Global Policy Forum

The "Multinational Force" Mandate


By Ellen Paine

Global Policy Forum
November 16, 2007

1. Early Resolutions

On May 22, 2003, less than two months after the Coalition captured Baghdad, the Security Council passed Resolution 1483, which recognized the role of the occupying powers and turned over to them control of Iraq's oil export revenues. The UK ambassador announced triumphantly to the press that the Council, after refusing to authorize the use of force in the run-up to the war, had provided what he called "ex post facto justification" for the Coalition's invasion and occupation. Others interpreted the Council's actions differently and stressed the legal limits that the resolution placed on the occupiers and the "vital role" assigned to the UN, but such claims were self-deceptive. There could be no doubt that the resolution gave considerable legal cover to the occupation enterprise. On August 14, 2003, the Council took yet another step towards recognizing the occupation. In Resolution 1500, it "welcomed" the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, as well as setting up a UN Assistance Mission in Iraq. Ironically, only five days later, a bomb exploded in the UN compound, killing the Special Representative of the Secretary General and a number of UN staff. Immediately thereafter, the UN withdrew most of its staff from the country.

2. Security Council Action to Mandate the MNF

The MNF mandate begins with Security Council Resolution 1511 of October 16, 2003. In spite of the growing evidence of a violent, corrupt and increasingly unpopular occupation, the Council acted again in a way that legitimated the Coalition. This resolution was a tradeoff in which the US and the UK acceded to pressure from France, Germany and others to establish near-term Iraqi political institutions, including a constitution and an elected parliament – in return for the force mandate. It was widely assumed at the time that the occupation would end soon – no later than the establishment of Iraqi political institutions.

The Council has renewed the MNF mandate three times, first with Resolution 1546 (June 8, 2004) which provided a more extensive description of the mandate. The subsequent renewals were adopted under Resolution 1637 (November 11, 2005) and Resolution 1723 (November 28, 2006). The later renewals, given the well-known situation in Iraq, show how unwilling Council members have been to question the US-UK enterprise.

The two initial resolutions stated that the MNF mandate would expire "upon completion of the political process" which was specified as the coming into being of a constitution and an elected government. However, just before the political "process" was complete, the Council continued the mandate for one year with Resolution 1637. And even after an Iraqi government was in place for many months, the Council renewed once again with Resolution 1723. In these more recent resolutions, the Council has stated that it is acting upon the request of the government of Iraq.

Critics have argued from the beginning that the Council should not have mandated a military force that invaded and occupied Iraq without Council authorization and in violation of international law. Additionally, critics have called attention to serious and ongoing MNF violations of international law. Such an ill-founded mandate appears to be unique in the history of the Council and of the United Nations. It is a serious anomaly that a body that enforces international law should be endorsing and legitimizing such an enterprise.

3. The Security Council and Other Iraq Mandates



There is another Council mandate for the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) which was renewed most recently with Resolution 1770 (August 10, 2007). At that time, the Council expanded the Mission's mandate and the Secretary General has talked repeatedly about increasing the UN's role and staffing levels in Iraq. There is considerable concern, however, about the independence, effectiveness and moral standing of the UN in Iraq, operating as it does in close cooperation with the MNF forces. Because most Iraqis see the MNF as an occupation force and oppose it, this partnership creates problems for both the UN's humanitarian role and for its political role. It also compromises a future role for the UN if and when the MNF should withdraw. There is a serious question as to whether the UN can currently enlarge its staff presence in Iraq, in light of the very serious security risks. In spite of talk about a "new and more active" UN role, this discourse seems to be more symbolic than practical.

(2) Development Fund for Iraq/IAMB


There is another Security Council mandate, establishing the Development Fund for Iraq (DFI) and the oversight body known as the International Advisory and Monitoring Board (IAMB). The Council has recently renewed this mandate at the same time as the MNF, and the DFI renewal is likely to be raised again when the MNF comes up for renewal in late 2007. In the original DFI/IAMB mandate, contained in Resolution 1483 (May 22, 2003), the Security Council affirms that the sale of Iraqi oil should be "managed in a transparent manner" so as to "meet the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people." Extensive and well-documented evidence of massive fraud, corruption and malfeasance in the use of the fund have never been the subject of any action by the Security Council. Few persons or companies have been brought to justice in the numerous cases brought to light by the US Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. A number of Iraqi ministers and officials have been charged but have fled the country. Some are said to be living with impunity in London.

(3) International Compact


A further UN mandate concerns the International Compact with Iraq, launched on May 4, 2007 and "welcomed" in Security Council Resolution 1770 (August 10, 2007). The Compact is largely a program to mobilize international support for Iraq's future economic development. While the Compact may be seen as symbolizing international concern about the future of Iraq, it is a strange initiative at a time of deep security crisis, when funds are needed for urgent humanitarian relief, not business investment. The oil investment aspect of the Compact, which promotes private international companies' interests against the wishes of most Iraqis, is particularly problematical and likely to intensify conflicts within the country.



More Information on Iraq
More Information on the Multinational Force Mandate Renewal
More Information on Iraq's Government
More Information on UN Role in Iraq
More Information on Withdrawal?
More Information on Occupation and Rule in Iraq


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