CAIRO – Washington will go to war against Iraq with a coalition of the willing in the event that it decides to bypass the United Nations. Some are calling it the coalition of the wanting. Others are calling it the coalition of the bribed and the bludgeoned. And now an independent Washington think tank has dubbed it the coalition of the coerced.
Former US secretary of state James Baker has admitted many times on the record that winning support for the first Gulf War in 1991 involved “cajoling, extracting, threatening and occasionally buying votes”. This time it’s buying and threatening all the way. UN diplomats confirm to Asia Times Online that “regime change is a practically impossible proposition for most countries to accept”.
Washington is trying to “persuade” two different categories of countries. There are countries mostly in the Middle East that will have to suffer a series of extremely negative effects unleashed by the war. And there are countries that Washington needs for legitimizing its war, considering the fact that the overwhelming majority of world opinion is against it.
Israel is getting its own separate megadeal: at least US$12 billion in new grants and guaranteed loans. And so are the pro-American Arab regimes of Egypt and Jordan – a fact that entirely torpedoes Hosni Mubarak’s and King Abdullah’s claims that they are trying to prevent war at all costs. More than 90 percent of the Egyptian population is against the war. Washington wants from Egypt at least political support – and the use of some air bases. In exchange, Egypt will certainly get more aid beyond its current $2 billion, and is likely to get a free trade deal with the US similar to the one already offered to Jordan. Jordan now has hundreds of US special forces, and collaborates closely with US intelligence. In exchange, Jordan hopes to get an additional $1 billion.
On February 26, the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington released a devastating study, “Coalition of the Willing or Coalition of the Coerced”, examining in detail the pressure applied by Washington to each of the 15 current members of the UN Security Council. The study also examines how the Bush administration is putting together the so-called coalition of the willing.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has been spinning for weeks that the coalition is probably the largest in the history of mankind. The Bush administration never released a full list of the coalition. The institute did: 34 nations support the US war against Iraq. There were 33 in the first Gulf War. As it stands, the 34 are: Albania, Armenia, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bulgaria, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Oman, the Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom.
According to the study, these 34 nations represent “only about 10 percent of the population of the world’s 197 countries. Subtracting the estimated 70 percent of their populations that opinion polls show are not in favor of war, the war supporters in the coalition of the willing countries make up only about 3 percent of the world’s population.” A UN it ain’t.
The major conclusions of the study are instructive:
- Although the Bush administration claims that the coalition of the willing is the basis of genuine multilateralism, the report shows that most were recruited through coercion, bullying and bribery.
- The populations of the countries in the coalition of the willing make up only about 10 percent of the world’s population. Opponents of the US position currently include the leading economies of four continents (Germany, Brazil, China and South Africa).
- Bush could make or break the chances of Eastern European members of the coalition of the willing that are eager to become members of NATO. In order for these nations to join the military alliance, Bush must ask the Senate for approval.
- “The pursuit of access to US export markets is a powerful lever for influence over many countries, including Chile and Costa Rica, both of which are close to concluding free trade deals with the United States; African nations that want to maintain US trade preferences; and Mexico, which depends on the US market for about 80 percent of its export sales.” Both Chile and Mexico are among the so-called “swinging six” – current non-permanent members of the Security Council whose vote would be decisive in approving a UN second resolution. Mexico can’t afford to vote against the US. It would lose aid and trade. If Chile votes against the US, it won’t get the same access to the US market as Canada and Mexico. Pakistan is also in a terrible spot. If it votes against the US it follows public opinion, almost 100 percent anti-war. But then it would lose untold hundreds of millions of dollars in US aid and loans it is getting as a frontline state in the war against terrorism. If Angola votes against the US, it won’t get future loans to develop its oil industry.According to Phyllis Bennis, Institute for Policy Studies UN and Middle East expert and one of the three authors of the study, “It’s hardly a new phenomenon for the US to use bribes and threats to get its way in the UN. What’s new this time around is the breathtaking scale of those pressures – because this time around, global public opinion has weighed in, and every government leaning Washington’s way faces massive opposition at home.”
