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[casi] Iraq: Attack on UN spurs plans for international military force

Iraq: Attack on UN spurs plans for international military force
By Peter Schwarz
30 August 2003

The bomb attack on the UN headquarters in Baghdad has revived proposals for
the deployment of international troops in Iraq. Behind the scenes at the
Security Council in New York, the horse-trading has begun on a new
resolution that would allow countries that had previously rejected the war
to send their own troops to assist in the occupation of Iraq.

With the US facing mounting resistance to its occupation and a rising number
of American fatalities, demands in Washington for international support have
grown louder. In his last radio address, President Bush announced that there
would be more foreign troops in Iraq and in future the UN would have a more
a critical role.

The discussion presently centres on the possible deployment of contingents
from Turkey, India and Pakistan. According to press reports, the Turkish
government and army leadership have already agreed to send 10,000 soldiers
to Iraq, who will later be supplemented by an additional 30,000. However,
this decision has yet to overcome the parliamentary hurdle, where there are
serious reservations inside the majority party, the AKP. A large majority of
the Turkish population rejects any participation in the Iraqi occupation.

Political experts agree that it will eventually come down to NATO
participation, including the involvement of German and French troops. "As
the situation presents itself now," the German newsweekly Der Spiegel
commented, the Social Democratic-Green Party coalition in Berlin "can hardly
reach any other conclusion than to assist its most important ally on the
military level as well."

The dispute over whether to make such a military commitment revolves around
what political, economic and military concessions the US will have to make
in return.

France, Germany and Russia insist on the US relinquishing authority as an
occupying power-along with its monopoly over the oil revenues and the
lucrative contracts for the reconstruction of the country-at least in part
to the UN. So far, the role of the UN has been limited to purely
humanitarian tasks. Moreover, Paris, Berlin and Moscow are calling for an
interim government-which, unlike the present Governing Council, would not be
handpicked by the US-and for elections as soon as possible.

The US wants to give up as little political and economic authority as
possible and insists on keeping complete control of the military command.
Secretary of State Colin Powell said that he would not agree to a shared
military command. Any additional troops would have to be subordinate to the
American supreme command.

Germany, France and the UN

As before the war, Germany and France are cooperating closely on their
policy toward Iraq. The German government has adopted a reserved attitude in
public, while the French have taken on the role of spokesman. Last week,
French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin and his German colleague
Joschka Fischer met in Paris to coordinate their attitude following the
attack on the UN. The following day, in an interview with Le Monde, de
Villepin sharply criticised America's Iraq policy.

It is now time "to move from the logic of occupation to the political logic
of re-establishing Iraqi sovereignty," he said. "I do not believe that one
can achieve anything by simply declaring war on terrorism and stressing
security issues-even if one must obviously undertake everything in this
area. I believe one must give priority to political measures that aim at
returning control to the Iraqis concerning their own fate."

De Villepin insisted that the Governing Council be transformed into a "real
provisional government" that could act independently and prepare elections
to a Constituent Assembly by the end of the year. The legitimacy of such a
provisional government could only be ensured through the United Nations and
through all the countries of the region, as well as by organisations like
the Arab League and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), he
stressed-in a clear swipe at the US.

The German and French media are striving to present the UN as a "power for
peace," legitimised by the will of the "world community," while insisting
that, as an occupying power, the US lacks such legitimacy. Following the
attack on the UN, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung emphasised the "neutrality and
non-partisan nature of the world organisation," which comes to "aid and not
to occupy" the Iraqi people.

The UN special envoy, Sergio Vieira de Mello, who died in the attack, was
praised effusively as a "man of peace." Le Monde claimed de Mello, contrary
to the US, had succeeded in winning "the hearts and minds" of the Iraqis.
"It is not an exaggeration to say that his role was to initiate the only
positive development in Iraq since the end of the war and the fall of Saddam
Hussein," the newspaper declared.

