After more than 23 years under the scope of UN Chapter VII following its invasion of Kuwait in 1990, Iraq finds itself closer than ever to getting out from under that chapter and gaining more independence in controlling its money, importing weapons, and — above all — getting recognized as a fully sovereign country.
On June 19, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recommended to the UN Security Council that Iraq be taken out from under Chapter VII and that its outstanding issues with Kuwait be resolved in accordance with UN Chapter VI regulations.
In his report to the Security Council, Ban said, “The governments of Iraq and Kuwait have demonstrated statesmanship and respect for each other’s national interests, in reaching a mutually acceptable and beneficial arrangement. … Should the Security Council agree with my recommendation, Iraq will exit Chapter VII with regard to this file and will be one step closer to restoring its international standing, … an objective long sought by the leadership of the country following the removal of the regime of Saddam Hussein.”
That development came days after the Iraqi and Kuwaiti envoys requested from the UN secretary-general that the remaining differences between the two countries be settled within the scope of UN Chapter VI, after Kuwaiti Prime Minister Khaled Mubarak al-Sabah visited Baghdad on June 12.
After it invaded Kuwait, Iraq was required to pay Kuwait $52 billion in compensation, of which Iraq has so far paid $41 billion. During the Kuwaiti PM’s visit to Baghdad on June 12, it was agreed that the remaining amount — as well as other outstanding issues, such as the issues of the missing persons and the Kuwait archives that disappeared during the Iraqi occupation — be settled from within the scope of UN Chapter VI.
At a news conference on May 30, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said he expected Iraq to be released from Chapter VII in 2015. But the Kuwaiti initiative may have moved that date forward. The UN Security Council is expected to meet at the end of June and decide on Ban’s recommendation.
During his meeting with the ambassadors of the five permanent UN Security Council members on June 19, Zebari said that the decision to release Iraq from Chapter VII must include a clear statement that Iraq has implemented all its international obligations.
Although the Iraqi regime changed after the 2003 US invasion, Kuwait had been refusing that Iraq be released from Chapter VII because some in Iraq have opposed recognizing the border demarcation line drawn by UN Security Council Resolution No. 833 in 1993 under exceptional circumstances.
The Iraqi objections to the UN-demarcated border and to the joint oil fields have remained, despite that 250 Iraqi families living atop the new border line have been deported.
The essence of the dispute will not be completely resolved unless both sides establish a real and lasting cooperation, and finish the ongoing debate about the outstanding issues.
One dispute that still feeds popular anger and political demagoguery is the Mubarak Port, a controversial project under construction near the Kuwaiti Bubiyan Island. Iraq is concerned about the port’s potential impact on Iraq’s already limited maritime traffic in the Arabian Gulf.
Resolving the mutual differences regarding the border, the joint oil fields, or the Mubarak Port requires overcoming the ordeal of the past two decades at the cultural and popular levels.
The problem between Iraq and Kuwait is that their relationship remains mostly confined to the political and official spheres. There have been no significant economic, popular, cultural, artistic and athletic ties that would help overcome the crises of the past.
Although achieving such relationships is partly an Iraqi responsibility, it is mainly a Kuwait responsibility. For a century, Kuwait has been afraid of Iraq, a country that is larger and more populous and that refused to recognize Kuwaiti sovereignty for decades; and in 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait. So removing the gap separating the two peoples requires finding more effective and permanent solutions.
Mushreq Abbas is a contributing writer for Al-Monitor’s Iraq Pulse. He has been managing editor of Al-Hayat’s Iraq bureau since 2005, and written studies and articles on Iraqi crises for domestic and international publication.
Continue reading this article by registering at no cost and get unlimited access to:
- The award-winning Middle East Lobbying - The Influence Game
- Archived articles
- Exclusive events
- The Week in Review
- Lobbying newsletter delivered weekly