Spanish Troops With A UN/NATO Mandate?

I haven’t much to say about this that I haven’t already said, but the idea of Spain forming part of a NATO contingent which is under a UN mandate would seem to me to represent real progress.

“Yes there is some doubt about the Spanish contingent but otherwise the Iraq force is there,” said one. “It will just be a question of changing their badges and flags to ‘NATO’.”

A U.N.-mandated NATO presence in Iraq could be a face-saving formula for Spain’s incoming Socialist prime minister as allies put pressure on him not to withdraw troops from the country, diplomats said Tuesday.

Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has said he will probably withdraw Spain’s 1,300 troops, who are a key component of the 9,000-strong multinational stabilization force in Iraq’s central-south division.

This would be a major setback for the United States, which wants NATO to take command of this division some time after sovereignty is returned to the Iraqi people on June 30. Even France and Germany, Europe’s fiercest critics of the Iraq war, had backed away from challenging Washington’s ambition.

“Spain’s position now complicates things for NATO,” said one diplomat at the U.S.-dominated military alliance.

“Beyond the political question there is now a question of whether there will be sufficient military capability: you’ve seen how difficult it has been to get forces for Afghanistan.”

However, the two biggest contributors to the stabilization force — Poland and Ukraine — have vowed not to pull their soldiers back, and diplomats say Zapatero may change his mind if NATO takes over with a clear U.N. Security Council mandate.

Indeed, Zapatero’s first comments on the matter after his weekend election victory were ambiguous.

He repeated a campaign pledge to pull out the troops if the United Nations did not take charge by mid-year and promised wide political consultation before setting any plan in stone.

“Even this incoming Spanish government would not be willing to…abandon Iraq, and so putting its troops under a NATO umbrella could be a face-saving formula,” said one diplomat.
Source: Reuters
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About Edward Hugh

Edward 'the bonobo is a Catalan economist of British extraction. After being born, brought-up and educated in the United Kingdom, Edward subsequently settled in Barcelona where he has now lived for over 15 years. As a consequence Edward considers himself to be "Catalan by adoption". He has also to some extent been "adopted by Catalonia", since throughout the current economic crisis he has been a constant voice on TV, radio and in the press arguing in favor of the need for some kind of internal devaluation if Spain wants to stay inside the Euro. By inclination he is a macro economist, but his obsession with trying to understand the economic impact of demographic changes has often taken him far from home, off and away from the more tranquil and placid pastures of the dismal science, into the bracken and thicket of demography, anthropology, biology, sociology and systems theory. All of which has lead him to ask himself whether Thomas Wolfe was not in fact right when he asserted that the fact of the matter is "you can never go home again".

23 thoughts on “Spanish Troops With A UN/NATO Mandate?

  1. “Beyond the political question there is now a question of whether there will be sufficient military capability: you’ve seen how difficult it has been to get forces for Afghanistan.”

    This is exactly the problem. All of Europe together has committed only a few thousand troops to Afghanistan–which is supposedly the clear case. I have no real hope that they will be able or interested in putting a significant force in Iraq.

  2. “I have no real hope that they will be able or interested in putting a significant force in Iraq.”

    Here Sebastian you have more reason for your doubts. I hope you are wrong, but I fear you may be proved right.

  3. Dutch social democratic leader Wouter Bos is not careful enough on this point.
    He stated that he wanted Dutch troops out as well. His elaborations however, differed from the ones given by Zapatero. While the later added his willingness to fight terrorism in a world wide coalition and his willingness to supply Spanish troops if they were part of a real UN-force, Bos said that if the later was the case he “would reconsider”.
    He explained that his statement was meant to put pressure un the US (to hand over the leading role to the UN).
    I am not happy with Bos’ move.

  4. Edward, one hopes that the interpretation of events given by the article you quote will prove the right one. Spain’s contribution, as Sebastian points out, is purely symbolic, but symbolism can translate into substance in a big way. If the perception is allowed to gain root that massive terror attacks can force European governments to distance themselves from America on any issue of interest to terrorists, then we can be sure of many more such attacks in the future.

  5. I have no other source than occasional articles in Le Monde, but based on that Sebastian is correct.

    The paper has been reporting that Bush is insisting that his Greater Middle East Initiative gets top billing on the agenda during June’s NATO summit, and that he is going to demand that NATO deploy forces to Iraq. In today’s edition, the German PM stated that Germany will _not_ send troops, though it will refrain for an outright veto.

