GREAT BRITAIN AND
THE INTERNATIONAL COALITION IN IRAQ
Testimony of Dr. Nile
Gardiner Director, Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom
The Heritage Foundation
House Committee on Foreign Affairs: Subcommittee on International
Organizations, Human Rights and Oversight
Hearing on Economic and Military Support for the U.S. Efforts
in Iraq: The Coalition of the Willing, Then and Now
Delivered on May 9, 2007
Ranking Member Rohrabacher, and distinguished Members of the House
Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on International
Organizations, Human Rights and Oversight. Thank you for holding
today's hearing on a very important issue: the role of the
international coalition in Iraq.
It is fitting that
today's hearing is taking place immediately after the highly
successful State Visit to the United States of Her Majesty Queen
Elizabeth II. Her visit to the United States was a powerful
symbol of the historic strength of the Anglo-American Special
Relationship, the most enduring and successful alliance in modern
history. It is a partnership that must continue to flourish if the
West is to defeat the scourge of global terrorism and defend the
cause of liberty and freedom across the world.
Contribution in Iraq and Afghanistan
British forces are fighting side by side in the main theaters of
the war on terrorism. The United States and the United Kingdom lead
the global battle against al-Qaeda and state sponsors of
international terror. Washington and London also stand at the
forefront of international efforts to prevent the emergence of a
nuclear-armed Iran, and Britain has doubled its naval presence in
the Persian Gulf, alongside the U.S. Navy, as a warning to the
British military personnel participated in the liberation of Iraq,
by any measure a huge contribution for a nation of Britain's size.
More than 7,000 British troops are still based in southern Iraq,
and 148 British soldiers have sacrificed their lives there. The UK
commands the Multi-National Division South East within the
Multi-National Force, whose security responsibilities include
Iraq's second largest city, Basra, with a population of 2.3
million. Since 2003, Britain has spent over $8 billion (₤4
billion) on Iraq operations.
Prince Harry, the
Queen's grandson and third in line to the throne, will shortly be
dispatched to Iraq, emphasizing the British commitment to the
country. Prince Harry's decision to fight alongside his countrymen
in the face of mounting threats from insurgent groups is a
commendable display of courage and leadership that underscores the
continuing importance of the Monarchy in the 21st century.
More than 5,000
British troops are engaged in military operations against the
Taliban in southern Afghanistan as part of the NATO-led
International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), and a further 1,500
are due to be deployed this summer. Fifty-three British soldiers
have died in combat in Afghanistan since 2001. The English-speaking
nations of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada,
Australia, and New Zealand have contributed 23,300 troops to the
ISAF mission, making up nearly two thirds of the 36,750-strong NATO
The Broader Iraq
currently 25 countries with forces in Iraq in addition to the
United States, providing a total of 13,196 troops. A total of 272
Coalition troops from countries other than the U.S. have been
killed in Iraq.  As well as the United Kingdom, the largest
troop contributors are South Korea (2,300), Poland (900), Georgia
(900), Romania (600), Australia (550), and Denmark
(460). Poland commands the Multi-National Division Central-South,
which includes the cities of Al Kut, Al Hillah, and Karbala.
The other nations
contributing forces to Iraq are: Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan,
Bosnia/Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, El Salvador, Estonia,
Georgia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova,
Mongolia, Singapore, Slovakia and Ukraine. In addition, there are
several NATO members who are supporting Iraqi stability operations
outside of the Multinational Force-Iraq, including Hungary,
Iceland, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia and Turkey.
At its height in
2004, the Iraq Coalition included 21 nations from Europe, and nine
from Asia and Australasia. Twelve of the 25 members of the European
Union were represented, as were 16 of the 26 NATO (North Atlantic
Treaty Organization) member states. The opposition of French
President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to
the U.S.-led liberation of Iraq should not be perceived as
representative of Europe as a whole-indeed, a large number of
European governments backed the U.S. decision to liberate the Iraqi
It is significant
that Messrs Chirac and Schroeder are no longer powerful figures on
the world stage. A number of major pro-American leaders have
emerged since the heated international debates over the Iraq War.
Angela Merkel took over as Germany's Chancellor in 2005, Stephen
Harper was elected Prime Minister of Canada in 2006, and Nicolas
Sarkozy will become president of France later this month.
Economic Support for
Over 40 countries
have pledged reconstruction aid to Iraq, totaling more than $8
billion. These pledges include $4.9 billion by Japan, $642 million
by the UK, $235 million by Italy, and $222 million by Spain.
Several Arab countries have also pledged significant contributions,
including Kuwait ($565 million), Saudi Arabia ($500 million), and
United Arab Emirates ($215 million). The European Union has also
pledged to provide $900 million of aid for Iraq. In addition the
World Bank has pledged $3 billion, the IMF $2.55 billion, and the
Islamic Development Bank $500 million, bringing the total amount of
money pledged by the international community (excluding the United
States) to $15.2 billion. In
November 2004, the Paris Club of creditor nations, which includes
the U.S., UK, Russia, Japan, Germany, France, Italy and
Switzerland, agreed to cancel 80 percent of Iraq's $38.9 billion
debt owed to these countries, with the remaining $7.8 billion to be
rescheduled over a 23-year period.
