April 13, 2004 | WebMemo on Europe
The Bush/Blair White House Summit: Strengthening the Coalition inIraq
British Prime Minister Tony Blair will
meet this Friday with U.S. President George W. Bush in Washington.
The summit will be the most important meeting between the two world
leaders since the liberation of Baghdad a year ago. They will meet
against the backdrop of a militant Shia rebellion in Iraq led by
Moqtada al-Sadr that threatens to destabilize the country and
derail the timetable for the handover of power. The threat of
revolution and civil war in Iraq will dominate talks between the
two allies, and the Bush Administration will be looking to the
British leader to help strengthen the resolve of the international
coalition of over 30 nations operating in the country.
Anglo-U.S. Leadership on Iraq
The U.S. and British leaders should
demonstrate leadership and vision and call for a strengthening of
resolve within the Iraq coalition. The United States and Great
Britain must unite in their determination to stay the course in
Iraq and defeat the scourge of terrorism. The international
coalition will be looking to President Bush and Prime Minister
Blair for direction in a time of fear and uncertainty.
Iraqi insurgents, both Sunni and Shia,
will seek to sow the seeds of division within the Iraq coalition,
especially between London and Washington, and will attempt to
further intimidate coalition partners, such as Japan, Italy and
Poland. It is therefore imperative that the U.S. and British
leaders project confidence, unity, and resolve.
The Key Issues
The June 30 deadline for the handover of
power in Iraq. President Bush and Prime Minister Blair
are in firm agreement that there can be no delay in the timetable
for the handover of power. The two leaders will seek to reassure
the world that mounting violence and terror will not alter the June
30 deadline. At the same time, they must convince skeptics that
Iraq will have a viable and secure government in place by the time
of the handover.
Dealing with the Shia and Sunni
insurgencies in Iraq. Blair's visit to Washington comes amid
intense criticism of U.S. tactics in Iraq from sections of his own
Labour Party, including his former foreign secretary Robin Cook. While Blair may
privately urge a more cautious approach than the Bush
Administration's in dealing with the Iraqi insurgency, he is
unlikely to appease his critics on Iraq. Blair is likely to support
publicly U.S. counter-terrorist operations in Iraqi cities, while
stepping up British efforts to enlist the support of moderate Sunni
and Shia clerics. The coming weeks could see the successful fusion
of U.S. and British military and diplomatic power in
Shoring up the Coalition of the
Willing. The pledge by
the new Spanish Socialist government to withdraw its forces from
Iraq has sent shockwaves through the Coalition. The upsurge in
violence across Iraq and the taking of hostages by Islamic
militants has also begun to unnerve some coalition partners. The
U.S. and British leaders will be discussing how to strengthen the
Coalition and limit the damage in Europe of Spain's decision to
pull out of Iraq. Blair's role will be critical in keeping the
European alliance together.
Role of the UN in Iraq. A major area of potential disagreement
between the White House and Downing Street will be over the role of
the United Nations in shaping the future of Iraq. Tony Blair is
under considerable pressure from his ruling Labour Party to call
for the UN to be given a greater political role in Iraq. The Bush
Administration has so far resisted calls for the UN to be given a
central role in the country.
UN resolution on Iraq. Despite division over the precise role
of the UN in shaping Iraq's future, Washington and London are in
agreement on the need for a new UN resolution mandating
U.S.-British plans for the handover of power to the Iraqis. The
British Prime Minister will be meeting with UN Secretary General
Kofi Annan on Thursday, prior to Blair's visit to Washington, to
discuss the resolution.
Suppress the Iraq Insurgency. The rule of law must be imposed in
Iraq. The United States and Great Britain must be vigorous in their
prosecution of the war against Moqtada al-Sadr and his followers,
as well as Sunni militants in Fallujah and other parts of the Sunni
Triangle. The rebellions are a test of American and British global
power and are being closely observed across the Arab world. Any
sign of weakness or indecision will only strengthen the hand of
rogue states and Islamic terrorist groups.
At the same time, every effort should be made by the Coalition and
the Iraqi Governing Council to urge Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani,
the spiritual leader of the Shias, to help rein in the militant
followers of al-Sadr. Similar appeals should be made to senior
Sunni clerics, in an effort to reduce terrorist activity in Baghdad
and the Sunni Triangle.
Limit the Role of the United
Nations. The role of the United
Nations in shaping the future of the Iraqi people should be
strictly limited. While the UN does have an important advisory role
to play in Iraq, including the training of election officials and
the monitoring of elections, it should not have a military or
dominant political role.
The huge scandal surrounding the UN's handling of the Iraq food
program demonstrates clearly that the world body cannot be
entrusted with a major management role in Iraq. A handover of political
and military power to the UN would also be a strategic disaster,
making it impossible for U.S. and coalition forces to wipe out the
terrorist networks operating within Iraq.
A NATO Command for
Iraq. A NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) command
in Iraq is a far better alternative to giving the U.N. a bigger say
in shaping the country's future. Unlike the U.N., NATO is a
multinational organization that is run effectively and can project
military power. NATO's track record has been excellent and bodes
well for any future stabilization operation in Iraq.
President Bush and Prime Minister Blair should call for NATO to
take over command of Allied troops in Iraq after the June 30
handover. NATO involvement will reduce the burden on U.S. forces
and will likely draw more allies into the Iraq coalition. The U.S.
and Britain should lay down the gauntlet to nations such as France
and Germany and call on them to join the multinational effort to
build a democratic and safe Iraq.
- A Diplomatic Offensive in Europe. Both Washington and
London will need to embark upon a sustained diplomatic offensive to
limit the damage wrought by Spain's decision to withdraw its forces
from Iraq and to align itself with the Franco-German "axis,"
President Bush should invite key European allies to the White House
for a major summit on the future of Iraq. The United States and UK
must work closely together to reinforce the alliance with the
nations of "New Europe," especially the ten central and eastern
European nations that will enter the European Union in May,
including Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic.
summit between President Bush and Prime Minister Blair is of huge
symbolic significance. The Anglo-U.S. special relationship has been
the driving force behind the international alliance against global
terrorism and rogue states. The free world will be looking to the
leaders of the world's two most powerful nations for leadership and
resolve in the face of adversity. The enemies of freedom, including
Al-Qaeda and their supporters among Sunni and Shia militants in
Iraq, will be seeking signs of division between the United States
and Britain and evidence of cracks in the Iraq coalition.
As the British Prime Minister recently
stated, the United States and Great Britain remain locked in an
"historic struggle" in Iraq. Failure by the Anglo-U.S. coalition
would result in the triumph of terrorism and tyranny. The White House summit
will be critical in sending a message to the insurgents in Iraq
that they will be defeated and that freedom and democracy will
Appendix: Coalition Forces in Iraq