The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) was created with the United Nations Charter in 1945 and is the most powerful body in the United Nations. The Security Council is the sole body responsible for the maintenance of ‘International Peace and Security in accordance with the principles of the UN’ as outlined in the Charter.1 The UNSC powers and mandates are enshrined within the United Nations Charters 6 and 7.
The UNSC investigates international disputes, recommends terms of settlements in conflicts, determines the nature of threats and is the only body legally able to apply universal sanctions as outlined in Chapter 6 of the Charter. Additionally it can call on UN member countries to employ economic sanctions or other sanctions to stop aggression. Most importantly the UNSC can authorize the use of military force in response to belligerence or threats to international peace and security. With concurrent acquiesce of a plurality of UNSC members and great power acceptance that military action is warranted. Article 42 Chapter 7 of the UN charter is the most important article pertaining to this as it states:
“Should the Security Council consider that measures provided for in Article 41 would be inadequate or have proved to be inadequate, it may take such action by air, sea, or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security. Such action may include demonstrations, blockade, and other operations by air, sea, or land forces of Members of the United Nations. “
The Korean War in 1950 and the 1991 Gulf war were both authorized by Security Council Article 42 resolutions. The legally binding nature of UNSC resolutions is disputed by academics and international lawyers, yet UNSC resolutions made under Chapter 7 “Action with Respect to Threats to the Peace, Breaches of the Peace and Acts of Aggression” are considered to have significant legal weight and importance – in other words they provide the mandate to act with lethal and overwhelming military force in the quest for international peace and security. Security Council resolutions are binding on all member states of the UN.
The Security Council is composed of five permanent members (United Kingdom, Russia, France, United States of America and China) who are granted “Great Power Unanimity” which means that these five permanent members can Veto any substantive matters, preventing resolutions from passing. An additional 10 non-permanent members with two years terms who do not possess Veto powers are voted to their position based on geographical bloc groupings. Africa is represented by (3) members, Asia (2), Latin America and the Caribbean (2), Eastern Europe (1), Western Europe and Others (2) and an additional member is an Arab country chosen from an alternating African or Asian bloc.
The Security Council and the Situation in the Middle East
With the inception of the Council – built on the ashes of World War Two and the Holocaust – approximately 284 UNSC resolutions have been passed which deal with ‘situations’ in the Middle East. This paper serves only to provide a brief introduction into the role the Security Council has played in the Middle East. Ongoing Middle Eastern situations and conflicts which will be particularly salient to delegates which will be addressed in this paper are the Israel-Palestine conflict, the Israel-Lebanon conflict and a brief introduction to the present Iranian Nuclear program and the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. It would be highly advantageous for those delegates wishing to better represent their countries during the conference to research additional situations in the Middle East. These would include, but are not limited to Kurdish separatist forces in South East Turkey, Al-Qaeda operations across the region, and Syrian and Iranian sponsorship of non-state political actors and international reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan.
Despite the limited geographical scope and the low-level intensity of conflict, the Israel-Palestinian conflict has been continuously on the Security Council agenda. Questions may be raised as to the effectiveness of UNSC engagement in this issue and the exercise of its mandate of “ensuring International Peace and Security.” Recent efforts by a grouping of international actors known commonly as the ‘Quartet’ – UN, EU, USA and Russia – have also experienced difficulty in reaching a sustainable compromise for the complex situation. What delegates would be wise to consider is this conflict may be seen as two self defined populations with divergent claims to the same geographic location. A historical understanding of the conflict is essential if delegates wish to understand a more nuanced understanding of the incredible complexities and delve deep through the layers of conflicting claims from all sides to find the version of truth acceptable to the government they seek to represent.
In 1947 the UN partitioned the British Mandate of Palestine into a Jewish and Arab state, which those representing ‘Israel’ accepted and representatives of ‘the Arab league’ didn’t. Arab refugees fleeing the fighting numbered some 710,000. These refugees today number some 4 million people and the present ‘Palestinian’ populations are seen to be descendant from this initial refugee population. Hostilities commenced and in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Israel captured more territories (some say in accordance with UN resolutions on the issue) but Jerusalem was left divided. In the 1967 6-day war Israel captured the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the remainder of Jerusalem, which was united with the new “west” Jerusalem. The division and occupation of Jerusalem, considered a holy city by Christians, Jews and Muslims has remained a particularly controversial topic.
Security Council Resolution 242, passed in the aftermath of the 6-day war in 1967 is one of the most important SC resolution passed for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It calls for “the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East” which is to be achieved by the “Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict” and the “Termination of all claims or states of belligerency.” 3 Israel and its neighboring Arab states have ratified the resolution, yet accusations of non-compliance and issues of semantics between the English and French language interpretations have resulted in less than optimal compliance of the resolution. A “Just settlement of the refugee problem” is the only reference made to the Palestinians in the resolution. The concept of the “Land for Peace” idea is advanced as one of the best solutions to the current conflict. Initiated in Resolution 242 Land for Peace is broadly interpreted as Israel gradually relinquishing control of territories occupied in the 1967 in return for peace and recognition by the Arab world.
