More ‘Freedom Fries’?

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The Bush Administration didn’t waste any time before using the bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad to revive its own agenda at the Security Council. Washington announced yesterday that it is working on a new U.N. resolution that would urge other nations, like India, Pakistan, and Turkey to send troops and aid to Iraq. But Washington still wants to be in the driver’s seat.

Bush’s reluctance to loosen his grip on the reins has been a point of contention since the war ended — countries that opposed the war have been insisting that they will only send troops if they are sending them to help the U.N. — not the United States. Now, while Bush wants to use the bombing to convince rich countries that they must contribute troops, the issue of U.S. vs U.N. control also runs the risk of reviving old pre-war tensions at the Security Council.

As the Washington Post reports:

“The diplomatic bid by the United States, launched in the aftermath of Tuesday’s bombing of the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad, has resurrected the divisions within the Security Council that existed before the Bush administration invaded Iraq in March without explicit Security Council authority. The council’s initial reaction signaled that the Powell faces an uphill battle in achieving passage of a new resolution asking countries to commit tens of thousands of troops and billions of dollars to aid in the rebuilding of Iraq.

The U.S. initiative, which President Bush and his senior foreign policy advisers discussed at two high-level meetings on Wednesday, is complicated by continuing resistance by the Pentagon to expanding the number of troops in Iraq.”

Bush has previously dropped the issue at the U.N. because he was leery of a heated debate that could pressure Washington into relinquishing partial control of Iraq’s reconstruction. Now, the Los Angeles Times’ Robin Wright and Maggie Farley argue that the administration is trying to use the tragedy to expedite the passage of a resolution that favors Washington:

“The United States hopes to tap into global outrage over Tuesday’s bombing to win quick passage of a resolution providing more troops and financial assistance to stabilize Iraq and support the U.N. mission — without diluting U.S. control of the coalition forces or the political transition, according to U.S. officials.”

But suprise, surprise, it is once again France that is putting up the most resistance to America’s plans (Liberty Toast, anyone?). Calling the resolution an an effort to exploit international outrage, France is still insisting that it will contribute troops only to a U.N. force:

“Michel Duclos, the French UN representative, said: ‘Iraq unfortunately has become a theatre of operation for terrorists.’ But he asked for more time for ‘a precise analysis of the situation in all of its complexity’ amid “the greatest possible transparency.’

Demanding an ‘accelerated’ timetable for the restoration of Iraqi sovereignty, he added: ‘It is France’s conviction that this political transition will have better chances of success if guided by Iraqis, with the assistance not of occupation forces, but of the international community as a whole, incarnated by the United Nations. Only the UN has the legitimacy, impartiality, expertise.'”

A number of countries that did not support the war, like Syria, Germany, Chile and Pakistan, don’t think security is anything but America’s problem. Wright and Farley report:

“‘There is one thing I’m sure of. Arab nations will not send troops to Iraq under a foreign occupation,’ said Fayssal Mekdad, Syria’s deputy ambassador. ‘The Fourth Geneva Convention describes the responsibilities of the occupying powers, and one of those is to provide security. The U.N. shouldn’t have to ask for other troops to do the job.'”

Ultimately, the countries that Washington is now turning to for help — after ignoring them when it went to war — just aren’t so keen about opening their wallets when the money will end up in the hands of the occupiers. The The New York Times reports:

“‘The donor countries may put up all kinds of pledges,’ said an envoy from a country under pressure to make a large contribution. ‘But when it comes to writing the checks, who do we write them out to? We’re not writing them to the occupation. There has to be more of a U.N. role.'”

With US troops facing mounting casualties and the White House dealing with the high cost of the war, it remains to be seen whether Washington will be pressured into ceding some ground. The Bush Administration’s reluctance to share power may be Bush playing hardball, or it may be Bush shooting himself in the foot…


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