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October 17, 2003

UN coming around — and not a minute too soon…

Where U.S. foreign policy is concerned, this has been a week of hints given and, occasionally, hints taken. The UN Security Council appears to be taking the hint from the U.S., Britain and the Iraqi Governing Council, backing off its previous calls for an immediate transition to Iraqi self-governance. In a remarkable turn of events, the UNSC unanimously affirmed Thursday the U.S. resolution for UN support of Iraq’s reconstruction – a resolution considered DOA as late as last week. Germany, France and Russia – the chief UNSC obstructionists to the war and subsequent rebuilding of Iraq apart from UN control – have all conceded to the proposal, which leaves the U.S. in command of all peacekeeping forces in Iraq and calls on the 191 UN member states to contribute troops and money to the country’s revitalization. Even Syria, itself on the verge of incurring U.S. sanctions (and “Operation Syria Freedom”) for its role in global terrorism, promised not to abstain, but to vote in favor of the U.S. proposal. China, a permanent member of the Security Council, noted that their attitude has become “more and more positive.”

As UN opponents appear to be coming to terms with the reality of the situation in Iraq, the question becomes whether Muslim nations will take the same hint. Iraq’s interim foreign minister, Avad Alawi, emphasized the importance of Muslim nations’ acceptance of the role of the U.S. peacekeeping and reconstruction mission in his country. Alawi, currently the head of the Iraqi Governing Council’s monthly rotating leadership, attended an Organization of the Islamic Conference summit in Malaysia this week and appealed to other Muslim countries for financial and military assistance, calling on fellow Muslims to stand firm with Iraq “during this difficult period.”

Despite Alawi’s entreaty for assistance, most Muslim nations remain cool to the idea, fearing the precedent of a strong U.S. military and governing presence in the Middle East. “The sentiment of this meeting is that stability should come as soon as possible in Iraq,” said Musa Braiza, a Jordanian representative to the summit who clearly didnÕt take the hint. “[OIC member states] will do anything possible and everything positive. But the question of forces is now not on the agenda.” At the meeting’s outset last Saturday, representatives of the 57 OIC states – making the OIC the world’s largest organization of Muslim countries – encouraged the “eviction” of the U.S. presence from Iraq.

To date only Turkey and Pakistan have proactively pursued the possibility of sending troops as part of a multinational Muslim peacekeeping force. Highlighting the complexity of the situation, the IGC remains leery of the Turkish offer of troops for fear of setting off ethnic tensions with Iraqi Kurds in the north.

Mr. Alawi offered assurances that the IGC wants complete Iraqi autonomy “as soon as possible,” but that this would not happen apart from “a firm and positive attitude from the international community. … We would like the Islamic countries to assist us to move forward and for Iraq to have democracy and stability.”

Given the outcries of the other OIC member states, Alawi’s insistence on the need for a continued U.S. presence in Iraq apparently went unheeded. Nasreen Barwari, Iraq’s new minister of public works (and, incidentally, a Harvard-educated woman), earlier in the week responded to those nations – European and Muslim – who unreasonably insist on Iraqi self-rule as a precondition to monetary and security assistance, saying, “If you want me to be sovereign, come and help me reconstruct my country. … Help me get ready quicker.” Europe appears to be learning this lesson; the Muslim nations on the whole remain an obstacle to be overcome.

Is the process of Middle East democratization working? Signs in Saudi Arabia, a controversial U.S. ally in the war on terror and home to 15 of the 19 September 11 hijackers, indicate that it is. Monday Saudi Arabia announced the kingdom will hold its first-ever democratic elections within a year to form popularly elected councils in all of its 14 regions. This marks the first step in promised reforms in the Arab monarchy – reforms brought on by pressures from the U.S. in the aftermath of September 11, and subsequently promised by Saudi King Fahd in May. It is The Federalist’s hope that such democratic reforms, long-sought by Saudi nationals, will serve to curb militancy in the nation which gave birth to Osama bin Laden and the al-Qa'ida movement. Perhaps the Saudis, at least, are taking the hint.

Quote of the week…

“The person who is in charge is me. É We’ve had a strategy from the beginning.” –President George W. Bush, responding to Ted Kennedy, et al., who have issued politically expedient jabs that the administration lacks a unified strategy in Iraq.

On cross-examination…

“All this talk about whether the threat from Saddam Hussein was imminent is a bright-red herring. The question was whether Saddam should have been stopped before he became an imminent threat, and he has been.” –Paul Greenberg

The BIG lie…

“In his campaign, Bush had said he thought the biggest security issue was Iraq and a national missile defense. I told him that in my opinion, the biggest security problem was Osama bin Laden.” –Prevaricator-in-Chief Bill Clinton, who spent a lot of time taking shots at Iraq but declined to capture and/or kill Osama when he had the opportunity. He went on to say that his inability to convince President Bush of the danger from al-Qa'ida was among the “two or three…biggest disappointments that I had.” Clinton added that rather he “would have started with India and Pakistan, then North Korea, and then Iraq after that. I thought Iraq was a lower-order problem than al-Qa'ida.”

Open Query…

“Have Islamists – many of whom are backed by Saudi Arabia – successfully established beachheads in such places as the Pentagon’s chaplain corps and America’s prisons, mosques and colleges with a view to dominating moderate Muslims and creating a potential terrorist ‘Fifth Column’ within the United States?” –Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.

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