The US, tying up loose ends as its occupation of Iraq winds down, pushed through three UN Security Council resolutions on Wednesday that lifted restrictions left over from the confrontation with former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.
One resolution permits Iraq to develop a civilian nuclear program and import materials once banned because they could possibly be used to help develop unconventional weapons. A second resolution formally shuttered the dormant, widely corrupt oil-for-food program. The third gives the country control over most of its oil assets starting on July 1 next year, while simultaneously lifting the protection that shielded post-invasion Iraq from countless legal claims.
“After years of being sanctioned by Security Council resolutions due to the aggression, the belligerence of Saddam’s regime, I think today we closed a dark chapter,” Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said. “I think this shows that Iraq is coming back truly to its rightful place among the community of nations.”
Council resolutions that demand that Iraq resolve disputes with Kuwait were left intact. Working out final agreements on issues ranging from border demarcation to items stolen from the Kuwaiti national archives will be a priority for the next Iraqi government so that Iraq can free itself of all Security Council restrictions imposed since 1990, Zebari said.
Iraq still faces at least US$22 billion in outstanding financial claims, according to UN figures, much of it owed to Kuwait. Iraq will continue to set aside 5 percent of its oil revenues in a special account to pay off reparations from the war Saddam initiated in August 1990.
Foreign governments, Westerners forced to serve as human shields and firms that lost business because of Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait have been among those waiting for the UN protections to be lifted so they could pursue court action.
Zebari said Iraq would try to place its assets with the US Federal Reserve, where a presidential decree might shield them, and also to try a parallel strategy in Europe. France was the only country to abstain on any resolution, concerned that the one ending the oil-for-food program did not sufficiently protect BNP Paribas, which handled payments from claimants.
“Basically the United States wants to close the Iraq file and that is what it is doing, but it does mean something for Iraq — they take their sovereignty seriously,” said Joost Hiltermann of the International Crisis Group.