- The Washington Times - Friday, January 24, 2003

The trans-Atlantic war of words over military action against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has obscured substantial international support for the Bush administration's tough line.
British and Australian forces have already been assembled to join U.S. forces now gathering on Iraq's borders, and despite the increasingly strident opposition of Germany and France, a number of Western and Central European states stand ready to assist the operation as well.
Hungarian Ambassador Andras Simonyi, for example, spelled out a position on Iraq yesterday that was as tough as that of the Bush White House.
"Our wish and hope is that this can be resolved through the United Nations," Mr. Simonyi told reporters and editors in an interview at The Washington Times.
"But we have also made clear that a situation might occur when the U.N. process might fail and an international coalition would have to be organized to disarm Saddam Hussein, who we believe poses a clear threat to the region," he said.
Hungary joined NATO in 1999, and it is now participating in a U.S.-led program to train Iraqi exiles to battle Saddam.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Wednesday called France and Germany the "Old Europe," out of touch with the "New Europe."
Mr. Simonyi, the Hungarian ambassador, declined to comment on Mr. Rumsfeld's remarks, except to say that a divided Europe was in no one's interest.
But France and Germany came out swinging yesterday.
French Finance Minister Francis Mer said he was "profoundly vexed" by the American defense secretary.
German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer bluntly told Mr. Rumsfeld to "cool down" his rhetoric.
Mr. Rumsfeld shot back, this time through a spokesman: "If one considers the vast number of countries in Europe, they're not with France and Germany on this. They're with the United States."
The Defense spokesman cited the 15-4 vote among NATO members Wednesday in favor of the U.S. request for limited support for an operation in Iraq. Only Belgium and Luxembourg joined France and Germany in blocking the action.
John C. Hulsman, European-affairs specialist at the Heritage Foundation, said support for the tough Anglo-American line on Iraq has been overlooked.
Mr. Rumsfeld's famous "coalition of the willing," he said, is already largely in place.
"There will be a lot of cherry-picking," he said. "It won't be the 'international community,' but it won't be nobody, either."
Hungary has opened a military base in the town of Taszar to train up to 3,000 Iraqi opposition volunteers who could support a military operation and postwar reconstruction in Iraq.
The Czech Republic has stationed a 250-man chemical- and biological-warfare unit in Kuwait, although it cannot deploy inside Iraq without a second U.N. resolution.
Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacio indicated to a parliamentary committee yesterday that Madrid was ready to offer the use of its military bases to U.S. forces in the event of war, despite public opposition.
Polish Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz said this week his country will support a U.S.-led war in Iraq "even without the agreement of the United Nations."
Prominent backers of a tough line against Saddam yesterday announced a "Committee for the Liberation of Iraq," whose board includes former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt, former Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov, and Klaus Naumann, the German general who once headed NATO's Military Committee.
"One of our missions is to remind people here and in Europe that there are a lot of prominent Europeans who understand the threat posed by Saddam Hussein and of the need to do something, whether the United Nations acts or not," said Gary J. Schmitt, a member of the committee's board and head of the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board under President Reagan.
Mr. Schmitt said the depth of support for the United States in an Iraq war will pose problems for the United Nations as an organization and for countries such as Germany that have prominently opposed the campaign.
"There was always that danger that when we took this issue to the U.N., the U.N. would behave like the U.N. always does," he said. "It's increasingly apparent that France and Germany are digging themselves into a big hole."
"This could be the U.N.'s Abyssinia," said Mr. Hulsman a reference to the Italian campaign in Ethiopia that demonstrated the impotence of the League of Nations in the years just before World War II.
Said Michael Ledeen, a foreign-policy specialist with the American Enterprise Institute: "You always want to have allies in the abstract, but do we need allies to wage and win a war against Iraq?" he said. "Probably not, and we almost certainly don't need France or Germany, who would be more of a hindrance than a help on the ground."
Critics of the U.S. line say going it alone may be feasible militarily, but the diplomatic and political cost will be high.
Opinion polls in both the United States and Britain show that public support for a war against Saddam Hussein drops sharply in the absence of a supporting U.N. vote. Only 29 percent of Americans back military action against Iraq without U.N. support, according to a poll released yesterday by the Wall Street Journal and NBC, while the figure in Britain is just 13 percent.
The United States still needs global support in the war against the al Qaeda terrorist network, particularly on intelligence and financial networks. And the post-Saddam rebuilding of Iraq will require massive investment and assistance from many countries.
"Surely we can have effective relationships with other nations without adopting a chip-on-the-shoulder foreign policy, a my-way-or-the-highway policy that makes all our goals in the world more difficult to achieve," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat and an opponent of war with Iraq, in a speech this week.
"No one has any doubt that the United States can do this alone if it chooses," said Hungary's Mr. Simonyi, "but we would hope that would not come to pass. It would be much better for everyone if we worked together in NATO and as allies."
Rowan Scarborough contributed to this report.

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