In an historic speech to the United Nations General Assembly, President George W. Bush made a powerful call to the international community to join the United States in addressing the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi regime, and Iraq's growing arsenal of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and ballistic missiles. Warning that Iraq poses "a grave and gathering danger," he called on the U.N. to "choose between a world of fear and a world of progress. We cannot stand by and do nothing while dangers gather. We must stand up for our security and for the permanent rights and hopes of mankind."
The President's direct challenge to members of the United Nations marked the official beginning of his effort to build an international coalition that will confront the totalitarian regime in Iraq, which has defied 16 Security Council resolutions in the past decade. Though world leaders appear deeply divided over the issue, there are clear signs that the tide is turning against Baghdad and support is growing for the Bush Administration's call for a regime change.
A military campaign against the Iraqi government is likely to be a combined U.S.-U.K. operation, with the strong possibility that Australian forces will also take part. It is conceivable that new members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), such as Poland and the Czech Republic, could also make a military contribution. NATO allies such as Turkey, Italy, and Spain, and a number of Arab nations such as Kuwait and possibly Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Qatar, should step up to provide logistical and strategic support. Diplomatic backing could come from a growing number of allies once it becomes clear that Saddam Hussein has no intention of complying with U.N. demands and that a military strike is inevitable.
As the debate continues in capitals across the world, it is more widely expected that the United States will not have to go it alone in Iraq. However, Washington will need to continue its efforts to cement support within the U.N. Security Council, Europe, and the Arab world. Specifically, the Bush Administration must:
- Continue to press for a new U.N. Security Council resolution to deal with the threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Saddam Hussein's latest offer to grant access to U.N. weapons inspectors should be seen by the international community as a continuation of the destabilizing status quo and rejected as a cynical and desperate ploy to cling to power.
- Continue working with Great Britain to build the international coalition that will deal with the Iraqi problem. Allied military, diplomatic, and strategic support will be vitally important not only for a campaign to destroy Iraq's WMD and eliminate its WMD programs, but also after the war to ensure that long-term war aims are implemented. These aims include supporting the Iraqi people's efforts to rebuild their country and establish a successful ruling federation representing the major sub-national groups; protecting Iraq's energy infrastructure and resources and assuring Iraq access to world markets; and preventing a possible attempt by Iran to assert its influence aggressively in the region once Saddam is gone.
- Condemn the policies of appeasement of Iraq pursued by the European Union and the Arab League. Leading opponents of taking action against Iraq, such as Germany, should be strongly reproached for moral cowardice and their failure to take a stand against a totalitarian regime that threatens regional and world security.
- Establish joint U.S.-U.K. command of a post-war security force in Iraq. U.S. and British chiefs of staff should retain central control over all coalition forces, including forces from countries such as France and Russia if they wish to participate. The Administration should oppose the division of Iraq into administrative regions run by different allies on the model of Kosovo or post-war Germany.
The opponents of war in Iraq have predicted that America, the world's only superpower, would have to wage war on its own, with perhaps at best the support of the United Kingdom. However, mounting evidence suggests that the people of Iraq may be liberated by one of the biggest strategic and diplomatic coalitions in modern times. A significant and growing number of international allies support a regime change. President Bush's speech to the United Nations was a powerful wake-up call for action by an international community that, for a decade, has been in a state of denial and suspended animation in dealing with the Iraqi threat.
While the bulk of military operations will probably be carried out by U.S. and British forces, strategic and diplomatic support may be provided by a substantial number of allies, including key European nations such as Italy and Spain and some of Iraq's Arab neighbors. There is little likelihood that Arab troops will participate in the military action to liberate Iraq, but invaluable strategic support will be provided by Kuwait and possibly by Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Qatar. It appears more likely that the U.N. Security Council will not stand in the way of military action. Russia and France have indicated that they may support a U.S.-led strike, while China is likely to abstain. Many more countries will want to participate in a post-war presence in Iraq to help its people rebuild their nation into a successful and free federation.
--Nile Gardiner, Ph.D., is a Visiting Fellow in Anglo-American Security Policy in the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies at The Heritage Foundation.