Professor Colleen Graffy is Director of Global Programs and associate professor of international law at Pepperdine University in London. She was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State at the US State Department from 2005-2009.
Anyone watching the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq invasion would be forgiven for being confused about the legal argument for using force against Iraq. This article will attempt to break down into layman’s terms the background and legal reasoning behind the use of force against Saddam Hussein.
After Saddam invaded Kuwait, the Security Council adopted UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 678 authorising use of “all necessary means” to uphold various Security Council resolutions demanding Iraq’s withdrawal from Kuwait and the restoration of peace and security in the area. At the end of the Gulf War, the Security Council imposed cease-fire obligations on Iraq. These included returning Kuwaiti prisoners, returning artefacts stolen from the Kuwaiti museums and an end to Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programmes.
Adherence to this cease-fire agreement (UNSCR 687) was considered essential to the restoration of peace and security in the area. Unfortunately, Iraq did not comply with the cease-fire agreement. And so the Security Council passed further resolutions under what is called “Chapter VII”. Chapter VII resolutions, as opposed to Chapter VI resolutions, authorise the use of force and indicates how seriously the world community views the actions of the errant state.
Saddam’s recalcitrant behaviour and the world’s natural and appropriate disinclination to use force led to proscribed peaceful alternatives including negotiation, diplomacy and economic sanctions. And still Saddam refused to comply. In 1993 coalition forces used force against Iraq in response to Iraqi violations of mandated weapons inspections. The UN Secretary General stated publicly that the coalition “had received a mandate from the Security Council according to Resolution 678, and the cause of the raid was the violation by Iraq of Resolution 687 concerning the cease-fire. He went on to say that the action taken “conforms to the resolutions of the Security Council and conformed to the Charter of the United Nations.” On January 13, 1993 the United Kingdom and France joined the US in conducting air raids on sites in southern Iraq. No new resolution authorising “all necessary means” was deemed necessary.