German Politics, Iraq, US Politics

News From Brussels.

So the EU Council has issued a new joint foreign policy declaration on the Iraq question. The core element reads as follows:

“We want to achieve this peacefully. It is clear that this is what the people of Europe want. War is not inevitable. Force should be used only as a last resort. It is for the Iraqi regime to end this crisis by complying with the demands of the Security Council. We reiterate our full support for the ongoing work of U.N. inspectors. They must be given the time and resources that the U.N. Security Council believes they need. However, inspections cannot continue indefinitely in the absence of full Iraqi cooperation.”

Amiland, as well as many others, including Spiegel online[link in German], think Schroeder is the loser of the day.

I don’t. I think he is the big winner.

Following last Friday’s UN Security Council meeting he has been able to rather quietly modify his irresponsible and entirely inflexible adamant “no-to-everything-whatever-new-information-may-become-available” by hiding behind a common EU position. Moreover, he can argue that it was more important to save the idea of a common European foreign policy than to – explicitly – stick to his former position.

I think it was a wise move. Sure, there will be people to claim he just “weaseled out”. But I guess he had realised that weaseling to some extent had become inevitable in order to regain some kind of diplomatic flexibility. So the most important problems were the reasons to explain such a move as well as its perceived salience in the “march to war”. Saving the idea of a common European foreign policy was most certainly the right reason – a motive that even the most ardent anti-warriors will likely swallow. And now that so many people have indeed again started to hope for a peaceful solution to the problem – think of the worlds stock markets as an indicator -, after the anti-war demonstrations last weekend and given the hawks sudden, and probably rather unexpected, difficulties in the UN Security Council, the perceived salience of his concession is likely much lower than it would have been should Germany have been forced to modify Schroeder’s aggressive “no” in the light of any new information convincing other doveish Security Council members of the necessity to make use of the means of last resort.

So this EU foreign policy declaration allowed Schroeder a relatively cheap way to unbind himself. And he used it. This semi-disguised semi-acceptance of the theoretical possibilty of war on Iraq as well as of Germany supporting a possible second UN resolution legitimising it could have indeed saved himself the chancellorship, should such a vote become unavoidable. In my interpretation, this makes Schroeder the big winner of this EU summit.

So what’s the current situation? Chirac seemingly holds the keys to the Security Council’s support now – assuming that Russia and China won’t veto a second resolution should France favour one and thus probably to war. I doubt Blair would send troops without a second resolution – he has consistently said he needs a second one for the British public. He may have proven some of his critics wrong about his poll-led governmental style. He may well support war against the British polls. But he’s not suicidal, in my opinion. He would most certainly not order the Britsh military to attack Iraq without a straightforward resolution supporting military action.

So now the big question is – would the US actually go to war without even the British? Militarily, why not. Politically, the “Coalition Of The Willing” looks even less impressive without the British.

Too hard to tell.