Ireland is in the imperialist camp


Dail Eireann re-elected Bertie Ahern as Taoiseach on 14 June 2007 on the basis of a programme agreed with the Greens and the PDs.  It contains a section on foreign policy entitled Ireland in the World, which begins:


“We want to ensure that Ireland is a constructive member of the international community, prioritising the active promotion of peace and development through the European Union, the United Nations, international agencies and direct action.” [1]


“Making Neutrality Count” is to be Ireland’s slogan for action in foreign policy in the next five years, we are told:


“Neutrality is central to our vision of Ireland as the bridge between the developed and developing world, the intermediary and facilitator in peace processes, the first on the ground in a major humanitarian crisis – the model UN State for the 21st century. Our policy for the next five years is to Make Neutrality Count.


“We believe neutrality enhances our standing internationally. Our goal is to use that standing to build peace and deliver development.”


From this, you could be forgiven for thinking that Ireland has an independent stance in world affairs, or is setting out to develop such a stance.


The reality is that Ireland is now firmly in the imperialist camp in world affairs alongside the US/UK.  In four crucial areas of foreign policy – Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and PalestineIreland is fully behind the US/UK in their aggressive behaviour towards the Muslim world.  You will search in vain in the Programme for Government for any mention of actual policy – past, present or future – on Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and Palestine.  But it is a racing certainty that, despite the presence of the Green Party, the new government will continue to support


(a)     the US/UK wars in Afghanistan and Iraq;

(b)     the US/UK punishment of Iran for enriching uranium, which is Iran’s right as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT); and

(c)     the US/UK backing for the Israeli occupation and colonisation of Arab lands.



From the outset, Ireland has supported the US/UK war effort in Afghanistan and Iraq by allowing Shannon to be used to ferry US troops and military equipment to the battlefields.  The Irish Times reported on 17 October 2007 that a million US troops have passed through Shannon since the invasion of Iraq:


“Up to the end of September this year, 1,059,382 US military personnel, on 8,698 flights, had used the midwest airport since the start of ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’ four and a half years ago.


“Figures released by the Shannon Airport Authority have confirmed that since March 20th 2003 an average of 640 troops on five flights every day have stopped off at Shannon on their way to Iraq and to other US military bases in the Arabian Gulf.” [2]


Ireland hasn’t formally joined the US-led “coalition of the willing” in Iraq and sent troops to the battlefield.  However, by allowing the US to use Shannon, it has provided far more assistance to the war effort than most of the 30 or so members of the “coalition of the willing” with troops in Iraq, whose contribution is useful to the US politically but of little or no military value.  The US State Department’s Weekly Status Report for 31 October 2007 [3] (see page 26) lists 27 countries, including the UK, with troops supporting the US mission in Iraq, but the overall number is less than a tenth of the number of US troops in Iraq, which now stands at around 165,000.



Ireland isn’t formally a member of the “coalition of the willing” in Iraq, but it is a member of the “coalition of the willing” in Afghanistan.  Ireland has had 7 military personnel serving with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan since 5 July 2002.  Today, it is one of 38 states contributing troops to ISAF, which now has over 41,000 troops, of which the US provides around 15,000 and the UK nearly 8,000 (see [4]).


ISAF was established, initially for 6 months, by Security Council resolution 1386, passed on 20 December 2001, shortly after the US/UK military intervention in Afghanistan that led to the overthrow of the Taliban.  Resolution 1386 authorised ISAF


“to assist the Afghan Interim Authority in the maintenance of security in Kabul and its surrounding areas, so that the Afghan Interim Authority as well as the personnel of the United Nations can operate in a secure environment” [5]


The Afghan Interim Authority, headed by Hamid Karzai, had just been put together by the US at a conference in Bonn.


When ISAF was established, it could be said to have had a peacekeeping role.  At the same time, much larger forces under separate US command were engaged in offensive military operations in southern Afghanistan under Operation Enduring Freedom.  Then, ISAF was not engaged in offensive military operations.  However, in the intervening 6 years, ISAF’s role and area of operation has been greatly extended by the Security Council (see my article [6]).  In 2003, it came under NATO command and in 2006 it took over the offensive role in southern Afghanistan that had previously been the business of US forces under separate US command in Operation Enduring Freedom.  Most of these US forces have been transferred to ISAF.


