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Opinion: U.N. Resolution on Iraq is Hardly an Inspired Solution

After much last-minute haggling, the U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted a U.S.-drafted resolution on Iraq’s future. But despite a unified front, divisions remain below the surface.

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The U.N. resolution sets out the terms for further postwar reconstruction in Iraq.

After weeks of struggling and arguing, suddenly, a solution appeared. How else could the U.N. Security Council have voted unanimously for this Iraq resolution? After the deep division over the Iraq war between the United States and "old Europe" -- as U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld contemptuously called the anti-war alliance -- the rift appears to have healed, with everyone in agreement on how to move forward.

The impression we’re being given now by all parties, is that things can only get better. Yet these parties hold contradictory positions: not just Washington and Berlin, but also the United States and Syria.

Whenever so much opposition is quickly overcome and transformed into harmony, a degree of skepticism is only natural. This is anything but an inspired solution. What has the Security Council agreed on in end effect? That Iraq has the right to be a sovereign state within recognized borders, or that the presence of U.S. and British troops in the country is of an equally temporary nature as the U.S.-led governing council is supposed to be.

Echoing British history

As if Washington hadn’t always given its assurances that "of course" it only wants temporary control over Iraq, in order to build up democratic institutions there. The British should know how easily this sort of arrangement can turn into something more permanent: At the beginning of the 20th century, they were meant to oversee Iraq’s independence, but ended up staying in the country and keeping hold of the reins.

At any rate, at least now a timetable has been established. By December 15, the governing council is supposed to present its plan for the introduction of a new constitution and the holding of elections. Unofficially, the word is that by the end of 2004 things in Iraq should have progressed so far that a freely elected democratic government can take office in Baghdad. Unofficially? Yes, as making such a pronouncement "official" seems a little too risky to the Security Council members.

What now?

The question remains, though, how things in Iraq should proceed for now, in the short-run. Here, the United Nations decided that an international peacekeeping force under U.S. command should provide security.

But it’s also here that the most vocal critics of the U.S. -- Germany, France, and Russia -- ruled out their participation. Nor are they prepared to donate more money for Iraq’s reconstruction. The European Union has already committed €200 million ($232 million) in funds, of which Germany is to contribute a quarter.

The White House says it needs one hundred times that amount -- which has caused an uproar among U.S. elected representatives. Perhaps this resolution was meant to send a positive signal ahead of next week’s donor conference in Madrid. But when the heavyweight nations shy away from giving, who’s supposed to pick up the slack?

And what about the United Nations? It’s supposed to strengthen it’s "vital role" and help pave the way for a new, democratic Iraq. But Secretary General Kofi Annan seemed to be at a loss. After the attack on the U.N.’s Baghdad headquarters, such an assertion appears to be little more than empty words.

Given all these doubts, the balance remains though, that the unanimous result could prove useful to the efforts in Iraq, if only because all the parties involved have finally managed to agree on a common position.

Peter Philipp is Deutsche Welle's chief correspondent.

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