| US secretary of state Colin Powell (left) with Russian foreign minister Igor Ivanov in Brussels. (Reuters)
Washington, April 3: With America’s military juggernaut setting its sights on Baghdad, the Bush administration today faced a formidable diplomatic challenge of winning the war, yet losing Iraq.
The coalition for peace, led by France and Germany, which effectively prevented the UN from endorsing the war on Iraq is active again, this time to deprive the US of exclusive control over Iraq.
This coalition’s architects today extracted a promise from US secretary of state Colin Powell that the Bush administration would work for a partnership with the UN or Nato or both in Iraq after the conflict is over.
Hardliners in the administration here are opposed to the idea of the US going back to the UN in view of the experience of being frustrated by the Security Council on their war plans.
They want the US to run Iraq more or less on the lines of the US occupation and seven year rule of Japan after World War II.
Popular sentiment in the US, fuelled by chauvinistic TV anchors and radio talk show hosts, is also largely against anyone other than US being allowed any say in post-war Iraq.
Typical of that attitude is a letter in The Washington Post which said: “American taxpayers should not be saddled with the entire cost of the war with Iraq.
“Before we turn over oil wells to the new Iraqi government (or to a UN trustee), profits from those wells should be used to reimburse the federal treasury for liberating the Iraqi people. Surely no Iraqi should complain, because it was American blood as well as American money that set them free.”
On the eve of Powell’s meetings with his EU counterparts and Nato’s North Atlantic Council, it became clear that France, Germany, Russia and a host of other countries would work together to deprive the US of the fruits of war.
Russian president Vladimir Putin and German foreign minister Joschka Fischer were separately quoted yesterday as saying they did not want the US to fail in Iraq.
French foreign minister Dominique de Villepin was on record earlier that now that the war had started, France wanted the US to win. Powell met separately with the French foreign minister and Igor Ivanov, the Russian foreign minister.
On the eve of the battle for Baghdad, the coalition for peace appeared to be abandoning their policy of confrontation with the US and opting, instead, for reconciliation after their bruising diplomatic battles at the UN.
For the Bush administration, this friendly approach would be harder to deal with than the Franco-German strategy in the UN Security Council in January and February.
Such a policy by France, Germany and Russia would have wide support across the world. Most countries would favour a UN role in Iraq instead of total US control. Even British foreign secretary Jack Straw, America’s closest ally, has said Iraq must be handed back to its people after the war.
“It is not about the UN running post-war Iraq, it is about the Iraqi people running postwar Iraq”, Straw said.
Belgian foreign minister Louis Michel said: “I don’t see how we could contribute to the reconstruction without the UN playing the key role”.
It is not clear what impact this will have on Iraq’s post-war “cabinet” of Americans, whose many members are already in Kuwait awaiting signals from Washington to move to Baghdad.
The New York Times reported today that Robin Raphel, former assistant secretary of state for South Asia and one-time political counsellor at the US embassy in New Delhi would be Iraq’s post-war “minister” for trade. The “foreign minister” in the US administration in Iraq would be Kenton Keith, a former ambassador to Qatar, the paper said.