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The Historical Security Council of 1990

Membership of the Historical Security Council of 1990 Membership of the Historical Security Council of 1990

  • Canada
  • China
  • Côte d’Ivoire
  • Colombia
  • Cuba
  • Ethiopia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Malaysia
  • Romania
  • Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
  • United Kingdom
  • United States of America
  • Yemen
  • Zaire


Due to the nature of this year’s virtual conference we have decided to limit topics for our Security Council simulations. The topics presented in this briefing are the topics that your Simulation Directors have decided are the most pressing to the maintenance of international peace and security as of 10 March 1990.

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Introduction Introduction

In March 1990 the Secretary-General of the United Nations is Javier Pèrez de Cuèllar. The defining conflict since the end of the Second World War has been the Cold War, a state of political and military tension between the Western and Eastern blocs, particularly the United States of America and Union of Soviet Social Republics. While direct tensions between the two States began decreasing during the 1960s and 1970s, indirect tension through third-party conflicts increased and human rights issues, particularly human rights violations, have remained a point of conflict between the Soviet Union and the United States.

For each topic area, representatives should consider the following questions, which should assist them in gaining a better understanding of the issues at hand, particularly from their country’s perspective:

  • How did this conflict begin?
  • Is this a new conflict or a reignition of a previous conflict?
  • How have similar situations and conflicts been peacefully resolved?
  • What State and regional actors are involved in this conflict? If there are non-State actors involved in a conflict, are there any States supporting them? If so, which ones?

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The Situation in Lebanon The Situation in Lebanon

The Lebanese Civil War began in 1975, when changing demographics and Cold War polarization disrupted the delicate balance of power between Muslims and Christians which had been in place since the end of French colonial rule. The conflict began as sectarian violence between Christians and Muslims, particularly Palestinians, but over the course of fifteen years the conflict has pitted a variety of political and religious groups against each other in rapidly shifting alliances. It has also resulted in a number of international interventions. The longest intervention has been by neighboring Syria, which sent troops into Lebanon in 1976. They operated under Arab League authorization until 1982, when the mandate lapsed without renewal, but Syria did not withdraw. Syria currently maintains forty thousand troops in Lebanon. Israel was drawn into the conflict through a desire to end attacks launched by the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) from Lebanon. Israel has invaded Lebanon twice: a short incursion in 1978, and then a much longer intervention which began in 1982. The 1982 invasion resulted in the withdrawal of the PLO from Lebanon. Today the Israel Defense Force continues to occupy a “Security Zone” several kilometers wide in the south of Lebanon. The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) has been active since 1978, with a mandate to oversee the withdrawal of Israeli forces behind the internationally recognized border between Israel and Lebanon, and to provide humanitarian aid for the area under Israeli occupation.

The current phase of the civil war began when Prime Minister Rashid Karami, head of a government of national unity, was assassinated on 1 June 1987. President Amin Gemayel appointed Lebanese Armed Forces Commanding General Michel Aoun, a fellow Maronite Christian (the most populous Christian denomination in Lebanon), as acting Prime Minister, violating a longstanding unwritten agreement that the Prime Minister always be a Sunni Muslim. Muslim groups instead pledged support to Selim al-Hoss as Karami’s successor. Lebanon became divided between a Maronite military government in East Beirut and a Muslim civilian government in West Beirut. 

Prime Minister General Michel Aoun declared war against Syrian army forces on 13 March 1989. Syria declared the military government illegitimate and continues to support militias opposing General Aoun. Lebanese politicians agreed to a national reconciliation accord that provided a large role for Syria in Lebanese affairs, the Taif Agreement, on 4 November 1989. Rene Mouawad was elected as the new President. Aoun refused to accept Mouawad and denounced the Taif Agreement. Mouawad was assassinated in a car bombing in Beirut on 22 November and was succeeded by Elias Hrawi, a Maronite Christian. Aoun again refused to accept the election, and dissolved Parliament. Fighting continues in East Beirut. The United Nations Security Council most recently passed Resolution 648 on 31 January 1990, extending the mandate of UNIFIL for a further six months.

Bibliography Bibliography

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UN Documents UN Documents

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The Situation in Central America The Situation in Central America

The governments of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua all signed on to the Esquipulas I and II Agreements, which aimed to bring lasting peace to Central America, in 1986 and 1987. The agreements formalized a commitment to peace through dialogue and national reconciliation, and requested the assistance of the United Nations to facilitate the agreements’ terms. In response, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 637 commending the Esquipulas Agreements, and Resolution 644 establishing the United Nations Observer Group in Central America (ONUCA), which began its mission of verification in December 1989.

In El Salvador, the Esquipulas Agreements have brought progress toward political reunification between the Salvadoran government and Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), a coalition of five guerrilla groups, after decades of fighting and civil war. However, violence escalated toward the end of 1989. On 11 November 1989 the FMLN launched a major attack in San Salvador, taking more than 100 hostages and inflicting many casualties. In response, the government declared a state of siege and began an intense military response, including numerous air attacks on rebel-held areas. The worsening humanitarian situation, and the continuing violence perpetrated by government-backed “death squads,” has led to increased calls for international pressure to bring about a permanent peace agreement.

In Nicaragua, results have been more promising. The government moved its elections up by several months and requested that the United Nations send observers to monitor the proceedings, the first time that the United Nations served in this capacity in a sovereign state. This mission was carried out by the United Nations Observer Mission for the Verification of the Elections in Nicaragua (ONUVEN). The elections were held on 25 February 1990, and were won by the candidate of the United Nicaraguan Opposition, Violeta Barrios de Chamorro. Initial accounts are that the election met ONUVEN’s standards. However, the process of demobilizing the Contra guerillas has been slowed by a reluctance among some Contras to disarm, for fear of reprisals by the Nicaraguan military. There are concerns that ONUCA in its current form is insufficient to either compel the Contras to disarm or provide the security guarantees they need to demobilize voluntarily. The Secretary-General is expected to call for an expansion of ONUCA in the near future.

