eiu 1441b unsc voting assessmentassessment

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    The following is the Economist Intellegence Unit's assessment of the likely balancing of the votes in recognition of Resolution 1441 (Mark 2). It is dated 6th March 2003 and carefully assesses the reasons why:
    Russia is likely to waver in its opposition to the new UNSC Resolution; and
    how Russia is not standing "shoulder-to-shoulder" with either France or Germany in this matter.

    Even now, Minister Ivanov has led all of the Russian debate opposing 1441B, whereas President Putin has said nothing (and kept a low profile throughout).

    Conversely, President Chirac mounted all of the early running for France in relation to 1441B, but in recent weeks, Chirac has taken a back seat in favour of Minister Villepin doing all of the talking.

    In Germany, however, both Chancellor Schroeder and Minister Fischer have continued to share the stage equally in relation to Germany's opposition to 1441B.

    All things considered, Russia is keeping its final views quiet (ie: it's powder dry), France is starting to have second thoughts (ie: leaving the way open in order to find a way out), and Germany is at risk of being left isolated and compromised by this entire process (ie: no way of being able to back down).

    ----------------------------------------------Threatening a veto, seeking a deal
    6 March 2003


    Russia has joined France in threatening to veto a US-backed UN resolution authorising military action against Iraq. While this is not bluster, there is room for movement. Vladimir Putin, Russia's president and the arbiter of Moscow's vote, is looking to secure a compromise with the US that will enable to Security Council to remain united. If this is not forthcoming a Russian veto is possible, although it will not be cast alone.

    Russia on March 5th joined France and Germany in declaring that it would not support the US-UK-Spanish resolution that in effect authorises the use of force by declaring that Iraq has missed a "final opportunity" to meet its UN obligations to disarm. The declaration affirmed that France and Russia were prepared to veto the measure. One day earlier in London Igor Ivanov, Russia's foreign minister, stated that Russia would not abstain on a resolution authorising the use of force. It appears that Russia, together with France and Germany, is taking a position directly opposed to the US from which it will be difficult to climb down.

    The reality is less straightforward. Both the Paris declaration and the comments in London were made by Mr Ivanov. The foreign minister is certainly stating the official position, albeit perhaps with a slant towards his ministry's conservative outlook, but the final decision will be made by Mr Putin. It is significant that the Russian president, in sharp contrast to French counterpart Jacques Chirac, has chosen to keep a low profile. Viewed from this perspective, Russia is not shoulder-to- shoulder with France but rather hanging back a little. Mr Ivanov has spoken for Russia, but the president's silence suggests that Moscow is keeping its options open.

    Russian opposition to the US-UK-Spanish draft resolution is real enough, and the stakes for Russia go far beyond the fate of Iraq and a few oil contracts, but Mr Putin will make his decision on a calculation of costs and benefits. With a far greater stake in the outcome of the crisis than France, and a more pressing domestic agenda, the president's decision will not be swayed by a desire to poke the world's remaining superpower in the eye.

    Mr Putin's preferences

    Russia has three main objectives in the current crisis.

    First, it is eager to avoid a war and the negative consequences that could follow. These include broader instability in the Middle East, where Russia retains important interests, and the rupture of the international anti- terror coalition, as well as the impact on oil prices of a significant expansion of Iraqi oil production in a post-Saddam Iraq. Russia's growth, budget, external balances and investment are all heavily dependent on the oil price - a consideration of greater importance for Mr Putin than Iraq's multi-billion dollar debt to Russia and the oil contracts (most of which are unsigned) between Russian firms and Baghdad.

    Second, Russia seeks to protect the authority of the UN and the UN Security Council (UNSC). A strong UN offers Russia the best prospect of checking US global hegemony and maintaining Russia's global influence through its veto power in the UNSC. The protection of the UNSC in its current form is especially important, as it accords Moscow a diplomatic weight based on its standing in the mid-20th century rather than one derived from its currently reduced economic and military circumstances.

    Third, the Kremlin is pursuing a policy of partnership with Washington in the wake of the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks and had no wish to rupture that link. Improved relations with the US are a cornerstone of Mr Putin's economic and political strategy for Russia, which includes deeper trade and investment ties with the West as well as a diplomatic partnership with the US. The Russian president has already staked a great deal on the success of the link, acceding to the presence of US forces in Central Asia and Washington's desire to rip up the ABM Treaty that was regarded by Russia as the centrepiece of the global arms control regime.

