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Context of 'December 8, 2002: US Bribes Head of UN Security Council to Provide Unabridged Copy of Iraqi Declaration; US Will Censor Documents'

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Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri meets with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Arab League Secretary-General Amir Moussa and gives them a letter expressing Baghdad’s willingness to readmit the UN weapons inspectors without conditions. The offer is made after Saddam Hussein convened an emergency meeting in Baghdad with his cabinet and the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC). [Associated Press, 9/16/2002; Associated Press, 9/16/2002; Independent, 9/17/2002; New York Times, 9/17/2002] Iraq’s letter is effectively an agreement to the December 1999 UN Security Council Resolution 1284. [New York Times, 9/18/2002] Kofi Annan tells reporters after the meeting, “I can confirm to you that I have received a letter from the Iraqi authorities conveying its decision to allow the return of the inspectors without conditions to continue their work and has also agreed that they are ready to start immediate discussions on the practical arrangements for the return of the inspectors to resume their work.” Annan credits the Arab League, which he says “played a key role” in influencing Saddam Hussein’s decision to accept the inspectors, and suggests that a recent speech by Bush also played a critical part in influencing Baghdad’s decision. [UN News Center, 9/16/2002] UNMOVIC Chief Weapons Inspector Hans Blix also meets with Iraqi officials and it is reportedly agreed that weapons inspectors will return to Iraq on October 19. UNMOVIC spokesman Ewen Buchanan tells the BBC, “We are ready to discuss practical measures, such as helicopters, hotels, the installation of monitoring equipment and so on, which need to be put in place.” [BBC, 9/17/2002] The Bush administration immediately rejects the offer, calling it “a tactical step by Iraq in hopes of avoiding strong UN Security Council action,” in a statement released by the deputy press secretary. [Agence France-Presse, 9/16/2002; White House, 9/16/2002] And Dan Bartlett, the White House communications director, tells reporters: “We’ve made it very clear that we are not in the business of negotiating with Saddam Hussein. We are working with the UN Security Council to determine the most effective way to reach our goal.” He then claims Iraq’s offer is a tactic to give “false hope to the international community that [President Saddam] means business this time,” adding, “Unfortunately, his more than decade of experience shows you can put very little into his words or deeds.” Two days later Bush will tell reporters that Saddam’s offer is “his latest ploy, his latest attempt not to be held accountable for defying the United Nations,” adding: “He’s not going to fool anybody. We’ve seen him before…. We’ll remind the world that, by defying resolutions, he’s become more and more of a threat to world peace. [The world] must rise up and deal with this threat, and that’s what we expect the Security Council to do.” [Independent, 9/17/2002; Agence France-Presse, 9/19/2002] Later that night, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice reportedly hold a conference call with Kofi Annan and accuse him of taking matters into his own hands. [Vanity Fair, 5/2004, pp. 285] Britain supports the US position and calls for a UN resolution backed with the threat of force. [BBC, 9/17/2002] Other nations react differently to the offer. For example, Russia’s Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, says: “It’s important that, through our joint efforts, we have managed to put aside the threat of a war scenario around Iraq and return the process to a political channel… It is essential in the coming days to resolve the issue of the inspectors’ return. For this, no new [Security Council] resolutions are needed.” [Independent, 9/17/2002; BBC, 9/17/2002]

Entity Tags: Hans Blix, Naji Sabri Hadithi, Kofi Annan, Dan Bartlett, Condoleezza Rice, Scott McClellan, Amir Moussa, Colin Powell, United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, Saddam Hussein

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

The Bush administration disagrees with the United Nations and other member states over what precisely should qualify as a “material breach” of UN Resolution 1441 (see November 8, 2002). The UN and other nations believe that only serious violations should count. The US, however, takes the position that any violation, no matter how small, should be considered a material breach and thus sufficient cause for using military force against Iraq. The difference in opinion is acknowledged by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who says, “The US does seem… to have a lower threshold than others may have” to justify the use of military force. He also says, “I think the discussion in the council made it clear we should be looking for something serious and meaningful, and not for excuses to do something.” President Bush, reflecting the stance of his hawkish advisors, says the Security Council should have “zero tolerance,” implying that even minor infractions could be considered a “material breach.” [Washington Post, 11/17/2002 Sources: US and UN officials] Colin Powell and Vice President Cheney contend that the delay of, or omissions and inaccuracies in, Iraq’s early December declaration would constitute a breach. Iraq is warned to this effect. [Evening News With Dan Rather, 11/21/2002; Observer, 12/8/2002] During a dinner meeting on November 18, Hans Blix reminds a close aide to Saddam Hussein that a failure to meet the deadline would be considered by the United States to be a “material breach.” [Independent, 11/20/2002]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Kofi Annan, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, United Nations

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

The UN Security Council decides that it will not release Iraq’s declaration to any of the member states once it has been received. “UN experts would first scrutinize the document—expected to run to several thousand pages—to check that sensitive information is not made public,” explains the London Times, adding, “That could take weeks.” [London Times, 12/7/2002; New York Times, 12/7/2002]

Entity Tags: United Nations Security Council

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

US Secretary of State Colin Powell successfully pressures the UN Security Council’s president, Colombian ambassador to the United Nations Alfonso Valdivieso, to override the Council’s December 6 decision (see December 6, 2002) that no country be permitted access to an unabridged copy of Iraq’s declaration. “The United States had initially accepted the argument Friday but then changed its mind over the weekend, holding consultations between capitals,” reports the Associated Press. “Eventually US officials instructed Colombian Ambassador Alfonso Valdivieso, the current Security Council president, to hand over the complete copy of the declaration, which to the astonishment of many in the UN halls, he did.” [Associated Press, 12/9/2002; New York Times, 12/10/2002; New York Times, 12/21/2002] The Council president normally makes decisions only when there is a consensus of all 15 members. Notably, the US had promised Colombia a substantial increase in military aid less than a week beforehand. [New York Times, 12/10/2002] Under the new “decision,” only those countries with “the expertise to assess the risk of proliferation and other sensitive information” will be permitted to access the documents. The only countries that are considered qualified according to this criteria are the five permanent members. The other ten council members, including Syria, will only be allowed to view the declaration after translation, analysis and censorship of “sensitive material.” Syria and Norway are infuriated by the move. [Associated Press, 12/9/2002; Associated Press, 12/9/2002; New York Times, 12/10/2002; Washington Times, 12/12/2002] The photocopying of the documents will be done exclusively by the US. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan will later acknowledge that the job should have been delegated to a less partial party. [London Times, 12/10/2002; Washington Times, 12/12/2002] The US will remove 3,200 pages of documents before turning the Iraqi documents over to the UN Security Council. [Carter, 2004, pp. 98-99]

Entity Tags: Kofi Annan, Alfonso Valdivieso, Colin Powell

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

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