The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

[Main archive index/search] [List information] [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

[casi] Stretched in Iraq, US may return to UN

from the July 18, 2003 edition

SHIPPING OUT: Earlier this month, Polish soldiers headed for the
south-central zone in Iraq bade farewell at the airport in Wroclaw, Poland.

Stretched in Iraq, US may return to UN

Secretary of State Powell is discussing UN aid with Kofi Annan and others.

By Peter Ford | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

PARIS – Pressured by signs of fatigue and dissent among US soldiers fighting
a guerrilla war in Iraq, and disappointed by allies' reluctance to join what
many see as an occupation army, the US may be forced to cede some control
over Iraq's future to governments who disagreed with the war.

That is likely to be the price of coaxing major nations into an Iraqi force
through the United Nations, a process Secretary of State Colin Powell said
Wednesday he was discussing with the UN and allies. "The situation in Iraq
is highly complicated and we are interested in a real, strategic
trans-Atlantic debate," said German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, who
met with Mr. Powell in Washington, signaling the European desire to help
shape events in Iraq.

Faced with the need to keep some 150,000 soldiers in Iraq to hold the lid on
a deteriorating security situation, the US has asked about 80 countries to
contribute troops.

So far, the US has cobbled together a multinational force that will total
9,200 troops from about 30 countries when it deploys fully in September.

But US hopes of further re- inforcing its force with foreign troops suffered
a blow this week when India decided against sending 17,000 men, in the
absence of a UN mandate. And apart from Britain, which has deployed around
12,000 soldiers in Iraq, and Italy, there is little enthusiasm in Europe for
the idea - at least in countries able to pay for their deployments rather
than ask the US to cover the costs.

France and Germany have both said that if they were asked to send forces,
they would not unless the UN were given a greater role in setting Iraq's
course. In Brussels, NATO Secretary-General George Robertson said Wednesday
he could not, for now, envisage the alliance doing more than help a Polish
battalion with logistics, intelligence, and communications.

Even the politically embarrassing step of going to the UN would not
necessarily ease the Pentagon's looming manpower problem. The countries with
suitable troops for an extended peacekeeping operation in Iraq, such as
Germany and France, have stretched their armies in other parts of the world.

The US wants assistance in order to relieve the pressure on American
soldiers, some of whom have begun to grumble publicly about their
lengthening tours of duty as they lose several comrades a week in an
operation costing $3.9 billion a month.

Of the countries helping, however, only Poland, Spain, Ukraine, and Holland
are contributing more than 1,000 men each. The rest of the contingent is
made up of a few hundred Danes and Italians, along with an assortment of
Macedonians, Latvians, Nicaraguans, Azerbaijanis and troops from other
countries known more for a desire to curry favor with the US than for the
professionalism of their forces.

"The difficulty is that the force requirements are so substantial that there
are very few countries that could make a meaningful contribution," says
Jonathan Stevenson, an analyst at the International Institute for Strategic
Studies in London. "Europeans are the most desirable because they are the
most competent."

As doubts grow about the justification for the war, many European voters are
skeptical about the prospect of putting their own soldiers at risk to defend
American troops whom they do not believe should be in Iraq.

They and their governments might be persuaded to lend a hand, however, if
they were given more of a say in how Iraq is run, some analysts suggest.

"Any increase above the small number (of foreign troops) so far will require
the US to share responsibilities just as it shares the costs and burdens,"
says James Dobbins, a former US diplomat with experience in nation-building
from Somalia to the Balkans.

That would mean giving the United Nations a greater role in directing Iraq's
political future while relying more on NATO for military assistance, he

The US administration "may not have to eat humble pie, but they will have to
at least nibble on a couple of humble crackers," says Michael O'Hanlon, a
military analyst at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

Until Wednesday, US officials had not shown many signs they were ready to
take that step, listening to advice from abroad on how to ensure security,
build a democracy, and reconstruct Iraq's economy. Other countries might not
share US views on privatization or Iraq's oil industry.

"But as things become more dire, with US troops losing their lives, morale
falling and being physically overstretched, it may acquire more currency in
the US administration," says Mr. Stevenson. "The Bush administration still
feels punitive towards the powers that opposed it and towards the UN itself,
but that attitude is not immutable."

At the heart of the expected wrangling over who does what in Iraq will be
the question of how much influence the US will cede to other nations and to
the UN.

"There is a difficult tension between control and participation," says Mr.
Dobbins, who now works at the RAND Corp. think tank. "This administration
tends to be more on the control side of the equation than the participation
side, but events suggest we'll have to move along the con- tinuum and the
quicker the better, because the messier things get on the ground, the less
inclined others are to get involved."

The US has made some nods in the direction of the United Nations. UN
Security Council 1483, adopted in May, gives the UN envoy in Baghdad, Sérgio
Vieira de Mello, vague authority to "work intensively" with occupation
powers to "facilitate a process leading to an internationally recognized
representative government." A UN team is due to visit Iraq next month to lay
the groundwork for elections slated for next year.

On the military side, however, it is unclear how much America's European
allies could really help. Poland and Ukraine might be persuaded to send more
men, but they have asked the US to pay for efforts they are already making.

Germany, with 10,000 soldiers in Afghanistan, the Balkans, and the Horn of
Africa, is not in a position to contribute significantly to a new force in
Iraq, according to Burkhard Schmitt, a military analyst at the European
Union's Institute for Security Studies in Paris. "Already Germany is having
tremendous problems with rotating its men," says Mr. Schmitt. "They've come
to their limits."

France might be able to spare troops, despite being heavily involved in
Africa. But given bad blood, "it would be a very big political deal,"
Schmitt says. "There would have to be an extremely strong US gesture to

Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
To unsubscribe, visit
To contact the list manager, email
All postings are archived on CASI's website:

[Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]