Multilateral Diplomacy During the War in Iraq

One of the main issues in the events preceding the Iraq war was whether the world community and general and Security Council, in particular, would allow military assault on Iraq. When it became obvious that U.N authorization would call for further inspections, the invasion leaders determined to attack the country despite the fact that many called it a violation of international law without exhausting all the diplomatic options. It was as taken as immoral and bereft of an ounce of wisdom. The very dangerous precedent of unilateral military action was established. Embarking on a military adventure in defiance of the broad consensus of the international community amounted to aggression. Neither it was regarded as a war of self-defence. It also sweepingly violated the stipulations of the charter. United Nations and the coalition partners entered into a war of words.

Criticism about the evidence used to provide the basis for the war rested on the foundation that a diplomatic solution to the impasse would have been more feasible and the war should have happened as a matter of last resort. The multilateral diplomacy was about the inspections regime which the U.S. and its partners did not trust. War was launched in so much haste and the institutions of multilateral diplomacy were sidelined. “According to a January 2007 BBC World Service poll of more than 26,000 people in 25 countries, 73% of the global population disapproves of the U.S. handling of the Iraq War. A September 2007 poll conducted by the BBC found that 2/3rds of the world’s population believed the U.S. should withdraw its forces from Iraq According to an April 2004 USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll, only a third of the Iraqi people believed that the American-led occupation of their country is doing more good than harm, and a solid majority support an immediate military pullout even though they fear that could put them in greater danger” (David Bellavia House to House: an Epic of Urban Warfare). It gave a considerable jerk to the confidence and belief in diplomacy as means of resolving a dispute of this nature. War was considered a readymade solution. It was also called by the inspection teams that no evidence of weapons of mass destruction has been found, however, there is a need for more inspections. “The US maintained that Iraq was not cooperating with UN inspectors and had not met its obligations to 17 UN resolutions. The US felt that resolution 1441 called for the immediate, total disarmament of Iraq and continued to show frustration at the fact that months after the resolution was passed Iraq was still not disarming. Language in Resolution 1441 recalled that the use of all means necessary was still authorized and in effect from UN Resolution 678, and therefore maintained that if Iraq failed to comply with the one final chance to comply provision of resolution 1441, then military action would be the result” (Hans Kochler, The Iraq Crisis And The United Nations. Power Politics Vs. The International Rule Of Law. Studies In International Relations). The world superpower had her own ulterior motives which brought about a complete breakdown of the basis of the nation-state system, which was established with a long and tedious journey though often with some breaks and interruptions. “By early January 2003, Bush had made up his mind to take military action against Iraq, according to the book. But Bush was so concerned that the government of his closest ally, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, might fall because of his support for Bush that he delayed the war’s start until March 19 here (March 20 in Iraq) because Blair asked him to seek a second resolution from the United Nations. Bush later gave Blair the option of withholding British troops from combat, which Blair rejected. “I said I’m with you. I mean it,”( Shenon, Philip; Christopher Marquis and Mark Glassman. “, Threats and Responses: The Overview,).

In fact, through the 45 years of history, declaratory affection for charter was sustained and considered as a valuable frame of reference. Strategic deterrence was taken as being fundamental for the maintenance of peace, but the United Nations was considered as guarantor of peace too and never disregarded at any point of time during the cold war. The immediate post-cold war era was marked as the peak point of legal multilateralism when the rising sole superpower strived best to oblige the laws and principles of the worlds’ most prestigious body.