The Irish Government justifies its participation in ISAF on the grounds that it was established by and continues to operate under UN Security Council resolutions.  This is true: all military action taken by ISAF in Afghanistan is authorised by the UN.  Every Afghan killed or injured by ISAF has been killed or injured under a UN mandate, duly established by Security Council resolutions.  Likewise, every Afghan village flattened by ISAF has been flattened under a proper UN mandate.


However, Ireland is under no compulsion to join in this doomed imperialist enterprise that has killed thousands of Afghan civilians.  No Security Council resolution obliges Ireland to send troops to Afghanistan (or to allow Shannon to be used to ferry US troops to Afghanistan).  Ireland has made the choice to do so.  More than 150 states in this world have chosen not to do so.



The Irish Government justifies allowing the US the use of Shannon by saying that military action by the US-led occupation forces in Iraq is authorised by the UN Security Council.  Again that is true today, but it wasn’t true at the time of the invasion in March 2003, when Ireland was permitting the US to use Shannon.  However, seven months later, on 16 October 2003, the Security Council passed resolution 1511, which authorised the occupation forces in Iraq to take military action to suppress resistance to the occupation (see Annex A below).  Since then, every Iraqi killed or injured by the occupation forces has been killed or injured under a UN mandate, duly established by Security Council resolutions.


What is more, paragraph 14 of resolution 1511 “urges Member States to contribute assistance under this United Nations mandate, including military forces, to the [US-led] multinational force” in Iraq.  The Irish Government can say that it is responding to the UN request in resolution 1511 in allowing the US to use Shannon.


Of course, Ireland is under no compulsion to lend assistance to the US in this matter.  No Security Council resolution obliges Ireland to allow the US to use Shannon to transport its troops and equipment to Iraq.  Ireland has made the choice to do so.  More than 150 states in this world have chosen not to assist the US/UK in Iraq.


Green Party breaks commitment

Prior to the elections in May 2007, the Irish Anti-War Movement (IAWM) attempted to get candidates to pledge that, if elected, they wouldn’t enter a government that continued to allow the US to use Shannon for military purposes.  No Fianna Fail, Fine Gael or PD candidates signed the pledge, but every Sinn Fein candidate did, as did 3 outgoing Labour TDs (Joe Costello, Tommy Broughan, Michael D Higgins) and other left candidates.


6 Green Party candidates signed the pledge.  More fundamentally, Section 13 of the Green Party manifesto committed all its candidates unequivocally to


“end the use of Shannon Airport by US military forces involved in the war in Iraq[7]


The programme for government that the Green Party agreed with Fianna Fail [1] doesn’t mention the use of Shannon by US military forces, let alone commit the government to end its use.  The Green Party has simply reneged on this manifesto commitment.


EU Common Foreign and Security Policy

In each of two other areas – Iran and PalestineIreland has given its assent to a common EU foreign policy under the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) mechanism.


The CFSP mechanism was initially established by the Maastricht Treaty, which came into force on 1 November 1993.  Under this mechanism, member states seek to arrive at common foreign policy positions.  In theory, each state has a veto, but in practice the large states, and especially the UK, get their way.  These days, it can be guaranteed that, if the EU adopts a common policy on an issue, it will be the UK’s policy, otherwise there won’t be a common policy on the issue.  In the latter event, each member state is free to pursue its own foreign policy.


Where there is a common policy, the EU speaks and votes as a bloc in international organisations, for example, in the UN Security Council, the UN General Assembly and the Board of the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA).


In the Amsterdam Treaty, which came into force on 1 May 1999, provision was made for the appointment of an EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy, with the task of representing the EU abroad where there is a common policy.  The former Secretary-General of NATO, Javier Solana, has been the sole holder of this post.


A Secure Europe in a Better World

In December 2003, the EU adopted a “security strategy” drawn up by Solana, entitled A Secure Europe in a Better World [8].  It is an imperialist document, dedicated to remoulding the world beyond the boundaries of the EU.  It could have been written in Washington.  Ireland signed up to this document.


