UNITED NATIONS IRAQ-KUWAIT OBSERVATION MISSION (UNIKOM)

Passed on April 29, 1991, Resolution 689 marked a milestone in the history of the United Nations Security Council: it was the first time that all five of the organization’s permanent members had agreed to provide military observers in a peacekeeping operation.

The United Nations Iraq–Kuwait Observation Mission (UNIKOM) was deployed within a month of this extraordinary show of unity. The mission’s 300 military observers and their support staff were given a threefold mandate: Monitor the demilitarized zone (DMZ) that had been established between Iraq and Kuwait following the First Gulf War, as well as the Khawr ‘Abd Allah waterway; take steps to deter violations of the DMZ; and watch for any hostile actions on the part of either Iraq or Kuwait.

Security Council Resolution 806, passed in 1993, expanded the UNIKOM mandate following a series of Iraqi intrusions through the DMZ and into Kuwait in order to retrieve Iraqi property located in Kuwaiti territory. The mission was given the authority—and more importantly the military capability—to prevent those types of small-scale DMZ violations. It also was empowered to take physical action to prevent violations of either nation’s boundaries by civilians or police, and to deal with problems stemming from the location of Iraq installations and citizens in the DMZ that was now located on the Kuwaiti side of newly defined boundaries.

In light of the impending U.S. military campaign against Iraq, the U.N. Secretary-General decided to suspend UNIKOM operations on March 17, 2003, leaving behind only a small headquarters comprising a dozen military officers and a handful of staff in Kuwait City.

Less than seven months later, on October 6, the Security Council declared that UNIKOM had completed its mandate and the mission was brought to an end. The mission suffered eighteen fatalities over twelve years of operation, including eight military personnel and five military observers.
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