Iraq took another giant step forward toward a brighter future yesterday as the United Nations Security Council lifted the last of the remaining sanctions that the international body had imposed on the nation while Saddam Hussein was in charge. Iraqis will now be free to pursue a civilian nuclear power program, take full control of their oil and gas revenues and put the last vestiges of the UN’s oil-for-food racket behind them. It’s another symbolic moment, a milestone that confirms the fact that – whether one believes the price paid was worth it or not – America and our allies have achieved something remarkable in this far-off land.
“This basically is a recognition by the international community of the efforts and progress that has been made in Iraq up to this point to rejoin the international community and their commitment to living within the guidelines of the international community,” a State Department official told FoxNews.com. “It’s a new day for Iraq. It obviously lifts them from the many restrictions that were there under a different era.”
The Security Council passed three key resolutions. In the first, the UN removed the ban that forbade Iraq to acquire weapons of mass destruction. That’s a symbolic gesture, since Iraq’s constitution bars the nation from doing so and since it is party to the major nuclear, biological and chemical weapons treaties designed to prevent the proliferation of WMD. The nation can pursue the development of nuclear power if it wishes, but whether that makes any sense in country so abundant in fossil fuel is a matter of debate. What matters here is the message. The major players in the world now agree that Iraq is no longer viewed as a threat, but as a trusted partner. No one believes that Iraqi instability is sufficient to threaten the nation’s democratically elected regime. It’s not that UN sanctions are ever all that terribly effective anyway, but when the Security Council does away with the pretense, that event represents measurable progress.
The second resolution returned full control of Iraq’s oil and gas revenues to its government. Contrary to popular leftist lore, Iraq’s petrodollars never flowed into the pockets of Exxon-Mobil or other big oil companies. Instead, the Development Fund For Iraq, an internationally-managed organization, was created in 2003 to ensure that profits from the sale oil and gas were used to benefit the Iraqi people. On June 30, 2011 the fund will cease to exist and the Iraqis themselves will have complete control over their economic future. It’s hard to imagine this happening even three years ago. The malice and distrust between the oil-rich north dominated by the Kurds, the oil-rich south dominated by Shiites and the resource-poor center dominated by Sunnis was palatable. The Development Fund existed in large part because no one trusted any of the three major factions to share the wealth on a national basis. And yet, as the result of long, hard and no doubt tedious negotiations, most everyone in Iraq seems satisfied with their slice of the national pie today.
The final piece of the puzzle, declaring the official end of the oil-for-food program, does much more to put an episode that was awfully embarrassing to the UN in the international body’s rear view mirror than accomplishing anything meaningful for Iraq. The oil-for-food cesspool festered from 1996 to 2003. The idea was certainly noble: to allow Saddam Hussein’s Iraq to sell oil on the world market, but to limit the use of the profits to buying food and medicine for the people in Iraq who were suffering under sanctions imposed after the First Gulf War. The problem was that the UN ran the program and the UN could give the Chicago Machine lessons in corruption. UN inspectors grew rich, Saddam was able to rearm and his sons were able to maintain their lavish lifestyles. The 2003 invasion of Iraq effectively put an end to the corruption, but the program remained nominally in place until the UN drew the final curtain this week.
We can debate, and we certainly will continue to do so, whether our motivations for invading Iraq were justified, whether the expense was worth it and whether the price our men and women in uniform ultimately paid justified the ends. But, no one should dispute the fact that the United States and our allies have won an incredible victory that – in the darkest days of the war – few thought was possible. Thanks to the dedication and professionalism of our armed forces and the gutty tenacity of a few brave leaders, modern-day Iraq now stands as a bulwark of liberty and self-determination, lying squarely in the middle of the troubled Muslim world. Might the situation in Iraq still unravel? It could, but each passing day makes that prospect less likely. Many skeptics believed that regime-change could never be effective in a distant land dominated by an alien religion and unfamiliar cultural values. Our Iraq experience suggests something else. Perhaps the virtues of liberty and democratic institutions are obvious to all, regardless of race, culture and creed. Perhaps, given the time and security necessary to do so, people of any tradition would appreciate the innate worth of having a voice in deciding their own futures. Maybe – just maybe – Iraq’s new dawn also represents a new dawn for the rest of the civilized world. This week’s actions by the UN seem to suggest that is indeed the case. Iraq’s challenge, and our challenge, and the challenge faced by the rest of the free world is simple: to ensure that Iraq continues to shine the light of liberty and freedom in the Mideast.