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[casi] U.N. debate: Here We Go Again

      Europe: Here We Go Again

      If you thought the last U.N. debate over Iraq was ugly, brace
yourself. The next one could be even worse

      By Stryker McGuire and Richard Wolffe

      Sept. 22 issue - Another Iraq resolution, another go-round at the U.N.
Security Council. Surely it couldn't be as bad as the last time, when those
warmongering Americans and Brits slapped down the Franco-German "axis of
weasels" and invaded-right on schedule. The war was won, Iraq was liberated.
True, there's the matter of the missing WMD, not to mention a spot of bother
on the postwar road to peace and reconstruction. Now come the Americans, hat
in hand, asking the United Nations for a little help. Surely, we'll all be
spared the rancor and recrimination of last winter, won't we?

      NOT A CHANCE. If anything, the next confrontation promises to be as
nasty as the last, and possibly more damaging to the transatlantic
relationship. Reason: the Bush administration is desperate. With Iraq in
chaos, it needs the semblance of multinational cooperation more than ever.
And this time, it's personal. President George W. Bush was angry with
Germany and France half a year ago; this time, with the 2004 elections, his
own political future is at stake. The U.S. administration hopes a new U.N.
resolution will bring more international cash and troops to Iraq-but it's
willing to give up relatively little. As the debate gets underway in New
York this week, no one expects quick agreement.
              For now, the two great combatants, America and France, are
being polite. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell says Washington wants the
world to "come together" to the aid of Iraq. His French counterpart,
Dominique de Villepin, says France appreciates Washington's "openness." But
neither government has appreciably changed its prewar position. Powell: "The
lead role has to be played by the United States... We are the ones who took
over the country." Villepin, in effect: non. Just last week he proposed a
full transfer of authority to Iraqi civilians, starting with the
establishment of a provisional government next month-a suggestion Powell
dismissed as "totally unrealistic."
              This is a classic diplomatic standoff: everything has changed,
and nothing has changed. The war is over, but few Europeans buy the argument
that the White House, post-Iraq, is a born-again multilateralist. Neither
does Washington believe that Europeans, having opposed the war, will
suddenly rally to the U.S. cause. The German magazine Stern summed up Europe
's popular skepticism last week, portraying a frowning Bush on its cover
rattling his geopolitical tin cup: from bigmouth to beggar.
              Some diplomats still hope for an artful compromise. Last month
's bombing of U.N. headquarters in Baghdad was an attack on the entire
international community, Spain's Foreign Minister Ana Palacio told NEWSWEEK.
"It crystallized an attitude that, although we didn't agree on military
intervention, we should leave that to historians and look to the
future-because it concerns all of us." Palacio believes that a new
"progressive approach" at the United Nations will ultimately bridge U.S. and
European differences, starting with Spain's proposal to set a clear
timetable for handing power over to a newly elected Iraqi government.
              The trouble is, this approach assumes that the coming Security
Council battle is about Iraq. It is, of course-but only on the surface. From
a European vantage point, the issue (just as it was a year ago) is power. On
one side is America's avowed willingness to go it alone in the world,
without constraint by its allies. On the other is Europe's insistence on a
broader, more inclusive world leadership that might (particularly in France'
s view) have avoided the whole current mess. "There's been no narrowing of
these fundamental differences," says Robert Kagan, the author of "Paradise
and Power," an influential book about the U.S.-Europe divide. "I think the
French have been waiting for this moment."
              Perhaps Washington has been waiting as well. A year ago, when
German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder was running for re-election, White House
officials accused him of poisoning relations with America by placing his
opposition to the Iraq war at the heart of his campaign. Now White House
aides heap praise upon him for taking control, along with NATO, of security
in Afghanistan. Berlin may now be pressing the administration for a better
definition of a U.N. role in Iraq, but that's a straightforward and
politically uncomplicated demand. When President Bush meets Schröder in New
York at the opening of the U.N. General Assembly, State Department sources
say, the warmth between the two is likely to be palpable.
              By contrast, France continues to be a thorn in Washington's
side. U.S. officials are openly scornful of French foreign policy, and de
Villepin in particular. "He claims he wants to be constructive," says a
senior U.S. official, "but we think he's departing from a position of
unreality. He isn't just disagreeing with the war but trying to pretend it
never happened." Adds an aide to Secretary Powell: "If the French don't want
to come onboard, they will find themselves isolated."
              Indeed, for the Bushies that seems to be the game. "The
Russians have separated themselves from the French and the Germans," notes
one State Department official, adding that the Germans also seem to showing
a bit of distance from their French partners, despite a chummy meeting
between Schröder and French President Jacques Chirac two weeks ago in
Dresden. "The Germans say: 'Let's expand the role of the U.N.,' " says this
source, which is very different from France's ideological determination to
replace the United States entirely. Does this translate to a rift that the
United States can exploit at the United Nations? That remains to be seen.
              As the next round of debate at the United Nations begins this
week, it's becoming clear that everyone has an agenda, perhaps even more
than before the war. In jousting with Washington, Chirac is playing not just
a global game but also a more parochial one. Is it France, with its askance
view of America, or Britain, with its more accepting view, that speaks for
Europe? British Prime Minister Tony Blair has his agenda, too. Don't be
shocked to see him backing way from his slavish post-9/11 support of Bush.
It has cost Blair dearly at home.

                  Newsweek International Sept. 15 Issue

                 .  International Editions Front
                        .  Cover Story: Children's Health
                        .  World View: Don't Rush to Disaster
                        .  Letter From America: Not My Grandmother's Ireland
                        .  International Periscope & Perspectives
                        .  International Mail Call
                        .  The Last Word: Bernard Henri-Levy

              Most crucial is Turkey. Back in July, a senior Turkish Foreign
Ministry official visiting Washington floated the idea of sending 10,000
Turkish troops to Iraq in exchange for a greater Turkish role in the
political development of the country (read: the sensitive Kurdish area on
Turkey's southern border). Now it's temporizing, just as it did before the
war, bollixing up America's invasion plans. Just last week Prime Minister
Recip Tayyip Erdogan said he had no intention of having Turkish troops act
as "American gendarmes."
              And so it goes. The familiar tenor of the argument doesn't
mean the Security Council won't find a compromise. Washington is willing to
accept a more detailed U.N. role in place of the vague advisory position
outlined in previous proposals, U.S. officials say, even if it refuses to
cede real power. Will Europeans go along, most especially France? Meeting
Chirac in Spain last week, Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar spoke of
Coalition forces being killed in Iraq at the rate of one a day. "Terrorism,"
he said. Chirac's word for it? "Resistance." Clearly, agreement is a long
way off.

      With Eric Pape and Marie Valla in Paris, Michael Hastings at the
United Nations, Owen Matthews in Istanbul and Stefan Theil in Berlin

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