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Military

NATO allies hesitant to pick a fight with Iraq
By Gregory Piatt, Stars and Stripes
European edition, Tuesday, February 5, 2002

MUNICH, Germany - If the United States decides to take military action to topple
Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's regime in the fight against terrorism, it remains
unclear if many European allies will join the battle.



U.S. allies expressed strong reservations over the weekend at the 38th Munich
Conference on Security Policy that the war on terrorism involve them in a military
conflict with Iraq.



Before coming to the conference, alliance Secretary-General George Robertson said the
United States would not automatically get North Atlantic Treaty Organization backing if it
seeks to expand its war to Iraq, Iran or North Korea.



President Bush called these three nations an "axis of evil" in last
week's State of the Union speech, causing concern among allies as U.S. officials at
the conference targeted Baghdad.



While U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said there was no plan at this time
to attack Iraq, he and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., urged allies to join in an effort
against Iraq. However, they said Washington was prepared to go it alone if necessary.



"The next front is apparent, and we should not shrink from acknowledging it,"
McCain said at the conference. "A terrorist resides in Baghdad. A day of reckoning is
approaching."



McCain said the Afghan campaign set a precedent and model: Strong air power, special
forces and indigenous forces toppled the Taliban.



"The next phase of the war on terror can build on this model," said McCain, a
Vietnam veteran and former prisoner of war. "More American boots on the ground may be
required... ."



If the European allies balk at a potential campaign against Iraq, NATO ally Turkey
would be the one standing by the United States, McCain said.



"Turkey has made important contributions to securing the peace in Afghanistan and
will be integral to any campaign against Iraq," McCain said. "Turkey is a
front-line state in the war on terrorism, as was Germany a front-line state during the
Cold War."



But Wolfowitz wasn't ready to sign off on the Europeans. He made a hard sell at
the conference telling the story about the German destroyer, the Lutjens, when it asked to
pull alongside the aircraft carrier, the USS Winston Churchill, two weeks after the Sept.
11 terror attacks.



U.S. sailors saw an American flag at half-staff on the German ship. As the Lutjens
pulled closer, the German sailors were in dress uniforms and displaying a sign that read,
"We stand by you," Wolfowitz told the 300 conference attendees.



According to Wolfowitz, one young U.S. officer called it the "most powerful thing
I have seen in my entire life." The officer had written home saying that there
wasn't a dry eye on the bridge and the "German Navy did an incredible thing for
this crew."



As he finished the story, Wolfowitz made his pitch for assistance: "Let us make
this journey with the promise of one ally's sailors to another: 'We stand by
you.'"



But that story didn't move one parliamentarian from the America's strongest
ally, Great Britain.



"Action versus Iraq, it seems to me, would require incontrovertible evidence in
order to justify. And I speak as a member of parliament of a country willing to put boots
on the ground," said Menzies Campbell, a member of the British House of Commons.



Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., countered that there is more than enough evidence from
Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program to constitute that Saddam Hussein presents
"a clear and present danger."



Military action would require a United Nations mandate, German Defense Minister Rudolf
Scharping said. Germany favors a political solution to the Iraq problem rather than the
military option because it would be an error to move militarily against Iraq, Scharping
said.



Retired German Gen. Klaus Naumann, the former chairman of NATO's military
committee, questioned whether a U.S. military action against Iraq could be considered
without allied support.



NATO's Robertson agreed.



"Even superpowers need allies and coalitions to provide bases, fuel, airspace and
forces," Robertson said.



However, evidence about Iraq's involvement in the Sept. 11 attacks and/or
terrorism would be needed to deploy NATO troops alongside a U.S force in Iraq, Robertson
said.



"So it's a matter for the North Atlantic Council to decide what to do about
an attack or any subsequent evidence," Robertson said, referring to NATO's
policy making body of 19 ambassadors.




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