Site Home

Resolution 1441 does not sanction an invasion and occupation of Iraq

The lead letter in the 8/3/2003 edition of the UK's Independent Newspaper - headed War in Iraq will be mass murder - was from Dr Richard Drayton, who is University Lecturer in Imperial and extra-European History at the University of Cambridge, and Fellow and Director of Studies in History at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. The letter contains a powerful and lucid explanation as to why Resolution 1441 does not sanction an invasion and occupation of Iraq. I had intended to point to the letter from my current Fortnightly Mailing, but the Independent's web site does not contain the newspaper's letters. Richard Drayton has kindly agreed to my publishing the letter on my web site directly. Please feel free to point others to the URL of the letter, which is

To: The Independent

As it becomes increasingly clear that the Anglo-American war resolution will fail in the Security Council, Blair and Bush are now claiming that Resolution 1441 would justify their murderous imperial adventure in Iraq.

But Resolution 1441 does not sanction an invasion and occupation of Iraq: this point needs to be made explicit. Indeed, Resolution 1441 imposes limits on the actions of Britain and the United States: by voting for this resolution they accepted the Security Council as the competent body to decide whether Iraq is in breach of its obligations.

Resolution 1441 was a measured document, specifically drafted so that it would not give the Americans/British a trigger on the basis of which to make an invasion. The American and British diplomats wanted a text with automatic consequences, but they could not persuade the Security Council to give them such a document. Instead, they bound themselves to its collective decision-making processes.

The clauses of Resolution 1441 which establish the mechanism through which Iraqi delinquincies may be addressed are items 11, 12, and 13. They read:

"11. Directs the Executive Chairman of UNMOVIC and the Director-General of the IAEA to report immediately to the Council any interference by Iraq with inspection activities, as well as any failure by Iraq to comply with its disarmament obligations, including its obligations regarding inspections under this resolution;

12. Decides to convene immediately upon receipt of a report in accordance with paragraphs 4 or 11 above, in order to consider the situation and the need for full compliance with all of the relevant Council resolutions in order to secure international peace and security;

13. Recalls, in that context, that the Council has repeatedly warned Iraq that it will face serious consequences as a result of its continued violations of its obligations."

The key facts which these clauses establish are: (11) the bodies competent to report Iraqi breaches are UMOVIC and the IAEA, and the body competent of receiving and evaluating such reports is the Security Council; (12) The Security Council is the sole body licenced to decide whether Iraq is in breach of its obligations, and if so what action the international community should take; and (13) The penalties thus far authorized against Iraq amount to "serious consequences", which are not defined. They certainly do not include the aerial bombardment of a city with several million inhabitants, and a war which will leave hundreds of thousands dead.

A war without the Security Council's sanction will be a clear insult to the authority of the United Nations. It will, of course, also be an act of pre-meditated mass murder: since as we now know an invasion and occupation of Iraq was planned by Wolfowitz and his circle long before Bush had stolen the election in Florida, and the military planners have told their governments to expect casualities into the hundreds of thousands.

Yours sincerely

Richard Drayton


Dr Richard Drayton
University Lecturer in Imperial and extra-European History
University of Cambridge

Fellow and Director of Studies in History
Corpus Christi College, Cambridge

Corpus Christi College, Cambridge CB2 1RH, United Kingdom

Posted at 20:50 on 9/3/2003

Return to the previous page

Site Home | Privacy |

Valid HTML 4.01!