Washington alone will decide the future of Iraq

(Mideast Mirror, April 4, 2003)

Colin Powell arrived in Brussels yesterday as a High Commissioner sent from Washington to regulate its relations with its NATO allies who have started to remember that they also possess fingers that they can bite in sorrow (if not regret) for missing out on their share of the 'Iraqi cake'-Rajeh al-Khouri in an-Nahar

The declared long-term aims of the U.S. war party can barely tolerate a role for Colin Powell, let alone Kofi Anan. Anyone reading Hans Blix's recent statements can imagine the shudder that creeps up Wolfowitz's spine as he contemplates the possibility of the UN returning to Iraq-Joseph Samaha in as-Safir

The international community is already discussing the role of the UN in post-war Iraq. The 'war party' in the United States is opposed to any such role, while British PM Tony Blair seems keen on it. But a number of Arab commentators argue that it is clear from U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell's meetings in Brussels yesterday, that no such role will be acceptable to the U.S. unless it has a dominant say in post-war Iraq.

ANOTHER CHAPTER IN THE WAR: "The New York Times yesterday described the events of the past two days on the road to Baghdad as 'a ray of light at the end of the tunnel'", notes Rajeh al-Khouri in Friday's Lebanese daily an-Nahar.

"But the current talk of victory may be just another chapter in the 'psychological war' whose din will bury the sound of missiles as Baghdad's outskirts are breached." The reality in the field is one thing, while American 'imperial aspirations' are another. The latter are still 'up in the sky'. Thus Colin Powell arrived in Brussels yesterday as a High Commissioner sent from Washington to regulate its relations with its NATO allies who have started to remember that they also possess fingers that they can bite in sorrow (if not regret) for missing out on their share of the 'Iraqi cake'. For at the end of the day, all emotions and protest against the war will calm down, when the calculations of self-interest begin to take hold.

It is enough to recall what happened yesterday at NATO's headquarters in Brussels: Colin Powell inside the hall receiving 20 ministers in succession, each of whom had been separately delegated with task of discussing the following: The future of Iraq, the EU, NATO, and the UN based on the de facto situation imposed by the war on the outskirts of the Iraqi capital.

Of course, says Khouri, Powell does not possess the arrogance of his colleague Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Nor does he possess the facial expressions of his boss George Bush, who always has this mocking look regardless of whether there is cause for such mockery or not.

At first, Powell was not that enthusiastic about waging war against the rest of the world and international legitimacy. Yet yesterday, he was a High Commissioner, and exceptionally so. He chose his expressions and words to match the new logic that will be imposed on the roles, facts, laws, and conventions that govern international relations, even though the war on Iraq is not yet over.

For Washington wanted this war to be the first in its strategy of 'preemptive strikes' that is supposed to consolidate its hegemonial power as the new de facto state of affairs in the world.

Although attention was focused on Powell's talks with his French, Russian, and German counterparts in particular, the American premonition of victory in Iraq almost canceled out any lingering conviction that there might be real differences between the United States' NATO allies in 'old Europe', and its new 'followers' among the 'breakaway' states that emerged from the collapse of the USSR.

The proceedings were very exciting. Powell devoted 15 minutes to meet with the Vilnius Group of states, perhaps to pat them on the shoulder and tell them that the United States will not forget their support when they signed a letter backing military intervention against Iraq before the war began.

For the record, the Vilnius Group states comprise Albania, Estonia, Lithuania, Moldavia, Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia, Macedonia, Slovakia, and Slovenia. And let us remember that when Rumsfeld speaks of 'coalition forces' he includes these states in his list.

"Why trot out this group of states now?" asks Khouri: "Because the view from the 'Imperial Balcony' finds no reason for treating France better than Estonia for example, or listening to Germany more closely than Mauritius."

"Anyone who finds this unbelievable should read Powell's statements in Brussels-even though they were coated with a modicum of diplomatic decorum-or recall what he said before Congress last week, when he declared that Washington would not cede control of Iraq to the UN as some Europeans are demanding: 'We have not born this heavy burden with our coalition partners so as to forgo a dominant say in how matters will develop in the future.'"

It would be futile to say that this is a war for control and not for sowing democracy or eliminating weapons of mass destruction. This has become so well known as to be trite. However, it is necessary to raise one question: Why does the 'Empire' feel the need to resume its contacts with the Europeans?

Its only real need is to obtain an acknowledgement of the de facto situation that has resulted from the war, especially since the French and the Russians-and, to a lesser extent, the Germans and the Chinese-have expressed their desire for the U.S. to be victorious over dictatorship the past few days.

Powell was both frank and discourteous in his demand that the international community should first recognize the provisional Iraqi authority (or, in other words, the American hegemony) that will be imposed on Iraq. Only then will it be possible to speak of the UN, and other groups that might offer their help. And this means that all the wagers in Paris, Berlin, and Moscow on an early role for the international body in Iraq have not paid off.

