Time for a United Democratic Nations
Published in: Daily Mail
As the coalition prepares for the battle for Baghdad and the war in Iraq enters its most dangerous phase, the real quagmire has developed over who should run Iraq after the war has been won.
Tony Blair has been pressing for the United Nations to take a central role. The U.S. says 'over our dead bodies' after the debacle over the second UN resolution and the perfidious behaviour of the French. The Americans want instead to run Iraq themselves for an interim period under a retired general, with Iraqi assistance.
This poses huge problems for Mr Blair in trying to hose down his apoplectic party, for whom the UN is the sole kite mark of international legitimacy. As ever, he is convinced he can bridge the gap.
In the Commons this week, he let slip the difference with the Americans by saying that the coalition should work 'in close consultation and partnership with the UN'. But he tried to fudge the issue by adding that government would be handed over to the Iraqis themselves as fast as possible.
This last point is itself a source of fierce argument within President Bush's administration. The Pentagon wants to unload the burden of government onto the Iraqis at the earliest opportunity, while the State Department, fearful that Iraq might turn into a second Lebanon, wants the firm stamp of US and maybe UN governance instead.
The prospect of the US running Iraq is being seized upon by the left as confirmation of their darkest suspicions that this war is - in the slogan of the anti-war placards - 'blood for oil'.
They think the UN is the only guarantee against this kind of corrupt carve-up. But to believe that, you need to be wearing the heaviest of ideological blinkers.
Yes, the big oil companies are certainly manoeuvring for a share of the post-war spoils. And there are indeed questions to be asked about Halliburton, the company once headed by US Vice-President Dick Cheney, whose subsidiary was awarded a contract last week - with no competitive tender -- to put out the oil well fires in Iraq.
But the US has guaranteed that Iraq's oil revenues will be entrusted to a UN protectorate. And anyway, the idea that only America may be compromised by its commercial interests in Iraq is simply fatuous.
The French oil company Total/Fina/Elf has exclusive rights to develop two huge oilfields in Iraq. Similarly, Russia has signed oil exploration deals with Iraq worth around $40 billion. When the UN was thrashing around over the second resolution, Iraq unsubtly cancelled one of these contracts, only to restore it again when -- by an amazing coincidence -- Russia started opposing military action.
If anyone was trading blood for oil, therefore, it was France and Russia. Yet their unsavoury motives are never questioned. On the contrary, Mr Blair appears to want to reward them for their repellent role in this crisis by restoring their power over Iraq through the UN.
Now concerns are being expressed that the Americans are stitching up Iraqi reconstruction contracts and Britain isn't getting a look in. But whose fault is that? Mr Blair hasn't been pitching for British firms to gain these contracts because he is fixated by the idea that the UN -- rather than the US and the UK -- should run post-Saddam Iraq.
As our business leaders are rightly complaining, it simply hasn't occurred to our government that British interests need to be represented in the reconstruction of Iraq. The only interest that crosses their mind is aid. So in Mr Blair's vision, it seems, we would be relegated to merely doling out the charity while the tyranny-traders France and Russia once again clean up.
But of course, they can do no wrong under the aegis of the sainted UN, which is beyond reproach because it represents the will of the 'international community' and is thus the only guarantor of peace and stability.
What a sick joke. It's not merely that the UN has been revealed by this crisis as a busted flush, incapable of enforcing its own resolutions.
It has utterly failed as an instrument of collective security. It has shored up dictators like Saddam, ignoring his multiple atrocities; it didn't lift a finger over genocide in Rwanda, or tyranny and oppression in Turkey, Sudan or myriad Arab states; and if had its way, the Balkans would still be the killing fields of Europe.
Its dealings are utterly corrupt. Who could possibly say that bribing banana republics to vote for either the French or American positions on Iraq is a desirable way to run the world? Who can take the UN seriously as an arbiter of peace and stability when it puts Syria on the Security Council, Libya in charge of human rights and Iraq in charge of disarmament?
If the UN ran post-war Iraq it would be a disaster. It would re-empower the French and Russians, allow corrupt dictatorships to auction off Iraq's future, and seek revenge on the US.
Why should a body that fought to preserve Saddam in power have any say in reconstructing a free Iraq? As Colin Powell said, the US didn't take on the huge burden of the coalition to have no significant control over how Iraq develops in the future.
Of course the Iraqis must run their own country. But this cannot be done overnight. After 30 years under one ruthless dictator, they need a period of tutelage to set up the institutions of freedom: an independent judiciary and police force, a free press and so on. And the country needs to be systematically 'de-Ba'athised' - stripped of Saddam's political party and its vice-like grip -- just like Germany was de-Nazified after World War Two.
Many Iraqis want this, too. They are only too aware of the tribal nature of their country. They fear hugely civil war. It would be a dereliction of duty to abandon an untried person like opposition leader Ahmad Chalabi to be engulfed by chaos, or to deliver the Iraqis from Saddam's tyranny only for them to be engulfed by another.
This kind of interim administration may take several years. And it should be run neither by the UN nor the Americans alone. The model should be the commission that reconstructed post-war Germany. The British should be involved, along with other members of the coalition such as the Australians. These should work with Iraqis drawn from the broadest possible spectrum.
The Arab world may not like it; but then the Arab world stood by and did nothing to stop Saddam's world-threatening tyranny. What is vital is to show the Arab world that the west is determined to follow through to help make the world a safer place, and that it will not give up.
As for the UN, it also needs to be reconstructed. We need a forum restricted to those democracies prepared to fight for freedom -- a United Democratic Nations. There is a choice now, between corrupt Europe and the UN on the one hand, and a new order that will uphold democratic values on the other. Mr Blair must make that choice, or fall through the gap.