A Road to Peace With Iraq

Europe's Choice

by Hans Van Sponeck and Jan Oberg

Dissident Voice
February 18, 2003



This comprehensive peace proposal was submitted to Feature editor Robert Donahue, the International Herald Tribune on December 5. On December 19, Donahue accepted the article for publication by e-mail. Then nothing happened. On February 6, however, Mr. Donahue told us that he had let another editor read the article. This editor "didn't like the article and thought that many of its points were unrealistic - and I respect my colleague," he said over the phone. So the International Herald Tribune changed its mind and hoped we would accept their apology. On February 17, the European Council of the EU came together and began formulating a common foreign policy in relation to the Iraq crisis.


The International Herald Tribune made a politically motivated turnaround and effectively wasted exactly two months of this proposal's life in the public debate. We are proud to publish the original manuscript with all its "unrealistic" points intact:



Unfortunately, UN Security Council Resolution 1441 does not free concerned citizens from thinking of alternatives to the planned war against and occupation of Iraq. Even in the unlikely event of a complete Iraqi compliance acceptable to the United States, the resolution, unlike earlier ones, does not promise Iraq the lifting or even the suspension of sanctions.


As long as war is "the only plan in town" there is a grave danger that war will be seen as a solution. Given our experience with the Iraqi people, the UN, and conflict-mitigation in various parts of the world, we object to war being the only option. In fact, it is no solution at all. A pre-emptive war will be a clear-cut violation of the UN Charter and international law, both in its letter and spirit, and of humanity's intellectual and moral capacity. In short, a legal and moral defeat for those who start it.


The real intellectual, political and moral challenge is this: What can be done to move towards a genuine solution of this manifest conflict other than war and occupation? Or, more philosophically, how do we learn to clash as civilised human beings rather than as brutes?


What follows are suggestions that we see as relevant to a European debate. We identify these out of protest over the prospect of mass killing and intensified suffering of the Iraqi people, combat soldiers of Iraq, US and other nationalities, and citizens of neighbouring countries.*


1. Safeguards must be identified for the UN arms inspectors to be able to do their work without external or internal interference. Should interference occur, it must be reported to the UN Security Council. UN arms inspectors providing intelligence services to governments must be dismissed immediately.


2. The free press and non-governmental organisations must significantly step up their analysis and reporting to challenge war propaganda and disinformation of the ground realities in Iraq. In almost all nations, there are now clear majorities against a war. Democracies need honest information and open debates, not disinformation and psycho-warfare against their citizens.


3. If Western governments refuse to listen to Iraqi arguments, they must at least listen to the Arab League, which is clearly against war as a means to solve the conflict.


4. There is a strong argument for dialogue, explorative talks, and later structured negotiations between the US or other Western countries and Iraq. The Secretary-General of the United Nations, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, must take such a step now. He can do so according to Article 99 of the Charter and he is obliged by Article 100 to not seek instructions from any government. The UN must be reminded of its essential peace mission to "save succeeding generations from the scourge of war" and never serve to legitimise wars before everything else has been tried. A consistent, visionary mediation and negotiation process has not been tried by any government or organisation thus far.


5. The European Union professes to have a common foreign and security policy as well as a new conflict-management unit. But this does not seem to apply to the case of Iraq. Prime Minister Blair supports the war option, President Chirac rejects "automaticity" in the UN Security Council, while Chancellor Schroeder says no to the military option. Sweden endorses war if based on a future UN mandate. Denmark, which presently holds the Presidency, will participate in a war provided there is a UN mandate. Neither Denmark nor Sweden has a diplomatic presence in Baghdad.


In short, the EU as an inter-governmental body has no policy! But it could.


Two EU hearings on Iraq in 2001 - 2 have not produced a European Iraq policy that has made any difference to the international debate. This is worrisome, particularly since European political and economic stability and the future of the anti-terrorism coalition are at stake. The EU is internationally increasingly perceived as a 'follower' instead of as a leader in the discussion of global issues. Disappointment about European Union complacency is growing, particularly in the Middle East.


There are a number of steps which the EU and individual member governments would have to take to show that the political will and determination exist to make a difference in dealing with issues so vital to peace and security. The EU simply cannot sit, wait, and watch the United States go it alone like in the Balkans and Afghanistan. Its creative "niche" is genuinely political, peace by peaceful means as stated in the UN Charter, not to imitate the military might of the U.S. It won't be able to match the US in that respect, and it should not. This is what the EU - and other concerned governments - could do and should do quickly:


6. Encourage media and parliamentary delegations to visit Baghdad and see and listen and dialogue with Iraqis at various levels. Iraq is not one man, it is 23 million fellow citizens. They have points of views, hopes, and fears like all of us.


7. Move towards re-establishing embassies. It is a scandal that many government do not have any representation and, thus, cannot collect first-hand facts and impressions and make their own independent analyses on which to base their policies.


8. Encourage trade and investments with Iraq first inside the sanctions framework, and later outside it, should the United States and others uphold the sanctions regime ad absurdum.


9. Establish a contact group, perhaps in liaison with China, Russia, and others who want to prevent war and find peaceful solutions. Apart from mitigating the conflict and establishing some initial trust between the world and Iraq, the group should plan for a comprehensive regional conferences, somewhat like the OSCE process for Europe that had such ground-breaking results from its start almost 30 years ago.


10. Work for a just peace in the Middle East in general and in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Iraq issue is not unrelated to it. Acknowledge that US initiatives have failed and that we need other completely impartial mediators in that process.


11. Develop a new security regime for the whole region and honour, finally, UN SC Resolution 687 that requires that the Middle East shall become a zone free of weapons of mass destruction. On a more general level, it is time to realise that the threat of WMD will only increase as long as holders of nuclear weapons ignore their obligations to completely disarm their nuclear arsenals according to the Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1968. Full compliance and access to nuclear sites everywhere would be a natural corollary to preventing new states from acquiring WMD.


12. Develop a new security regime that would include economic, political, environmental, and other essential aspects of security and prohibit new military trade and establishment of bases in this already grotesquely over-militarised region.


13. Inform the United States about all such initiatives when they are launched but develop them independently. The EU should not be deterred if the United States objects to them.


14. What about Saddam Hussein and regime change? This is not part of our program. This is for the people of Iraq to decide. But if they want to oust the President, contemporary history makes one thing abundantly clear: such changes succeed only with non-violent struggle, civil disobedience, and alternative government based on integrity and participation; in short, democracy with democratic means. Violence will only replace one authoritarian elite with another.


Peace is possible. Peace can be learnt. Peace is the only battle worth waging, as Albert Camus once said. And we must find peace with fellow global citizens. We plead to the United States government to be with the world and not against it.


* A US-led attack on Iraq could kill between 48,000 and 260,000 civilians and combatants in just the first three months of conflict, according to a study by medical and public health experts. Post-war health effects could take an additional 200,000 lives. (The report, "Collateral Damage: The Health and Environmental Costs of War on Iraq," was issued by International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), recipient of the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize, and produced by Medact, the organisation's United Kingdom affiliate.) The study adds that if the conflict spreads to Israel-Palestine and if weapons of mass destruction are used, there could be 3,9 million dead. No political, economic or psychological motive can ever legitimate that!


Hans von Sponeck is a former UN Assistant Secretary General & United Nation Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq. He is an Associate of the Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research (TFF) in Sweden. Jan Oberg is TFF’s Director (http://www.transnational.org). © Copyright Hans Van Sponeck, Jan Oberg and TFF 2003.







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