    Damage limitation

    While Mr Putin has sought to reconcile the three objectives, it has become increasingly clear that the US is intent on military action and will proceed without UN backing if necessary. The Russian leader is therefore engaged in damage limitation, not only internationally and with regard to the Russian economy, but also in his relations with the Russian elite and the country's population.

    Striking the right balance between the objectives is a matter of fine political judgment. What is already clear, however, is that Mr Putin is not adopting the path of least resistance - abstaining in the UNSC vote on the US-backed resolution in order to keep Washington happy and in the hope that WTO membership and billions of dollars of US investment will follow.

    So what is Mr Putin seeking? A revised resolution is likely to be the immediate priority, and Mr Ivanov has already indicated that the Canadian proposal - which sets specific targets for Iraqi compliance over a tight timescale - is very close to Russia's thinking. Moscow, after all, backed UNSC resolution 1441 calling for Iraqi disarmament, and Mr Putin indicated in a speech in Kiev in early February that Iraq's failure to comply with UN demands could not go on indefinitely. Unless Baghdad changes tack, a moment must arrive when Mr Putin is obliged to back force in order to defend the UN's authority.

    A resolution akin to that proposed by Canada would have several advantages. First, it would entail genuine compromise from both sides rather than simply providing Russia and France a pretext for retreat. The establishment of specific compliance targets and deadlines for their achievement would mark a significant change from the US proposal, but it would also imply that force could be used if Baghdad fails. This would strengthen the UNSC as an international player.

    Second, this could would protect relations with the US and so boost the prospects that Russia's economic interests were taken into account in post- war Iraq and the world oil market.

    Third, a compromise resolution backed by all or most UNSC members would perhaps limit the potential for a war in Iraq to cause broader instability in the Middle East: military action would represent the will of the international community rather than the unilateralist designs of a US administration.

    Second choices

    If the US is not prepared to countenance a revised resolution, Mr Putin's options become less attractive: to abstain or prepare to veto (a move that would probably prevent Washington from tabling the resolution). The decision will be taken in close consultation with France and perhaps Germany. There is no prospect that Russia will exercise the sole veto on a UN resolution, and it is unlikely that it will leave France in that position.

    Abstention would be better than from the perspective of maintaining broader relations with the US, but at the cost of undermining the real authority of the UNSC as a multilateral, rather than a US-dominated, body. The risks of regional instability would also be greater.

    The threat to veto would win Mr Putin gratitude in the Middle East, parts of Europe, and domestically among the conservative security and foreign policy establishment. It would also defend the integrity of the UNSC but at the same time reduce its importance in the Iraq crisis. Relations with the US would also be damaged, and given Mr Putin's stake in the pro-US policy this presents a powerful argument against a veto. It is conceivable, however, that Mr Putin could wield the veto and hope that his relations with Mr Bush will weather the storm.

    In part this depends on context. If the US fails to garner a clear majority for its favoured resolution, Mr Putin and his French and German counterparts may feel emboldened by the support of a global moral majority. But it is also a question of how Russia believes the US will perceive a veto, and in particular which state Washington will regard as the ringleader among its UNSC opponents. At present France appears most likely to be blamed, and Russia may thus hope to escape relatively lightly.

    These speculations alone will probably not sway Mr Putin's thinking, but it is conceivable (although on balance unlikely) that they could prompt a veto in conjunction with an impulse to protect the UN's integrity and assert Russian independence (a move that may prompt Washington to take Russian interests more seriously in the future). This will be more likely if Mr Putin feels constrained by the opinion of Russia's security and diplomatic establishments.

    The fact that Mr Putin has overridden their concerns on a range of issues in the last 18 months does not guarantee that he can continue to do so with impunity. And while the US relationship is perhaps the only Russian objective which Mr Putin himself can rescue, the president may be moving close to concluding that the gains of his pro-US policy are not worth the pain.

    SOURCE: ViewsWire Eastern Europe (full publication)


    How will they vote?


    The US is likely to win the support of perhaps 10 UN Security Council (UNSC) members for a war resolution against Iraq, but the apparent determination of France and Russia to block it remains a serious obstacle, according to an analysis by the Economist Intelligence Unit.

    We expect most of the council’s non-permanent members to support the resolution sponsored by the US, the UK and Spain, which declares that Iraq "has failed to take the final opportunity afforded to it" to comply with UN obligations. China, one of five permanent members (along with the US, UK, France and Russia) with veto rights, is likely to abstain. Neither France nor Russia will, in our view, choose to cast a veto on its own; they will either veto the resolution together or choose to abstain. If the US can, as we are forecasting, secure as many as 10 other votes for the resolution, Russia’s resistance could fade, and France’s with it.

