US-Europe Iraq Standoff Throws UN, NATO and EU into Fatal Crisis

The world’s key international bodies – the United Nations, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union – are splitting fatally over the Iraq arms crisis. A NATO emergency session was deadlocked Monday, February 10, when three leading European nations, France, Germany and Belgium, encouraged by Russia – a non-member – blocked an American request to extend boosted protection to Turkey in a war contingency, chiefly AWACS surveillance planes, Patriot missiles and anti-chemical and anti-biological warfare teams.
France, Germany, Russia and Belgium argued that approval of Washington’s request would send out two wrong signals:
1.That they approve of American military action against Iraq and are prepared to join in – which is untrue. The Russian and French presidents stated jointly in Paris Monday that Iraq must be disarmed by peaceful means, that the UN inspectors must be allowed continue their mission and that war was only a last resort.
2. By sending Turkey the two teams, they would affirm that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction for which Turkey needs protection. This would cut the ground from under the UN inspection mission and any further diplomacy, clearing the way for military action without further ado.
Responding to the veto, Turkey promptly invoked Article 4 of the NATO Charter – “The parties will consult together whenever the territory integrity, political independence of security of any member is… threatened” – to summon an emergency consultation of the 19-member alliance before the end of the day. As Iraq’s neighbor, Turkey sees Saddam’s missiles and warplanes, some bearing chemical, biological or even radioactive weapons, coming in overhead in reprisal for an American offensive. (Israel though similarly threatened is not a member of NATO). The meeting ended in deadlock.
US defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld responded to the triple veto by declaring that NATO would not delay the war: “We will act without them,” he said. US NATO envoy Nicholas Burns denounced the three European allies’ decision for throwing the alliance into a credibility crisis.
Since the UN arms inspectors’ final report Friday, February 14, is more than likely to be negative, the United Nations Security Council stands to face the same destructive deadlock as NATO, between the camp led by the United States, the UK and Turkey and the group led by Germany, France and Russia.
Messrs. Blix and ElBaradei have already voiced disappointment that Iraq was less than cooperative in the search for weapons of mass destruction. Blix said in Athens that the last batch of Iraqi documents on past WMD programs contained nothing new, nor were top-flight Iraqi scientists any more available for unaccompanied interviews. The dramatic announcement Monday night, February 10, that Iraq would accept U-2 reconnaissance flights, was quickly shot down when Saddam Hussein announced over television that even this belated concession was conditional on the cessation of US-UK air raids against Iraq military targets. His next step was to expel 68 foreign correspondents from Baghdad.
The NATO showdown Monday may therefore be seen as a dress rehearsal for the first-night performance at UN Center, New York, next Monday, when a European motion will be tabled at the Security Council to block the US-UK “second resolution” giving Saddam a 48-hour ultimatum to quit Baghdad or face war.
The European Union summit on the Iraq crisis called by the EU president Greece is likely to suffer the same divisive fallout.
For the moment, the cohesiveness of NATO and the EU hinges on the UN Security Council’s ability to break the impasse and move forward. The destinies of all three bodies are bound up in the Iraq crisis and its resolution. International consensus is evaporating as fast as the American troop buildup advances. The United States and the anti-war camp are clearly determined to bring the standoff to a head. The test of wills is already exacting a heavy diplomatic price – and it is only just beginning.
Until last November, America’s strategic planning was not taken seriously, even when President George W. Bush promised America would go solo against Saddam’s regime and his arsenal of prohibited hardware, then maintain some 70,000 troops in Iraq for a decade or so to install democratic government in Baghdad, redraw Middle East borders and change its ethno-geography and the disposition of the region’s oil fields.
These changes were to reshape the geopolitics of Europe, Asia and Central Asia.
But, then, the United States turned to the UN Security Council as a gesture to its international relations. In late November, 2002, Resolution 1441 was passed unanimously, promising serious consequences for Iraq if it continued to flout UN arms resolutions and failed to cooperate fully with the UN arms inspections teams. From that moment on, the Bush administration dug in its heels, determined to pursue military action against Iraq, and from that point the rift began to widen. Germany, France, Russia and China, largely with Arab support, employed one delaying tactic after another in their equal determination to block a US offensive.
The acrobatic maneuvers performed since to keep the UN inspection afloat have driven the two camps too far apart for their differences to be papered over. Even if a face-saver is devised, it will not arrest four disastrous trends already in motion.
A. The steady disintegration of the United Nations for all practical purposes.
B. The breakdown of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization – the strategic pact binding the United States and Europe since World War II.
C. The serious erosion of the European Union as a West European-oriented community, followed by the redistribution of the continent’s power centers to the nations supporting the US offensive against Iraq: the UK, Italy, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Denmark and the new NATO members of eastern Europe.
D. The race for domination of the Asian-Pacific region among the United States, Russia and China. The field is at present left to the bit-player in Pyongyang, Kim Jong-Il, and his two to four nuclear bombs.
In one important sense the Iraq war and regime change in Baghdad could become the historic broom for sweeping away the last political and military vestiges of the Cold War ending in the last quarter of the 20th century and herald a new strategic reality, for better or worse.
If the UN dies on its feet, it is not only because Bush, in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11 2001, decided to take charge of America’s world war on terror and also defeat Iraq, but because the world body, and especially the Security Council, was designed for another age, when the excesses inherent in the clash of two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, had to be contained for the sake of world equilibrium.
The UN’s structure in relation to the current state of the world, its powerhouses and sources of danger is therefore an anachronism. India, for example, the second most populous nation and a world nuclear, economic and military power, is not a permanent Security Council member and has hardly any influence in the world body.
Moreover, in the last decade, the world body has fallen down on at least four of its primary missions: Preventing nuclear proliferation, the war on AIDS, fighting the spread of world hunger and halting international terrorism. The tally of UN peacekeeping missions is just as dismal: Somalia – 1993; Bosnia – 1994 and 1996. More than one million human beings slaughtered in Ruwanda and the Congo in 1996 and 1997; the Kosovo campaign of 1998 and 1999, which has unfortunate repercussions to this day; the 2000 Israeli-Palestinian confrontation, which is still going on.
Secretary General Kofi Annan is perfectly aware that that United States in going to war against Iraq without a UN mandate will administer the coup de grace to an organization that has long abdicated responsibility for world order.
By the same definition, NATO is on its way out. It will be up to the historians to judge which side of the transatlantic alliance caused its demise, the American or the European. It is a fact that the only surviving superpower and military colossus is bent on relocating its strategic center of gravity from Europe to the Middle East and Asia. The determination to frustrate this epic move is behind the fierce antagonism manifested by Moscow and Beijing to an American takeover of Iraq.
These processes are in their early stages. But as they mature into American and allied military action against Iraq and further anti-terror campaigns against Middle East nations that harbor terrorists like Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon, so too will the anti-war camp strive to distance itself from American actions.
Since Russia, France and Germany do not command sufficient economic and military clout to directly challenge the United States, they are planting anti-US mines in every international and regional organization where they are joint members, to tie their adversary’ down.
How this anti-US campaign benefits President Jacques Chirac’s France and Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s Germany is not clear. Instead of pulling European away from America, they are isolating themselves on the continent, reduced to a minority voice where once they dominated.
Washington had little trouble in mustering eight European governments to the Iraqi war flag.
The 70,000 American troops permanently stationed in Germany, who have been disappearing in the direction of the Persian Gulf, may not return when the war is over. Some Americans say US troops should be withdrawn from Germany and posted in new bases in Poland or Hungary.
The US:UN, US:NATO and US: W. Europe ruptures are more than likely to cut across the Middle East Quartet, which is made up of American, European Union, UN and Russian envoys, and alter the course of its “road map” to a Palestinian state. The close Bush-Sharon alliance may well be countered by a Franco-German pact with a Palestinian figure.
Moreover, Israel’s trade relations, already hit by the Palestinian confrontation and unacknowledged boycotts by some European nations, will suffer further. Trading partners may have to be switched, France, Germany, Belgium, parts of Scandinavia and possibly Russia, replaced by Italy, Spain, Portugal, Denmark as well as Hungary, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Poland.

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