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Updated: 09-Apr-2003

SHAPE News Summary & Analysis

9 April 2003

  • Looting in Baghdad as regime’s authority appears to have collapsed
  • Pondering possible NATO takeover of ISAF, German daily asks: “First Kabul, then Baghdad?”


In what was hailed as the footage which America had been waiting for, television networks screened jubilant crowds cheering U.S. troops in Baghdad Wednesday. However, scenes of hordes of looters taking over the streets prompted warnings that coalition soldiers would rapidly have to move from a war-fighting role to a peacekeeping role.
Warning that the war had entered a new phase, a BBC defense analyst stressed that the power vacuum left after decades of Saddam Hussein’s authoritarian rule would now have to be filled. He highlighted that coalition forces may very rapidly be faced with the problems of policing, stopping the looting, law and order, and making Iraq safe for humanitarian aid to come in.
AP reports, however, that despite scenes of jubilation in Baghdad, Central Command warned that much fighting still remains in the capital and elsewhere in Iraq. The dispatch quotes a CENTCOM spokesman saying there were several areas where coalition troops had yet to arrive, specifically mentioning Saddam Hussein’s hometown, Tikrit, where the Air Force, Navy, Marines as well as British aircraft were conducting strikes against military targets.
In what it saw as a sign that the regime had collapsed, France 2 television said government agents who monitor the reporting of foreign journalists had not turned up for work. Also there was no sign of Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Sahhaf, whose daily briefings had represented the public face of the regime since the beginning of the war.
Earlier, the New York Times wrote that as U.S.-led forces pushed toward a military victory, the Pentagon was wrestling with how to deal with the next phase of the campaign: policing the cities and dealing with looting, lawlessness and a crippled government. The newspaper added that Sen. John Warner, who heads the Senate Armed Services Committee, suggested Tuesday that NATO might help with post-war security, and said he would hold a hearing Thursday to explore the idea.


Under the title, “First Kabul, then Baghdad?,” German daily Der Tagesspiegel writes that “NATO could take over the mission of the ISAF troops and, in Brussels, a possible operation in Iraq is also being discussed.”
In order to ensure security in Kabul after the withdrawal of the German-Netherlands Corps in August, NATO is discussing whether it should expand the support for the ISAF mission in Kabul. If the 19 member states agree, the Alliance’s first major “out of area” operation would be a done thing, says the newspaper, adding: “Last Wednesday, the NATO Council tasked the Military Committee with the development of different scenarios. The member states are to be informed on this by the end of the week. Three different scenarios are being discussed: Should NATO take over the overall command of ISAF under the leadership of an existing NATO headquarters? Or should NATO provide materiel, equipment and service personnel, but not establish its headquarters in Kabul? In that case, NATO would have to expand its support for the headquarters on the ground from SHAPE headquarters. Or should everything remain as it is?” The newspaper quotes NATO diplomats saying, however, that while the French government is sending “signals of mobility,” France is still opposed to an expansion of the NATO mission beyond Article 5, i.e. collective defense. If NATO was to take over command of the ISAF mission and was to take action so far away from NATO territory, no argument in principle could be deployed against a mission in Iraq, the diplomats reportedly said. But, adds the newspaper, NATO’s military assume that NATO is the only organization that is able to provide medium-term security for the reconstruction of Iraq because a long-term presence of U.S. forces would not be accepted for domestic reasons. In this case, NATO could also overcome the current split into opponents and supporters of the war. The newspaper suggests that Berlin and Paris could agree to a NATO mission in Iraq if it took place under the auspices of the UN, that is to say if the UN tasked NATO with providing military security for reconstruction and the establishment of a democracy. Then, as in Bosnia, NATO would act as a kind of UN sub-agency.

In a contribution to the Washington Post, Robert Kagan, senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, suggests that the Bush administration can now follow its “brilliant military campaign in Iraq with a smart political and diplomatic campaign after the war,” provided it avoids “some dangerous temptations.”
The first temptation comes in Iraq, where some Bush officials may want to support the political fortunes of people they have known and trusted for many years, such as Ahmed Chalabi, Kagan writes. He warns, however, that if it ever starts to look as if the United States fought a war in Iraq in order to put Chalabi in power, President Bush’s great success will be measurably discredited. The second temptation comes in Europe, says Kagan and continues: “There is a strong impulse in the administration right now to punish erstwhile allies in Europe who opposed the war…. (But) the world’s sole superpower does not need to hold grudges, and sometimes it cannot afford to. So why not make amends in Europe? The Bush administration should embrace Europe. Secretary of State Powell did good work in Brussels, and Vice President Cheney met with (EU foreign policy chief) Solana. It is time to take the next step…. Many leading Germans would like to mend ties with the United States. If Bush can call President Putin on the phone, he can call Gerhard Schroeder, too….. The United States can win hearts and minds in Europe, and maybe even in the Arab world, by convincing people, in retrospect, that the war was more just than they thought…. All in all, America’s ability to lead effectively in the future will depend a lot on how this war is understood and remembered by the world…. If the administration can be as clever in diplomacy as it is in war, it can win that one, too.”



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