to be intimidated, humiliated, killed, wounded and, in a few weeks, starve.

Article 99 of the UN Charter states that the S-G "may bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security."

Is that not exactly what the US ultimatum did - threatening Iraq and threatening the world organisation in Iraq?

Article 100 of the UN Charter states that "in the performance of their duties the Secretary-General and the staff shall not seek or receive instructions from any government..." Well, of course, it was not termed an instruction, it was a "recommendation." But what the Secreatary-General did on March 17, 2003 was to accept an instruction.

In this context we would like to refer to an article "How Kofi Annan Can Stop the War" by Paul F. deLespinasse.*

Here is the gist of professor deLespinasse's proposal:

"The situation provides an interesting opportunity for U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan. If the U.S. issues the expected warning, he can and should announce that the U.S. has no authority to evict the inspectors, who are United Nations employees. Furthermore, Annan can say that he will not withdraw the inspectors from Iraq unless he is ordered to do so by the U.N. Security Council or the inspectors report that they are not being allowed to do their job.

Any effort to get the Security Council to order the inspectors out under current circumstances would undoubtedly fail, and if by some miracle it did get the needed nine votes it would certainly be vetoed by France, Russia, or China.

Such an announcement by the Secretary-General would have three very beneficial consequences. First, it is unlikely that President Bush and his advisors would proceed with an attack, which would be a public relations nightmare as long as the inspectors are still in Iraq.

Second, the announcement would not undermine the work of the inspectors, but could even increase their clout, and that of the Secretary General, vis-à-vis Saddam Hussein. As long as they remain, the inspectors would protect Iraq from an American attack, but if not given carte blanche to do their work they will leave.

Third, the announcement would become a precedent for greatly enhanced power to be exercised by the Secretary General of the United Nations. This person is the closest thing we have to a chief executive for the world, and he is in a position from which it is natural to consider the welfare of the people of the world as a whole."


We wonder how it was possible for one member state to get the UN, all its immensely important missions, ordered out of the place in a matter of hours? We wonder whether the Secretary-General could not have shown more perseverance in defence of the organisation that is so important for the world and for the people of Iraq?

With this potential window for peace closed, could Pope John Paul, the Non-Aligned Movement, NAM, or members of the Security Council give peace a last chance and call a General Assembly meeting. It would revive the principles underlying the "Uniting for Peace" resolution.

And it would give a high-level democratic voice to "we the peoples" who are sad, angry and frightened at the prospect of a war-cum-massacre at innocent millions of fellow-human beings.


*) deLespinasse is professor emeritus of political science at Adrian College in Michigan and can be reached at

© TFF 2003



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