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  • US/UK - cracks in the foundation

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main...portaltop.html

    Britain and US 'divided on Iraq policy'
    By Alec Russell in Washington
    (Filed: 14/04/2004)

    British officials in Iraq have all but ignored President George W Bush's plan to foster a new democracy in the country in favour of their own agenda, according to an American former official in Baghdad's interim government.

    His comments to the Telegraph mark the first time that an official has publicly let slip the mask of co-operation between the White House and Whitehall.

    They also highlight the difficulties facing Tony Blair at his meeting with Mr Bush on Friday when the two leaders will try to plot the transition to full Iraqi sovereignty, which is due in 11 weeks.

    Michael Rubin, who resigned from the Pentagon 10 days ago after returning from the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad, gave a stark account of fundamental divisions between British and American officials over how to run Iraq.

    He suggested that British officials clearly had little interest in pursuing the White House vision of a democratic Iraq, a keystone of its foreign policy, and were too "soft" in confronting dissent.

    He also said that many American officials had been startled at British attempts to capitalise on their presence in southern Iraq for a "freelance" fostering of ties with Iran, one of Washington's most implacable enemies.

    "That is a major policy decision for the White House," he said. "It should not be made in Basra [the centre of the British zone of influence].

    "We got a sense that Britons were using the CPA as an outreach to Iran, which was not the Americans' intention."

    Tensions between British and American officials have long been hinted at, not least between Paul Bremer, America's proconsul, and Sir Jeremy Greenstock, Britain's former envoy to Baghdad who left - apparently in some frustration - last month.

    One CPA insider said: "There was an understanding in the CPA that Bremer and Greenstock didn't like each other. It personified the differences between the two views.

    "Greenstock thought Bremer was naive; Bremer thought Greenstock was pursuing the wrong policies."

    British officials play down disagreements as inevitable. But privately, sources close to the CPA suggest that British officials in Iraq see Mr Bremer as too ideological. In particular his decision to disband the Iraqi army and the freezing out of Ba'athists are seen as misjudgments.

    Mr Rubin did not comment directly on relations between the two men. "Bremer is following the president's agenda," he said. "And, in general, most British diplomats still don't agree with the president's agenda."

    Mr Rubin was an adviser on the governance group of the CPA until March. He is now an analyst at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think-tank and arguably the ideological engine room of Mr Bush's administration.

    He said he and other American officials had been deeply concerned by the softly softly approach of the British to former Ba'athists, whom Washington felt should be excluded from positions of authority, and also to Iranian groups.

    "When I travelled down to the British zone in southern Iraq I was amazed at what the British were not reporting with regard to what the Iranians were up to," he said.

    "With regard to the Iranian presence in Iraq, the Britons were inclined to see the glass half full and the Americans as half empty. Reconciliation with Iran has little to do with Iraqi democracy but it appeared the FO had another agenda.

    "When I came in to Iraq back in July [last year] my question to British colleagues was, 'What is our end goal?' They didn't want to talk about the end goal of democracy.

    "It was clear that the US was serious about democracy, the Brits less so. The US and Britain were working at cross purposes basically because of disputes over how realistic was the pursuit of democracy."

    Mr Rubin stressed that on some levels co-operation was very good. He said Britain had proved better at public relations than the Americans.

    But he also hinted that some British officials had deliberately tried to keep some of their activities from the Americans. "It didn't appear that Brits were always forthright with their agenda."

    Mr Rubin's account was broadly backed up by a non-Pentagon American source close to the CPA who suggested that British and American officials had been divided by their different traditions of government service.

    "Many of the people from Washington were political appointees and real true believers," said the source. "But the British tended to be career people."

    At the heart of the dispute appears to have been the personalities of the key players: Sir Jeremy, an old-school, highly experienced diplomat, and Mr Bremer, who is, in the eyes of his critics, a brash and very ambitious appointee.

    One American source said that when Sir Jeremy arrived last year after his stint as Britain's ambassador to the United Nations, British officials in Baghdad hoped that such a high profile and authoritative figure would be able to steer the CPA in a "moderate" direction.

    But he is thought to have become increasingly frustrated at the way Mr Bremer was running the CPA. Another American source suggested that Mr Bremer felt overshadowed by his more experienced British colleague. Sir Jeremy was succeeded by David Richmond, a career diplomat.

    Mr Rubin concluded that the two countries' very different histories and experience of colonialism were a major factor. "The British feel they have more experience [in nation building] and that the US is new to this game.

    "The Americans see the British as making the mistakes of the 1920s [when Shias rose against British rule]. They think the British don't realise that the situation has changed."
    This one is kind of amusing.

