Unexpected firmness” “

European and American positions on the scenario of a possible war against Iraq" "

A possible war against Iraq seems to draw a fairly clear line of demarcation between the American interventionist position and the European Union which – with the exception of the UK and to a lesser degree Spain – continues to believe in a diplomatic solution. It is clear that Europe, even if it does not yet speak with a single voice, does express itself on the matter with an authoritative voice in a manner independent from its transatlantic ally. On the other hand, this independent position prompts reflection on the possible consequences of a different approach to international relations. We met the political pundit Emil Dumoulin of the University of Brussels and asked for his comment. How do you see the current situation with Europe and the USA in disarray over Iraq? “The extension of time granted by the UNO to the weapons inspectors in Iraq represents a victory of Europe over the USA. If the European countries had “given in” to Washington without batting an eyelid or almost – as it did in the case of the NATO bombardments in Serbia or the less censurable invasion of Afghanistan with the aim of ousting the Taleban – the CNN by this time would probably be transmitting images similar to those of 1991. What US Minister of Defense Rumsfeld called the “old Europe” (referring to France and Germany in particular and their threatened veto of armed intervention without the absolute certainty of the presence in Iraq of weapons of mass destruction or the technology to produce them) reacted differently, however. And it did so with a firmness that irritated and perhaps rather surprised the White House”. Almost a trial of strength by Germany and France… “It cannot be denied that part of the refusal of the Franco-German axis (and its allies, including the whole of the Benelux) to align itself with Bush was prompted by a “trial of strength”, the first of its kind, in order to distinguish itself politically and win over the Middle-Eastern countries as far as possible. And also to distance itself from the United Kingdom in a crucial moment for the political future of the European Union in which Tony Blair himself is struggling to maintain both his leadership of the world democratic left, and take up the mantle of Clinton, and his domestic appeal. It was also a show of character: persuading the Security Council to second the requests of Blix and El Baradei for further inspections has the dual significance of championing diplomacy for the resolution of international conflicts and saying to the USA: “if you have the proofs, show them to the whole world”. Besides, the risk of suffering terrorist attacks of fundamentalist Islamic stamp on their own territory, and having to control equally unpredictable extremist groups of the anti-globalization movement, is too great. We’ll see what consequences it all has”. Yes, let’s come to the consequences: what scenario is possible? “Now more than ever everything is in the hands of Saddam Hussein. If he has the weapons and fails to disarm, there will no longer be any excuses. It’s up to him to decide whether to risk a potentially global war or to go into exile. Perhaps a ‘golden’ exile in Russia, as has been offered to him. In the event of Iraq persisting in its failure to cooperate, and thus convincing even France, Germany, China and Russia (see the recent “threatening” statement of Putin) of the need to bomb Iraq, NATO would constitute once again the point of encounter. And the disagreements of recent days would probably be buried in a hurry. If on the other hand war is averted thanks to the success of the UN inspections called for by Europe, Bush could certainly take satisfaction in the departure of Saddam and the “victory of Western values”, but would also have to admit the defeat of his international policy. It would be a kind of smack in the face that would prevent the USA from continuing to consider the “old Europe” as a kid brother. If and when truly united, the “new Europe” would acquire new power and influence. But it would also have to show its ability to manage this power not only on the political, but also on the economic and military level”.

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