The Brazilian diplomat-who possessed two PhDs from the Sorbonne in Paris,
spoke perfect French and was protected by French bodyguards-had always
attached importance to preserving a certain distance from the occupying
troops. The lack of protection of the UN building is said to have been due
in part to his refusal to work behind security barricades manned by US

The myth of UN neutrality

The attack in Baghdad dealt a heavy blow to the myth of the UN's alleged
non-partisan character. It has made clear that at least a section of the
Iraqi resistance does not distinguish between the occupying troops and the
United Nations.

In the wake of the attack, the UN will find it even harder to distinguish
itself from the American occupation force. If it does not completely
withdraw from Iraq-which Secretary-General Kofi Annan has already
categorically excluded-the UN will be drawn, on grounds of security alone,
into closer cooperation with the US troops and will be even more clearly
identified as part of the occupying regime.

The alleged neutrality of the UN is a fiction. Although the Security Council
did not explicitly authorise the US to go to war, it collaborated at every
decisive point in setting the course that led to it. It imposed the
sanctions, which over 10 long years cost the lives of half a million Iraqi
children. It was responsible for the humiliating weapons inspections, which
disarmed the country and delivered it up defenceless to the American attack.
And by posing impossible ultimatums, it established the pretexts that the
Bush government desperately needed in order to sell the war to the American
public. After the fall of Baghdad, the UN legitimised the US-UK occupation
and has, despite occasional friction, enjoyed a division of labour with them
since then.

The governments of Germany and France promote the myth of UN neutrality as a
means both of justifying their foreign policy interests to their own people
and of pursuing these interests in opposition to those defended by

In view of the overwhelming opposition to the Iraq war that was expressed in
Europe in the massive demonstrations earlier this year, the German and
French governments can justify sending troops to Iraq only if they present
it as a "peace mission" that serves "nation building" and the furtherance of
peace and democracy.

In Berlin, Chancellor Schröder and Foreign Minister Fischer stereotypically
stress that a military commitment in Iraq is not posed at present. That does
not mean very much, however. The military policy of the Social
Democratic-Green coalition consists of an endless number of broken promises.
Schröder has also said that Germany has "its own national interests" in
peace and stability in the Middle East and stressed the significance of the
"work of reconstruction in Iraq" in this context. German military missions
in the Balkans and Afghanistan were prepared through similar arguments.

Against the US, the UN serves Berlin and Paris particularly as a forum for
pursuing their own economic and strategic interests in the Middle East. To a
considerable extent, it was these interests that motivated their original
rejection of America's war plans. On the one hand, they wanted to prevent
absolute American supremacy in a region that is of great importance for
Europe both as an oil supplier and as a market. On the other hand, they
feared-correctly, as it turned out-that a badly prepared war would
destabilise the region and plunge it into chaos. Therefore, Germany, France
and Russia tried unsuccessfully to utilise the UN to halt the American war

Hardly had Baghdad fallen, when they changed their attitude. They strove for
rapprochement with Washington and voted in the Security Council to sanction
the occupation regime. Since then, the UN has served as a forum to raise
their own claims in regard to a subjugated Iraq. They regard the increasing
difficulties of the US as an opportunity to again exert influence on
political events in Baghdad.

The logic of their politics means that Berlin and Paris will eventually send
their own troops to Iraq. The leader of Germany's Christian Democratic
opposition, Angela Merkel, has already expressed support for such an
undertaking. If NATO plays a role in Iraq within the context of the UN and
Germany has the capacity, "then we may not duck the issue," she said in a
recent press interview.

This has nothing to do with "nation building" or bringing peace and
stability. The task of such a military mission would be the oppression of a
country that was conquered in an illegal war. It would not serve the
interests of the Iraqi people, but, as Schröder states, the "national
interest of Germany," i.e., of German big business.

Such a military intervention would inevitably place the German armed forces
in the same situation already facing the American troops: that of an
occupation army, acting with increasing brutality against the local
population and thereby provoking ever greater resistance. In this respect,
the response to the attack on the UN headquarters is a warning signal.

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