Pakistans President Pervez Musharraf

*Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf expressed reluctance to endorse war between the US and Iraq at the Non-Aligned Movement meeting in Kuala Lumpur. Pakistan is on the Security Council at the moment and is one of 6 nations from which the US hopes to draw supportive votes for the resolution just introduced by Britain and Spain, authorizing the war. The Pakistani parliament will meet Weds., and will take up issues like whether the recent martial law amendments to the constitution made by Musharraf last summer are . . . constitutional. About 20% of seats are held by the fundamentalist Muslim parties, who are pro-Taliban, and who have announced their die-hard opposition to an Iraq war. They have even recently more or less called for jihad volunteers to go from Pakistan to fight US forces in Iraq if the Iraqis ask for help. (This move would not be effective against US air power, but these statements point to the depth of polarization in Pakistan over the issue).

Many think that in the end, Musharraf will back the US on Iraq, given Pakistan’s need for US economic and military help. There will be hell to pay in Pakistan if so, though Musharraf can probably weather the strom. It is a little unlikely that the four pro-war countries can pick up the needed 5 votes from the undecided six, though. France is convinced that the three African countries will vote no. Mexico and Chile are skeptical. Even if just the Cameroons and Guinea side with France, the US will lose the vote. It will be ironic if the US loses in the Security Council in part because Chile won’t back it. The US helped overthrow the elected government of Chile in 1973 and installed a brutal and virtually genocidal strong man, Gen. Pinochet, who ruled in ways not so dissimilar from those favored by Saddam Hussein. Now that it wants international approval for regime change in Iraq, Chile may not give it.