    Under UN rules, a resolution is approved if it receives the support of nine of the 15 members, and if none of the five permanent members casts a dissenting vote. Apart from the three sponsors, few countries have clearly declared their intentions. Our assessment of voting probabilities (outlined below) is based on a careful review of the factors--political, diplomatic and economic--that are likely to influence each of the UNSC members. Most countries will, in our view, vote in accord with their national interest; this means most will vote to support the US.

    Our analysis of the French and Russian votes is the most problematic. Neither country would, in our view, wish to cast the sole veto; this would leave the dissenter uncomfortably isolated from both the US and Europe. If France and Russia remain united in their opposition to the resolution--and if neither is swayed by the support of most non-permanent members for the US--France and Russia may jointly veto the proposal. Both countries will, however, be cautious about antagonising the US.

    Our forecast assumes that a vote will indeed occur. We believe that the US will not call for a vote if it fails to secure, in advance, the support of nine UNSC members; invading Iraq following the formal rejection of its resolution would complicate the already difficult international environment in which the US finds itself. The US may also eschew a vote if vetoes by France and Russia are certain, although it may gamble that a large majority in support of a resolution--perhaps 10 or 11 votes--would strengthen its position internationally.

    For now, we assume that the US will call for a vote some time after March 7th--when chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix next reports to the UN--but probably before March 15th; US military planners now have the necessary forces in place in the Gulf, and would prefer to begin an invasion before temperatures in Iraq begin to rise. We assume that Mr Blix, in the coming days, will not materially change his assessment of Iraq’s behaviour: he will say, as he has previously, that co-operation with the disarmament process is improving, but that it remains incomplete.

    The US has dismissed outright a French/German/Russia plan to continue inspections for another four months. The Bush administration rejects this approach in principle, but also considers it intolerable for practical reasons: the US has nearly 200,000 troops positioned near Iraq, and could not sustain this build-up until the fall, when the weather would again be cool enough for fighting.

    There remains the possibility of a compromise. Canada has put forward a plan under which Iraq would be required to fulfil a series of specific disarmament tasks by the end of March. If it did not, a war resolution would be tabled. The US has already rejected this proposal, but if it were convinced of a certain veto by France and Russia, it might tolerate a further delay of two weeks--from a prospective mid-March vote to one at the end of the month. The possible start of military action in early April would be later than the US prefers, but not significantly so; the Economist Intelligence Unit has been predicting for more than a year that military action could begin as late as end-April, so the Canadian timetable is within these bounds.

    For now, we are assuming that a vote will take place by mid-March. The outcome is highly uncertain, and a veto by one of the Permanent Five is a distinct possibility, but the balance of probabilities suggests that most UNSC members will support the US.

    SOURCE: ViewsWire London


    Blair holds firm


    The UK firmly supports the swift disarmament of Iraq, by military means if necessary, and has been Washington’s most reliable ally. The UK government, led by the prime minister, Tony Blair, is a co-sponsor of the pending war resolution and so will vigorously support it; Mr Blair has consistently and staunchly defended the forceful US/UK stance towards Iraq. Mr Blair, however, attaches far more value to UN deliberations than does the Bush administration, in part because UN support for a war is vitally important to many members of his ruling Labour Party. Mr Blair has said himself that he is working "flat out" to secure UN approval for a second resolution, and he runs the risk of a rebellion by many Labour back-benchers if he is seen to be blatantly ignoring the wishes of the UN.

    The sponsors of the resolution have not yet put it to a vote, the prime minister has said, "to give Saddam one further final chance to disarm voluntarily". For Mr Blair, as for Mr Bush, the issue is whether Saddam Hussein is co-operating fully with the weapons inspectors or merely delaying in the hope of creating further divisions within the UN Security Council (UNSC). Mr Blair has, however, always attached great importance to the weapons inspection process (unlike Mr Bush). If the British government were, together with the US and Spain, to demand a vote at a time when the weapons inspectors were suggesting that Mr Hussein was co-operating seriously and disarming, the British government could find itself confronted with another Labour Party revolt. On February 26th, nearly one-third of Labour MPS (122) repudiated Mr Blair’s position by voting for a resolution asserting that the case for war was "as yet unproven". Mr Blair will have to take this into account as supporters of a war resolution plan their next steps. Should war begin without UN approval, Mr Blair could face ministerial resignations, questions about the legality of military action under international law and even a larger party revolt.