Bibliography Bibliography

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UN Documents UN Documents

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The Situation in Cambodia The Situation in Cambodia

The ongoing wars in Viet Nam during the Cold War challenged the stability of neighboring countries, notably Cambodia. Tensions between communists in Cambodia, who supported North Viet Nam, and the authoritarian leader of Cambodia, Prince Norodom Sihanouk, led to Sihanouk’s overthrow in 1970. After further conflict, the communist Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia in 1975, renaming Cambodia to Democratic Kampuchea.The country suffered greatly under forced labor and re-education camps orchestrated by the Khmer Rouge, together resulting in the death of over one million Cambodians. Border clashes between Democratic Kampuchea and Viet Nam led to a Vietnamese invasion of Democratic Kampuchea in December 1978 and a swift Vietnamese victory, with the Vietnamese establishing the People’s Republic of Kampuchea (PRK) in early January 1979. The PRK government was never secure and was backed by Vietnamese troops in the country. Removed from power, the Khmer Rouge entered into a coalition with anti-Vietnamese Cambodian factions to conduct a guerilla war against Viet Nam and the PRK and adopted Prince Sihanouk as their leader. The Vietnamese-backed PRK was not widely recognized internationally, and the country’s seat at the United Nations was held by the anti-Vietnamese Cambodian factions.

Following a reduction of support from the Soviet Union and economic problems deriving in part from the long-running occupation of Cambodia, in April 1989 Viet Nam announced it would unconditionally withdraw all Vietnamese forces from Cambodia by September 1989. At the request of France, representatives from 18 countries, including the Permanent Five members of the Security Council along with Canada, Malaysia, and Vietnam; the primary Cambodian parties; and the United Nations Secretary-General met to discuss a comprehensive settlement.

The primary Cambodian parties are the People’s Republic of Kampuchea, which is supported by Viet Nam and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and controls the capital of Phnom Penh; and the Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea (CGDK), which retains Cambodia’s seat in the United Nations and is supported by the People’s Republic of China and the United States of America. The CDGK is a coalition of three anti-Vietnamese parties: Prince Sihanouk’s National Front for an Independent, Neutral, Peaceful, and Cooperative Cambodia (FUNCINPEC); the nationalist Khmer People’s National Liberation Front (KPNFL); and the Party of Democratic Kampuchea (PDK), composed of former Khmer Rouge members. In late August, Prince Sihanouk stepped down from leadership of FUNCINPEC in hope of easing tensions with Vietnam, but remained a member of the party and retains a prominent role in the talks.

During the French-sponsored talks, concerns emerged over instability and a potential return to civil war between the Cambodian parties in 1990 once the Vietnamese withdrawal is complete and the rainy season ends. To avoid a return to conflict, discussion has focused on the formation of a United Nations body to oversee and assist the transition of Cambodia into a democratic government and integration of the various armed forces into a unified Cambodian government. With little progress in negotiations and the potential for renewed conflict, Prince Sihanouk has suggested the United Nations take a greater role in establishing a democratic government in Cambodia and potentially replacing the current PRK government, despite the legal and technical problems that would confront the United Nations in such an action.

Bibliography Bibliography

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UN Documents UN Documents

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The Situation in Iran and Iraq The Situation in Iran and Iraq

In August 1988, the Islamic Republic of Iran accepted the terms of Security Council Resolution 598 bringing a ceasefire to the Iran-Iraq War. During the eight years of war, over a million soldiers and civilians were killed, leaving both Iran and Iraq devastated. Although neither Iran nor Iraq won the war, neither side viewed themselves as having lost the war, as the underlying causes of the war remained unresolved. To help implement the ceasefire, Security Council Resolution 619 established the United Nations Iran-Iraq Military Observer Group (UNIIMOG) to verify, confirm, and supervise both the cessation of hostilities and the withdrawal of all troops to internationally recognized boundaries. In September 1989, the Security Council passed Resolution 642, extending UNIIMOG’s mandate until 31 March 1990.

Despite surviving the war, Iraq was burdened with a massive national debt, having financed the war largely through loans from Gulf Arab states. President Saddam Hussein asked the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait to cancel Iraq’s war debt, claiming the loans enabled Iraq to protect those states in the Arabian Peninsula from Iran. Iraq’s economic position worsened as Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates increased oil production, driving down the price of oil on the global market. In the face of declining oil prices, depleted financial reserves, serious domestic economic problems, and a refusal by the Gulf Arab states to offer debt relief, President Hussein reasserted Iraq’s claim of ownership over two oil-rich regions of Kuwait, Warbah and Bubiyan.

Despite implementation of the ceasefire and troop withdrawals, tensions and instability continue. One of the conflict’s underlying disputes, the territorial status of the Shatt al-Arab river near the Persian Gulf remained unresolved. The status of prisoners of war and their repatriation remains unresolved. On 3 June 1989, the Iranian President and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini died; succeeded as President by Hashemi Rafsanjani, who adopted a less conciliatory tone to negotiations with Iraq. Both Iran and Iraq have accused the other of numerous serious ceasefire violations; including military engineering projects near the border, the intentional flooding of low lying areas for a military purpose, and exchanges of artillery fire. In December of 1989, Iraq announced it had tested new rockets that were capable of carrying satellites. With UNIIMOG’s mandate set to expire on 31 March 1990, the Council must decide how best to reduce tensions between Iran and Iraq and address outstanding issues.

Bibliography Bibliography

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United Nations Documents United Nations Documents

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