The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) is recognized by the Arab League as the sole representative of the Palestinian people and is recognized at the UN as a non-voting member.5 The Oslo peace accords in 1993 marked the Palestinian authority acknowledging Israel’s right to exist, Israel pledging to withdraw from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and created the Palestinian authority which would be tasked with self-governing of the territories Israel would withdraw from. The PLO chairman further renounced the use of terrorism and Israel recognized the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people.
Seen as being able to stabilize the conflict, the ‘Land for Peace’ idea is violated almost daily by Israeli incursions into the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (territories occupied by Israel in 1967) and Palestinian terrorist attacks on Israel. The Security Council has lost its primacy as the main forum for negotiating a peaceful solution to the conflict and has been replaced by bi-lateral negotiations and multi-lateral peace summits. The Quartet “Roadmap for Peace” is a process for an independent Palestine by 2005 which has been violated by Israel violating Palestinian territory and building new settlements in Palestinian territory and by continued Palestinian attacks on Israel. The most recent push for peace was the US sponsored “Annapolis Conference” which ended with a “Joint-Statement” by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. The statement called for an independent and free Palestinian state but was criticized as being far too ambiguous.
The American delegate to the Security Council is expected to be Israel’s most vocal supporter, blocking resolutions deemed unbalanced or resolutions which criticize only Israeli action, regardless of ramifications. The UK is also relatively supportive of Israel and American positions on the Middle East, while Arab states are overwhelmingly pro-Palestinian and the General Assembly is also historically anti-Israeli in its resolutions. Russia supports multi-lateral peace initiatives, while European countries often frame the conflict in a humanitarian framework working towards initiatives that would lessen human suffering. To summarize, although the Security Council has not ‘solved’ issues of international peace and security associated with this on going issue that is owing in a large part to UNSC member states divergent foreign policies and support of opposing parties to this conflict.
The presence of a weak and religiously divided country bordering Israel to the north has proven to be an unstable and conflict prone situation. Lebanon has been the battleground for proxy warfare between neighboring states with the central government powerless to exercise control over its territory. Lebanon has also been the staging ground for powerful religious and ethnic based militia groups fighting with support from neighboring countries because the central government is fractured along ethnic and religious lines and cannot exercise control over its territory. 6 The Security Council has had difficult in promoting peace and security in Lebanon as states criticized in resolutions have proved unwilling or unable to comply with passed resolutions. In addition action on part of permanent members of the Security Council has occasionally allowed states party to the conflict violate international law (or their proxies) to carry out action in response to a multitude of self-perceived threats emanating from within Lebanese territory.
The situation in Lebanon further deteriorated markedly in 1982 when in response to what it preserved as threats to its territorial integrity, Israeli invaded Lebanon in 1982 in what has been called “self-defense” as enshrined in article 2(4) of the United Nations Charter. This attempt at removing the PLO from Lebanon was in response to assassination attempts on Israeli diplomats and PLO terrorist attacks on Israel. The PLO was removed from Lebanon but the resulting civil war only resulted in rival state sponsored terrorist groups perpetuating the cycle of violence and instability. Security Council Resolution 425 called for the immediate withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanon and established the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).
In July 2006 the Lebanese based terrorist organization Hezbollah launched a series of cross-border raids and rocket attacks into Northern Israel and captured two Israeli soldiers. Over several weeks Israel launched a limited ground invasion and extensive aerial campaign against Hezbollah while Hezbollah launched some 4000 rockets into Israel. 8 Fighting ceased on August 14th 2006 after Security Council Resolution 1701 was passed. Israel, as a result of these efforts withdrew its forces from Lebanon, Hezbollah was to be disarmed, and the government of Lebanon and army was to regain full control of its territory. A UNSC Resolution calling for a cessation of hostilities was delayed by America and the UK to give Israel more time to remove Hezbollah as a fighting force in Lebanon. This latest conflict was seen by many as the continuation of proxy-warfare between Iranian and Syrian backed terrorist organizations (Hezbollah) and Israel and western countries.
Efforts at promoting peace and security in Lebanon by the Security Council have been generally been restricted to the deployment of UNIFIL as a peace-monitoring force and to issuing resolutions calling for the cessation of hostilities. UNIFIL was created to confirm Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon, restore international peace and security and to assist the Lebanese government in restoring its effective authority in the area.
