The gathering crisis over Iraq has been several years in the making. Its root cause is the aggressiveness of the current regime. This aggressiveness has manifested itself in repression at home and attacks against its neighbours abroad.
Iraq has fought two major wars against other countries in the region. It invaded Iran in September 1980 and it invaded and occupied Kuwait almost exactly ten years later in August 1990. The number of casualties inflicted in these two wars was enormous, amounting to a million dead and wounded. The Iranians fought Iraq to a stand-still after eight years of heavy fighting, one of the longest and bloodiest wars of the second half of the 20th century. Kuwait was powerless to resist the invaders who were ejected only after the international community put together a massive coalition force which fought a brief but intense war against Iraq.
Iraqi aggression against its neighbours on both these occasions, as on others, was in complete violation of international law and the Charter of the United Nations. It was destructive of every effort since the Second World War, and earlier, to build up an agreed code of behaviour among states under international law. Under this code it is forbidden to use force and to seize territory. Furthermore, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is forbidden, as is the massacre of civilians and the abuse of human rights. Iraq has broken virtually every rule of international law and of universally accepted standards of behaviour.
With the ending of the second Gulf War, Iraq was required by the Security Council of the United Nations to give up its weapons of mass destruction. Those are nuclear weapons, chemical or gas weapons and biological or germ warfare. The Charter of the United Nations confers on the Security Council the primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. The Council is empowered and required to make decisions to safeguard peace and the stability of the international order. All member states of the UN are bound by the Charter to accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council and it is a matter of grave concern when any member fails to do so. Iraq is therefore obliged to comply with the relevant Security Council resolutions and must live up fully to the conditions imposed on it by the Council. This means, with specific regard to the elimination of its weapons of mass destruction, that Iraq must agree to the return of arms inspectors in full accordance with the conditions laid down in the resolutions and not seek to impose its own conditions.
There has been a whole series of Security Council decisions relating to Iraq. The first of these was Resolution 660 of August 1990 which condemned Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and demanded withdrawal. When Iraq continued its illegal occupation, Resolution 661 followed a few days later. That resolution imposed mandatory economic sanctions against Iraq. The purpose was to compel Iraq to withdraw its forces from Kuwait without the international community having to resort to the use of force.
Iraq ignored that resolution also. When it became clear that Iraq had no intention of obeying the Security Council's lawful demand that it leave Kuwait, the Council passed Resolution 678 in November of that year. That resolution authorised member states "to use all necessary means to uphold and implement Resolution 660 and all subsequent resolutions and to restore international peace and security in the area". In other words, the Security Council authorised the use of force unless Iraq withdrew from Kuwait by 15 January of the following year, 1991. Again, Iraq refused to budge and the result was a major conflict in which Iraq was rapidly defeated by the coalition of forces from UN member states mandated by the Security Council. In the aftermath of that defeat, the Security Council adopted Resolution 687 in April. That resolution detailed measures for a ceasefire, including creation of UNSCOM – the special commission to oversee Iraqi disarmament – and ordered the removal or destruction of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles capable of delivering them. The International Atomic Energy Agency – IAEA – was mandated to deal with Iraq's nuclear weapons programme, which turned out to be far more advanced than anyone had thought.
In another resolution passed the same month, the Security Council condemned the Iraqi regime's brutal repression of its civilian population and demanded an end to it. Allied forces set up no-fly zones with the express intention of protecting the Kurds and the marsh Shia Arabs. In 1995 the Security Council established the Oil for Food Programme to spare the Iraqi people the worst effects of the economic sanctions which continued in face of the refusal of the Iraqi Government to co-operate with the arms inspectors. It was not until two years later that the Iraqi Government allowed this humanitarian programme to go into effect and to this day the regime impedes the operation of the programme for the most cynical propaganda reasons. Some Members of the House will recall meeting the head of the Oil for Food Programme in New York, Mr. Benon Sobhan, and his briefing on the extent to which Iraq has disrupted the programme's activities.
More resolutions followed, trying to get Iraq to co-operate with the arms inspectors. Iraq continued to refuse. In November 1998, Resolution 1205 condemned Iraq's formal decision no longer to co-operate with UNSCOM and the IAEA. Operation Desert Fox followed in December with an extensive bombing campaign. One year later, in December 1999, the Council adopted Resolution 1284, a very detailed resolution which replaced UNSCOM with a new disarmament agency known as UNMOVIC, which was also intended to meet some of Iraq's objections and to provide the opportunity for a new start. Very significantly, this resolution also tried to address the humanitarian problem by permitting Iraq to export any quantity of oil and by drawing up lists of humanitarian goods which would be exempted from control by the sanctions committee. The resolution also provided that sanctions would be suspended once the arms inspectors reported that Iraq was co-operating in all respects.
