- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 16, 2003

Yesterday’s unanimous Security Council vote for a resolution aimed at attracting more international support for the rebuilding of Iraq is a major triumph for U.S. foreign policy; in particular, it is a victory for Secretary of State Colin Powell, whose determined diplomatic campaign proved decisive in the end.

The resolution authorizes a multinational military force in Iraq under U.S. command, and calls for troop contributions and financial pledges from U.N. members. In the end, Washington picked up support from Germany, Russia and France, who announced early in the day that they would be voting yes. The United States won the backing of China and Pakistan — and, perhaps most surprisingly of all, Syria, which has allowed foreign fighters to cross its border into Iraq in order to attack U.S. forces there.

U.S. officials had expressed concern that, even after a six-week-long effort to gain diplomatic support, the resolution would only get the minimum nine votes necessary for adoption. But, shortly before the vote, three of the leading holdouts — France, Germany and Russia — announced that they would be voting with Washington. And U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan (whose carping criticism of U.S. policy toward Iraq greatly undercut American diplomatic efforts) praised the agreement, stating that it showed the Security Council’s commitment “to place the interests of the Iraqi people above all other considerations.”

The Security Council resolution gives political cover to nations like Turkey, where international support strengthened the hand of government officials seeking to overcome political opposition at home. But Mr. Powell cautioned against expectations that massive numbers of foreign troops will be coming to help U.S.-British-led efforts to stabilize Iraq. And, even as France gave its assent to the Security Council resolution, President Jacques Chirac’s spokeswoman said that European nations are “very far from being able to commit themselves financially or militarily” to the reconstruction of Iraq. (quel dommage!) That’s not entirely a bad thing: As Heritage Foundation scholar Niles Gardiner noted in an interview with The Washington Times yesterday, the French record on peacekeeping in the Balkans is “appalling,” as the French-controlled part of Bosnia has become a refuge from justice for Serbian war criminals. Given the French role in defending Saddam Hussein, Washington would have even more reason not to want any French military presence in Iraq.

And Washington will need to remain vigilant for efforts by France and Mr. Annan to rush Iraq to independence in order to meet an arbitrary deadline. The United States agreed to a provision in the resolution calling for the Iraqi Governing Council to produce a timetable by Dec. 15 for drafting a new constitution and holding elections. The United States must work closely with the responsible Iraqi leadership to ensure that the timetable is realistic — whether the French or the secretary-general like it or not.

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