    Meantime in Afghanistan, the US complains that the EU has maintain only one of several promised reconstruction deployments for which US troops must provide 24-7 security. The Europeans don’t want to be perceived as combattants.

    Meanwhile Rummy, reeling from the Revenge of the Chocolate Makers’ 1-2 punch, today threw doubt on the 30 June transfer of powers to the Iraqis. Well, at least the charade is over…Iraq is occupied.

  6. The Bush administration is doing huge damage to America’s image around the world. From America (courtesy of http://www.antiwar.com), we have this:

    “Anti-war sentiment and disapproval of President Bush’s international policies continue to erode America’s image among the publics of its allies. U.S. favorability ratings have plummeted in the past six months in countries actively opposing war ? France, Germany and Russia ? as well as in countries that are part of the ‘coalition of the willing.’ In Great Britain, favorable views of the U.S. have declined from 75% to 48% since mid-2002.”
    – from: http://people-press.org/reports/display.php3?ReportID=175 and
    http://people-press.org/reports/pdf/175.pdf

  7. Bob,

    “The Bush administration is doing huge damage to America’s image around the world.”

    Purely of secondary importance. If crushing the Ba’athist regime and reorganizing Iraq was worthwhile in and of itself (as I believe it was), then global opinion on the matter is fairly unimportant.

    The rest of the world won’t quit cooperating with us on anything they think is important to _their_ interests (say, crushing Euro-zone based terror-cells), and they were unlikely to have cooperated with us on anything they didn’t see as being in their interests in the first place. The only important effect is a reputational one, in the sense that they now realize that we will do what we say we’re going to do regardless of whether they are particularly fond of it or not. This serves to put relations on a more firm and realistic basis, IMHO. :^)

    Bernard Guerrero

  8. I don’t want to get distracted by ‘Bush squanders world opinion’ issues. It is clear that many Europeans have a visceral dislike for Bush, and perhaps he could mitigate that somehow, but I want to focus on the issues where Europe is supposedly in agreement.

    In theory, Afghanistan is the clearest case for action in the War on Terror. It is really the only case that Europe claims to be in total agreement with. If Afghanistan is doing fine, then I guess everything is great. But I always here complaints that Iraq distracted attention from Afghanistan. I don’t think that is true, but if it were true it would be true only for US forces. France didn’t go into Iraq. Germany didn’t go into Iraq. So why are their commitments to Afghanistan so paltry? Especially the financial commitments. I’m not talking about percentages. I’m talking total numbers. The European contingent in Afghanistan is less than 10,000. The European financial commitment is barely noticeable. What is going on with Europe that it can’t even make a serious committment in the very most clear case?

    That is why I believe that it is a fantasy to think that there will be a serious European committment to Iraq–a place where much of Europe expressed more public reservations about intervening.

  9. Bernard,

    “The rest of the world won’t quit cooperating with us on anything they think is important to _their_ interests . . ”

    Try this:

    “Almost immediately after last Thursday?s attacks, in which at least 200 people were killed, the Justice Department offered to assist the Spanish by dispatching a team of FBI and other U.S. law-enforcement agents to the scene.

    “But the Spanish government appears to have rejected the U.S. offer and has instead invited other European law-enforcement and intelligence agencies to help in the case – an apparent snub of the Bush administration that U.S. officials tell NEWSWEEK may be an ominous portent for the future.” – from: http://msnbc.msn.com/id/4549412/

  10. Bob,

    Give it a week. :^) You think the Spaniards are actually stupid enough to add further risk to their own lives? I don’t.

    Bernard Guerrero

  11. Bernard,

    “You think the Spaniards are actually stupid enough to add further risk to their own lives?”

    Why presume the added risk is to Spanish lives – especially if Spain withdraws its troops from Iraq?

  12. Bob,

    Well, um, the 200+ corpses created just a scant few days ago, I suppose. Domestic terrorism has produced far greater death rates than the hitherto low-intensity fighting in Iraq. And there hasn’t been a successful attack on the U.S. since the horror-show two and a half years ago, whereas the terrorists have amply demonstrated their ability to hammer European and Near eastern targets at will.

    Bernard Guerrero

  13. “and that he is going to demand that NATO deploy ”

    I think this highlights the presentational problems that both Bush and Aznar have. I think it would be much more interesting to try to ‘persuade’ rather than ‘demand’: this is how you build bridges. Assuming you want to do so that is.

    “If the perception is allowed to gain root that massive terror attacks can force European governments to distance themselves from America on any issue of interest to terrorists, then we can be sure of many more such attacks in the future.”

