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Providing Comfort at Home: Safe Haven in Iraq

  • Carol McQueen
Part of the Rethinking Peace and Conflict Studies book series (RCS)

Abstract

On 16 April 1991, President George Bush announced that the US, along with its two main Gulf War allies Britain and France, would create a safe haven in northern Iraq so that the Kurds who had fled Iraqi repression could return home again in safety. Following the 1991 Gulf War, both the Shi’ites in the South and the Kurds in the North launched rebellions that succeeded for a time but were eventually brutally crushed by the Iraqi regime. Targeted by Iraqi helicopter gunships and fearing possible chemical weapons attacks, a means used by Saddam Hussein in his 1988 punishment of the Kurds for their involvement with the enemy in the Iran-Iraq war, the Kurds fled en mass toward the Turkish and Iranian borders. Concerned that an influx might exacerbate its own Kurdish minority problem and unwilling to be burdened financially with massive numbers of refugees, Turkey closed its border, leaving the Kurds to languish in severe, freezing conditions along the mountains just inside Iraq. The resulting humanitarian crisis sparked greater and greater international involvement to alleviate the suffering in an incremental process that eventually culminated in a safe haven once it became clear that sufficient comfort could not be provided in the harsh landscape along the Iraqi-Turkish border. Although not explicitly authorized by the Security Council, the safe haven came to encompass almost 10,000 square kilometres of Iraqi territory;2 and its protection was successfully guaranteed through the presence of coalition troops that remained within Iraq until mid-July and through an effective air power deterrent that prevented Iraq from using military aircraft within a no-fly zone above the 36th parallel.3

Keywords

Security Council Humanitarian Intervention Safety Zone State Interest Safe Haven 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 2.
    James L. Jones, ‘Operation Provide Comfort: Humanitarian and Security Assistance in Northern Iraq’, Marine Corps Gazette 75, 11 (November 1991), 107. The area covered by the no-fly zone was yet larger.Google Scholar
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    By taking over Kuwait’s oil fields, Iraq would have controlled more than a fifth of the world’s oil production. See John Pimlott, ‘The Gulf Crisis and World Politics’, in The Gulf War Assessed, ed. John Pimlott and Stephen Badsey (London: Arms and Armour Press, 1992), p. 40.Google Scholar
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    The non-refoulement principle enshrined in this convention, which prohibits the return of refugees to a territory where their lives are threatened, is rendered moot when there are significant grounds for believing that the refugees in question comprise a security threat to the country of asylum. See Article 33 of 28 July 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. See also Guy S. Goodwin-Gill, The Refugee in International Law, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996), pp. 139–141;Google Scholar
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  32. 87.
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Copyright information

© Carol McQueen 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carol McQueen
    • 1
  1. 1.United Nations Peacekeeping MissionDemocratic Republic of Congo

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