    Mr Blair is, however, unlikely to be moved, and will steadfastly continue to support the US line. To this end, Mr Blair will stress again that Resolution 1441, passed unanimously by the Security Council in November, is adequate justification for military action. Indeed, on March 5th, Mr Blair said he was confident of a second UN vote approving military action, citing the "inescapable logic" of UN Resolution 1441, which warned of serious consequences if Iraq refused to disarm.

    SOURCE: ViewsWire Europe


    Holding the line


    France’s position on a US-led invasion of Iraq has been misleadingly portrayed by many commentators. In recent months France has been fully in agreement with the US, UK and their other supporters in the aim of disarming Iraq of whatever weapons of mass destruction it may possess. Furthermore it has accepted that the use of force cannot be ruled out; moreover, it has never ruled out participating in such action, as it did in the 1991 Gulf War. In these respects, although it has recently worked with Germany and Russia on a joint memorandum allowing more time for inspections, it differs from Germany, which has ruled out participation and at least until recently appeared to oppose force in any circumstances.

    Essentially France differs from the US and the UK in attributing a greater role to the UN weapons inspectors, and in arguing that they should be given more time to complete their work. If the leaders of the inspectors, Hans Blix and Mohammed ElBaradei, were to assert that Iraqi co-operation was inadequate and unlikely to improve, it is hard to see France sustaining its case for postponing war. On the other hand, the Franco-German-Russian memorandum calls for inspections to continue for another 120 days if they are strengthened and if Saddam Hussein responds positively to Mr Blix’s key demands, such as free access to Iraqi scientists without other parties being present or recordings made. On March 5th, the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Russia vowed that they would "not allow" a UN war resolution to pass, although Dominique de Villepin again stopped short of explicitly threatening a veto. But he warned that France "will take all of our responsibilities".

    In the present situation France considers Resolution 1441 to be sufficient to disarm Iraq, and therefore views the new resolution proposed by the UK, US and Spain to be premature. As long as the weapons inspectors’ reports can reasonably be interpreted as suggesting that the process of inspections is making progress, France will oppose any resolution. However, it is another question whether in these circumstances it would use its veto. France has a much more restrained record of casting vetoes than does the US or UK, having used it only three times since 1986; it can therefore be assumed to use it carefully on any further occasion. France knows that a US-led attack will almost certainly go ahead irrespective of such a veto, and therefore that its use would weaken its credibility in the future. Moreover it is aware of the serious damage that would be caused to relations with the US and within the EU, especially if it used the veto on its own. On the other hand it would be foolish to take a French waiver for granted.

    SOURCE: ViewsWire Europe

    China: Politics: News analysis

    05 Mar 2003

    Better to abstain


    As a veto-wielding member of the UN Security Council, China is in a potentially powerful position to affect the outcome of any vote on military action in Iraq. Yet for a variety of reasons China is unlikely to be an agenda-setter. Chinese officials, for example, led by the foreign minister, Tang Jiaxuan, have spoken in recent weeks of the need for UN weapons inspectors to be given more time to finish their work. Yet Mr Tang only began to speak out after similar--and much louder--demands had been made by French and German officials.

    China will continue to try to avoid becoming entangled in the debate. Although it opposes unilateral US action, it will probably refrain from exercising its veto powers outright. Instead, China is likely to abstain in any UN Security Council vote.

    The reasons for such ambivalence stem from the conflicting pressures posed, on the one hand, by China's desire for good relations with the US and, on the other, by its eagerness to avoid foreign interference in what its leaders regard as domestic affairs. The central leadership in Beijing, conscious of its own problems in independence-minded Tibet and Xinjiang, as well as de facto independent Taiwan, is concerned that US military action could create a precedent for unilateral intervention in the affairs of other states.

    China may also exploit the Iraq debate in a less-than-principled effort to gain leverage on other diplomatic issues. For example, it may use the implied threat of a veto to push for concessions by the US government with regard to Taiwan. This may include promises to stop arms sales to the island.

    SOURCE: ViewsWire Asia (full publication)


    Russia: Politics: News analysis

    05 Mar 2003

    Will Putin say 'no'?