“Spreading good governance, supporting social and political reform, dealing with corruption and abuse of power, establishing the rule of law and protecting human rights” are declared to be key objectives of EU foreign policy (page 16).


These objectives are to be achieved primarily by the exercise of the EU’s economic muscle but the document looks forward to the strengthening of its military muscle as well.  The document says:


“Trade and development policies can be powerful tools for promoting reform. As the world’s largest provider of official assistance and its largest trading entity, the European Union and its Member States are well placed to pursue these goals.


“Contributing to better governance through assistance programmes, conditionality and targeted trade measures remains an important feature in our policy that we should further reinforce.”


It continues:


“A number of countries have placed themselves outside the bounds of international society. Some have sought isolation; others persistently violate international norms. It is desirable that such countries should rejoin the international community, and the EU should be ready to provide assistance. Those who are unwilling to do so should understand that there is a price to be paid, including in their relationship with the European Union.”


On developing the EU’s military muscle, the document says:


“We need to develop a strategic culture that fosters early, rapid, and when necessary, robust intervention.


“As a Union of 25 members, spending more than 160 billion Euros on defence, we should be able to sustain several operations simultaneously. We could add particular value by developing operations involving both military and civilian capabilities.” (page 11)


This EU “security strategy”, to which Ireland assented in December 2003, is the backdrop to the EU policies on Iran and Palestine.



On Iran, the EU has a common policy (and a common policy with the US) of seeking to prevent Iran from engaging in uranium enrichment.   Ireland has assented to this policy.


Access to nuclear technology for peaceful purposes is central to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).  By signing up to the NPT, as Iran did in 1968 when the Shah was in power, states without nuclear weapons forfeited their right to acquire nuclear weapons, but as a quid pro quo they were supposed to be guaranteed access to nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.  This is enshrined in Article IV(1) of the NPT, which states:


“Nothing in this Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination and in conformity with Articles I and II of this Treaty.”  [9]


The International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA) hasn’t found any evidence that Iran’s nuclear programme is for other than peaceful purposes.


So, Iran has not breached the NPT by developing uranium enrichment facilities, and neither has Brazil or Japan by doing likewise.  Nevertheless, the EU with Ireland’s assent has been to the fore in persuading the Security Council to apply economic sanctions to Iran to pressure it into halting uranium enrichment.  By contrast, Brazil and Japan are allowed to engage in uranium enrichment without let or hindrance.


You can see what the EU means when it states in A Secure Europe in a Better World (page 14) that “a rule-based international order is our objective”. 



On Palestine, the EU is yoked together with the US and Russia (and the UN Secretary-General) in the so-called Quartet, which is the self-appointed arbiter of right and wrong in Palestine.  Alvaro de Soto was the UN Secretary-General’s Middle East envoy for two years until his retirement in May 2007.  In his ‘End of Mission’ report to the UN Secretary-General (which was leaked to The Guardian), he wrote of the Quartet:


“Whatever the Quartet was at the inception, let us be frank with ourselves: today, as a practical matter, the Quartet is pretty much a group of friends of the US – and the US doesn’t feel the need to consult closely with the Quartet except when it suits it.” [10] (paragraph 63)


As a member of the Quartet, the EU with Ireland’s assent refused to accept the result of the January 2006 elections to the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), elections which Hamas won with 44.5% of the “national list” vote and 74 seats out of the 132 seats (Fatah won 45 seats).  The EU refused to deal with either of the Hamas-led governments formed as a result of the election in accordance with the Palestinian constitution.  What is more, the EU joined the US in collectively punishing Palestinians by withdrawing economic aid to the Palestinian government, because 44.5% of them had dared to vote for an organisation of which the EU and the US disapproved.  A few months later, the EU restored aid through a special Temporary International Mechanism (TIM) that dealt directly with nongovernmental organisations rather than the legitimate Hamas-led Palestinian government.


In June 2007, the EU went further and supported the overthrow of the democratically endorsed National Unity Government in Palestine and its replacement by an entity led by Salam Fayyad with no democratic validity whatsoever (see Annex B below).  The EU now deals with this entity as if it were a legitimate government.  Ireland is a party to this as well.



