European countries bent on staving off a war with Iraq are
pressing a high-stakes gamble that could either throw off the US
military timetable - or precipitate war by pushing the US to act
without the United Nations.
Germany - backed by permanent Security Council members France and
Russia - is working on a plan to muscle up weapons inspections in
Iraq with soldiers and military surveillance flights.
Deploying delaying tactics on another front, Germany and France
teamed up with Belgium to block proposed NATO military protection of
Turkey, the closest NATO country to Iraq, in the event of war. NATO
countries were set to take up the Turkey issue again Monday after
failing to reach an agreement Sunday.
The "enhanced" inspections proposal, which the German government
calls "victory without bullets," is expected to be introduced to the
UN Security Council Friday, when UN weapons inspectors provide an
update on Iraqi cooperation.
"If [these countries] push too hard, they could force the US to
go ahead with a 'coalition of the willing' but outside the UN, and
that badly weakens the UN and works against the interest of
countries like France," says Robert Lieber, an international
relations expert at Georgetown University in Washington.
The idea of "enhanced inspections," first suggested by the French
following Secretary of State Colin Powell's presentation to the
Security Council last week, is already being dismissed by the Bush
administration as a "diversion" and "beside the point." For the US,
the problem at this point is not finetuning the inspections, but
acting on Saddam Hussein's continuing defiance of international
orders to disarm.
But with a majority on the 15-member UN Security Council still
expressing support for continued inspections, the international buzz
around the proposal could at least stall momentum that the US and
Britain believed was building in favor of a new UN resolution
authorizing use of force.
Professor Lieber says the US stance - that "a second UN
resolution would be nice and would make fighting the war easier, but
is not legally necessary" - suggests to him that the US is not
likely to "waste much time" with an "uncooperative UN."
The dilemma posed by US determination on Iraq means that even as
countries focus their comments on Iraq and inspections, their real
concern is how to handle their relations with the US.
Russia is a case in point. The government of President Vladimir
Putin wants to nurture its nascent good relations with the US, but
it also has an interest in perpetuating some aspects of Cold War-
era global order - including the Security Council structure that
gives it (along with France, China, the United Kingdom, and the US)
a permanent, veto power. At the same time, it sees its economy
increasingly tied to Germany and Europe.
"Russia has clearly made its choice, and it will stand with the
Franco-German option," says Valery Fyodorov, director of the
independent Center for Political Trends in Moscow. "We do not want
to see the United Nations downgraded, or the advent of a world order
based on US hegemony."
Insisting that Russia has received no guarantees on its oil and
other economic interests in a post-war Iraq, Mr. Fyodorov says,
"From this point of view, the Franco-German plan looks much better
for Russia. It proposes a solution for Iraq which would be
supervised and enforced by the UN - including, possibly, Russian
peacekeeping troops - and that is a situation in which Russian
economic interests in Iraq would be respected."
Yet while the German position is consistent with the anti-war
policy of Chancellor Gerhard Schroder, even some German analysts say
the latest plan is primarily designed for domestic consumption and
is likely to fail in the face of the US steamroller.
The initiative seems designed "for domestic rather than foreign
policy reasons," says Frank Umbach, a foreign policy and security
expert at the German Council on Foreign Relations. …