    Russia’s position on a second resolution that would pave the way for the use of force is mired in ambiguity; the one certainty is that it will not allow itself to be isolated. Russia does not wish to see Iraq attacked with UN approval, nor to see Washington bypass the Security Council and so undermine the UN’s authority, but increasingly these options appear to be mutually exclusive. Under the leadership of its president, Vladimir Putin, Russia has adopted a pragmatic, pro-US foreign policy line. Given the concessions that Mr Putin has already made, on the ABM Treaty and US military action in post-Soviet Central Asia and Afghanistan, it seems illogical for the president to set himself at odds with the US over Iraq --particularly when Russia has little prospect of averting US military action. However Mr Putin faces pressure from Russia’s security policy establishment to oppose the US in the Security Council, while Moscow’s in recent weeks support for the Franco-German line--in an effort to avert a conflict – has arguably painted Mr Putin into a corner over Iraq.

    Moscow will take its decision on a second resolution in close consultation with Paris. Its inclination will be to defuse the crisis by abstaining in any vote, and perhaps persuade France to do likewise. However, if Paris is determined to veto, Moscow could follow suit. The chances of this are difficult to quantify, but they would be increased by an indication that other Security Council members would vote against. Equally, if the US could garner 10 or 11 ‘yes’ votes, the prospect of a Russian veto recedes. Mr Putin is unlikely to vote in favour of the US resolution in its current form, but he will not stand alone in opposing the US.

    SOURCE: ViewsWire Eastern Europe (full publication)


    Spain: Politics: News analysis

    05 Mar 2003

    Asserting itself


    Jose Maria Aznar, Spain’s conservative prime minister, has lined up alongside the UK as President George W Bush’s strongest supporter in the EU. Come what may, he can be relied on by the US to vote in favour of any UN Security Council resolution authorising military action against Iraq.

    Unlike his conservative peer in Italy, Silvio Berlusconi, who has softened his pro-US stance in the face of deep and wide opposition to war, Mr Aznar has never wavered in his support for Mr Bush, despite falling opinion poll ratings and some of the biggest street protests the country has ever seen. So why has Spain, a country that has its share of anti-Americanism, been such an ardent supporter of Mr Bush?

    Most important is Spanish experience of terrorism. With separatists in the Northern Basque region fighting a decades-long campaign for secession, Spain is all too familiar with terrorist violence. (Mr Aznar himself narrowly escaped assassination before becoming prime minister in the mid-1990s). In the aftermath of the September 11th attacks, Mr Aznar spoke of his own country’s experiences with terrorism when showing solidarity with Americans. But the Spanish stance is about more than a common interest in defeating terrorism; it fits in with the ambitions of Mr Aznar and his party to play a greater role on the international stage. Central to this strategy has been the forging of an alliance with Mr Bush, whom Mr Aznar counts as a friend and ideological soul-mate.

    As for public opinion, Mr Aznar can afford to be less concerned than Mr Berlusconi or his UK counterpart, Tony Blair. With only a little more than a year to go in office (he has repeated for more than a decade that he will not seek a third term), he can afford to be more focused on his legacy than the electorate. Even so, there are murmurings within his party, which faces three sets of polls, including a general election, within 15 months. Having fallen behind the opposition Socialists in opinion polls in recent weeks (for the first time since taking office seven years ago), there is disquiet, heightened by the anti-war position of the Roman Catholic church--important to the many members of the ruling party. But so tall does Mr Aznar stand in his party that not even papal opposition to war and fear of an electoral backlash would trigger a public challenge. Even if he were to face dissent, he is not one to change his mind. As long as he leads Spain, the US can count on another vote at the UN.

    SOURCE: ViewsWire Europe


    Germany: Politics: News analysis

    05 Mar 2003



    Despite its firm opposition to a US-led war against Iraq, Germany is likely to abstain in any Security Council vote. The German chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, won the general election on September 22nd partly by vowing that Germany would not participate in an attack on Iraq. While campaigning for state elections (ultimately unsuccessfully), he also said that Germany would not vote "yes". He is under immense domestic pressure to honour that commitment, as his party is already perceived to have been dishonest ahead of the general election on economic policy issues. An overwhelming majority of the German population is against an attack on Iraq, and the percentage is only somewhat smaller if an invasion is sanctioned by the UN Security Council. Even an abstention, although legally equivalent to a "no" vote, would be perceived by many as craving in to US pressure.

