In reverse gear

September 4, 2003

America has found out at last that the taste of the pudding is in the eating. Five months ago it short-circuited a debate in the UN Security Council when it found it would not be able to secure approval for invading Iraq, and went ahead with its plans anyway.

But the Bush administration has since discovered that toppling Saddam Hussein was the easy part. Thus, it now proposes to go back to the UN it had so haughtily ignored to seek a resolution authorising the setting up of a multinational force to stabilise Iraq a task which the predominantly American occupying force has found to be well beyond its capability.

The truth is that before deciding to go back to the UN, Washington solicited nearly every country it thought it could leverage India included for troops contribution for Iraq. But it drew a blank. As American soldiers began dying in Iraq on a daily basis, and daring terrorist strikes made a mockery of the security situation, even countries originally sympathetic to the US request reassessed their options, offering help only under UN command. Key doubters such as France and Russia, who had checkmated the original American gambit in the UN, are asking for a lot more such as a complete sharing of responsibility in the running of a UN-sponsored multinational force. These two have also sought a timetable for the framing of a constitution, holding elections and the restoration of Iraqi sovereignty.

Thus, negotiations for a fresh resolution are likely to be tough. The US says it will agree to a multinational force only if it is commanded by an American since a US law prohibits its troops serving under an alien commander. But a recent Congressional report has pointed out that American forces in Iraq are stretched too thin, and more forces cannot be despatched easily on account of the current requirements in Afghanistan, Kosovo, Bosnia and possibly later also in Korea. The US also has its soaring budget deficits to think of. All in all, a testing time for the hyper-power.

Printed From Hindustan Times