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