    The Americans in Iraq think the Brits are arrogant know it alls living in the past, and the Brits think that the Yanks are naive buckaroos with no appreciation for subtlety which makes a mess out of things.

    It'll be interesting to see how Bush and Blair handle it, or if they present the old, flawless, united front.

    It's also interesting to contrast the way the latest uprising was handled with the British talking militants into vacating occupied police stations and the way the Americans handled their sectors.

    Give it 10 more years in Iraq and maybe some of the "intimidation keeps the peace" crowd will come around. Or maybe not.
    "Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government’s purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding."

    – Associate Justice Louis D. Brandeis, Olmstead vs. United States.

  • #2
    Would it be a bad thing for the Foreign Office to follow up their success in Libya with improved relations with Iran?

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    • #3
      Depends on who you ask. Bushites will probably say we need to invade another country to make Iran see the light.
      "Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government’s purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding."

      – Associate Justice Louis D. Brandeis, Olmstead vs. United States.

      Comment


      • #4
        I heard a congressmen a while back (shotly before the invasion) saying 'the other axis of evil countries, North Korea, Iran and Cuba should realise that that they are next.' i nearly had an accident while driving when i heard that one on the radio.
        Not lip service, nor obsequious homage to superiors, nor servile observance of forms and customs...the Australian army is proof that individualism is the best and not the worst foundation upon which to build up collective discipline - General Monash

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Temujin
          I heard a congressmen a while back (shotly before the invasion) saying 'the other axis of evil countries, North Korea, Iran and Cuba should realise that that they are next.' i nearly had an accident while driving when i heard that one on the radio.
          There was talk of that even after the war. I don't believe the American people are as "pre-emptive minded" as we were before the Iraq War and immediately following the fall of Baghdad. Castro is an old man.

          I don't agree with the American policy toward Iran. I see alot of opportunity there. If we don't take steps to seize them, someone else, like the UK, or EU, certainly will. The image of an aggressive Islamic state is increasily becoming a part of America's imagination. All indications point to a continuation of political and social reform in Iran toward a more moderate, and democratic Islamic state. Conservatives in Teheran have tried alot of things to reverse this, but all has failed. Even restricting elections did not deter Iranians from abandoning the power of the vote.

          So we're going to look increasingly foolish and biased if America doesn't reform her foriegn policies to reflect reflect the current and future situation in Iran.

          As for Cuba and North Korea, despite Bush's tough talk, there is little support for an invasion of either. In Cuba, we are looking at an old man clinging the days of the "revolution". The true test of the success of the revolt that swept Castro into power is found after the leader is removed from the political scene. I doubt Cuba will continue to support communism after Castro kicks the bucket.

          North Korea is more of an Cold War relic. There have been a number of reports highlighting the lack of importance NK might have in Asia. While, nuclear weapons are a concern, there is still a "who cares" attitude which complicates applying the full force of the US government against North Korea. Even Rumsfield made it clear he'd have no problem with pulling troops out of South Korea, which really rattled Seoul.

          The US-UK alliance is still strong. Britian might be a few steps ahead of us though. For example: Bush appears to more to the ideal of returning former Iraqi commanders to some form of leadership to help with security. Also, the US reportedly has accepted Iran's assistance to help deter Shiite opposition. Iran doesn't like the fact the US is in Iraq, but is more concerned with instability along it's border. Civil unrest in Iran, particularly if the US withdraws, would create a serious problem for Iran. So they are more inclined (for the moment) to work to avoid fighting.

          Bush is slow and hardheaded. At times he appears to require a bullet actually penetrating his brain for him to realize the guy with the gun is serious.
          "As soon as men decide that all means are permitted to fight an evil, then their good becomes indistinguishable from the evil that they set out to destroy."-Christopher Dawson - The Judgement of Nations, 1942

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Deltapooh
            I don't agree with the American policy toward Iran. I see alot of opportunity there. If we don't take steps to seize them, someone else, like the UK, or EU, certainly will. The image of an aggressive Islamic state is increasily becoming a part of America's imagination. All indications point to a continuation of political and social reform in Iran toward a more moderate, and democratic Islamic state. Conservatives in Teheran have tried alot of things to reverse this, but all has failed. Even restricting elections did not deter Iranians from abandoning the power of the vote.
            Yeah i think the reformists were kicked in the teeth by the axis of evil remarks. This gave the conservatives a lot of ammo to use against them and subsequently pushed back the reforms a few years. I won't mention the 'crusade' speech, what an idiot.
            Not lip service, nor obsequious homage to superiors, nor servile observance of forms and customs...the Australian army is proof that individualism is the best and not the worst foundation upon which to build up collective discipline - General Monash

            Comment

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