    In the short term unfortuantely we can be sure that these people will try many more attacks just about whatever we do. We cannot ‘dissuade’ such terrorists. They will do what they are going to do whatever.

    We can just be vigilant, use security to try and protect ourselves, use initiative and good intelligence to try to find them before they find us, and use some more of our native intelligence to try finding strategies to dry up their recruitment pools. This latter is where we have been found most wanting to date. Consequently the problem seems to be growing.

    Having said this, I agree with the sentiment that we need to stick together, and not let ourselves be influnced in our deliberations by what the terrorists want us to think. Cool heads, decisiveness and firmness. Unfortunately none of our leaders seem to combine all three of these.

    However I have some optimism that when the shouting dies down the Spanish troops will be changing helmets and staying.

  14. “And there hasn’t been a successful attack on the U.S. since the horror-show two and a half years ago, whereas the terrorists have amply demonstrated their ability to hammer European and Near eastern targets at will.”

    In general Bernard I am inclined to agree with you. Spain is a great country for symbolism, and that’s what we’re seeing now. Most of this is simply theatre, symbolic. The reality will likely be different. One party just accused the other of lying if we remember, but don’t worry the other is now starting to accuse the one. This revolving-door show will continue.

    On the big point, I obviously hope you are right. But even reading the statements of Ashcroft and Bush one has to recognise the possibility that one day or another they may get through again in the US. I think it is important that both the US and the European public is ready for this. There is no easy answer, and no guaranteed protection. I would say that the problem is now worse than before 09/11, not better. So there is a long haul out there in front of us.

  15. Bernard,

    Just before 9-11, America had not suffered major internal terrorism since Timothy McVeigh struck Oklahoma City on 19 April 1995 but it is unclear what that proves. Btw has anyone been arrested yet for all that anthrax posted around Washington in the aftermath of 9-11?

    Can we assume French Fries are now back on the menus of the Congressional cafeterias after this: http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=worldNews&storyID=4567775&section=news

  16. Bob,
    ‘French’ fries will never get back on the congressional cafeteria menu…whether ‘freedom’ or ‘french’, it’s a largely redundant prefix, and ‘freedom’ sounds more patriotic than ‘french’.

  17. Bernard,
    “Domestic terrorism has produced far greater death rates than the hitherto low-intensity fighting in Iraq. And there hasn’t been a successful attack on the U.S. since the horror-show two and a half years ago, whereas the terrorists have amply demonstrated their ability to hammer European and Near eastern targets at will.”

    Your very first statement is unverifiable because the U.S. military does not keep track of Iraqi civilian deaths. The Death rate of U.S. soldiers, which is tracked, would be most directly comparable to the number of U.S. Police Officers killed in the line of duty. roughly 80-some per year. Compare to 571 U.S. soldiers, killed this year.

    As to your second statement, there’s precious little evidence to suggest that Al Qaeda has targetted the U.S. since 2001. Leaving us to jump at our own shadows is much more effective, from a strategic point of view:

    Al Qaeda can do precious little to hurt us as a country, unless we overreact and hurt ourselves.

    While this bombing occured in Madrid, it could as easily have been carried out in Chicago or New York. It would be foolish to pretend that the reason we’ve not suffered a comparable attack is because of our superior anti-terrorism rather than because we simply we haven’t been targetted for such an attack.

  18. Patrick,

    “Your very first statement is unverifiable because the U.S. military does not keep track of Iraqi civilian deaths.”

    I don’t believe your first statement is germane for two reasons:

    First, at the risk of sounding callous, Iraqi civilian deaths do not enter into the metric if we’re talking about the relative safety of, say, U.S. or Spanish citizens. If (as I see it) one valid reason for the Iraq war was to create a point that would help to ‘fix’ terrorist assets, then, by definition, Iraqi deaths would have to be expected. You’re confusing means and ends. It would be like saying that the Allied forces invading Italy during WW2 performed poorly because of the high Italian civilian death rate. Saving Italians, while ultimately a nice by-product, was not the reason the invasion was staged.

    Second, even if we _do_ accept the civilian Iraqi death rate as a metric, we’d have to adjust it for the pre-existing rate of organized murder by the Ba’athist regime. This, given the numbers we already know about, would doubtless result in a net positive in the end.

    “As to your second statement, there’s precious little evidence to suggest that Al Qaeda has targetted the U.S. since 2001. Leaving us to jump at our own shadows is much more effective, from a strategic point of view:…Al Qaeda can do precious little to hurt us as a country, unless we overreact and hurt ourselves.”

