From 26 resumes examined by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Rolf Ekeus, the former executive chairman of UNSCOM and present Swedish ambassador to the UN, was nominated by Annan as the next chief weapons inspector for Iraq.
The decision is certainly puzzling, not only because Ekeus is the wrong man for the job, but also due to the fact that Annan appeared to be genuine in his efforts of re-paving the road toward the easing of the sanctions. Such a goal is now becoming harder to achieve, since Annan's choice is already receiving criticism from several parties, including Iraq.
Iraq has its own reasons to reject Ekeus's appointment, as do Russia, France and China. Ekeus, who lead the inspectors to Iraq in the aftermath of the Gulf War in 1991, was criticized by Iraq for prolonging the costly sanctions. That viewpoint was once more repeated by Tariq Aziz, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister, who spoke to reporters in Spain on Monday, Jan 17. "It was he (Ekeus) who deliberately extended work for six years. And it was he who allowed the inspectors to spy on Iraq," Aziz said.
But it is not only Iraq that was dissatisfied with Annan's choice. Russia, France and China objected as well. While the Russian ambassador to the UN, Sergey Lavrov bluntly rejected the nomination, France and China sent letters to the Security Council President, US Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, saying that they simply cannot accept Ekeus, as his return shall harden the resumption of weapons inspections.
And Ekeus' return, if approved, shall indeed jeopardize progress, on the road toward lifting the sanctions, which makes one wonder what motivated Annan to add fire to an already inflamed dilemma? Aside from his association with the former commission accused of spying on Iraq, Ekeus surpassed his duties when he cut a deal with Iraq to gain access to so-called "sensitive sites" in 1996. The special procedure used by Ekeus then was not specified or called for by the UN resolutions. Six years of inspections, lead by Ekeus, have indeed brought no end to the devastating sanctions. Although many consider that a repulsive failure, the United States and its patrons in the UN were very pleased by the great accomplishment of the Swedish inspector and his dedicated team for succeeding to dismantle a great deal of weapons of mass destruction.
The United States, in fact, cannot be any happier with regards to Annan's choice. US Ambassador, Richard Holbrooke who enthusiastically supported the nomination told reporters that Annan had been "exhaustive, diligent, fair-minded and impartial" in the selection. The United States' excitement over the selection, fully aware of its negative impact, indicates that it is in no rush to find a way out of the deadlock, lengthening thereafter the sanctions and their fatal affects. But that comes as no surprise since the United States made it crystal clear that it has no interest in lifting the sanctions as long as current Iraqi leadership is still in power. Why therefore, does it matter for Holbrooke whether Ekeus leads the new commission or a fellow from the third world?
Strangely enough, the United States, eager to continue its sanctions and ceaseless bombardment, is also careful to act as if it is the defender of legitimacy and international law. Rolf Ekeus, for six years provided that excuse which Americans have used to re-approve the sanctions time and again. During his term as a chief UN inspector, Ekeus mastered the political game of the sanctions and truly played it well. Only one or two weeks before the vote on extending or halting the sanctions, Ekeus appeared before the cameras, as if his timely appearance was coincidental and revealed "horrific details about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction." That declaration has always been used by the sanctions-thirsty United States to extend the terms of sanctions. Ekeus has therefore succeeded in justifying the US aggression against Iraq.
And now, as Aziz put it, Annan is putting, "old wine in new bottles." UN spokesman Fred Eckhard told reporters on Tuesday, Jan 19, that twenty-five candidates where already considered and rejected. It is appalling however, that the one who was declared to be the "right choice" was the one expected to be rejected by permanent Security Council members, in addition to Iraq and several other countries including Egypt.
If the nomination of Ekeus is valuable at all, it is because of the message it sends. It is evident that the assembling of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), approved by the council in Dec 17, 1999, is a reinvention of an old worn tactic aimed at manipulating and extending the sanctions which have claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis. Accepting Annan's nomination is thus admitting a destructive policy back in Iraq. The nomination of Ekeus and the reinforcement of any unfair measures should be wholeheartedly rejected, not only by Iraq, Russia and other UN members, but also by all of those concerned for the precious lives of innocents.