March 12, 2003
T H E U S A N D K U W A I T U N D E R M I N E
T H E U N B Y E N T E R I N G T H E
D E M I L I T A R I S E D Z O N E O N T H E
K U W A I T - I R A Q B O R D E R
By Jan Oberg, TFF Director
Christian Hårleman, TFF Boardmember
Perhaps it is not the most well-known peace mission of the UN, but you will be sure to hear more about it soon as it is situated on the border between Iraq and Kuwait. Its name is UNIKOM (UN Iraq-Kuwait Observation Mission). It was established by Security Council Resolution 687 in 1991. During TFF's fact-finding mission to Iraq in January this year, we visited the UN mission there.
Reports from the last few days tell that armed US Marines and vehicles have entered this demilitarised zone, DMZ, between Iraq and Kuwait. On the Kuwaiti side, they have cut down fences and set up 7 gates, presumably in preparation of an invasion and occupation of Iraq.
We, the authors, are not experts in international law and shall not judge whether this is a breach of the Security Council Resolution and/or other parts of international law, or whether there is some fine print somewhere that makes this legitimate under certain circumstances. However, we doubt it. It is hard to understand that a UN demilitarised zone can be entered by armed personnel in preparation for an attack on a UN member state and that it would be legal.
But, more importantly, this is undoubtedly a serious political and normative blow to the authority and integrity of the United Nations as such. It undermines both the Security Council and the vitally important, highly competent UNIKOM mission on the ground. It further destabilises the region and signals to the government of Iraq that it will be attacked no matter what it does to avoid war.
It is striking that this unilateral action has not caused a stir and that there has been virtually no international debate about it.