From the moment of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003 the United Nations was deliberately bypassed by the Americans, dealing a fatal blow to one of the foundations of the international order: multilateralism. Until then, this principle had been considered the only guarantee of the emergence of a collective responsibility to maintain international peace and security.

The former U.S. administration did not only content itself with marginalizing the UN during the process of its military intervention, they also refused to entrust them with any management of the post-war environment. 

Their unfortunate, if not catastrophic, management of this situation ultimately pushed them to change course and give small roles to the UN, always well aligned with American interest, in the face of the severe problems and complications encountered on the ground.

This policy change was yet another example of Winston Churchill’s famous quip that the U.S. “can always be counted on to do the right thing...after they have exhausted all other possibilities.”

Long lost is the ideal enunciated in the Charter of the United Nations to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war…” The return of the UN to Iraq in 2004 and its various activities have yielded only meager and largely insignificant results, whether in the performance of its political role in achieving national reconciliation amongst Iraqis or its socio-economic and humanitarian role in the reconstruction of a country devastated by numerous wars and years of sanctions.

The United Nations has not had any impact that could strengthen its credibility and hence, that of multilateral action in this most fragile of regions.

The different Security Council resolutions on the mandate of the UN in Iraq have only brought into question their relevance, effectiveness, and their feasibility. The UN mission at the time was much more concerned with helping the former American administration rather than having as its ultimate objective assisting the Iraqi people in re-establishing themselves after their long and painful suffering.

It is for these reasons that all of their actions, from the “International Compact with Iraq” to those related to the question of Kirkuk, have been stinging examples of their failure to garner support from any party or ultimately alienate all parties.

On the other hand, it is most regrettable that this intolerable void in assistance to Iraqis has not been filled by the other regional organizations of which Iraq is a member. First, the Arab League and the lack of a serious vision on the part of its members in honoring their agreements with Iraq while their Secretary-General loudly proclaims to the media that he was the first to decide to open a mission in Baghdad (Bravo) and that this mission will continue despite the resignations of the two ambassadors sent to the country; the first (myself) for reasons of frustration and his successor, named two years later, for reasons of health.

The Secretary-General intentionally refrains from mentioning the reasons for those frustrations and insists on deliberately ignoring his own responsibility. In short, to have such an euphoric conclusion, it is reasonable to ask whether the mission of the Arab League that was established in Baghdad in April 2006 will now tackle the implementation of a Marshall Plan in Iraq after his "brilliant achievement of national reconciliation."

As for the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), in keeping with its folkloric traditions, it would have us believe that it is thanks to its tireless efforts and its “outstanding Mecca document” that sectarian civil war in Iraq has not taken place.

Honoré de Balzac once said that “illusion is just disproportionate faith,” but what is it if even this illusion is so completely distorted?

Mokhtar Lamani is a Senior Visiting Fellow at The Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) - Canada and Former Arab League Ambassador to Baghdad. He can be contacted via: [email protected]

For more information please see: cigionline.org/person/mokhtar-lamani

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