Undermining the Iraq Coalition
The Senate and House decision to support a timetable for the
withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq undermines and weakens the
Anglo-American Special Relationship and U.S.-U.K. leadership on the
world stage. Following a 218-208 House vote calling for a
withdrawal timetable, the Senate voted by 51 to 46 to approve a
war-spending bill that would force the exit of American forces
starting in October 2007, with a target for complete withdrawal
from Iraq by March 31, 2008. This vote sends the wrong message at a
time when American, British and Coalition personnel are engaged in
defending Iraq's fledgling democracy.
Congress is sending a clear signal of defeat to America's
enemies in Iraq and across the world, which undercuts the United
State's closest ally, Great Britain, as well as the Iraqi
government. This astonishing move will undermine morale in the
international coalition in Iraq and, if enacted, would make
Britain's position in southern Iraq untenable.
In sharp contrast, Britain's House of Commons has not voted for
a timetabled withdrawal of British forces from Iraq, and both of
the U.K.'s largest political parties, Labour and Conservative,
remain committed to maintaining forces in the country. There is a
clear difference between the resolve of Britain's Parliament
regarding Iraq and the defeatist approach of elements in the U.S.
The war in Iraq is not only America's war, it is Britain's too,
and the United Kingdom has played a major role in bringing relative
peace and stability to huge swathes of southern Iraq in the face of
intense meddling by Iran.
Britain Is Not Pulling Out of Iraq
British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced in February that
British troop numbers would be cut this summer from 7,100 to 5,000.
This will allow Britain to send an additional 1,500 troops to
southern Afghanistan, for a total of 7,000, to fight the Taliban.
The move is a reflection of mounting commitments in other theaters
of the war on terrorism, as well as significant progress in
training Iraqi security forces. It does not, as some U.S.
politicians have claimed, represent a cut-and-run strategy for
Blair's initial announcement has been ruthlessly exploited for
political gain by those in Congress who saw it as a convenient
battering ram to use against Washington's Iraq policy. There is in
fact a huge gulf between the long-term vision for Iraq of British
defense chiefs and the short-sighted approach adopted by anti-war
politicians on Capitol Hill.
Downing Street has flatly rejected a timetable for the complete
withdrawal of British forces and remains committed to working with
Iraqi forces to advance security in the south of the country.
Blair's likely successor, Gordon Brown, has given no public
indication that he will reverse British policy on Iraq. According
to British defense sources, the U.K. plans to maintain several
thousand troops in the country for another 5 years, with a
projected battle group based west of Basra until 2012.
Dangerous Consequences of a Coalition
Withdrawal from Iraq
A Propaganda Victory for Al-Qaeda and Its Allies: Al-Qaeda
would portray a U.S.-U.K. pullout as a massive victory. An early
withdrawal would embolden al-Qaeda's terrorist network in Iraq and
provide a huge boost to the insurgency. Al-Qaeda would link any
British withdrawal to the July 7, 2005, London bombings, for which
it has claimed responsibility, and assert that the attacks forced a
change in British policy. This would set a dangerous precedent and
greatly increase the likelihood of future terrorist atrocities on
Civil War, Ethnic Cleansing, and a Humanitarian Crisis: The
withdrawal of American, British, and other Western forces would
pave the way for a civil war between Sunni and Shia groups, with
bloodshed on a far greater scale than witnessed so far. Hundreds of
thousands, even millions could be displaced by ethnic cleansing,
leading to a huge humanitarian crisis. Large numbers of Iraqis
would inevitably lose their lives.
The Boosting of Iranian Power: Iran would be a geostrategic
beneficiary of a British pullout from Shiite-dominated southern
Iraq, where it already wields great political influence. A British
withdrawal from Basra and its southern bases would create a power
vacuum that dozens of Iranian-backed militia groups are ready to
exploit-among them, Moqtada Sadr's Mahdi Army, the Badr Brigades,
and the Mujahidin for Islamic Revolution in Iraq. Tehran is already
waging a proxy war against U.S., British, and Iraqi forces. There
is growing evidence that Iranian factories run by the Revolutionary
Guard are producing roadside bombs that are killing British
soldiers in southern Iraq and that Iran is actively financing and
training Shia militias.
The U.S., Britain and other Coalition Allies must remain united
in their determination to continue the fight against terrorism in
Iraq. An early withdrawal of British or American troops would have
catastrophic implications for the future of the country and would
be seen by many Iraqis as a betrayal of trust. By liberating Iraq
and removing one of the most brutal regimes of modern times,
Britain and the United States made a powerful commitment to the
future of the Iraqi people that must be honored. There should be no
major pullout of Allied forces from the country until key military
objectives have been met and Iraq is stable and secure.
The U.S. and the U.K. share a fundamental national interest in
remaining in Iraq to defeat the insurgency. The Middle East would
view an early withdrawal as a humiliating defeat for the West and
an emphatic victory for those who represent al-Qaeda in Iraq. A
pullout would be an unparalleled propaganda success for a barbaric
terror organization that has murdered thousands of Iraqi men,
women, and children.
Iraq today is the central battleground in the global war against
terrorism and, together with Afghanistan, is one of the only places
in the world where American, British and Allied troops can actively
engage al-Qaeda and its allies on the battlefield. Iraq tests the
West's resolve to confront and ultimately defeat the al-Qaeda
threat, and this epic confrontation must be fought and won by U.S.,
British, Coalition and Iraqi forces.