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Inside File: Cowen, Powell on same page

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Ireland is currently a member of the UN Security Council and big decisions with regard to Hussein are looming fast in that most exclusive gathering of nations.
Brian Cowen comes across as a politician at ease with big decisions. The Offaly man can be a bit rumpled in appearance but there’s nothing rumpled about Cowen’s views, or evident attachment to the rule of law and order in the world.
In his remarks to reporters, and in a speech delivered afterward to the consulate gathering, Cowen left little doubt that while Ireland might still be hanging on to the essence of its military neutrality, at least in the context of formal military alliances, there was no Irish neutrality when it came to enforcing the principles of the United Nations Charter and global order, be it old or new.
In some of his phrasing, Cowen sounded virtually word for word like U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, who would speak only a short while later to a packed room on the 18th floor of the nearby Waldorf Hotel.
In his meeting with reporters, at which questions about Iraq mingled with interrogatives over 9/11, the North and the ever increasing barriers to legal Irish immigration, Cowen spoke of the need for compliance with the United Nations charter and the need for the Security Council to face up to its responsibilities in the face of a “decade of defiance” from Iraq, a country that sits right next to Ireland in the alphabetically laid out General Assembly auditorium.
Iraqi non-compliance with Security Council resolutions dealing with arms inspections was “not an option,” and international law “had to be restored,” Cowen said while praising President Bush for outlining the U.S. position to the General Assembly “most authoritatively.”
Cowen said that Bush had committed himself to working within a multilateral situation if the political will could be found on the Security Council to enforce existing resolutions and possibly new ones designed to defuse the Iraqi time bomb.
In his subsequent speech to the General Assembly, Cowen said that when the Security Council acts in such cases all member states were obliged to implement its resolutions.
“Regrettably, they sometimes fail to do so. Any law that is flagrantly violated becomes weakened over time,” he said.
That assertion clearly points toward the direction of an Irish vote should the Security Council feel it necessary to vote on an updated resolution.
There are 15 members of the council, the big five with veto powers and 10 rotating members, Ireland being currently one of them. Ireland’s military neutrality does not apply in the case of action mandated under the UN charter and approved by the Security Council.
“Every member state has obligations under the UN charter and the charter does provide for collective military action to maintain international peace and security,” explained John Deady of the Permanent Irish Mission to the UN.
It takes nine votes out of the 15 to pass a Security Council resolution. Council members can abstain and the U.S., Russia, Britain, China and France all have veto power. If, for example, France, Russia, and China abstained in a go-get-Saddam vote, it would require positive votes from seven of the 10 rotating member nations — added to the vote of permanent member Britain and the U.S. — to pass the resolution.
When it comes down to this sort of number, each member vote begins to seriously count. This is even more the case when negative votes are possible. Syria is a current member of the Security Council and could well balk at any move against its neighbor Iraq.
Cowen and the nine other rotating member foreign ministers met with Colin Powell last Friday afternoon shortly before Cowen delivered his address to the General Assembly. It can be taken that Powell, known to prefer multilateral action against Iraq, was assured by what his Irish counterpart said to him.
As stated, Cowen and Powell spoke a block and a floor apart the previous night. The Waldorf was like a fortress, not just because Powell was inside but because the building was also providing a roof for President Bush.
Powell was receiving the Hans J. Morgenthau Award from the National Committee on American Foreign Policy, an august body chaired by Bill Flynn, a veteran of Irish-American involvement in the Northern Ireland peace process. The large crowd attending the function included Sinn F

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