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Balance of Global Opinion Shifting on Iraq
STRATFOR ^ | 12 September 2002 | Staff

Posted on 09/12/2002 4:15:04 PM PDT by Axion

Balance of Global Opinion Shifting on Iraq
12 September 2002


In his address to the U.N. General Assembly, U.S. President George W. Bush laid out Washington's case against Iraq and sought international support. In effect, he said the United Nations must back up its numerous resolutions against Iraq with action if it wants to remain a relevant organization. The speech was part of a broader diplomatic track that appears to be slowly chipping away at opposition to an attack on Iraq.


U.S. President George W. Bush addressed the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 12, laying out Washington's case for military action against Iraq. He listed the numerous U.N. Security Council resolutions Iraq has "defied" and said Baghdad must immediately comply with all of them if it wants peace.

Bush's main point was that Iraq has unilaterally subverted the authority of the U.N. Security Council by ignoring its demands, and therefore if the Security Council or the United Nations as a whole is to prove effective, it must take action.

One of the biggest arguments against an attack on Iraq has been that there is no proof that Iraq and al Qaeda are linked. Bush now has moved beyond that question by making the U.N. stance on Iraq a litmus test for the organization's viability and authority, not by framing the issue as part of the war against terrorism. In differentiating these issues, Bush has shifted the equation, and the decision to attack Iraq now moves to the U.N. Security Council.

The 15-member Security Council includes the five permanent members -- China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and United States -- plus 10 rotating members. Those are currently Bulgaria, Cameroon, Colombia, Guinea, Ireland, Mauritius, Mexico, Norway, Singapore and Syria. Only nine votes are needed to pass Security Council resolutions, and only the permanent members retain veto power. That means that, to garner the international backing it seeks, Washington first must convince the five permanent members of the need to attack Iraq, then consult the other 10.

Finally, it also needs support or cooperation from several non-council members whose location or relationship with the United States makes them strategically valuable.

Among the permanent members, the United Kingdom clearly is behind Washington, and Prime Minister Tony Blair has reiterated that support several times recently. Despite its rhetoric, France too will back Washington. Paris has suggested it will support action against Iraq as long as it comes from a U.N. Security Council resolution -- and Washington essentially has told France and all others who use this excuse to put their money where their mouths are.

This leaves Russia and China, which have vocally opposed U.S. action against Iraq. It appears Washington is buying China's silence, or at least its abstention from the vote, with new "consultations" with Beijing and its action against so-called East Turkestan separatists. For Beijing, the international prestige gained with global headlines proclaiming that Bush is consulting China before taking any action on Iraq is nearly enough in itself to cancel out a possible veto. The icing on the cake came when Washington labeled Uighur separatists in the western Xinjiang province "terrorist" -- acceding to Beijing's longstanding claims.

Russia, too, is being bought off by the United States. Russian President Vladimir Putin has firmly locked his nation, at least in the near term, into a closer relationship with Europe, and Washington is helping him work toward that goal. From its new relationship with NATO to enhanced energy ties, Moscow sees its western flank as the greatest hope for its economic survival. The Kremlin still may ask for a very public U.S. statement welcoming Russia into the European community and even seek greater freedom in its campaign against Chechen separatists -- both inside Russia and neighboring Georgia. But Putin appears ready to back, or at least not block, a U.N. resolution against Iraq.

With the permanent members effectively locked down, Washington can turn to the rotating members. Cameroon, Guinea and Mauritius are all ready and willing to be bought off through trade and aid. Cameroon may need a tacit nod from France, its former colonial ruler, but it also wants to increase ties with Washington now that the United States has shown renewed interest in investing in West African oil and gas projects.

Of the remaining European members, Bulgaria will support a resolution, as it is eager to strengthen ties with the United States. Sofia realizes that it is not likely to make the cut for 2004 entry into the European Union and thus is even more anxious to get into NATO this year. The government hopes that by gaining membership in NATO, it will be a shoo-in for the EU.

Ireland also is likely to back or not oppose a resolution, despite its traditionally neutral stance. Dublin will want more information on what will happen after an invasion of Iraq, but it remains strongly pro-U.S. Norway, too, is unlikely to oppose a resolution and may be secretly hoping military action will boost its own revenues as a major oil producer.