The only help that these groups and bodies will be permitted by the United States is of the following nature, concludes Khouri:

"First, the UN can turn into a relief organization under the supervision of Iraq's new ruler, retired General Jay Garner, Ariel Sharon's friend who admires his methods of crushing the Palestinian intifada.

Second, NATO can play the role of municipal police, but only under U.S. command. Third, the EU can contribute towards reconstruction, perhaps in the hope of gaining some crumbs from the billions that will go to American companies in the context of 'reconstructing Iraq.'"

INTO THE THEATER OF OPERATIONS: "There are signs that the realm of international politics is trying to storm the theater of military operations", writes Joseph Samaha in the Lebanese daily as-Safir.

- Whether the occasion is appropriate or not, French PM Jean-Pierre Raffarin keeps repeating his call to be more precise in determining who is an enemy (Saddam Hussein) and who is a friend (the United States), adding his hopes for an American victory in the war.

- - British PM Tony Blair suddenly remembers Jacques Chirac and Vladimir Putin, and speaks to them both on the phone.

- - U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell overcomes his diplomatic 'lethargy' and pays a lightning visit to Ankara and Brussels.

- - There are increasing reports in the American press about renewed disagreements between the State and Defense Departments regarding the distribution of roles in the coming Iraqi government. All these developments contribute to the same course of events that was initiated by the appointment of Kofi Anan as temporary supervisor of the 'food-for-oil' program. This 'course' can be summarized by the following single question: Is there a future role for the UN in Iraq?

There is no doubt that Blair is trying to secure such a role. Reports from London suggest that he failed to convince George Bush to assign any role to the international body during their recent meeting. Blair does not enjoy strong support in his own country. The anti-war movement remains strong and steadfast. 'Optimism' regarding a rapid end to the fighting has disappeared.

More importantly, however, Blair-who has accompanied Bush till the end of the line-has an interest in repairing the rift in relations between the Europeans on the one hand, and between the Europeans and the Americans, on the other. And as he has said, the main way to achieve this is for 'any post-war provisional administration of Iraq to have the approval of the UN.'

In this way, the war would merely have been a phase in which international shackles were temporarily cast aside, only to return to the Security Council afterwards with a stronger position from which to compel those who were opposed to the resort to force into some sort of apology.

The U.S. 'war party' does not share this view, says Samaha. Its position was that going to the UN was a trap from the beginning, and that what is needed is to eliminate as many as possible of the conventions and commitments that restrict the movements of the imperial center.

This party's declared aim is to subjugate Iraq by war, and then move on to disciplining other enemies, forcing hesitant friends to make difficult choices, and imposing a Likudnik solution on the Palestinian problem.

In these extremists' opinion, U.S. unilateralism is a blessing, not a curse. In Baghdad, this blessing can only be implemented via direct rule under the supervision of Paul Wolfowitz; its main task being the placement of the 'Chalabis' of this world after INC leader Ahmad Chalabi in positions from which they can control the country's fate. It is not logical for the war to be fought in order to invite others to enjoy its fruits, determine its results, and preventing it from becoming a part of a strategy that extends to the entire region and the world.

These extremists have been accused of misjudging the situation in Iraq politically, which led to military confusion. However, notes Samaha, they swiftly moved on to the counter-attack. They developed a theory according to which the responsibility for any mistakes that were made, was that of the State Department and the intelligence services, because they had insisted on keeping the Iraqi opposition at an arm's length and depriving it of any role.

Given this, Donald Rumsfeld called for the activation of the INC on the grounds that in some of its formations, it contains 'the pure treason that should be this phase's distinguishing mark.' It was therefore not strange to find assurances regarding the INC's role being issued by the most extreme of Zionists taking part in the AIPAC conference.

The declared long-term aims of the American war party can barely tolerate a role for Colin Powell, let alone Kofi Anan. Anyone reading Hans Blix's recent statements can imagine the shudder that creeps up Wolfowitz's spine as he contemplates the possibility of the UN returning to Iraq.

For Blix is now saying that the administration was annoyed at him because he was not producing the required evidence. It is possible to read into what he says that he was being subjected to pressure because of the clash between the logic of his work, and the logic that wanted to end the theatrics in order to launch the attack.

The return of a Blix look-alike to Baghdad would be a nightmare for the war party. It would not be strange if Blair were to be subjected to a hostile campaign because of his ideas and his insistence on activating the roadmap. And this would lead to restaging the same sort of scene we witnessed a few months back, that was decisively ended by Bush at the time.

It is true that the American president agreed to go to the Security Council. But he made this conditional on the Council adopting his hard-line position. He did not hesitate for a moment to brush international legitimacy aside when his forces were ready for the invasion. Is it likely that he will be ready to offer this very same body-'which has lost its significance'-a new opportunity?

"If he does", concludes Samaha, "this would be truly surprising. However, he will do nothing of the sort until he has sufficiently assured that the international 'glove' will not hinder the hand that wants to strike and steal."

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