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Volume 2, Number 45               December 15 - 21, 2002            Quezon City, Philippines

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Friends and allies
Why the US cannot bully all

The Guardian

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Insistent Bush administration pressure on US allies to support its Iraq policy is producing a growing list of political casualties. One such "victim" is Germany's chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, whose opposition to US war plans provoked an open rift. Although Mr Schröder has softened his position of late, US-German relations - often characterised as crucial to the overall US-Europe relationship - reached their lowest ebb this autumn, in the words of a senior German official, since the second world war. Another victim of US arm-twisting is Iraq's northern neighbour, Turkey. Most Turks do not support an attack on Iraq, fearing a repeat of the costly economic disruption and refugee influx that attended the last Gulf war. They also worry whether any post-Saddam government can or will prevent the creation of a separate Kurdish state in northern Iraq. Among many blandishments offered to Ankara by US officials in return for the use of its bases are economic assistance, support for Turkey's EU aspirations, and a veto on Kurdish secession. Thus are Kurdish hopes of independence victimised, too.

The latest war of words between Saudi Arabia and Washington also reflects the strains that the US-created Iraq crisis is placing on traditional friendships. As in the past, the Bush administration used media leaks last week to publicise its concerns about Riyadh's commitment to the "war on terror" and, in particular, alleged
financial links between wealthy Saudis and al-Qaida. This unhappiness can be traced back to September 11, when the US discovered that 15 of the 19 hi-jackers were Saudi nationals. The latest allegations touching the Saudi royal family brought a furious response, also delivered via the media. Washington was accused, not unreasonably, of trying to browbeat Saudi Arabia into allowing US bases there to be used to attack Iraq - which, like Turkey, it is reluctant to do.

But Riyadh may be better placed than others to resist US pressure. One reason is oil; 17% of US daily needs comes from Saudi Arabia which has 25% of all global reserves and, unlike other producers, enough spare capacity to prevent price "spikes". Another lever is heavy Saudi investment in the US. It also has reasonable demands of its own, chiefly a more urgent, more equitable US effort to resolve the Palestinian conflict. Saudi Arabia could, and should, do more to help fight al-Qaida. But that does not mean it should succumb to bullying over Iraq.

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2002

December 2, 2002 Bulatlat.com

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