Iraq: Second U.N. Attack Designed To Intimidate Member States?
Sep 22, 2003

Stratfor Intelligence


A suicide bomber attacked U.N. headquarters in Baghdad on Sept. 22, killing two and injuring 10 people. This attack brings to the foreground the likelihood that some guerrilla forces in the country are trying to thwart U.S. efforts to bring in international military reinforcements through the United Nations. This second attack on the U.N. facility will provide additional justification for countries that do not want to commit troops to Iraq's reconstruction. Though the incident resulted in only light casualties, it is likely to hurt U.S. efforts to recruit troops from other countries significantly.


A suicide attacker detonated a powerful car bomb Sept. 22 at the entrance of the parking lot of Baghdad's Canal Hotel, which houses the U.N. headquarters. An Iraqi policeman and the bomber were killed; 10 others were wounded, including two Iraqi U.N. personnel. The attack comes amid discussion about whether the United Nations should expand its role in reconstruction efforts. It was the second attack on the U.N. compound; another in August left 20 people dead, including top U.N. envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello.

This attack likely was orchestrated by forces within Iraq that understand the significance of U.S. efforts to bring in additional troops to help with security and reconstruction. The United States is seeking support for a new U.N. resolution, something most countries have set as the prerequisite to sending forces to Iraq. While this latest strike will not prevent a vote on the resolution, it will provide grounds for many countries to stall on actually deploying troops. The bombing even has given the United Nations pause over the nature of its presence in Iraq.

Following the attack, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said, "We are assessing the situation ... and we will decide as we move forward what our posture should be. Obviously, I am shocked and distressed by this latest attack. There are discussions about a second resolution which may affect the U.N. mandate and the role of the U.N., and we would obviously need to know what that new role will be for us to determine how we organize ourselves to tackle that."

During a meeting in Berlin on Sept. 20, British Prime Minister Tony Blair was unable to convince French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to fully support the reconstruction efforts in Iraq. In a related but separate development, Russian President Vladimir Putin told U.S. journalists that Moscow hadn't ruled out sending troops to Iraq, but he emphasized that any such deployment would be in accordance with a plan laid out by the U.N. Security Council.

In recent videotaped statements, Iraqi guerrilla groups have warned other nations against sending troops to Iraq. They say the Bush administration is going to the United Nations for troops because the United States is in trouble in Iraq. Their logic could be that if other states don't send troops -- and the insurgents can sustain or even increase their current level of attacks -- then they might have a chance of bogging the United States down militarily. The guerrillas likely believe that -- if this strategy succeeds -- they might be able to force the United States out of the country in the near future. From the guerrillas' perspective, the best way to counter the threat of international military intervention in Iraq is to target the United Nations -- the key to other states getting involved.

Regardless of who is behind the guerrilla attacks in Iraq, it is clear that at least one group in the medley is using the disagreement between the United States and United Nations to try to exploit a perceived U.S. weakness. The insurgents believe that the United States is afraid of taking mounting casualties. If it cannot get help from foreign troops, the guerrillas believe the Bush administration might have no choice but to pull out. This is likely an incorrect assumption, but if the guerrillas can discourage international troops from entering Iraq it will be to their advantage nonetheless.