The 'Big Debate'
The US wants to help Iraq sell its oil as soon as possible to pay for reconstruction and basic services. Unfortunately, the prewar, antiwar alliance of France and Russia is holding hostage the authority needed from the UN to allow oil exports.
Not only do these two veto-wielding Security Council members want the United Nations to be put in charge of Iraq for now, they also want to protect their prewar oil interests there. They perhaps also have a commercial stake in further oil development.
This diplomatic standoff, known as the "Big Debate," could end up forcing Iraqis to go even longer without necessities - just because these outside powers have issues with each other that don't even relate to Iraq.
The UN has authority over Iraq's oil exports based on sanctions imposed after Saddam Hussein's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. A key condition of lifting those sanctions is that Iraq be free of weapons of mass destruction. The United States is hunting for those weapons now and could welcome UN weapons inspectors to join it. That might be the first step in an eventual compromise.
There may also be a legal way for the US to let oil exports start without UN approval. And if an interim Iraqi authority is set up soon, it, rather than the US, can argue on behalf of Iraq's oil interests at the UN.
Enduring another UN lengthy debate, like the one in the few months before the war, won't serve the Iraqi people's urgent needs.