UN was bypassed over 'no fly' zone: The decision by the allies to intervene in Iraq is not authorised by the Security Council, writes Leonard Doyle in New York

HUMANITARIAN aid officials were wondering yesterday why the allies waited until the Republican convention in Houston before intervening in Iraq, when they have been trying to draw attention to the Marsh Arabs and others for more than a year.

Iraq's defiance of the UN on every front, from its treatment of the Marsh Arabs, to its refusal to sell oil under UN terms and its obstructiveness towards UN weapons inspectors, has contributed to Saddam Hussein's image as a survivor. The decision to blockade a large swathe of his airspace, and the threat of renewed military action is the first step in a campaign to humiliate and if possible destroy the Iraqi leader.

The most likely flashpoints for military action are the protection of the Marsh Arabs, the enforcement of Iraq's new border with Kuwait and the actions of UN weapons inspectors.

The United Nations was not consulted before yesterday's decision by the United States, Britain and France to declare a 'no fly' zone over southern Iraq. The allies said they would shoot Iraqi aircraft caught flying in the area. Nor does any UN Security Council resolution authorise the actions in the name of the besieged Marsh Arabs and rebel Shias.

Instead, the allies were acting under a controversial principle of international law that permits military intervention in cases of grave humanitarian abuse. The military intervention to protect the Kurdish refugees a year ago was carried out on the same principle. Humanitarian abuses were not enough to provoke the US and its allies to create a similar zone in Bosnia, however, despite appeals from the government in Sarajevo - which underlines the political motivation of yesterday's action against Iraq.

Yesterday's initiative follows a vivid report to the UN Security Council last week by Max van der Stoel, the human rights rapporteur on Iraq, in which he complained that Baghdad was systematically trying to eradicate the centuries-old culture of the Marsh Arabs by bombing villages and uprooting residents and sending them to other parts of the country. But, while Mr van der Stoel's report laid the groundwork for the decision to create a 'no fly' zone, the extent of the area now out of bounds to Iraqi military aircraft - all Iraqi territory south of the 32nd parallel - is far larger than that being used by the Iraqi military to crush rebels and root out Shias hiding in the marshlands created by the confluence of the Euphrates and the Tigris rivers.

The air exclusion zone is but one of the many weapons at the disposal of the allies, as the political desire to humiliate Saddam Hussein increases with the approach of the US presidential election. Should Iraq refuse once again to allow UN weapons inspectors access to government buildings, the allies can act under the ceasefire resolution 687 and take military action. There is every indication that the UN inspectors in Iraq decided against provoking such an incident yesterday, because of the widespread publicity about their mission and the allegations that the UN was acting to promote President Bush's political agenda.

There will be room for action against Iraq should the UN humanitarian envoy, Jan Eliasson, fail to persuade the Iraqi government to renew an agreement allowing the UN to deploy hundreds of guards throughout the country to protect humanitarian aid. If Mr Eliasson does not get such assurances, he is expected to inform the Security Council that Baghdad is making peaceful humanitarian intervention impossible.

Another looming dispute expected to touch off a military confrontation with Iraq just in time for the US election is the border dispute between Iraq and Kuwait, which has been settled by a UN border commission which Iraq boycotted. The contested new border gives Kuwait back large chunks of land it has lost since 1950, including the naval base at Umm Qasr and big dockworks and industrial infrastructure worth billions of dollars to the south of the city. The UN plan also gives Kuwait control of Iraq's only outlet to the sea at the mouth of Umm Qasr.

Iraq has rejected the findings of the UN border commission, but the Security Council is expected to ratify them this week, and order that the border be marked out anew in September.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Arts and Entertainment
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths
Life and Style
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
Amazon misled consumers about subscription fees, the ASA has ruled
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Lettings and Sales Negotiator - OTE £46,000

£16000 - £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Home Care Worker - Reading and Surrounding Areas

£9 - £13 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a s...

Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn