Split in NATO, U.S. anger and Franco-German proposals

Germany has confirmed it would work with France to introduce a new Security Council resolution aimed at disarming Iraq without war by strengthening the inspections regime and backing it up with United Nations peacekeepers. While Russia expressed cautious support for the Franco-German initiative, the United States, predictably, threw a hissy fit. Meanwhile, Belgium and possibly France will block the United States’ request to NATO to shore up Turkey’s defenses when war breaks out with Iraq.

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The United Nations Security Council faces some tough choices

Germany has confirmed it would work with France to introduce a new Security Council resolution aimed at disarming Iraq without war by strengthening the inspections regime and backing it up with United Nations peacekeepers. While Russia expressed cautious support for the Franco-German initiative, the United States, predictably, threw a hissy fit. Meanwhile, Belgium and possibly France will block the United States’ request to NATO to shore up Turkey’s defenses when war breaks out with Iraq.
“Damn those Eurowimps!” Rumsfeld was heard to exclaim when Germany admitted to working on the resolution. (Ok, he didn’t really say that.) The plan calls for France and Germany to put its euro where its mouth is by tripling the number of inspectors, declaring all of Iraq a no-fly zone and backing it all up with thousands of U.N. peacekeepers. German Defense Minister Peter Struck said German “could well take part” in the peacekeeping force if the proposal is adopted.
But let’s be honest. The United States, which reacted angrily to France and Germany acting like sovereign nations with national interests of their own, will veto any such resolution. Which brings us to an interesting game of chicken on the Security Council. Britain is set to introduce a resolution authorizing force against Iraq in the next week or so. Germany is set to introduce the peacekeeping initiative Feb. 14, the day of U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix’s likely final report. France and Russia could veto the British resolution while the United States could veto the Franco-German one. What’s a superpower to do?
The snit is getting increasingly personal, too, with the French and German officials clashing with their American counterparts. As the Guardian reported:

Mr. Rumsfeld, a leading US hawk, said it was not surprising if public opinion in Germany and France was opposed to war in Iraq if their governments were.
[German Defense Minister Joschka] Fischer lashed back: “You have to make the case in a democracy. Excuse me, I’m not convinced.”

The United States will be under enormous pressure to go along with the strengthened inspections, since world opinion is firmly on the side of giving inspectors more time. (Plus, it allows the lilliputians of the world to throw at least a few symbolic ties around the American Gulliver.) This latest proposal by the French and Germans is a gamble, a gauntlet tossed at the feet of the United States by multilateralists who say, “If you walk out that door alone, don’t expect to come back.” If the United States persists in warning the United Nations that it is threatened with irrelevancy if it doesn’t enforce its resolutions, then France and Germany are challenging America to walk out on the U.N., as it did the League of Nations, betting, of course, the Bush White House is unwilling to take that drastic a step to get its way on Iraq.
(By the way, Kos has a lively debate on this in the comments section of his site, Daily Kos.)
At the same time, Belgium is planning to block a U.S. request for war materiel for Turkey to defend itself for when the war breaks out in early March. Turkey responded by saying it was “strongly likely” to invoke Article 4 of the NATO treaty for the first time in history. The article, which says, “The Parties will consult together whenever, in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the Parties is threatened,” allows a member country to claim the alliance’s attention if it is threatened. Belgium’s foreign minister, Louis Michel, said deployment under a NATO umbrella would be tantamount to endorsing a war with Iraq. (However, Germany and the Netherlands have gone ahead and dispatched Patriot missile systems to Turkey by the end of next week, with or without NATO’s help. Stratfor muses that the boldness of the Dutch was a signal that it stands with the United States, after declining to sign on that open letter circulated last week, itself a further sign of the deep divisions within Europe.)
In my opinion, Belgium has stepped over the line on this one. Regardless of why Turkey is threatened, NATO members have a treaty obligation and should step up to the plate. Lending aid in defense of a ally is not the same as providing assistance in an aggressive war. What principle is served if an Iraqi gas attack kills thousands of innocent Turkish civilians and the Turks were unable to defend against it because they didn’t have the proper equipment? Michel and others may argue that such attacks won’t happen if America would quiet its war drums, but the fact of the matter is those people will still be dead — and they likely would have been opposed to the war, if Turkish opinion polls are to be believed.
All of this points to the shape of the world after war with Iraq. The Atlantic Alliance could be shattered, the Middle East transformed in ways unforseen, the European Union revealed as a deeply fissured beast and a reorganization of American military power in Europe. Sure seems like a lot of change to disarm Iraq, no? Especially when you consider that Libya and Iran — the latter admitted today to having uranium — both have similar weapons of mass destruction programs and a longer and more violent history of terrorism and support of trans-national terror groups. But, as I’ve stated before, WMD are only the public reason the Bush White House is calling for Saddam’s head. The real reasons, which I’ll detail later Monday, are based in hard-nosed geostrategic iniatives that are breathtaking in scope.

Regional diplomats pulled from Gulf; Blix continues to talk

While chief United Nations arms inspectors Hans Blix and Mohammed El Baradei journeyed to Baghdad to for “very substantial” talks, the United states pulled out all but its most senior diplomats from the Persian Gulf region. At the same time, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said Saturday that France and Germany’s attempts to give inspectors more time were actually increasing the possibility of war rather than averting it.

While chief United Nations arms inspectors Hans Blix and Mohammed El Baradei journeyed to Baghdad to for “very substantial” talks, the United states pulled out all but its most senior diplomats from the Persian Gulf region . At the same time, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said Saturday that France and Germany’s attempts to give inspectors more time were actually increasing the possibility of war rather than averting it.
“There are those who counsel that we should delay preparations” for war against Iraq. “Ironically, that approach could well make war more likely, not less, because delaying preparations sends a signal of uncertainty,” Rumsfeld said in the opening address at an international conference on security policy.
We live in a topsy-turvy world. As Iraq makes concession after concession — Blix has managed to wring more documents, private interviews with scientists and possibly U-2 spy plane flights — London and Washington keep saying that Iraq is missing its chance to comply. With the 101st and a fifth carrier group dispatched to the region, and the removal of diplomats, it seems that war is, indeed, inevitable and Iraq has no reason to comply as President Bush has said, “The United States, along with a growing coalition of nations, will take whatever action is necessary to defend ourselves and disarm the Iraqi regime.”
By the way, this part of Bush’s radio address — “We also know that Iraq is harboring a terrorist network headed by a senior al Qaeda terrorist planner. This network runs a poison and explosive training camp in northeast Iraq, and many of its leaders are known to be in Baghdad” — is mostly a lie. As I’ve pointed out several times, Iraq is not harboring Ansar al-Islam; that group has taken refuge in the Kurdish area on the Iranian border that’s under the protection of the RAF and the American Air Force. And if it runs a poison and explosive training camp, why doesn’t the United States bomb it as the PUK has requested on numerous occasions?
I realize I’ve become a broken record on this subject, but so has the White House. It has never strayed from its determination to invade and conquer Iraq since 1999 when then-Gov. Bush signed on to the idea. What have changed are the ever-shifting reasons for invading Iraq that Bush has trotted out. But as Thomas Friedman pointed out his column (registration required) not a single audience of Americans he talked to are ready to fight this war. “I understand what the Afghan war was about and would have volunteered with a pitchfork,” he quotes an everyman as saying. “But I just don’t get this war.”
Just wait a few weeks, Everyman. You’ll get this war — whether you want it or not.

BREAKING NEWS — Downing Street Dossier on Iraq plagiarized

The dossier on Iraq published by the British Prime Minister’s office — which was lauded by Colin Powell yesterday at the United Nations — appears to have been plagiarized from a small Middle Eastern studies Journal.

Oh, boy. The dossier on Iraq published by the British Prime Minister’s office — which was lauded by Colin Powell yesterday at the United Nations — appears to have been plagiarized from a small Middle Eastern studies Journal.
The dossier, “Iraq: Its Infrastructure of Concealment Deception and Intimidation,” was published Monday on the office of the prime minister’s web site, www.number-10.gov.uk. It reproduced, almost verbatim, portions of an article from the Middle East Review of International Affairs, according to Cambridge academic Glen Ranwala. The author of the original article is Ibrahim al-Marashi, a postgraduate student from Monterey in California.
One section, six paragraphs long, on Saddam’s Special Security Organization uses the exact language, even down to the typographical errors, as al-Marashi’s article ldoes. There also seems to be several places where the language was made more sinister. For example, Downing Street says Iraq’s Mukhabarat, the main intelligence agency, is “spying on foreign embassies in Iraq” while the original language says it is “monitoring foreign embassies.”
The dossier does not appear now on the PM’s site, to the best of my searching. Perhaps it’s been pulled?
[UPDATE: Thanks to a clear-eyed reader, the dossier link is here. I just never found it. Oopsies.]
I can only shake my head at this. I understand that Team Bush — which now must surely include Tony Blair — is feeling the pressure to make their case to invade Iraq and topple Saddam. I’m not saying the information in the dossier isn’t true, but credibility is all-important here. How can the United States and Britain be so careless as to rip off journals to produce heavily scrutinized reports? Don’t they know how this will appear to the world? The Arab world is utterly suspicious of the Anglo Alliance’s motives. France and Russia are skeptical, too. This is the moral equivalent of planting evidence. While you know the guy’s guilty, and the evidence is likely there, there are procedures prosecutors have to follow, otherwise the whole process is compromised.
But perhaps this is the point. Team Bush has been contemptuous of the U.N. since he took office, and this seems more of a pattern that comes from the White House — and now from Downing Street. Actions such as this tell the world that Team Bush will do anything to get their way with Iraq.
And that’s not the way to win the peace after a war.

Powell lays out case for war, but Security Council mostly unconvinced

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell attempted to lay out the case for war against Iraq, using tape recordings, photographs and diagrams in an attempt to persuade a reluctant U.N. Security Council that war is the only answer to deal with Saddam Hussein’s defiance of UNSCR 1441. China, Russia and France, however, remained skeptical that war was the answer.

Colin Powell
Secretary of State Colin Powell presents the United States’ evidence against Iraq to the Security Council.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell attempted to lay out the case for war against Iraq, using tape recordings, photographs and diagrams in an attempt to persuade a reluctant U.N. Security Council that war is the only answer to deal with Saddam Hussein’s defiance of UNSCR 1441. (A transcript of his speech is available here.) China, Russia and France, however, remained skeptical that war was the answer.
Still, Powell was good with his 90-minute presentation. The New York Times said, “Mr. Powell’s presentation was all the more convincing because he dispensed with apocalyptic invocations of a struggle of good and evil and focused on shaping a sober, factual case against Mr. Hussein’s regime. It may not have produced a ‘smoking gun,’ but it left little question that Mr. Hussein had tried hard to conceal one.” This presentation was the rhetorical equivalent of the Powell Docrine: Go in with overwhelming force.
But there was little in the presentation that came as a surprise. Powell made a strong case that Iraq was not cooperating with UMOVIC and not disarming. “Saddam Hussein and his regime are doing everything they can to make sure the inspectors find absolutely nothing,” he told the Council and used taped intercepts from November and January that he says demonstrate that the Iraqis are hiding prohibited items to thwart inspectors’ efforts. Scientists have been threatened and spies installed on the UNMOVIC teams. What was most significant about the presentation was the degree that it relied on recent data, with much of the satellite photos having been taken in November mere days before the weapons inspectors returned to Iraq.
“Saddam Hussein has chemical weapons. Saddam Hussein has used such weapons. And Saddam Hussein has no compunction about using them again, against his neighbors and against his own people,” Powell said.
I’m not going to get into the standard answer to these charges. Of course, Saddam has chemical weapons and biological weapons. Many might say this didn’t bother the United States when it was arming Saddam and providing his army with intelligence to rain death down on the Iranians during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War. And many might wish that the Reagan and first Bush administrations had been more forceful in their condemnation when Saddam was gassing the Kurds of Halabja. Be that as it may, this is now.
Turning to nuclear weapons however, Powell’s case begins to shake a little. “We have more than a decade of proof that he remains determined to acquire nuclear weapons.” Powell says, admitting implicitly that Saddam’s goal remains unfulfilled. If Powell was attempting to make a case for war based on Iraq’s nuclear ambitions, he actually made the case for stronger sanctions. He lays out all the ways that Iraq’s plans were foiled either through inspectors or defectors or interception of communications. In short, he admits that while Iraq is seeking a bomb, it does not have one. The (probably unintended) implication is that Saddam will not get one, either, while the U.N. watches so closely.
And when Powell turns to links to al Qa’ida, the case begins to wobble badly. It all rests on the shoulders of Abu Musab Al-Zarqwi, whom Powel calls a high-ranking Qa’ida member based in northeastern Iraq (Iraqi Kurdistan.) As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, Baghdad’s backing of Ansar al-Islam is hardly a solid link to al Qa’ida. Splinter groups opposed to the Kurds are funded by every enemy of the PUK and KDP, including Iran and Turkey. Ansar may be an al Qa’ida affiliate — it’s certainly inspired by Osama bin Laden’s Islamo-fascism — but few members of the security council are willing to go to war over Ansar, especially since if the group were such a threat, the United States could have wiped it out long ago with a series of bombings out of Incirlik Air Base or a surgical strike by SpecOps. Instead, the United States seems to be allowing the group to harass the Kurds of northeastern Iraq so that it can point to the group whenever it needs an Iraq-Qa’ida connection.
In all, Powell presented nothing really new, and nothing that will likely produce a flocking to the United States’ side from the permanent members of the Council. In fact, skeptics, such as France and Russia, still see the U.S. case as unproven. Tang Jiaxuan, Chinese Foreign Minister, said, “”[UN weapons inspectors] are not in a position to draw conclusions and they have suggested continuing the inspections. We should respect their views […] and support the continuation of their work.”
“This information has to be immediately handed over for processing by the IAEA through on-site verification during the inspections in Iraq,” added Igor Ivanov, Russian Foreign Minister. “Experts in our countries must immediately get down to analysing and drawing the appropriate conclusions.”
And Dominique de Villepin, French Foreign Minister, ever sniffy, said, “For now we must reinforce the inspection regime. The use of force can only be a final resort.”
So. There is little doubt that Iraq is guilty and in breach of UNSCR 1441, at least as far as having chemical weapons is concerned. That’s not really the issue, and even France, our not-ally, has signed on to the greater goal of disarming Saddam. The question is really, how does the world sentence the guilty?

Syrian and France coordinating on Security Council

Sorry for the delay. I was slammed by a deadline and couldn’t come up for air. Thus, I missed the State of the Union. Please see George Paine’s entry on Warblogging for a good analysis of the speech.
In other news, Stratfor is reporting that the French and Syrian presidents are planning to coordinate their efforts on the U.N. Security Council to avoid war in Iraq. Their source is the Syrian Arab News Agency. Unfortunately, there seem to be no further details. I will see what I can come up with.