In May of this year, the very important Resolution 1409 was adopted. This resolution completely changes the basis on which the sanctions are operated so as to target the regime and minimise civilian suffering to the greatest extent possible. Ireland has been particularly concerned about the impact of sanctions on innocent civilians. As a member of the Security Council we have been actively involved in all the efforts so far to refine the system of sanctions so as to take into account the humanitarian dimension. We worked hard to obtain a comprehensive and timely solution which would impact as little as possible on the lives of Iraq's civilian population. We were particularly engaged in developing Resolution 1409. We recognise that, as long as sanctions remain in place, however, there is no alternative to the Oil for Food Programme in providing for the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people. The Government will continue to strongly support practical measures aimed at ensuring the delivery of assistance to children and other vulnerable sectors of the population in Iraq. First and foremost, Iraq must live up to its responsibilities to fully utilise the funds available and co-operate in ensuring that the necessary assistance reaches those most in need.
Far from complying with these decisions of the Security Council, Iraq embarked upon a campaign of defiance and deception. Iraq did all it could to conceal its earlier efforts to acquire these arms and proceeded to maintain the nucleus of a weapons of mass destruction capacity. Before the arms inspectors were forced to leave Iraq they discovered a programme of weapons development which far surpassed the worst expectations. They destroyed much of Iraq's capacity, but they were unable to complete their work. When the inspectors came too close to discovering the secrets of the Iraqi regime, they were blocked and thwarted and their mission was made impossible. Four years have passed since the inspectors were compelled to leave Iraq. Sanctions have cut across the regime's efforts to obtain the means of manufacturing these weapons, but we will not know for certain how successful the sanctions have been in disrupting this programme until the arms inspectors return. To this day, there is no guarantee that Iraq no longer possesses dreadful and illegal weapons. Instead, there is good reason to suspect that Iraq has continued to pursue this programme.
This attempted proliferation is an issue that goes far beyond Iraq. These weapons are a major threat to both regional and international security. The very attempt by Iraq to obtain such weapons, in violation of its freely accepted treaty obligations, erodes the international instruments aiming to control the spread of these weapons and ultimately to eliminate them.
There can be no doubt that Iraq is willing to use these weapons. Iraq has invested vast sums in the effort to acquire or develop these weapons, weapons which can only be intended for offensive use. It has deployed chemical weapons against both Iran and its own people. The Iraqi Government has subjected its people to 12 years of economic sanctions, with all the human suffering that has caused, without remorse or compunction. This could have been stopped immediately had Baghdad agreed to readmit the arms inspectors and co-operate with them. We have to ask the question: what makes the possession of weapons of mass destruction more important to the Iraqi regime than the welfare, even the lives, of its own citizens?
As if this was not enough, the Iraqi regime has an appalling record of violating human rights. This is not only terribly wrong in itself, it is a further threat to the international order. Respect for human rights is a core dimension in preventing conflict. It is part of the very foundation on which peace and security are built. One of the major objectives being pursued within the international community is to reinforce respect for human rights as part of the rule of law and as a norm of civilised behaviour. Iraq's record is an affront to conscience.
How could the international community place any trust in a Government which has caused two major wars, used chemical weapons against both enemy soldiers and its own people, and which employs imprisonment, torture and execution as instruments of government? How can we rest satisfied, knowing that this Government is determined to equip itself with weapons of mass destruction, at any cost, and for purposes which range from internal repression to regional hegemony?
These are the questions which the Security Council is now facing. The Council must do so with all the clarity and wisdom and sense of responsibility which it can muster. This is what the Security Council was put in place to do. This is why it was entrusted under the Charter with the primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security.
The UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, was quite unambiguous about what is required when he said: "All States have a clear interest, as well as a clear responsibility, to uphold international law and to maintain international order". He called on Iraq "to comply with its obligations for the sake of its own people and for the sake of world order". He went on to say: "If Iraqi defiance continues, the Security Council must face its responsibilities.". We should weigh the Secretary-General's words most carefully.
The United Nations is facing decisions which will determine its ability to cope with an increasingly fractious world. Challenges are posed which demand a sober, realistic and far-sighted response. Inter-connected and multiplying problems combine to assault the international order as the old certainties of the Cold War period dissolve. The Secretary General has called on the members of the Security Council to assume their responsibilities and to demonstrate the necessary will to impose order on an emerging lawlessness which threatens the stability of the international system. As a member of the Security Council, elected by 130 countries who placed their trust in us, Ireland can do no less. We are acting not just on our own behalf, but on behalf of the entire international community and we have an obligation to make decisions which meet the requirements of the situation.
Ireland approaches this crisis, as we have many other difficult situations, on the basis of well-known positions of principle which Ireland has constantly followed under successive Governments. Ireland has a very long-standing commitment to international peace, security and stability, through the rule of law, peaceful settlement of disputes and protection of human rights.
These are not just words—