    Even so, Germany is deeply concerned about the implications of alienating the US further; the US-German relationship is already at its lowest point since the foundation of the Federal Republic. Germany is aware of the importance of the US as a stabilising military power (for example in Yugoslavia), despite strong and increasing reservations about US unilateralism. More importantly, the government and business organisations are concerned about the possible economic consequences of a widening rift, such as consumer and business boycotts of German products. There are also fears that the US could abandon its military bases in Germany--hardly a problem for the country as a whole but a severe concern for the local communities involved.

    Although it continues to co-ordinate its position with France and Russia, the German government has recently toned down its opposition to a war in principle: by stating that war should be a last resort, it is at least acknowledging that war could ultimately be necessary. But it seems clear that inspections would have to continue for much longer before Germany would consider supporting military action.

    SOURCE: ViewsWire Europe


    Pakistan: Politics: News analysis

    05 Mar 2003

    Siding with the US, again


    Pakistan's relationship with the US is currently strong, owing to its co-operation with Washington in its "war against terrorism". The recent arrest by Pakistani authorities of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, a senior al-Qaida figure, has strengthened those ties. That said, the relationship is likely to deteriorate. Anti-US sentiment in Pakistan is rising and attacks on US interests there are likely to increase. In Afghanistan, there have been concerns that Pakistan is backing pro-Taliban forces, and Pakistani troops have prevented US soldiers from chasing al-Qaida and Taliban insurgents into the tribal districts of Pakistan. This issue will become important if, as expected, attacks on US forces from Pashtun rebel sanctuaries in Pakistan escalate.

    It is inconceivable that Pakistan would vote against a US-backed resolution allowing the use of force against Iraq, given US generosity towards Pakistan. Although the Pakistani government would prefer to abstain, the balance within the Security Council is such that the US will almost certainly insist on a "yes" vote. Pakistan’s co-operation with the US in the Afghanistan war led to a financial aid package valued at more than US$9bn. Additionally, Pakistan is seeking US involvement in its efforts to resolve the dispute with India over the status of Kashmir. Pakistan’s president, Pervez Musharraf, will face clear risks if he supports the US in the UN Security Council. Muslim opposition parties have led large protests in recent days, and many Pakistanis believe the US will ultimately turn on Pakistan because of its nuclear weapons programme, its proliferation activities, and its support for Kashmiri militants. Despite these risks, Pakistan has benefited enormously from US financial and diplomatic support after September 11th 2001, and Mr Musharraf will not turn away now.

    SOURCE: ViewsWire Asia (full publication)


    Bulgaria: Politics: News analysis

    05 Mar 2003

    Backing the US line


    Bulgaria is almost certain to vote in favour of the US-UK-Spanish resolution in the UN Security Council. The opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party and its former leader, state president Georgi Purvanov, have reservations about giving a green light to military action at this stage. The population is also wary. However, the coalition government between the Simeon II National Movement (SNM) and the mainly ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) will back the US line.

    Given the choice, Bulgaria would prefer not to have to choose between the US on the one hand and France and Germany on the other. The support of the EU’s two leading states is valuable for Bulgaria as it strives to become an EU member in 2007, after the ‘big bang ’ enlargement set for 2004. However the country’s prospects for entering the EU are far more distant and uncertain than its prospects for entering NATO--and that is perceived to depend mainly on retaining US support. Washington’s influence was decisive in ensuring that Sofia received a membership invitation at the 2002 NATO summit in Prague, but Bulgarian membership must still be approved by the US Senate. The prospects for this have already been dented by revelations that Bulgarian firms were involved in illegal arms sales, possibly to Iraq, so Sofia sees that it is in its interests to support the US-backed resolution in the Security Council.

    SOURCE: ViewsWire Eastern Europe (full publication)

    Cameroon: Politics: News analysis

    05 Mar 2003

    Sticking by France?


    Thus far, Cameroon has been one of the most vociferous supporters of the French line in the UN Security Council. This is unsurprising: France is the country's largest bilateral donor and business partner. In 2000 (the most recent data available), France supplied almost 29% of Cameroon's imports; the US supplied less than 4%. Trade ties are reinforced by political links. Indeed, relations with France were consolidated by the re-election of the Gaullist president, Jacques Chirac, who has long maintained strong personal relationships with African leaders--a policy that paid off with the francophone states' unanimous support of his call for UN weapons inspectors in Iraq to be given more time. At the same time Cameroon, like Guinea, has a substantial Muslim population, which clearly opposes a US-led strike on Iraq.

