Shooting in the sky; inspectors on the ground
By Wolf Blitzer
CNN Wolf Blitzer Reports
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The United Nations and the Bush Administration already seem to be at odds over the recently approved U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing the return of weapons inspectors to Iraq. At immediate issue: whether Iraqi targeting of U.S. and British warplanes patrolling the no-fly zones in northern and southern Iraq represent a violation of that U.N. resolution.
"Let me say that I don't think the Council will say that this is a contravention of the resolution that was recently passed," U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan told reporters.
But White House officials disagree. They say the resolution prohibits the Iraqis from shooting at those planes. The U.N. resolution says that Iraq "shall not take or threaten hostile acts directed against any representative or personnel of the United Nations or the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) or of any Member State taking action to uphold any Council resolution."
Bush administration officials insist that the flights over the no-fly zones are designed to enforce a series of U.N. Security Council resolutions that followed Iraq's acceptance of a cease-fire agreement in February 1991 that ended the Gulf War. Those resolutions called upon Iraq to respect the rights of Iraqi Shi'ites in the South and Iraqi Kurds in the North. The no-fly zones were created to protect those Iraqi groups. U.N. Security Council Resolution 686, adopted March 2, 1991, demanded that Iraq "cease hostile or provocative actions by its forces against all Member States, including missile attacks and flights of combat aircraft."
Iraq has consistently insisted that those no-fly zones are illegal intrusions on its sovereignty since the U.N. Security Council never directly authorized their creation. As a result, they have continued to target the U.S. and British planes over the years, including since the passage of the latest U.N. resolution. So far, they have not managed to shoot down one plane.
While Bush administration officials insist the Iraqi actions are a violation of the latest resolution, they say they won't necessarily go before the U.N. Security Council to raise the matter as a pretext for a military strike. They say they are still ready to see if those weapons inspectors can get the job of disarming Iraq done peacefully.
But they also know that right now, they don't have the necessary support in the Security Council to win a new vote on this narrow issue. France and Russia, for example, have long avoided any cooperation with the patrolling of the no-fly zones. At their inception, as you probably recall, France was a full partner in those patrols. They later dropped out.
The upshot of this initial spat between Washington and the U.N.: the inspections will get off the ground even as the shooting in the no-fly zones continues