Coalitions of the Willing
By Dr Shireen M. Mazari

Post-9/11, the United States, along with its allies, has pushed forward an interesting approach to getting through its global agendas, when international consensus for them is not forthcoming, through the UN Security Council. This approach of forming "coalitions of the willing" to bypass the UNSC was most starkly reflected in the invasion of Iraq; but it is also being reflected in the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) and the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactors (ITER) project, which India was invited to join last December and as a result of which India will now have free access to thermonuclear technology. This is a most dangerous trend of global interventions and a group of states allocating to themselves certain international prerogatives outside of the framework of the UNSC and international law, and it may well be operationalized in the context of the Iran nuclear issue.
Clearly, the US, France and the UK have been unable to convince Russia and China on the need to push through an open-ended UNSC resolution censuring Iran which would leave the way open for sanctions almost automatically. So now, the EU is seeking to make some "attractive" proposals to Iran. If Iran rejects these offers then we may see the EU and US using this as a pretext for imposing penalties outside of the UNSC.
In fact, at present, the US seems to be unwilling to accept the international community's desire for dialogue between itself and Iran. UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan's call for the same has found no positive response from the US, reflecting once again its disregard for the views of the international community. In any event, it seems a little absurd for the US to refuse to accept calls for a dialogue from the Iranian side, given that so far there are only alleged violations of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) on the part of Iran.
This is in complete contrast to the North Korean case where the country left the NPT and declared it had acquired nuclear weapons. In response to this open challenge to the NPT, the US accepted the Chinese initiative of six-party talks, which are presently stalled. Despite this, the US has continued in efforts to restart the talks rather than seeking recourse to the UNSC.
So why is the US not prepared to talk directly through multilateral talks with Iran? And, equally important, why is the EU not pushing for such talks instead of simply trying to act as US surrogates when Iran knows only too well that the EU cannot make any commitment on behalf of the US? Should we assume that the difference between North Korea and Iran is the religious factor; or should we believe that the US is still suffering from an Iran trauma post-revolution and the hostage crisis?
Of course, if traumas can be so long lasting then Iran would have equal reason to desist from any contact with the US, given how the US intervened to overthrow a nationalist Iranian government and install the monarchy in Tehran! In any event, the US seemed quite willing to talk with Tehran during the Bonn process meetings on Afghanistan and also apparently on Iraq. Finally, on this issue, with the US now having itself contravened Articles I and III:2 of the NPT by signing the nuclear deal with India, how can it penalize Iran for alleged violations?
Whatever the case, the latest EU move of making yet another "offer" to Iran to forego effectively its rights under the NPT, seems a first step towards moving against Iran outside of the UNSC framework and therefore should be viewed with caution. After all, the EU knows Iran will not give up its right to low grade enrichment of uranium as allowed for under the NPT, so their demand that Iran halt all enrichment is neither fair nor plausible -- especially since many other NPT signatories like Japan, Australia and European states themselves also enrich uranium. What would have been more relevant was to get Iran to ratify the Additional Protocol and to resume observing its clauses as it had been doing earlier without the ratification. After all, it should be incumbent on all states to abide by all their international commitments, including treaty commitments.
Or else, the EU could offer talks on the model of the six-party talks involving the US, Russia, China, North Korea and its two important neighbors, South Korea and Japan. With Iran, the talks could involve the EU, the US, Russia and China -- and perhaps the UN Secretary General. The fact that the EU and the US are simply not prepared for dialogue on the nuclear issue with Iran shows a mala fide intent to create a scenario where a coalition of the willing can be put together to deal with Iran punitively -- something the international community through the UNSC is not prepared to accept at present.
It is in this context of the notion of coalitions of the willing that the new course being charted by NATO should also be a cause for concern for the international community, especially Asian states because this seems to be the new operational theatre being sought by NATO. Given that NATO's membership remains European and Atlantic, are these states going to decide on the strategic dynamics of Asia? It seems NATO is going to be one of the instrumentalities for carrying out the agendas of future coalitions of the willing -- as long as NATO consensus can be acquired, which was not possible in Iraq!
Some in Pakistan feel NATO offers possibilities for Pakistan through cooperative agreements but what will happen if such an agreement compels Pakistan to cooperate with NATO against one of its neighbors in the future -- be it Iran or even China in the distant future? A visiting Polish dignitary, on a recent visit to Islamabad, made a public statement that NATO was looking at the notion of expeditionary forces being sent to various parts of the world.
This expansion of the NATO agenda, from one of a limited collective defense organization to a collective security organization, with restrictive membership, has no legitimacy in international law or international norms today, since the UNSC is the only international collective security organization sanctioned by the international community.
The argument that NATO functions more effectively because it has better resources and so on, does not hold since member states of the UN have chosen to deny this capability to the UN through the Security Council despite Chapter VII, Articles 42-47, which include provisions for a UN Military Staff Committee. To keep the UNSC without its teeth and then rationalize the expanding agenda and operational milieu of NATO seems a self-serving intent on the part of the US, France and Britain.
No matter what the lures may be in the short term regarding NATO and coalitions of the willing, for states like Pakistan moving outside of the framework of the UN is wrought with problems since coalitions of the willing observe no international norms or laws except those, if any, that may suit their agendas at a particular time even as they undermine international consensus and the legitimacy of the UN and its organs.
(The writer is director general of the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad. Courtesy The News)

 


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