    Set against this, however, is Cameroon wariness of offending the IMF or the broader donor community. The government's record of poor governance and the slow pace of political reform is already a point of contention, and donor funds are likely to prove crucial given that oil production--which accounted for almost 6% of GDP in 2001/02--is expected to fall sharply.

    Other potential pressure points for the US and its allies include:

    * The presidential elections, due in October 2004. The incumbent, Paul Biya, is expected to win another seven-year mandate--but with the help of some electoral irregularities. Support of the US/UK motion in the Security Council might make the US and its friends more willing to overlook these.

    * The dispute over the oil-rich Bakassi peninsula. A ruling by the International Court of Justice has already given sovereignty to Cameroon, but Nigeria, whose forces occupy the area, has rejected the ruling. A little international pressure could prove very helpful for Cameroon.

    Ultimately, therefore, it seems likely that Cameroon will vote for the US/UK motion, or at the very least abstain.

    SOURCE: ViewsWire Africa

    Syria: Politics: News analysis

    05 Mar 2003

    Which way will Assad jump?


    Syria has taken a staunch anti-war position at both the UN and in Arab League meetings. However, a "no" vote from Syria on the proposed new resolution on Iraq should by no means be taken for granted.

    Syria projects itself as a radical Arab state. However, under Hafez al-Assad and his son Bashar, who has been president since mid-2000, Syria has also been careful to avoid becoming isolated, either in the Arab world or on the international stage.

    Syria’s radicalism now resides mainly in the government’s refusal to make concessions to Israel as part of a peace settlement. To bolster that position, Syria has maintained a presence in Lebanon, and has exerted low-level pressure on Israel through supporting the Lebanese Hizbollah group. Syria also provides office space in Damascus for Palestinian groups responsible for most of the bomb attacks inside Israel.

    In weighing up how to position Syria on the Iraq question, Mr Assad will have to bear in mind the consequences of alienating the US. The US already officially brands Syria a state supporting terrorism (although Syria has discreetly provided a lot of help to the US in its efforts to track down members of Al-Qaeda), and it is an open secret that Syria has the capability to deploy chemical weapons. If Syria ended up on the wrong side in the Iraq conflict, the US could be relied on to make a big issue of so-called terrorism links and weapons of mass destruction.

    As long as France and Russia remain steadfast in opposition to the US over the new resolution, Syria can safely remain in the "no" camp – if only because that may well mean no resolution is tabled. However, at the first sign of any softening of French or Russian resolve, Syria is likely to shift its position. If France and Russia abstain, Syria will follow suit. In the event of France and Russia voting for a resolution Syria would probably cast a "yes" vote.

    Such a volte-face could be explained away by Syria presenting its vote as being representative of the Arab states as a whole, and as being a response to the failure of Iraq’s president, Saddam Hussein, to co-operate fully with the UN and so avoid war.

    It should be recalled that Syria voted for resolution 1441, and contributed troops to the first Gulf war.

    The final consideration for Mr Assad is economic. For being on the winning side in 1991, Syria received massive financial aid from the Gulf Arab states. It will be looking for a similar reward this time round.

    SOURCE: ViewsWire Middle East

    Guinea: Politics: News analysis

    05 Mar 2003

    In the hot seat


    During the crucial period when the UN will decide on an Iraq war resolution, the Security Council will be headed by Guinea, a mainly Muslim state that--like all the African states attending the February Franco-African summit in Paris--supported the French president's call for UN weapons inspectors in Iraq to be given more time.

    This does not mean, however, that Guinea is a lost cause as far as the US and its allies are concerned. Guinea may be a member of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference and a former French colony, but it is equally unwilling to risk souring relations with the US, which is a major source of aid and investment and a key trade partner (largely for Guinea's bauxite and alumina exports). While the US publicly denies any linkage between the Security Council vote and economic support, there can be no doubt that backing the US line will bring financial benefits, including much-sought-after military aid. Indeed, the US army has already given limited military training to its Guinean counterpart.

    Furthermore, just one day after a visit by Walter Kansteiner, the US assistant secretary of state for African Affairs, the Minister for Africa at the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office arrived pledging an additional US$6m for refugee programmes.

    Such sums represent a substantial inducement for impoverished Guinea, and while the country's ailing president, Lansana Conte, has yet to give a definitive response, the balance of opinion suggests that he will be prepared to support the US position.

