Europe Adamantly Opposed To Any U.S. Attack on Iraq

  • From: "Muslim News" <editor@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
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  • Date: Mon, 18 Feb 2002 21:12:58 -0000

Washington Post Foreign Service

BERLIN -- U.S. allies in Europe are deeply fearful that the Bush
administration is moving inexorably toward a military clash with Iraq,
and while they are being blunt in their opposition, they also are
beginning to wonder if Washington cares what they think. 

Europe has a long-standing pattern of hesitating in the face of U.S.
determination to act militarily, followed by unifying with the Americans
as hostilities loom and then begin. But this time, the Europeans insist,
they are firmly opposed to expanding the war on terrorism to Iraq. 

"No support," Josef Joffe, a German foreign policy analyst and editor of
the weekly Die Zeit, said in an interview. "Will Europe do anything to
hinder it if the U.S. goes ahead? No. Will they deny things like
overflight rights? No. . . . But active political support? None." 

Publicly, European leaders are using bullhorn diplomacy to condemn what
they view as a belligerent unilateralism that will undermine, if not
destroy, the solidarity created in the aftermath of Sept. 11. 

"The stunning and unexpectedly rapid success of the military campaign in
Afghanistan was a tribute to American capacity," Chris Patten, the
European Union's external affairs commissioner , wrote in Friday's
Financial Times of London. 

"But it has perhaps reinforced some dangerous instincts: that the
projection of military power is the only basis of true security; that
the U.S. can rely only on itself; and that allies may be useful as an
optional extra but that the U.S. is big enough to manage without them if
it must," he wrote. 

In today's world, no country in Europe is a superpower. That reality has
tended to make Europeans more respectful of talk and international
institutions as ways to settle disputes. Moreover, waging war without
others' help is simply not an option for most of the countries. While a
number of European countries are helping U.S. forces in the Afghan
theater, the conflict has underlined again the gap in U.S. and European
military capabilities. 

In Afghanistan, said Joffe, "people watched with amazement as this
[U.S.] global military machine meshed. And there is fear of that power."

Some Europeans have said that the victory in Afghanistan was an
opportunity for international cooperation and nation-building, a loathed
term in the White House. 

"We have to do all we can to bolster weak or failing states and prevent
them from falling into the clutches of the bin Ladens of this world,"
said Patten. 

European skepticism about strikes on Iraq had been building for weeks,
but blossomed after President Bush's State of the Union address, in
which he referred to Iraq, Iran and North Korea as an "axis of evil." 

French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine called the Bush administration's
approach "simplistic." He was joined by German Foreign Minister Joschka
Fischer, a pro-American politician who risked the political future of
his party, the historically pacifist Greens, to support the U.S.
campaign in Afghanistan. 

"The international coalition against terror is not the basis to take
action against someone -- least of all unilaterally," Fischer told the
German newspaper Die Welt. "All European foreign ministers see it that
way. That is why the phrase 'axis of evil' leads nowhere." 

Even Britain, the United States' closest European ally in the war on
terrorism, has sounded skeptical about the axis of evil. Foreign
Minister Jack Straw, in a visit to Washington three days after Bush
spoke those words, brushed aside the remarks as domestic politicking.
"The president's State of the Union speech is best understood in the
context of the midterm elections in November, it seems to me," Straw
told the British media. 

Without evidence of Iraqi involvement in the Sept. 11 attacks -- of
which there is none, they say -- the Europeans question the legality of
military action and fear it could cause chaos in the Arab world, cast
the United States as bent on hegemony and spark intense anti-Americanism
in Europe. 

"We know which nations' representatives and citizens were fighting
alongside the Taliban and where their activities were financed from,"
Russian President Vladimir Putin said last week. "Iraq is not on this

European officials insist that there are still diplomatic and economic
avenues to ensure that Iraq is not developing weapons of mass
destruction. Fischer said that Iraq should be pressed to allow U.N.
inspectors to return to the country and that "the sanctions regime must
be further developed so that Iraq cannot produce or bring on line
weapons of mass destruction." Patten said the Iraqi opposition could be

Despite the differences, Europeans say they share the Bush
administration's goal of bringing down the Iraqi leader. "We would like
a new government leadership in Iraq, primarily because the people need a
new government," said Karsten Voigt, coordinator of German-American
relations at the Foreign Ministry in Berlin. "The differences start on
how to achieve that. We need a serious debate across the Atlantic." 

Source:  The Washington Post 
 (Sunday Feby 17, 2002; Page A29 )

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