Goodbye UNSCOM: A Sad Tale in UN-US Relations

Security Dialogue, Vol. 30, No. 4, December 1999, pp. 393-411

Posted: 17 Oct 2019

Date Written: December 1999


Elected in December 1996 with strong support from Washington, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan embarked on an extended honeymoon with the US Administration and media throughout 1997. However, relations between the UN Secretariat and the USA deteriorated in 1998 over Iraq's posture towards the UN Special Commission for Iraq (UNSCOM), the work of which was being seriously impeded by Baghdad. Relations between Annan and UNSCOM's Executive Chairman Richard Butler, who was increasingly perceived to be working in close conjunction with the US Administration, also appeared to suffer, with Annan staffers complaining of Butler's aggressive style in dealing with Iraq. When the UN Security Council (UNSC) deadlocked completely over US and UK bombing of Iraq in December 1998, the triangular relationship between the UN Secretariat, UNSCOM and the US Administration disintegrated, amidst allegations that the CIA had used UNSCOM as cover for intelligence gathering in Iraq for purposes extending well beyond UNSCOM's mandate.

This article explores some of the circumstances surrounding these events and advances some tentative conclusions to be drawn for both the USA and the UN.

Suggested Citation

Malone, David M., Goodbye UNSCOM: A Sad Tale in UN-US Relations (December 1999). Security Dialogue, Vol. 30, No. 4, December 1999, pp. 393-411, Available at SSRN:

David M. Malone (Contact Author)

UN University ( email )

Tokyo, 150-8925
81-3-5467-1224 (Phone)
81-3-3499-2810 (Fax)

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