INTERNATIONAL LAW: What Is Left of It After Desert Fox? [Archives:1999/01/Focus]

January 4 1999

This is an OPINION page.
Every week, a different intellectual writes a FOCUS on a pertinent issue! 

By – Dr. Yassin Al- Shaibany,
Professor of International Law,
Sanaa University
In spite of the fancy words and the legal and moral blanket of the Charter of the United Nations, international law experts know very well that the UN Charter is not legally or moral binding. It is a mere “Yalta Formula” which was agreed upon, during the Second World War by the big three Theodore Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin rpresenting the USA, the UK, and the USSR.
The Yalta Formula dictates that no decision on any international matter can be taken without the approval of the Great Powers, later known as Security Council Permanent Members – after the addition of China and France to the Yalta three. This is considered a five-member “government” managing world affairs. These five members must all agree on, and approve, resolutions to be passed by the Security Council. Through this mechanism, it can be said these resolutions express the international community’s will.
The Yalta Formula has ruled the UN business since 1945, though it was practically disregarded during the Allied operations against Iraq in 1991. However, it remained informally respected even after the downfall of the Soviet Union.
Eight years have passed since the Gulf war, and America succeeded in using the Security Council resolutions to maintain the suffering of the Iraqi people, nobody is sure for what end.
There is one clear benefit to the USA – to assure the US position as the only super power in the world and elicit unconditional obedience to the new international order of things. That was the message it wanted to send again, through Operation Desert Fox.
Thus, America and Britain effectively buried Yalta under the ruins caused by their missiles attacks on Iraq last month.
Yesterday’s big five is no more. An ineffective China, a weak Russia and a languid France – the so-called other permanent members of the Security Council – are looking on as the USA, and Britain at its tail, take decisions with regard to international affairs. It is a new era. It is the era of a uni-polar world and full power supremacy to one nation, instead of the prevalence of international law based on collective power-sharing.
That is the summary of the US-UK attacks on Iraq.
But the question remains: Why is Iraq paying the price of the US craving to control the world?
From the American point of view there is a list of reasons, only one of which is enough to justify the strike.
The first reason is that Iraq was trying to set an example of national renaissance, based on independence in achieving goals of regional supremacy within a foreseeable time table. It was practically shown that the efforts would take Iraq out of the Third World and into the league of more advanced and independent countries. This totally defies the American and Western plans for the Gulf region. They want this area and its resources to remain under their control; Arabs must remain with no potential for breaking out of the US circle of influence. vision and their leaders must remain eternally at the West’s disposal.
The second reason is the Iraqi challenge to the American domination over oil sources. Saddam attempted to expose the subordination of the Gulf monarchies to the American administration, something untenable by the new world ruler.
The third reason is that the destruction of Iraq or weakening it means the destruction and the weakening of a new hope in the Arab World. Thus, any new ambition would be frustrated thus sucking out the ability to take its own decisions.
Iraq has proved its strategic vision and capability to become a considerable power in the region, specially when dealing with Middle East affairs. This was in contradiction with the US vision for the region. The US sees that only two nations are allowed to lead the region – Israel and Turkey. Other potential leaders in the region – Egypt, Iraq, Iran, and Syria – are to be blocked either through military force or political containment.
That is why countries like Iran and Syria know their time to be targeted for US punishment is going to come. Egypt is aware there is a red line it cannot cross for its rgional ambition.
For those reasons and more, Iraq paid and will pay the price of the American rule the world.
Using UN resolutions and so-called international legitimacy as a cover is no longer a convincing arguent today.
International law and legitimacy have collapsed when the international community accepted a double standard on issues where the same principles of the UN charter were violated. Lack of respect of human values among those who are supposed to uphold the UN charter has brought it to an end.
The idea of America leading the world will not last long, because the American military, economical and political strength needs a moral strength to back it. This it lacks. The main lesson history taught us is that oppressive powers never last long.