By and by, America began to take the gloves off and was ready to act without the Security Council authorization whenever she would consider it appropriate. Those were the dark days of the world body when the coalition partners raided Iraq without any sense of impunity. There was widespread disappointment for the failure of the U.N. to prevent the Iraq crisis from boiling down to the slippery slope of war. Even though, many were against the method adopted no one did not shed a tear when Saddam was removed from power. Within U.N there was dissension of opinion of tackling the issue and that underwent further complications and hindered greatly the decision making process. On one side, there was great leverage and accusation on the world body that she was instrumental in delaying the matters, on the other hand, the Muslim world was greatly disappointed that she is not able to withstand the pressure of the superpower. There was increased disenchantment with an institution charged with the noble task of maintaining world peace. It is opined by the experts also that a conflict once brought before the Security Council should have been resolved by the same and there was no justification for unilateralists to take upon themselves to resolve it which lingers unresolved down to this day. Furthermore, arms inspection should have been accomplished before a strong case for such an intervention should have been built. Despite the lacunas of the U.N., this international crisis has led to strong adherence with it by the member nationals. As a response to the Iraq crisis, the countries have become increasingly concerned and emotional about their sovereignty and the need to maintain it. There is another side of the picture too that countries being more preoccupied with self-help in matters of security have become indifferent to the deference of the charter. However, it must be noticed that the effective working of the U.N. within the norms of international law pushed the international community in support of the world body that would rightly take up the contentious matters and would do right. “First, UN member states should act promptly to bring disputes to the attention of the Security Council. Second, the UN Secretary-General should initiate an informal discussion with disputing parties before the dispute becomes a crisis. If those discussions are unproductive, then the Secretary-General should refer the matter to the Security Council. Third, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) should be used more. Where a dispute has been present for many years and has the potential to lead to a major crisis, it should be brought to the ICJ for adjudication or an Advisory Opinion. Finally, regional organizations should play a greater role in preventative diplomacy. However, such organizations are often internally divided and lack credibility, and so in many cases, the UN will remain the best-suited organization to undertake preventative measures”( Claude Rakisits, The Gulf Crisis: Failure of Preventive Diplomacy).

by The United Nations and most of the members share the vision where the former has increased role in peacemaking and there is a greater role of multilateralism in the resolution of disputes. The interests of these members and the United Nations are common. According to Mr Malloch Brown, “one of the main remaining challenges to the UN in the post-Iraq world is how to convince the US to reconsider their withdrawal from multilateralism. As the founding driver of the UN and the only current superpower, the United States’ committed participation is fundamental to the effectiveness of the UN. An important step towards re-engaging the US can be made by updating the notion of collective security to respond to the different nature of modern security threats, such as global terrorism and possession of weapons of mass destruction. Taking into account and regulating these new security needs would set the right premises for US involvement in multilateralism and would reduce the risk of unilateral actions in the future”. (The Future of the UN?)

There is no doubt to the fact that the participation of the United States is crucial to the success of the United Nations to bring back peace in war-torn regions. The world community must move to consensus at solving some of the most fundamental problems which the nation-states of the world face together. It is only by concerted efforts we can expect a breakthrough. Whenever the word community is divided, multilateralism fails and the result is war. “At the same time, however, there remains a con­sensus in the United States, whether on Capitol Hill or in Kansas City, that the U.N. still has an impor­tant role to play—for now at least—in both interna­tional security matters and humanitarian efforts. While disenchantment with the U.N. is rising sig­nificantly, there is at this time no significant chorus of calls for the U.S. to immediately walk away from the U.N” (Nile Gardener, The Decline and Fall of the United Nations: Why the U.N. Has Failed and How It Can Be Reformed).

The war brought about some of the most horrific lessons for the world community in the form of a complete breakdown of multilateral diplomacy and peace which could have been avoided if the world powers could have been sincere to the cause of the peace. However, they were bent on pursuing their individual interests which were oil, intimidation and the security of Israel. All it became possible because of the overwhelming and preponderantly power wielded by the sole superpower of the ay. In the cold war days, it was not possible but it became so in the absence of any reliable systems of check and balance and the effective working of the united nations.


Mr Malloch Brown, THE FUTURE OF UN. 2003. Administrator of the United Nations Development Program. 2008. Web.

Nile Gardener, The Decline and Fall of the United Nations: Why the U.N. Has Failed and How It Can Be Reformed. 2007. THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION. 2008. Web.

Hans kochler,, The Iraq Crisis and the United Nations. Power Politics vs. the International Rule of Law. Studies in International Relations, XXVIII. Vienna: I.P.O., 2004.

David Bellavia (2007) House to House: an Epic of Urban Warfare. Simon and Schuster. About the 2nd Battle of Fallujah – Claude Rakisits, The Gulf Crisis: Failure of Preventive Diplomacy. 2008. Web.

Shenon, Philip; Christopher Marquis and Mark Glassman. “, Threats and Responses: The Overview, New York Times 2004.

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