US Isolation on Iraq
There were several international and national developments with regard to the coming US attack on Iraq on Wednesday.
On Wednesday, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder warned in Bild that “any military attack on Iraq could destroy the international coalition against terrorism.” He said, “This fight (against terrorism) is not yet won and that is why I am warning against an attack on Iraq,” adding “It will not be well understood as a means of defence and could destroy the international alliance against terrorism.” Bild likewise reported that the Christian Democrat candidate in the upcoming elections, Edmund Stoiber, *also* said, “New commitments abroad by the Bundeswehr [German military] are not on the agenda.”
AFP reported that the European Union diplomats insisted that all diplomatic means to resolving the conflict with Iraq be exhausted before a military solution was adopted.
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov called a military strike on Iraq “unacceptable.”
Also on Wednesday, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud said “publicly and privately” that “the U.S. military will not be allowed to use the kingdom’s soil in any way for an attack on Iraq.” (AP). He added, “We have told them we don’t (want) them to use Saudi grounds” for any attack on Iraq, he said. [This wording leaves in question whether the US will be permitted to use Saudi airspace, which from a military point of view is highly desirable and perhaps necessary to the whole operation.]
Prince Saud also complained about the briefing given to a Pentagon advisory board on Monday by a Rand analyst, Laurent Murawiec, who had called for all relations with the Saudis to be cut off and alleged that “The Saudis are active at every level of the terror chain, from planners to financiers, from cadre to foot-soldier, from ideologist to cheerleader,” and that it “attacks our allies and supports our enemies.” This presentation was apparently arranged for the board by Richard Perle of the American Enterprise Institute (who serves on it), as part of an ongoing neoconservative attempt to drive a wedge between the US and Saudi Arabia. This effort is being pursued in a concerted manner by AEI, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and the Hudson Institute–all supported by anonymous wealthy donors and all with a policy tilt toward the Likud Party. Apparently the effort is mounted both because Saudi Arabia is an obstacle in the planned attack on Iraq, which is being pushed by the same think tanks, and because of Saudia’s role in the Mideast conflict.
Canadian Foreign Minister Bill Graham criticized Washington for rejecting out of hand an Iraqi offer to resume weapons inspections. He insisted that any US action against Iraq must be authorized by the UN Security Council (a stance also taken by Kuwait’s foreign minister). Canada, he said, would decline to join in any military action without UN sanction.
The Iraqi Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan) announced during a visit to Ankara that he would not blindly commit to a U.S. action against Baghdad. He seemed especially worried that the US intends to replace Saddam with just another dictator, and said this would be unacceptable. (Christopher Hitchens in this week’s Nation also raises the possibility that the Bush administration really seeks a more malleable replacement for Saddam rather than a truly democratic regime).
On the other hand, the Tehran-based chairman of the Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution in Iraq, SCIRI , Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim, has come under severe pressure from conservatives in Iran because of his decision to continue contacts with the Bush administration (this from a special to Asharq al-Awsat). The Shi`ites are the cooperative ones here, folks.
A busy day. Even the days just previous had some significant developments.
On Tuesday the spokesman for China’ foreign ministry welcomed Saddam’s hedged offer to allow UN weapons inspectors back in. China has repeatedly criticized any notion of Washington expanding the war on terror to Iraq, with which China has good relations. A diplomatic emissary from Baghdad will visit Beijing and Moscow later in August.
In Amman, Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri met withTurkish Foreign Minister Sukru Sina Gurel to discuss the possible US attack on Iraq. Gurel urged Iraq to resume weapons inspections as soon as possible.
On Monday, British Prime Minister Tony Blair came under pressure to recall Parliament (in recess until Oct. 15) to debate a military move against Iraq. A recent poll showed that a little over half of UK citizens opposed a war with Iraq. A British Foreign Office minister said on Wednesday that war was “imminent” but not “inevitable.”
It seems obvious that the Bush administration remains internationally isolated on the issue of a war against Iraq. I suspect the war party in Washington underestimates how important a UN Security Council resolution would be to legitimizing such an effort. At the moment, I count France, China and Russia as “no” votes on the Council, and of course it only needs one really stubborn member willing to use a veto to torpedo any resolution.
In the meantime, I continue to be amazed at the blatant unprofessionalism of most cable television news interviewers and the breathtaking dishonesty of their guests. Repeated unsubstantiated allegations are made hourly with regard both to Iraq’s supposed links to al-Qaida and with regard to the Saudi government being full of terrorists. Bill O’Reilly launched into a frankly racist tirade against a poor German correspondent over Schroeder’s statement. Probably only a couple of million Americans watch such programs, but these techniques and statements are mirrored on conservative radio talk shows, which have much larger audiences. The sad state of US mass media news may well help pitch us into perpetual war because it is not doing its job of reporting critically on the facts and keeping interviewees honest.