- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 2, 2002

After Vice President Richard Cheney's mission to the Middle East yielded "grave concern" but no "official" endorsement of military action against Iraq, the debate about intervention is in high gear. Although Arab positions on resolving the Israeli-Palestinian and Iraq questions may differ, efforts to link the two appear to be a pretext for inaction by overconfident coalition-builders.

Similarly, Mr. Cheney found our European allies reluctant to commit to taking action against Iraqi development of weapons of mass destruction. As in the Middle East, he found a divided response to the Bush doctrine of full support for the war on terrorism and little enthusiasm for military confrontations to prevent regimes that possibly sponsor terror from threatening the United States and the world with chemical, biological and nuclear weapons of mass destruction.

The alternative, Europeans contend, is to give U.N. weapon inspectors expelled by Saddam Hussein in 1998 another chance. Under the leadership of Swedish diplomat Hans Blix, the crucial monitoring process would be executed by a new organization: UNMOVIC (United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission). It is up to the Security Council to adjust Iraqi conditions regarding time and composition of the inspection team to U.N. demands for unconditional cooperation, free and unfettered access, and American insistence on search commandos along with certification of the dismantling of these weapons in return for the suspension of economic sanctions.

The Atlantic alliance has changed. September 11 has shown Europeans that the old bipolar world has vanished, and that the United States is the sole remaining world power with the technologically superior military capability to promote political solutions. However, as much as our European allies acknowledge and even admire American leadership, they resent the dominance of a superpower that acts like a world policeman without the necessary accountability. Charging that Washington has deliberately weakened the United Nations, they also are critical of U.S.-led military missions channeled through NATO by way of ad hoc coalitions. And they frown on U.S. support for undemocratic regimes in the Middle East, Indonesia and South America. Europe's growing resentment was recently summed up by German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, who harshly denounced President Bush's anti-terrorism policy and warned that Europeans refuse to be treated like "satellite" states. To counter these trends, European leaders insist on the speedy restoration of a world "town council" at the United Nations.

To be sure, nobody has forgotten Saddam's atrocities. Nevertheless, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder is not the only Social Democrat in Europe who presses for a U.N. mandate on military intervention. Britain's Labor Party has challenged Prime Minister Tony Blair's leadership in protest of his support for possible U.S. military action. Similar voices are heard all over Europe. A strengthening of the United Nations is also a primary goal of Germany's conservatives. Wolfgang Gerhardt of the Free Democratic Party and a top candidate for foreign minister, should Mr. Schroeder's coalition be defeated in the September elections leaves no doubt about the essential political role of the U.N. Security Council in the fight against terror.

"Iraq is governed by a dictatorial regime. The threat of biological and chemical weapons is big," Mr. Gerhardt states. Describing as unacceptable the fact that U.N. inspectors are not allowed to inspect Iraq, he stresses that revisions of enforcement of U.N. sanctions must be left to the United Nations as the central arbiter for conflict prevention. Along with other European foreign-policy experts, he warns that, "without the U.N. as a player in the Iraq question, the international alliance against terror may suffer." Even a superpower needs allies, he concludes.

Not least of the worries is the unpredictable outcome of armed confrontation. What happens after Saddam is overthrown? A fragmented Iraq, generating a flood of Kurdish refugees, is Turkey's nightmare. Dangling a share of the vast oil resources of the Mosul Province as an economic enticement in front of Ankara's eyes may have possibilities. One thing is clear: without the Turkish military base at Incirlik, a move against Iraq could hardly be undertaken. Turkey, a loyal NATO-U.S. ally, and Kuwait are not only in Mr. Cheney's view the linchpins of a successful Iraq campaign.

Though tied to Iraq by substantial debt and oil interests, even Russia may choose to support U.N.-sanctioned military action should Iraq fail to comply with U.N. resolutions. However, looking for economic boosters, such as permanent normal trade relations and accession to the World Trade Organization, Russia will learn to live with U.S. action when authorized by a U.N. mandate, I was told by a Russian official close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, stressing the supremacy of U.S.-Russian relations.

While the Arabs shroud their objections to a confrontation with Baghdad in obfuscation, the Europeans hide behind the United Nations. They know that America can go it alone if necessary and that, reluctantly, they will follow.


Viola Herms Drath is a member of the executive committee of the National Committee on American Foreign Policy.


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