Of the members from the Americas, both Colombia and Mexico are likely to support a resolution -- Bogota more strongly than Mexico City. Mexican President Vicente Fox has not been able to gain many benefits from Washington and may try to press his case for more rights for immigrant workers, but Mexico ultimately will go along with the Bush administration.

As for the rest, Singapore, being a reliable ally, is unlikely to oppose the United States. Syria -- which is important not only for its vote but also for its proximity to Iraq -- may take some convincing, though there are signs that negotiations are already underway. Damascus wants U.S. sanctions against Syria eased and also may want Washington to tone down its rhetoric against Hezbollah, which Damascus views as an issue between Syria and Israel. Bush apparently is offering to block new legislation that would further punish Syria, and he likely is willing to offer more to gain Syria's support.

If the Security Council passes a resolution, international opposition to action against Iraq -- even if it is organized and led primarily by the United States -- will wane considerably. Washington still will need to win over some key states, either to assure their active participation or gain access to their territory. U.S. allies like Australia and Canada will be easy to bring on board, particularly if Washington makes a point of "consulting" them as it has with China and Russia. Another key ally, Japan, apparently is ready to join the campaign against Iraq, saying it can offer defense support to U.S. forces if there is a U.N. resolution. Tokyo is busy reshaping its defense forces and sees an action against Iraq as an important test of its own capabilities and cooperation.

In the Middle East, Washington needs the backing of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. These Gulf states are tied closely to the United States and just await a nod from Saudi Arabia before they sign on fully. For its part, Riyadh appears to be moving away from its early opposition to a strike, and Washington's U.N. action will only reduce the Saudi government's reticence.

Washington is also looking to Egypt, Jordan and Turkey for support. Both Egypt and Jordan can buy into a military operation as long as there is a U.N. resolution and they are promised more aid and trade. Egypt wants a free trade agreement with Washington, similar to what Jordan has already received. Turkey, too, would like money, considering the state of its economy. Ankara also wants an assurance that no independent Kurdish state will be established in northern Iraq -- but given its current political and economic troubles, Turkey is in no position to block a U.N.-sanctioned attack.

Iran, Iraq's neighbor, may be a harder sell. Whatever concessions the United States may offer, officials in Tehran know that after Baghdad falls, Iran will be completely surrounded by the United States. Further, without Iraq, leaders fear that Washington will become much more concerned about Iran's own strength.

Apart from issuing strong statements, Tehran is unlikely to do much to block an attack, but it can make things difficult for Washington by stirring up troubles in Afghanistan or calling on Hezbollah cells in the United States. However, either course of action could only exacerbate Washington's distrust of Tehran and make Iran the next U.S. target. More likely, Iran will turn to the European nations, China, India and Russia to strengthen its ties and gain greater leverage in dealing with the United States for the future.

Washington already is gaining EU backing, at least as long as the rotating leadership is in Danish hands. Germany remains the sticking point, and Berlin may well oppose action against Iraq. But this will translate into a refusal to commit substantial numbers of troops, not blocking the use of German airbases. And with the United Nations approving action, Berlin will not interfere.

Ultimately, by shifting the question of an attack against Iraq from one of al Qaeda to one of the legitimacy and viability of the United Nations, Washington has removed many of the obstacles that stood in its way just a few months ago. Through intense bilateral negotiations and the new cover issue of U.N. legitimacy, the Bush administration has gained more support in a shorter time than it did while trying to link Baghdad to international terrorism.

And if the Security Council fails to act, Washington has one remaining leverage point: It can declare the United Nations a non-viable entity and threaten to pull out.

TOPICS: Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events

1 posted on 09/12/2002 4:15:04 PM PDT by Axion
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To: Axion
terrific analysis. Let's hope the Stratfor analysts know what they're talking about.
2 posted on 09/12/2002 4:21:21 PM PDT by PoisedWoman
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To: PoisedWoman
I hope that the option of pulling out of the UN is more than just a threat. Of course, the President's speech made it very clear he wants to move away from having the global community dictate to the U.S.

In retrospect, the U.N. had plenty of advance warning that there were limits to how much longer the U.S. was going to accept U.N dictates when George W. Bush declined to go along with Kyoto.

3 posted on 09/12/2002 4:34:08 PM PDT by stylin_geek
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To: Axion
A great move by the Bush team. Shows they've got the touch.
4 posted on 09/12/2002 4:41:12 PM PDT by liberallarry
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