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UN arms embargo on Iraq

A United Nations Security Council mandated arms embargo has existed on Iraq in various forms since 1990 in Resolution 661. Until 2003, the arms embargo applied to the whole territory of Iraq. However following the war in Iraq in 2003, and the fall of the regime, the embargo has been modified in subsequent resolutions in 2003 and 2004 so that arms sales to the Government of Iraq are permitted, but not to other end-users.

In August 1990 Security Council resolution 661 established comprehensive sanctions against Iraq, including an open-ended arms embargo. This was passed in reaction to the continued occupation of Kuwait by Iraq, following the invasion days earlier.

Resolution 661 decided that states should prohibit ‘the sale or supply by their nationals or from their territories or using their flag vessels of any commodities or products, including weapons or any other military equipment, whether or not originating in their territories’.

In April 1991, following the restoration of sovereignty to Kuwait in February, the UN passed Security Council Resolution 687, asserting that it wished to remain ‘assured of Iraq’s peaceful intentions', especially with regards to its WMD programme. The Resolution continued the existing arms embargo and demanded that Iraq end its activities related to chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles with a range greater than 150km.

In May 2003, following the fall of the Iraqi government, the UN Security Council modified the sanctions regime in UN Security Council resolution 1483. The arms embargo on Iraq was maintained, with a provision permitting transfers required by a newly established authority to maintain security in Iraq and along its borders.

Resolution 1483 decided that ‘with the exception of prohibitions related to the sale or supply to Iraq of arms and related materiel other than those arms and related materiel required by the Authority to serve the purposes of this and other related resolutions, all prohibitions related to trade with Iraq and the provision of financial or economic resources to Iraq established by resolution 661 (1990) and subsequent relevant resolutions, including resolution 778 (1992) of 2 October 1992, shall no longer apply’.

In June 2004 UN Security Council Resolution 1546 decided that ‘the prohibitions related to the sale or supply to Iraq of arms and related materiel under previous resolutions shall not apply to arms or related materiel required by the Government of Iraq or the multinational force’ while stressing that all states were obliged to abide strictly by the restrictions on supply of arms to other end-users in Iraq.

Last updated on
Embargo type: Mandatory UN embargoes
Entry into force:
Establishing document: UNSCR 661