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[casi] US bartering arms for soldiers for Iraq

 ASIA TIMES August 1, 2003

US bartering arms for soldiers for Iraq
By Thalif Deen

UNITED NATIONS - Faced with a rising death toll among its soldiers in Iraq,
the United States is trying to "buy" foreign troops for a proposed
30,000-strong multinational force in Baghdad.

"When they were seeking UN support for a war on Iraq, they were twisting
arms," one Asian diplomat said. "Now they are offering carrots in exchange
for our troops."

The inducements - including weapons and increased military aid - have
apparently been offered to at least three countries whose troops Washington
desperately needs to bolster the fledgling multinational force in Iraq and
relieve the pressure on US forces in the war-ravaged country.

The administration of President George W Bush has intensified efforts to
seek troops from India, Pakistan and Turkey in order to bolster a
multinational force that now includes troops mostly from former Soviet
republics and Latin American nations.

The Indian government, which withdrew its offer of 17,000 troops under heavy
domestic political pressure, is being lobbied once again with an offer of
sophisticated military equipment. The quid pro quo, according to diplomatic
sources, is approval of the proposed sale of the state-of-the-art Arrow-2
missile defense system by Israel. Since the US$100 million system includes
US components and funding, Israel needs US approval to close the deal.

General Richard Myers, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, is now in
New Delhi to try to persuade the government of Prime Minister Atal Bihari
Vajpayee to change its stance on troops for Iraq. The London Financial Times
said on Tuesday that the Bush administration has also pledged to relax the
sale of dual-use technology to India in return for that country sending
troops to Iraq.

France, Germany, India, Pakistan and several other nations have declined to
provide troops unless there is a new United Nations resolution authorizing
the proposed multinational peacekeeping force in Iraq.

But India could change its position, said Professor Stephen Cohen, director
of the South Asia program at the Brookings Institution. "For all we know,
they are still talking about terms under which India might come," he said in
an interview. "That's part of the bargaining game that's going on."

Since the war on Iraq began on March 19, at least 247 US soldiers have died.
The rising death toll looms as a political liability for Bush, who faces
re-election next year.

The 150,000 US troops in Iraq are backed by 12,000 from Britain. Among the
key countries that have pledged troops for the new multinational force are
Spain, Poland, Japan and Ukraine.

Washington is also expecting smaller units from Hungary, Romania, Latvia,
Estonia, Slovakia, Honduras, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Mongolia,
the Philippines and Nicaragua. It has logistical support from Italy, the
Netherlands, Norway, Portugal and South Korea.

The Washington Post reported that some of the countries were providing
troops only at a cost to US taxpayers.

The Bush administration has agreed to pay $240 million in support costs to
the Polish contingent of about 9,000 troops. The costs will cover airlift
transportation, meals, medical care and other expenses.

The proposed Indian contingent of 17,000 troops would have been the largest
single foreign force, exceeding the 12,000 troops from Britain, Washington's
main coalition partner in the war against Iraq. But the move to provide
Indian troops generated strong political and public opposition in New Delhi,
threatening a government that faces elections next year.

India's neighbor and foe Pakistan has been offered $3 billion in US aid over
the next five years, of which $1.5 billion will be in military aid.

And according to the Ankara-based Hurriyet newspaper, the United States has
been lobbying the Turkish government for about 10,000 troops for Iraq.

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee on Tuesday that the administration was discussing troop
deployments both by Pakistan and Turkey.

"The Bush administration is doing the right thing in looking for additional
help in Iraq," said Natalie J Goldring, executive director of the Program on
Global Security and Disarmament at the University of Maryland. "But the US
government should be seeking that help through the United Nations. Instead,
US political and military leaders are once again trying to buy countries'
cooperation with weapons transfers and military aid," she said.

Goldring added that there is no evidence that providing India with a missile
defense system will decrease the level of conflict in the unstable South
Asian region. "Quite the contrary. Past attempts by India or Pakistan to
gain military advantage have inevitably been matched or countered by the
other country, continuing and often accelerating the already dangerous arms
race in that part of the world," she said.

At a press conference on Wednesday, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said he
believes that the international community is seeking to "internationalize"
the Iraqi operations under a UN umbrella. "It is important for them - not
just for Europe or India, but also for the region. The Arab states will feel
more comfortable" providing troops under UN auspices, he said.

The United States has refused to seek approval for a UN peacekeeping force
because it might have to concede some of its military authority to the
United Nations.

Wolfowitz told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Washington would
agree to a UN resolution only if it did not curtail US military authority.

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