President Bush and Prime Minister Blair will be meeting this week in Washington to discuss the situation in post-war Iraq, as well as the continuing global war against terrorism and the rising threat posed by rogue regimes such as Iran, Syria and North Korea.
As both the White House and Downing Street face growing criticism over their handling of evidence relating to Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction, it is imperative that the two allies remain united in their determination to continue their hunt for WMD, and to establish a secure and self-sustaining post-Saddam Iraq.
Washington unquestionably views Great Britain as its most important ally, politically, strategically and militarily. The two world leaders jointly displayed outstanding world leadership on the Iraq issue at a time when the United Nations Security Council demonstrated a blatant unwillingness to enforce its own resolutions. Once again Great Britain stood shoulder to shoulder with the United States at a crucial moment in history.
Britain played a major role in the war to remove Saddam Hussein from power, deploying 45,000 combat troops to the Gulf. It was her largest military deployment since the Second World War, representing over a third of the nation's armed forces. 15,000 British troops remain in Iraq, and the British currently administer the southern region of the country, including the city of Basra.
The Key Issues
Weapons of Mass Destruction
This week's Bush/Blair summit takes place amid a growing storm in Washington over the President's State of the Union address and its reference to Iraqi attempts to acquire uranium from Niger to facilitate the production of nuclear weapons. There have been recriminations in recent days between the US and British intelligence services over the authenticity of the evidence. The meeting also comes in the wake of a British parliamentary inquiry into the way Downing Street presented the case for war to the British public. The summit will provide an opportunity for President Bush and Prime Minister Blair to present a united front, and ensure that the drive to create a stable future for the Iraqi people is not overshadowed by the WMD controversy.
As terrorist attacks against Allied forces in the country continue to mount, it is increasingly likely that the United States will need to make a long-term military commitment to stabilize post-war Iraq, at a cost of roughly $4 billion a month. In order to relieve the burden on over-stretched US forces, many of whom may be needed elsewhere in the world, it is imperative that larger numbers of international troops be brought into Iraq. Washington and London will need to launch a major diplomatic offensive in the coming weeks to increase the number of troops committed by other members of the coalition of the willing. Prime Minister Blair could play a key role in building up coalition support for a broader international commitment to the future of Iraq, particularly among allies such as India with important historical ties to the UK.
Britain's continuing involvement in Iraq will be critical for the country's transition. The British Army brings with it years of highly successful experience in peacekeeping in a wide range of theatres of operation, including Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Sierra Leone and Northern Ireland. The British possess an in-depth knowledge of Iraq and the region, and have close diplomatic and historical ties with much of the Arab world.
Downing Street and the British Foreign Office have begun to exert increasing pressure on Iran to halt its nuclear program. Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has made it clear that Britain will not accept further development by Tehran of its nuclear facilities. Britain's increasingly muscular approach towards Iran has placed London at odds with the European Union's failed appeasement policy of 'constructive engagement' with rogue regimes in the Middle East. London has also played a major role in international efforts to curtail North Korea's nuclear and WMD programs. In a marked shift towards Washington's position, the UK is placing increasing pressure on the EU to toughen its stance towards Iran, North Korea and Syria.
The Bush/Blair summit offers an excellent opportunity for Washington and London to coordinate an effective policy on dealing with rogue regimes. A joint stance by Britain and America will place added pressure on the United Nations Security Council, the European Union, and other international bodies to take action against regimes that pose a threat to international peace and security.
Detention of British al-Qaeda Suspects at Guantanamo Bay
Over 200 British Members of Parliament have called for the United States to repatriate two British Guantanamo Bay detainees to the United Kingdom. The detainees are being held on suspicion of involvement in al-Qaeda terrorist activities. Blair will be under intense pressure from his own Labour Party to secure the suspects' return to Britain, and the detainee question is likely to be the key issue of contention between the two leaders when they meet. Straw has been critical of the United States' handling of terrorist suspects at Guantanamo.
Recommendations for President Bush
- Weapons of Mass Destruction
In the wake of the controversy surrounding the President's State of the Union address and its use of British intelligence material, it is vital for the White House and Downing Street to maintain a common position. Any division between the two leaders will only strengthen the position of opponents of regime change in Iraq who will seek to sow the seeds of discord between the Allies.
- British presence in Iraq
The President should encourage Prime Minister Blair to make a long-term military commitment to the future of Iraq. A British military presence in the country is critical to the stability of the country.
- Iraq Roadmap
President Bush and Prime Minister Blair must proceed with plans to produce a clear road map and timetable for the handover of power to an Iraqi interim administration.
- International Troops in Iraq
Washington and London should actively seek the participation of European and Asian troops, to alleviate the heavy burden on US and British forces. In the future, London and Washington may wish to consider a possible NATO role regarding peacekeeping in a post-war Iraq.
- Limited Role for the UN
The White House and Downing Street must resist international pressure for any significantly greater political role for the United Nations in post-war Iraq. The United Nations should play a subordinate role on the Iraq issue, with the United States and Great Britain taking the lead in administering a post-war Iraqi transition government.
- Military Tribunals
Britain should be encouraged to support the establishment of military tribunals to prosecute Iraqis who have committed war crimes against Coalition forces. There should be no involvement by international tribunals, whether ad hoc or in the form of the International Criminal Court (ICC).
- Rogue States
The US and UK should pressure other international powers such as Russia and China to end nuclear and military co-operation with rogue regimes such as Iran and North Korea. Britain and America must jointly increase pressure internationally to isolate Pyongyang and Tehran to prevent them from developing and proliferating weapons of mass destruction.
- War Against Terrorism
London and Washington should increase coordination of anti-terrorist measures, and enhance cooperation between the CIA and MI6. The US and UK should work together to combat the spread of al-Qaeda cells in East Africa, a region where both American and British forces are already on the ground.
- Detention of Al-Qaeda Suspects
President Bush should resist calls from British lawmakers to repatriate British citizens held by the United States at Guantanamo Bay on suspicion of involvement with al-Qaeda terrorist activities. This would set a dangerous precedent and would be in neither the US nor British national interest.
Cornerstone of Strategic Thinking
Since the end of hostilities in Iraq the White House and Downing Street have faced mounting criticism over their handling of intelligence information in the lead-up to the Iraq war, as well as growing impatience over the pace of political reform in Iraq. There is also growing unease domestically in Britain and America over guerrilla attacks on Allied troops serving in the country. President Bush and Prime Minister Blair must remain focused on the continuing hunt for Saddam Hussein and weapons of mass destruction, and the establishment of a stable, secure and free Iraq.
The success of the Iraq war demonstrated the tremendous strength of the US-UK special relationship. The United States and Great Britain should take great pride in the removal from power of one of the most brutal dictatorships in modern times. The Anglo-US alliance must remain the cornerstone of strategic thinking in both Washington and London, and the world's two most powerful nations must remain united in their determination to achieve lasting peace in a free Iraq, and to deal with the twin global threats of state-sponsored terrorism and the production of WMD by rogue states.
Nile Gardiner Ph.D. is Visiting Fellow in Anglo-American Security Policy, and John Hulsman Ph.D. is Research Fellow in European Affairs, at the Heritage Foundation.
 See Nile Gardiner Ph.D. and David B. Rivkin Jr., Blueprint for Freedom: Limiting the Role of the United Nations in Post-War Iraq, Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 1646, April 21, 2003