    The same could quite easily be said of every place that’s been hit in the last year. The logic just doesn’t work. If Spain just got hammered because of its support for the _U.S.-led_ war in Iraq (which is implicit in the PSOE’s statements and the recent AQ “truce” offer), then it can only stand to reason that the U.S., font of all evil in AQ’s eyes, must remain _the_ priority target for the organization. Unless you’re suggesting that they want to punish anybody acting in concert with us but are perfectly happy to let us get away with what we please, in which case 9/11 itself makes little sense from their PoV.

    The “leaving us to jump at our own shadows” theory is cute, but carries no weight of evidence or logic. AQ has a set of goals, none of which are advanced by letting the U.S. sit untouched while players of secondary importance are hit repeatedly. It emphasizes a perception of U.S. invulnerability that had been damaged by 9/11, it leaves (as I stressed before) local regimes _more_ in need of U.S. support rather than less and it does no meaningful damage to the U.S. occupation of part of the traditional Muslim heartland. If they could hit us, they would.

    But I’m open to discussion. Here are two visions of AQ that are, to a great degree, in opposition:

    http://www.policyreview.org/AUG02/harris.html

    http://mail.sarai.net/pipermail/reader-list/2003-October/003216.html

    Bernard Guerrero

  19. The links are very valuable Bernard. Especially the one to Lee Harris.
    Although the other one indeed is in contradiction with it they do not exclude each other. “Al Qaeda” is not an army under complete control of OBL. Points of view, ways of “strategic” or “fantastic” thinking can coexist.

    In my opinion it is correct to use the term evildoers in the way Harris does. But we must also include the devastating effect of the war in Iraq.
    Read Iraqi liberalism and weep first.
    Then continue the debate among Americans, Europeans and everyone else trying to convince and urge instead of blaming and naming.

    In my opinion the Iraq-invasion was wrong at that moment (see “The Anti This War Now Left” over at D squared digest) but it’s no use dicussing that issue anymore.

  20. “And there hasn’t been a successful attack on the U.S. since the horror-show two and a half years ago, whereas the terrorists have amply demonstrated their ability to hammer European and Near eastern targets at will.”

    You seem to imply that the lack of US attacks shows a lack of capacity. I wish I could agree with you, but the US is not particularly better protected than Europe. We have borders which can’t be sealed and a society so open that bombs could easily be moved around. I suspect Al Qaeda has targeted the near East and Europe because such targets are more effective in getting the policy responses which Al Qaeda desires. Despite the Che Gueverra style analysis that many Westerners misues while analyzing Al Qaeda, they are not trying to provoke an ‘overreaching government response’. They believe the West to be glass-jawed. They did not believe that the US would topple the Taliban in response to 9-11. They believed that we would be cowed into concilliatory negotiations. This was a miscalculation.

    Now they believe that they will have a chance against the US only if they can peel off help from other countries. In that they may be correct.

  21. Sebastian,

    Let’s take a look at the start point for this discussion. Bob and I were disputing whether the recent bombing implied a greater threat to Europe or the U.S. insofar as future bombings, that being the driving force behind whether the PSOE will make a rational attempt to cooperate with the U.S. regardless of ideological differences.

    If I’m right and AQ’s ability to strike within CONUS is now weak, then it behooves the PSOE (and the rest of Europe) to cooperate with the U.S. on the basis rational self-interest whether or not the current administration is in charge. Europe is a target because it can be hit.

    If you’re right and AQ is simply fishing for a more effective policy-lever in ignoring the U.S., then it _still_ behooves the Europeans to cooperate. Either way they’re still on the front-line, whether through AQ’s needs or desires.

    Bernard Guerrero

  22. Sebastian:
    “They did not believe that the US would topple the Taliban in response to 9-11.”
    Possible. Maybe Harris’ analysis (see link above) is right: and AQ had no specific aim apart from the terror itself. Certainly if the AQ top makes plans the way we should expect them to, they would have added at least some minor terror acts in the USA following 9-11.

    “They believed that we would be cowed into concilliatory negotiations.”

    Negotiations? Are you serious? Negotiating with Satan?

    “Now they believe that they will have a chance against the US only if they can peel off help from other countries. In that they may be correct.”

    I am not sure if that is their explicit aim but the danger that this is going to happen is really there. At least in this part of the blogosphere we should make all efforts not to contribute to that.

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