With regards to this situation, the UNSC resolutions have been largely considered ineffective. Countries have claimed their actions are in response to threats to their security and are acting in self-defense, which is admissible under the UN Charter Chapter 7 Article 51. 11. Delegates wishing to contribute to a lasting peace process n Lebanon must take into account continued American support for Israeli actions, unique French colonial history and Arab states general condemnations of Israeli actions. Lebanon as a country is wrought by internal competing interests, with Israel and Syria supporting domestic political and military actors in attempts to bolster their respective countries power positions. A peace process for Lebanon must be built upon the Lebanese army and government being reinforced by external actors up to the extent where the government can exercise territorial sovereignty over its territories. The disarmament of powerful domestic militia’s must occur and a solution to the present domestic Lebanese political power sharing arrangement must also be found.
The United Nations presses to keep international attention focused on the plight of peoples affected by war and conflict. High-level UN mediation attempts and reconciliation efforts have largely failed because belligerents positions have become polarized and entrenched and have kept either side in perpetual opposition.
Iranian Nuclear Disarmament, American Invasion of Iraq
In addition to the Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Lebanese conflicts there are additional situations and areas of concern for the Security Council. The invasion and ongoing conflict in Iraq is an additional area of concern for the Security Council. The casus belli of the American and Coalition invasion of 2003 was to enforce SC Resolution 1441, which stated that Iraq was in material breach of its disarmament obligations. American President George W. Bush also said that America would end Saddam’s support for terrorism and to “Free the Iraqi people.” Iraq has allegedly breached 17 Security Resolutions passed by the Security Council 14 many of them dealing with issues of compliancy with regards to allowing full access of WMD inspectors to Iraqi suspected chemical and biological sites. The Security Council proved to be powerless in stopping America and her Allies from invading Iraq and has struggled to find any acceptable solution to the ongoing sectarian violence within Iraq.
The Iranian nuclear enrichment program currently being pursued has also raised concerns about a nuclear armed Iran. The International Atomic Energy Agency has reported Iran to the SC over Iranian nuclear activities. Iran claims that it has the legal right to enrich uranium and use it for peaceful purposes, as articulated in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty. There are however fears by America, Israel, the UK and to a lesser degree European countries that the enriched uranium could be used to create a nuclear bomb. Russia has offered to enrich uranium for Iran on Russian territory while both Russia and China have blocked efforts to impose more severe sanctions upon Iran. The SC has told Iran to suspend the enrichment process and has told UN member states not to help Iran in its enrichment process. Security Council Resolution 1747 unanimously passed in response to Iran rejecting the P 5- (Permanent five) and Germany’s offer of economic incentives and help in civilian nuclear technology in exchange for Iran permanently giving up its enrichment program. Resolution 1747 stepped up the ban on arms sales to Iran and increased sanctions on the movement of nuclear technology. The Security Council is concerned with the nuclear program in Iran because Iran has kept the nuclear enrichment process hidden for a number of years and because of hostile comments made by President Ahmadinejad stating that Israel should be wiped off the map. 16 The Security Council has continued to be the main forum for debate and negotiations with regards to the Iranian nuclear program.
The Security Council, although empowered with the overarching mandate to ensure International peace and security has proven to be largely ineffective in resolving conflicts. The Security Council has no independent power to act on its own initiative, and its actions and resolutions are created at the behest of its member countries, countries which pursue their own self interested foreign policies.
1 UNSC Website: Functions of the Security Council http://www.un.org/Docs/sc/unsc_functions.html
2 UN General Progress Report and Supplementary Report of the UN conciliation Commission for Palestine – 11 December 1949 to 23 October 1950
3 UN Security Council Resolution 242
4 UN Security Council Resolution 242
6 See: Doran Zimmermann (2004), Tangled Skein or Gordian Knot: Iran and Syria as State Supporters of Political Violence Movements in Lebanon and in the Palestinian Territories, in Zuercher Beitraege 70. See: http://www.crn.ethz.ch/publications/crn_team/detail.cfm?lng=en;id=32663
(accessed 2 December 2007).
7 UN Security Council Resolution 425
8 Amnesty International “Israel/Lebanon Under fire: Hizbullah’s attacks on northern Israel”
10 United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon Website “http://www.un.org/Depts/dpko/missions/unifil/”
11 UN Charter : Chapter 7 ACTION WITH RESPECT TO THREATS TO THE PEACE, BREACHES OF THE PEACE, AND ACTS OF AGGRESSION
12 SC Resolution 1441
13 George Bush White House “President Discusses Beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom” http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2003/03/20030322.html
14 U.S. Department of State ” Security Resolutions Concerning Iraq”
15 Russia, China Block Tough Iran Sanctions, U.S. Claims
16 Aljazeera.net ” Ahmadinejad: Wipe Israel off map”