The Role of the United Nations in the Persian Gulf Crisis According to International Relations Theories
The United Nations was formed in 1945 in the wake of World War II as a way to reduce international tensions, promote human rights, and reduce the possibility of other large-scale conflicts (Hayes, 2020). The United Nations is the world’s main organization for deliberating matters of peace and security, but its work encompasses far more than peacekeeping and conflict prevention. The UN system includes scores of entities dedicated to a range of areas including health and humanitarian needs and economic and cultural development (Shendruk, Hillard and Roy, 2020).
The two most important features of the system are that it is collective and organized. The system operates under certain rules. In this context, it is necessary to find and organize actors with mutual relations within the "International System". The most important actors of the International System are states. International relations and the system have a dynamic structure. As a result of this dynamic structure, international organizations have been included in the international system. Today, The United Nations is one of the most important actors of the international system.
If we examine the role of the UN in the Gulf crisis based on international relations theories; "On 2 August 1990 Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, a tiny oil-producing state in the Persian Gulf. The United Nations demanded Iraqi withdrawal and imposed a trade embargo. A US-led coalition force made up of nearly one million service personnel from 32 countries, including 53,457 from the United Kingdom, was assembled to expel the Iraqis should diplomacy failThe United Nations set a deadline of 15 January 1991 for Iraqi forces to leave Kuwait. This deadline was ignored. The air war began on 17 January with coalition aircraft flying over 100,000 sorties. Land operations started on 24 February and were successfully concluded in just five days. Saddam Hussein remained in power in Iraq and subsequent sanctions left the country economically crippled and internationally isolated." (Charman, 2018).
If we look at this crisis from a realist theory perspective; We can say that international organizations such as the UN are beneficial for strong states. Major hegemonic forces cooperate with institutions like the UN. In this crisis, the UN served the interests of the USA. Because there were very rich oil reserves in Kuwait. At the same time, Kuwait was under the control of the USA. It was unacceptable that Iraq invaded this place and became an important power in the Middle East. On the other hand, Iraq fought a war with Iran, which caused serious damage. Iraq's foreign debt was too high, its economy was in a very bad state. Iraq wanted to have an important position in the Middle East by taking over Kuwait. At the same time, Iraq was a strategic power in the Middle East with its relations with the USSR. In short, Iraq was a great danger. Because if the balance of power changed, the influence of the USA in the Middle East would decrease. Therefore, the UN first condemned this aggressive behavior by Iraq. Then, UN warned Iraq to withdraw from the region. When Iraq ignored this, an economic embargo was imposed. The UN Security Council asked for military assistance from other non-permanent countries. Because the UN Security Council have to consider the interests of its permanent members. Middle-East oil was economically important for Europe and the USA. The UN was an institution created by the USA and the USA was using the UN for their own benefit. We can say that this crisis served the interests of the USA for the UN. From realist perspective, international organizations are seen as institutions that need to protect the interests of strong states. Therefore, the UN is not an independent organization either.
For the liberalists, the UN served as a bridge in this crisis. The UN Security council first imposed an economic embargo on Iraq. The UN didn't react the US send troops to the region. This made things easier for hegemon powers. If the UN had not implemented an economic embargo, Iraq could continue to buy military supplies and sell its oil. If the UN didn't interfere, the US would go directly into a war with Iraq. The UN ensured that a regional conflict didn't turn into a global conflict. Some countries took advantage of the economic embargo and gained economic interests in Iraq. We see that the UN has actually benefited strong states. So, economic interests can be protected if states and international organizations cooperate.
According to Marxists, the UN served the interests of the imperialist states. According to them, international organizations should follow an independent policy. The Middle-East has already been exploited by imperial states throughout history. Major states consider only their strategic and economic interests in these regions. This was also the case in the crisis. The UN has done nothing to correct the injustice brought about by this colonialism. Colonial powers have become stronger by controlling the Middle-East in this crisis as well as throughout history.
Feminists emphasize that everyone deciding in this crisis is male and the absence of women. The representatives of the UN Security Council and its member states are all men. Women were left out in all decisions in this crisis. In short, the fact that the decision makers are men in this crisis shows us that gender discrimination is made. Moreover, the implementation of the economic embargo has been a major disaster for women and children living in Iraq. Because child mortality rates have increased. At the same time, situations such as malnutrition and inability to meet basic requirements have emerged. At this point, we can say that women and children are the most affected by the war. For feminists, the interests of the hegemon states are higher than women and children.
According to constructivists, Iraq was against the rules and norms and acted aggressively in this crisis. Iraq disregarded international law and the integrity of Kuwait. A behavior contrary to the social structure was exhibited. For this reason, the UN had to intervene. Because of this aggressive behavior by Iraq, other countries have united and cooperated.
Charman, T. (2018). What Was The Gulf War? https://www.iwm.org.uk/history/what-was-the-gulf-war. Date of Access: 26.04.2020.
Hayes, A. (2020). United Nations (UN) https://www.investopedia.com/terms/u/united-nations-un.asp. Date of Accesss: 25.04.2020.
Shendruk, A., Hillard, L. & Roy, D. (2020). Funding the United Nations: What Impact Do U.S. Contributions Have on UN Agencies and Programs? https://www.cfr.org/article/funding-united-nations-what-impact-do-us-contributions-have-un-agencies-and-programs. Date of Acces: 25.04.2020.