The UN Security Council, in a special session chaired by Vice President Joe Biden, passed three resolutions yesterday in an attempt to return Iraq to the international standing it held prior to the 1990 invasion of Kuwait under Saddam Hussein. In sum, the resolutions give the country control over most of its oil and natural gas assets starting July 1, 2011, end restrictions related to developing a civilian nuclear program and weapons of mass destruction, and formally dissolve all residual activities of the widely corrupt Oil for Food program.
“I can say that the session today is the beginning of the end,” Iraq’s Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said told the AP in a phone interview ahead of Wednesday’s UN meeting. “Today Iraq will be liberated from all sanctions caused by wars and misdeeds of the former regime.” According to a State Department official, “It’s a new day for Iraq.”
Vice President Joe Biden (R) embraces Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari before the U.N. Security Council meeting.
But not all would agree. Critics claim that the U.S. “continues to highlight the progress in Iraq” while overshadowing the dangerous climate that remains there. “The reality of Iraq today is not one of political agreements and smooth transitions” but one “where insecurity dominates,” says Michel Gabaudan, President of Refugees International.
While it’s true Iraq remains an unstable country and has a ways to go in its path toward security, the symbolism of the lifted sanctions should not be downplayed. A few short years ago, it would have been hard to imagine the UN lifting Saddam-era sanctions, especially the restriction concerning a nuclear program. Indeed, Iraq today is one step farther from the Saddam regime and one step closer to a future marked by democracy, peace and security.