- The Washington Times - Monday, March 3, 2003

The Bush administration has few diplomatic carrots and sticks left with which to woo skeptical European allies and win a looming United Nations showdown over war with Iraq.
Rejecting French, German and Russian demands to give Saddam Hussein several more months to disarm, U.S. diplomats have been reduced to trying to cobble together a slim majority in the 15-nation Security Council and hope France and Russia do not exercise their right to veto.
"We've tried intimidation; we've tried bribes; we've tried incentives," said Simon Serfaty, director of the Europe program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). "What we're left with is the hope that these other countries will make a cold calculation of their own self-interest and find a way to back down."
But weeks of angry trans-Atlantic rhetoric, rising public opposition to a war in continental Europe and bitter divisions on display at a closed U.N. Security Council session on Iraq last week have made compromise among the major powers much more unlikely.
Russia, which has sent mixed signals in recent days over whether it would exercise its veto in the Security Council, may be the most straightforward case.
Mikhail Margelov, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the upper house of the Russian legislature and a top official of the party allied with President Vladimir Putin, said in an interview with reporters and editors at The Washington Times Thursday that Moscow wants to be assured its economic interests are protected in Iraq no matter what happens to Saddam Hussein.
"There is an $8 billion state debt owed by Iraq to Russia, we have serious oil interests, and the Iraqi market is a major buyer of Russian goods," he said. "We need to hear a strong message from Washington that they understand our concerns in this area."
But Mr. Margelov said the Kremlin's concerns were not just monetary.
"We are closer to this region than you are, and we want to know in detail what will be the future for the entire region after the war," the lawmaker said. "The situation in Iraq will be much more complicated even than the situation was in Afghanistan. There is going to be a quiz at the end of this exercise, and we don't want to find that we did not do our homework."
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov on Friday again raised the possibility of a Russian veto of the American co-sponsored resolution now before the Security Council that clears the way for military action.
But many analysts doubt that Mr. Putin, who has made good relations with Washington a centerpiece of his foreign policy, would veto the resolution.
Mr. Margelov said it was his "personal view" that Russia would stop short of a veto, abstaining instead on the measure put forward by the United States, Britain and Spain.
"We care about Iraq, but we care more about preserving the political integrity of the Security Council," he said.
Bush administration officials extended the red carpet last week to Alexander Voloshin, Mr. Putin's chief of staff, who met with President Bush, Vice President Richard B. Cheney and a host of senior administration officials.
Many U.S. officials and diplomats already consider Germany a lost vote, comforted only by the fact that the Germans are not a permanent member of the Security Council and thus cannot veto the resolution unilaterally.
German firms have had substantial commercial ties to Baghdad in the past, but Iraq even now represents only a marginal fraction of German overall trade. Still, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has the most anti-war position of any major European leader, saying Germany would not support military action under virtually any circumstances.
"We have been very consistent and publicly committed to a nonviolent resolution of this crisis," said one senior German diplomat. "We are not looking to make deals."
"I think the well's been poisoned already with Germany," added Nikolas K. Gvosdev, editor of the National Interest, a foreign policy journal.
"We're going to have to wait for regime change in Berlin before we can even get German backing on this question," Mr. Gvosdev said.
Mr. Schroeder enjoys widespread public support for his stand, making it that much easier to oppose the U.S. hard line.
Angela Merkel, head of the opposition Christian Democratic Union, in a speech at Georgetown last week, warned that the trans-Atlantic rift over Iraq could have damaging long-term consequences for German interests, but even she stopped short of criticizing Mr. Schroeder's stand.
The most interesting case might be France, where many had expected President Jacques Chirac to bargain hard, insist on French rights, complicate American diplomacy then cut a deal.
France, like Russia, has extensive oil contracts negotiated with Iraq and stands to lose billions in future revenues if it is frozen out of the planning for a post-Saddam regime.
French foreign policy has also put a high premium on the United Nations and the Security Council, where Paris enjoys a veto and where it can restrain what it calls the "hyperpower" in Washington.
But the harsh words and increasingly personal pique in the Iraq debate have many wondering if Mr. Chirac is prepared to go ahead with a veto to defeat a resolution for war in Iraq.
A competing French U.N. proposal, backed by Germany and Russia, would give inspectors up to four more months to continue the hunt for Iraq's banned weapons, at a time when the United States and Britain contend Baghdad has already manifestly refused to disarm.

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