The study examines in detail whether “allies are supporting the United States on the merits of the case, or is their support of the US war effort more a result of coercion, bribes, and bullying?” The study recalls familiar stories for those who have been following the UN: “In 1990, for example, the US government bribed China with post-Tiananmen Square diplomatic rehabilitation and renewal of long-term development aid to prevent a veto of the UN resolution authorizing the 1991 Gulf War. The votes of several poor countries on the council were purchased with cheap Saudi oil, new military aid, and economic assistance. And when Yemen, the sole Arab country on the council, voted against the resolution authorizing war, a US diplomat told the Yemeni ambassador, ‘that will be the most expensive no vote you ever cast’. Three days later, the US cut its entire aid budget to Yemen.”
The study conclusively demonstrates that the coalition of the willing is in fact the coalition of the bribed and the bludgeoned. “Almost all, by our count, join only through coercion, bullying, bribery or the implied threat of US action that would directly damage the interests of the country. This ‘coalition of the coerced’ stands in direct conflict with democracy. In most nations, including those most closely allied to the United States, over 70 percent of the public opposes US military action against Iraq.”
“New Europe” is eager to go to war alongside the US: “The most visible and vocal members of the coalition are from the region that US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has dubbed ‘the new Europe’. Most are lured by their desire to enter NATO and to maintain a strategic relationship with the United States after joining the EU.”
What the study does not say is that they all expect a lot in return. They expect to host new US military bases. They want very special treatment – like the recent $3.8 billion US-subsidized loan to Poland to finance the purchase of a bunch of Lockheed Martin F-16s. Hungary – where the US is training Iraqi exiles – wants US military equipment.
The Eastern European arms deal bonanza will be immensely facilitated by former Lockheed Martin vice president Bruce Jackson, an old pal of the Bush administration who happens to be the chairman of a fuzzy Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, a lobby with very close ties to the White House. Diplomats in Brussels want Bruce Jackson’s head on a plate: he was instrumental in the draft of the letter signed by leaders of former communist Eastern European countries supporting the war against Iraq.
The absolute monarchies of the Middle East (Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates) are inevitably listed by the study as supporting the war: “These countries are all dependent on the United States for help to keep them in power. All these countries – mostly tiny and all oil-rich – are militarily dependent on the United States through arms purchases, training, and the presence of US bases. They are the closest to Iraq and govern populations strongly opposed to US war plans.
Reflecting that public anger, all of them voted in the mid-February unanimous decision of the Arab League to oppose any Arab country providing military assistance to any war on Iraq. But their reliance on the United States was strong enough that they cast that vote while already providing bases, overflight rights, and direct staging areas for the Pentagon’s Gulf build-up.” After the publication of the study, last Saturday’s summit in Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt sealed the demise of an anti-war unified stance by the Arab League.
The study also compiles an impressive list of who is not in the American-assembled coalition. They include the two very influential veto-wielding opponents of the US in the Security Council, France and Russia; the 52 African nations gathered for the Franco-African summit in Paris on February 20 which issued a statement “opposing war except as a last resort”; the leaders of the 116 nations that make up the Non-Aligned Movement, who opposed war at their summit in Kuala Lumpur on February 25. The study point out “these nations represent two-thirds of the members of the United Nations”.
And there’s more: Canada, “the United States’ No 1 trading partner and neighbor”; and the “leading economies of four continents – the countries with the largest GDPs in Europe, South America, Africa and Asia. These include: Germany, Brazil, South Africa, and China.”
The study graphically demonstrates that even unparalleled military, political and economic US leverage is not enough to convince the world about the war. Since the study was published, the Turkish parliament has offered the world a true lesson of democracy, responding to the fact that 94 percent of the country’s population is against the war. It would be instructive for the Bush administration to take time out to consider why its plan to bomb Iraq into “democracy” is being resisted by democracies all over the world.