Leiden Journal of International Law


Military Enforcement of Arms Control in Iraq

Guido den Dekker  and Ramses A. Wessel  1

Article author query
dekker g   [Google Scholar] 
wessel r   [Google Scholar] 


The effects of the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait are felt strongly up to the present day. On numerous occasions, the inspection teams of the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) have encountered serious problems and opposition by the Iraqi government when verifying the non-production of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Among the many legal questions raised by the Iraqi-Kuwait war's aftermath, a fundamental issue is whether – in the absence of an explicit Security Council decision – compliance by Iraq with its obligations may be enforced by military means. In this article, this question is addressed by examining whether military enforcement action can be based on Security Council resolutions adopted earlier in the course of the conflict, especially Resolutions 678 (1990), in which the Council authorised the use of ‘all necessary means’, and 1154 (1998), in which the ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ between the UN and Iraq was endorsed. It is argued that without a further mandate from the Security Council, military enforcement of arms control in Iraq under the present circumstances is prohibited by international law.

Key Words: arms control; collective security; Gulf War (Iraq-Kuwait War); Security Council; UNSCOM.


1 The authors are research fellows at the Department of International Law at the University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and the Department of the Law of International Organizations of Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands, respectively.