A year ago President George Bush said in the UN that the international community's apathy with regard to the issue of Iraq amounted to risking the lives of millions and undermined the authority of the UN. In September 2003 told the General Assembly that the Anglo-American coalition, which overthrew Saddam Hussein, had saved the UN's credibility.
But today, just like a year ago, the international community remains unconvinced. The majority of countries, including Russia, still believe that by launching the war on Iraq without the sanction of the UN Security Council, the USA and Britain grossly violated international law and the UN Charter and hence damaged the UN's reputation.
It is rather simple to judge past events. But it is much more difficult to decide what to do in Iraq now. This is where the UN's reputation is in jeopardy.
UN Security Resolution 1483 on the situation in Iraq, adopted in May 2003, defined the USA and Britain as occupying with all the responsibility for the restoration of the country. The occupying powers were prepared to shoulder this responsibility, but they did not expect that it would cost them so much, both financially and in terms of the loss of life.
The USA has called on the global community to help them, but nobody wants to join the occupying forces in Iraq. At the same time, most countries want the political and economic situation in Iraq to stabilise as soon as possible. Mikhail Margelov, chairman of the Federation Council's international affairs committee, pointed out that "threats arising in the Middle East constitute a risk not only for the USA and Britain, but also for everyone else." In his opinion, which is shared by many politicians in Europe, Asia and the Arab world, "the delays in normalising the situation in Iraq, the weakness and dependence of its interim administration, and the accumulation of internal contradictions are giving a chance to extremist forces." Moreover, instability in the oil-rich region can affect the economies of the leading world powers.
The USA has initiated a new resolution that stipulates broader UN functions in Iraq and a Security Council mandate for the multinational forces there. The enlargement of the mandate gives everyone willing a chance to take part in the restoration of Iraq. But Washington does not want to cede its leading positions there and suggests that the UN should play only an auxiliary consultative role. Some Security Council members, in particular France, think that the UN should replace the interim American administration in Iraq. These differences are hindering the adoption of the resolution.
According to France, power in the country should be turned over to the Iraqis without delay, at first symbolically and in six to nine months, in full to the Interim Governing Council.
The USA has rejected the idea as unworkable, believing that the process should proceed from the adoption of a constitution to parliamentary elections to government, after which full power can be turned over to the Iraqis. As of now, Iraq's politicians do not have the experience, money or, most importantly, the legitimate right to govern their country.
The thing is that members of the Interim Governing Council were not elected by the Iraqi people, but were appointed by the US administration. To transfer power to them now would mean to recognise their legitimacy, which would be undemocratic to say the least, and quite unprofitable for the countries (including Russia) that have business interests in Iraq.
The Russian Foreign Ministry has repeatedly stated that the future of Russian companies' contracts in Iraq that were signed outside the framework of the UN Oil for Food programme can be decided only by a legally elected administration recognised by the international community. Iraq will hardly have such an administration sooner than in nine months. This means that Russian and other firms will have more time to become adjusted to the new conditions, and in particular to sign partnership agreements on work in Iraq with Western companies. Indeed, the situation in Iraq may become more stable in nine months.
Accordingly, Russia is not protesting against the US plan to transfer power to the Iraqi government only after elections there. Like Germany, Russia is only demanding that the resolution set a strict deadline for democratic reforms in Iraq, to be carried out with the direct participation of the UN. Besides these points, the resolution should establish a timeframe for the multinational forces in the country.
A poll held in September by the Al-Zohbi international public opinion research organisation, showed that 66% of Iraqis (with the exception of Kurdistan) think US troops should stay in their country for a year or even longer. Moreover, 30% of them think the Americans should stay for five years.
Their reasoning is simple. They fear total chaos after the withdrawal of the Anglo-American troops, as any weakening of foreign control would effectively bury the future of the country and provoke a civil war. Iraq fell apart with the disappearance of Saddam Hussein. The country would have to be reconstructed from the very start.
The only question is: will the international community, which failed to rally together to prevent the Iraqi war, join hands to restore peace and stability there?
Marianna Belenkaya, RIAN
The troops of the Southern and Western military districts will begin to return from Russia's southern borders to the points of their permanent deployment starting April 23