DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s political experts note that US Secretary of State Colin Powell’s diplomatic offensive at the world body at this time is vitally important notwithstanding the low expectation of real UN action before months elapse. What he is aiming for in the short term is a measure of international legitimacy for the US military operation in Iraq. This license is demanded by New Delhi and Bangladesh before they will consider committing military personnel to Iraq. But the cloak of legitimacy is vital for even more pressing reasons:
First, The Bush administration has failed to obtain pan-Arab endorsement for the US-appointed provisional government in Baghdad and needs an overarching international imprimatur instead.
Second, Radical Islamic voices have called on the faithful around the world to join up for a fight in Iraq under the rallying slogan of “Iraq Tumadikum!” – We March on Iraq!
Only two such call-ups are known to have been issued in the 20th century: From 1982-1987, Muslims were called to fight a Jihad in Afghanistan against the Soviet Red Army.
In 1989, the Muslim world was rallied by the slogan of “Palestine Tumadikum!”
Now for the first time in the 21st century, Muslims are being called to fight – this time against the Americans in Iraq.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s political sources in Washington report that the Bush administration feels impelled to make a fitting response to the gathering international dimension of the guerrilla-terrorist forces ranged against the United States in Iraq and the transformation of Iraqi warfare into an Islamic war. Washington has therefore embarked on a diplomatic offensive to internationalize its Iraq campaign. White House strategists estimate that this epic development might tip the scales of decision-making in Moscow, Beijing and Berlin. Those powers may decide to offer assistance out of sheer self-interest to fend off a danger that could encroach on their own societies. Moscow, Beijing and Bonn may start out by cautiously supporting a the principle of a multinational effort in Iraq as incorporated in a UN Security Council motion and then move on to active participation in that effort – and not only in Iraq but on other fronts of the same war.
The Bush administration has lost hope of drawing France into this front. At best, Washington hopes for Paris’s neutrality in the expanding conflict, although the latest reports from the French capital indicate that this posture may also be more than President Chirac is prepared to offer.
On the face of it, the US administrator Paul Bremer has been resoundingly successful in establishing the groundwork for Iraqi self-government at astonishing speed. A provisional 25-member government was sworn in Wednesday, September 3, with 13 seats for the Shiite Muslim majority, 5 for the Sunnis, 5 for Kurds, 1 Turkmen and 1 Assyrian Christian. However, the key posts of prime minister, defense minister and information minister are vacant, leaving Bremer ex officio head of government.
Before the appointments were made, the interim government council sent a delegation headed by acting chairman Ibrahim Joafri on a tour of Arab capitals.
That tour of introduction to gain Arab approval was supposed to have been carefully choreographed in advance by the State Department in Washington and the US ambassadors in the capitals visited. Yet according to DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Persian Gulf sources, it was a diplomatic fiasco – both for Washington and the newly appointed Iraqi officials. They were snubbed everywhere except Kuwait and Jordan. Elsewhere, they were received by low-ranking officials at best; In Cairo and Riyadh, they were stood up by lowly local functionaries.
The Egyptian semi-official daily al Ahram actually stigmatized the new Iraqi ministers as “a group of fugitives following US orders who set up opposition groups to Saddam Hussein in nightclubs abroad”.
Jordan’s Abdullah did his best to persuade Syrian President Bashar Assad to receive the Iraqi appointees in Damascus with courtesy. He sent his prime minister Abu Ragheb secretly to the Syrian capital with largesse: Assad was offered a unique opportunity to sort out his differences with the Bush government and even perhaps the re-opening of the Iraqi-Syrian oil pipeline that US forces shut down at the outset of the Iraq War.
All the same, Assad declined to receive the Iraqi officials.
The Iraqi delegation returned home deeply affronted.
Washington has encountered more than one embarrassment in the inter-Arab domain. Officials in the US capital as well as Bremer are keen on Ahmed Chalabi, leader of the Iraq National Congress, assuming the post of interior minister with responsibility for internal security. The problem here is that Chalabi’s financial past is murky; he has been linked with two bank failures in the Middle East and a 22-jail sentence with hard labor for embezzlement is outstanding against him in Iraq’s neighbor, Jordan, in connection with the Petra Bank which he founded and liquidated.
To clear Chalabi’s name, it is being suggested that he was falsely implicated in the scandal by officials in the regime of Abdullah’s father the late King Hussein, who kowtowed to Saddam Hussein because they were scared of him.
It has been decided therefore to try and bridge the lacuna created by determined Arab non-recognition of the US-sponsored regime in Baghdad by seeking international accreditation. Otherwise it is feared that even the 30 or so countries which have contributed personnel, such as Poland, Bulgaria, the Ukraine, Mongolia and others, will fade out. To expedite the smooth and rapid transition of government into Iraqi hands, Washington needs the aegis of a United Nations presence in Baghdad with all possible speed.