March 19, 2003 | WebMemo on Middle East
British Prime Minister Tony Blair's emphatic victory in the House of Commons yesterday has laid to rest any fears that Britain may not join the United States in military action against Iraq. By a majority of 412 votes to 149, the British parliament voted to use "all means necessary" to disarm the Iraqi regime. The Prime Minister now has an overwhelming mandate to send British forces into battle alongside their US counterparts. At the same time, public support for military action in the UK has jumped by 20 percentage points to 49% in the space of just five days.
The UK has deployed 45,000 combat troops to the Gulf, and it is expected that they will play a vital role in the forthcoming military offensive. It is Britain's largest military deployment since the Second World War, representing over a third of the nation's armed forces. The British Army will also be an integral part of a post-war security operation, which may involve up to 15,000 British soldiers.
The Anglo-US special relationship remains the cornerstone of strategic thinking in both Washington and London, and once again Great Britain is standing shoulder to shoulder with the United States at a crucial moment in history. The world's two most powerful nations remain united in their determination to deal with the twin global threats of state-sponsored terrorism and the production of weapons of mass destruction by rogue states. The US-British position on Iraq has been strengthened by the firm support of Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar and Australian Prime Minister John Howard.
President Bush and Prime Minister Blair have displayed outstanding world leadership at a time when the United Nations has demonstrated a lack of moral fortitude and a blatant unwillingness to enforce its own resolutions. Indeed the appeasement of the brutal Iraqi dictatorship by France, Germany and other members of the UN Security Council will go down in history as one of the most shameful episodes of the early 21st Century.
The position adopted by President Jacques Chirac and Chancellor Gerhard Schroder has relegated both nations to a position of near total irrelevance on the international stage, with no influence over developments in a post-war Iraq. France's last-gasp attempts to return to the coalition are likely to rebuffed by a Bush Administration that has grown weary of French betrayal and time-wasting mind games.
Significantly, the Franco-German stance on Iraq has not been followed by most of the rest of Europe. The view that the United States and Great Britain will have to 'go it alone' in carrying out a regime change is a myth. No less than 18 European nations have expressed their full support for the United States' determination to deal with the Iraqi threat.
As Secretary of State Colin Powell has announced, no less than 45 nations across the world have pledged to support US-British military action. This is an even larger coalition than the one that participated in Operation Desert Storm in 1991. By any standard, the White House and Downing Street's diplomatic effort in the last six months has not been an abject failure, but instead an extraordinary success.
As the United States and Great Britain embark upon a just war against one of the most dangerous regimes in modern times, they will be joined by an historic coalition of the willing. Indeed, the Iraqi people will be liberated by the largest international alliance ever assembled to remove a tyrant from power