    SOURCE: ViewsWire Africa

    Angola: Politics: News analysis

    05 Mar 2003

    In need of aid


    There is little doubt which way Angola will vote in the UN Security Council: the government in Luanda has long signalled that, as an emergent oil supplier, good relations with the US are its top foreign policy priority. However, the country now finds itself with unexpected leverage as it seeks international assistance to finance its post-war reconstruction programme.

    There are good reasons why Angola has struggled to raise funds thus far: among other things, it has one of the worst governance records in the world. Although it is resource-rich (its rising oil revenues have led it to be described as "a new Kuwait in Africa") the populace as a whole see little benefit, and indicators of human development are among the lowest in the world. A corrupt elite squanders state riches over which there is little public accountability; the IMF has estimated that roughly US$1bn per year has gone missing. Donors would like to see the government doing more with its own vast oil wealth to benefit its own people. They would also like to see the government reaching an agreement with the IMF and begin to take its responsibilities more seriously. This has resulted in a stand-off for the past year as donors have shown little enthusiasm for a proposed pledging conference without action in these areas.

    The impending Security Council vote has now changed the dynamic. Although Angola officially denies that there is any linkage between its vote and reconstruction assistance, it has not hesitated to raise the issue publicly. The US assistant secretary of state for African Affairs, Walter Kansteiner, has also been in Luanda recently for "high-level" discussions. Given the paltry benefits of a "no" vote--developing-world solidarity and satisfying domestic public opinion--there can be little doubt that Angola will back any proposed US/UK resolution prosecuting war against Iraq.

    SOURCE: ViewsWire Africa


    Latin America: Politics: News analysis

    05 Mar 2003

    Good neighbours?


    For Mexico and Chile, the two Latin American non-permanent members of the Security Council, the stakes are high in the upcoming vote on Iraq. Whatever their decision, it will arguably affect the relationship of their governments with the US for the whole period that George Bush remains in office. It will also have dramatic domestic repercussions.

    Both countries enjoy close political relations with Washington, and each is a signatory to a separate free-trade pact with the US (the North American Free-Trade Agreement in the case of Mexico, and a recently signed bilateral accord in the case of Chile). Mexico is extremely dependent on the US economically: it sends 90% of its exports to that market, and Mexicans represent the largest population of illegal immigrant workers in the US.

    While Chile’s trade relations are more diversified, and it is geographically remote from the US, one of its top priorities is to see its long-sought trade accord approved by the US Congress this year. Mexico still holds out hope that it can negotiate a long-term immigration accord with its neighbour. This was the Vicente Fox administration’s chief foreign policy objective went it came to office in 2000, but Washington put the plan on hold after September 11th. Voting against the US’s resolution could jeopardise the goals of the Mexican and Chilean governments, and generate ill will towards them within the Bush administration and the Congress.

    At the same time, the Latin American countries are under strong political pressure to assert their independence from the US, particularly in international fora. Mexico lobbied hard to win the seat on the Security Council last year as a means to raise its international profile and to be taken more seriously as a regional power.

    Moreover, popular opinion in Mexico and Chile is running overwhelmingly against war. Voting in favour could trigger a loss of popularity at home and more attacks from nationalistic opposition parties. This risk is especially high in the case of Mexico, where critical mid-term congressional elections will take place in May. The ruling Partido Accion Nacional lacks a majority in either legislative chamber and has struggled to get its reform proposals passed. It is hoping to increase its representation in the next election, but this could be undermined by a popular backlash if Mexico sides with the US on Iraq. In Chile, too, the government could be damaged, compounding the loss of popularity it has suffered as a result of recent corruption scandals.

    Until now, Mr Fox has insisted that he was against the war, favouring ongoing weapons inspections and arguing that Iraq should be given time to disarm peacefully. However, in recent days he has subtly shifted his stance. He has begun to talk more aggressively, stating on February 25th that he supports "urgent efforts to achieve the elimination of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq". The Mexican foreign ministry has also released statements emphasising Mexico’s relationship with the US and the "need to define policy based on Mexico’s national interests".

    The perceived shift suggests that lobbying behind the scenes by the US State Department may be bearing fruit. Mexico may be hoping to make up the ground lost in its relations with the US in the last year and a half. If Mexico decides to vote in favour of a new resolution, this could influence Chile to do the same. Although neither country appears to have made a definitive decision as yet, the Economist Intelligence Unit assumes that they will come around to the US side, viewing this to best serve their national interests. Abstention would be taken by the US as tantamount to rejection.

    SOURCE: ViewsWire Latin America (full publication)

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