Annex A  Security Council Resolution 1511


The Security Council passed resolution 1511 on 16 October 2003.  Since that date, all military action by the US-led occupation forces in Iraq has been carried out under a UN mandate, duly established by resolution 1511 and later resolutions. 


On 16 October 2003, the Security Council passed resolution 1511 authorising the US-led occupying forces in Iraq to use force to put down resistance to their occupation.  In March 2003, the US/UK failed to get specific Security Council authorisation for the invasion of Iraq.  But, in October 2003, the Security Council authorised them to use force to maintain their occupation by passing resolution 1511.


The authorisation is given in paragraph 13 of the resolution, which states:


“[The Security Council] Determines that the provision of security and stability is essential to the successful completion of the political process as outlined in paragraph 7 above and to the ability of the United Nations to contribute effectively to that process and the implementation of resolution 1483 (2003), and authorizes a multinational force under unified command to take all necessary measures to contribute to the maintenance of security and stability in Iraq” [11]


“All necessary measures” is the phrase customarily used in Security Council resolutions to mean military action.  It is derived from Article 42 of Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which states that the Security Council “may take such action by air, sea, or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security”.


Paragraph 14 of resolution 1511 urges states to “contribute assistance” to the “multinational force”:


“[The Security Council] Urges Member States to contribute assistance under this United Nations mandate, including military forces, to the multinational force referred to in paragraph 13 above;”


Lest there be any doubt that the entity referred to as “a multinational force under unified command” is the occupying force commanded by the US, paragraph 25 says:


“[The Security Council] Requests that the United States, on behalf of the multinational force as outlined in paragraph 13 above, report to the Security Council on the efforts and progress of this force as appropriate and not less than every six months;”


And here is what US Ambassador, John Negroponte, said after the vote:


“ … the resolution establishes a United Nations authorized multinational force under unified United States command” [12]


Resolution 1511 was passed unanimously.  In March 2003, France, Russia and China refused to vote for the US-led invasion of Iraq, but seven months later they voted for the maintenance of the occupation of Iraq by military force.  From that time on, each and every military action taken by the occupying forces, including the flattening of Fallujah, has been carried out with the authority of the UN.



Annex B  The present Palestinian “government” is not legitimate


The present Fayyad-led Palestinian “government” is not a legitimate government formed according to the requirements of the Palestinian constitution (the Basic Law).  It is not legitimate because it has not been endorsed by the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC).


Article 79(4) of the Basic Law [13] states:


“The Prime Minister and any of the Ministers shall not assume the duties of their positions until they obtain the confidence of the PLC.”


Article 67(3) of the Basic Law states that


“Confidence shall be granted to the government, if it obtains the absolute majority of the PLC Members.”


In other words, the Palestinian constitution forbids a new set of Palestinian ministers from assuming “the duties of their positions until they obtain” the endorsement of “the absolute majority of the PLC Members”, that is, 67 members since the PLC has 132 members in all.


Hamas won 74 seats and Fatah 45 in the January 2006 PLC elections.  Both of the Hamas-led governments formed since these elections did receive proper PLC endorsement and were therefore legitimate governments under the Basic Law.  The present Fayyad-led entity has not received proper PLC endorsement and is therefore not a legitimate government under the Basic Law.


On 14 June 2007, President Abbas declared a state of emergency and dismissed the second Hamas-led government (the National Unity Government).  He is entitled to do this under Article 45 of the Basic Law.  He then appointed Salam Fayyad, the Finance Minister in the previous government, as Prime Minister and invited him to form a government.


Salam Fayyad is an elected member of the PLC and the leader of the 2-member Third Way party, which got 2.4% of the “national list” vote in the elections in January 2006.  By contrast, Hamas got 44.5% of the “national list” vote and won 74 seats overall.


Salam Fayyad nominated a set of ministers as requested by the President, with himself as Foreign Minister and Finance Minister as well as Prime Minister.  However, he has not made any attempt to obtain the confidence of the PLC for himself and his ministers, so the Basic Law bars them from assuming “the duties of their positions”.  In fact, the PLC has never met.  So, the Fayyad-led entity is not a legitimate government under the Basic Law.


State of emergency

President Abbas has attempted to give the Fayyed-led entity legitimacy by describing it as an emergency government, which, it is implied, does not require the normal constitutional procedure to be followed, in particular, endorsement by the PLC.  It is true that Abbas was entitled to declare a state of emergency under Article 110(1) of the Basic Law, which states:


“The President of the National Authority may declare a state of emergency by a decree when there is a threat to national security caused by war, invasion, armed insurrection, or at a time of natural disaster for a period not to exceed thirty (30) days.”


Since the Palestinian territories are under Israeli occupation (and have been for 40 years) it would seem that a state of emergency could lawfully be declared at any time.  But, the President cannot maintain it for more than 30 days without the support of two thirds of the members of the PLC, since Article 110(2) says:


“The emergency state may be extended for another period of thirty (30) days after the approval of two thirds of the Legislative Council Members.”


That would appear to mean two thirds of the 132 PLC members, that is, 88.


President Abbas declared a state of emergency on 14 June 2007.  It hasn’t been renewed by the PLC under Article 110(2), so it came to an end on or about 14 July 2007.


More fundamentally, the Basic Law provisions with regard to a state of emergency (Articles 110 to 115) don’t allow the President to amend the Basic Law itself to do away with the Article 79(4) requirement that


“The Prime Minister and any of the Ministers shall not assume the duties of their positions until they obtain the confidence of the PLC.”


The Basic Law is unambiguous on the question of its own amendment, Article 120 stating:


“The provisions of this Basic Law shall not be amended except with two thirds majority of the Members of the Legislative Council.”


So, with or without a state of emergency, the Fayyad-led entity is not a legitimate government under the Basic Law.


From the horse’s mouth

This conclusion is confirmed by Anis al-Qasem, who led the drafting of the Palestinian constitution.  Questioned by Reuters on 8 July 2007 [14], he said:


“It is clear from (Basic Law) Article 45 that the president has the power to dismiss the prime minister. However, under Article 78(3), the dismissed government continues to run the affairs of government temporarily as a caretaker government until the formation of the new government in the manner provided by the Basic Law.


“Under Article 79(4) of Chapter 5 (on executive authority), neither the prime minister nor any minister shall assume his office except after a vote of confidence from the Legislative Council (parliament) ...


“Conclusion: The president has the power to dismiss the prime minister and to start the process of the formation of a new government. The basic ingredients of this process that give legitimacy to the new government are a vote of confidence by the Legislative Council and the oath of office.


“Until the formation of the new government in accordance with the procedure laid down in Chapter 5 of the Basic Law, the dismissed government continues to act as a caretaker government. The Basic Law contains no special provisions for what is sometimes called ‘emergency government’.


“As to the powers of the president in a state of emergency, the only power specifically given to him is to declare the state of emergency in the manner provided in Article 110. He cannot issue decrees suspending any provisions of the Basic Law.


“The Legislative Council continues to function (Article 113), and none of the other provisions of the Basic Law may be touched except as provided in Article 111, which deals only with restrictions that may be imposed on basic rights and freedoms, and even these may only be affected to the extent necessary to fulfil the objective of the emergency as stated in the emergency decree.


“It is worth remembering that the whole Basic Law has been amended to reduce, rather than increase, the powers of the president as a result of the power struggle between Mr Abbas when he was Prime Minister and the late President Arafat.


“Of course we anticipated that, in a system where both the president and the legislature come to power through popular elections, there is the likelihood that the president may belong to one political party while the majority in the legislature may belong to another, with the possibility of divergence of policies, as it has happened frequently in democracies like the United States and France.


“In a situation like this, compromises through dialogue are struck and neither the president nor the legislature would attempt to thwart the will of the people. If a deadlock is reached, the president may exercise the power given to him by the Basic Law and dismiss the government and appoint a new government that would, ultimately, receive the approval of the Legislative Council. Through this requirement of approval the elected representatives will determine the propriety or otherwise of the action of the president and the will of the electorate will not be thwarted. That was the expectation.”


David Morrison

Irish Political Review

November 2007