INTERNATIONAL

Iraq realities force U.S. to fall back on U.N.?

United Nations Sept. 21. Several dozen Heads of State and Government are expected to attend the 58th General Assembly debate opening here on Tuesday. And with it comes different themes even if the U.S. President, George W. Bush, is expected to raise Iraq and the ongoing war against terrorism, with or without the so-called linkages.

Iraq will be one of the major themes and not just from an American perspective. Europe, West Asia and the Asia-Pacific especially see it in different perspectives much to the annoyance of Washington. Last year, Mr. Bush came to New York to basically tell the forum that it was on the verge of being forced into irrelevance if it could not enforce the Security Council resolutions on Iraq. In a matter of months, it parted company with the U.N. on Iraq and went to war. But what was supposed to have been achieved militarily was certainly not `won' in the post-conflict phase.

Now bogged down in a quagmire — conservatives and hawks in this Republican administration will not subscribe to this view — with daily loss of American lives and a reconstruction tab much above all expectations, the Bush administration is returning to New York. By this, Mr. Bush has actually acknowledged that the U.N. is very much relevant, analysts and diplomats say.

Once again, Washington is being reminded that the Iraq resolution it is seeking is not going to be easy by any stretch of imagination. And for this to materialise, the process will have to be a two-way street. Belatedly, there is the realisation in some official corridors of Washington of this reality.

Still the lurking fears of the political implications of being embarrassed for giving up political power in Baghdad is very much in the minds of the White House. Whether it wants to admit this or not is a different matter. There is a difference in which other major players — the veto-holding nations in the Security Council particularly — are going about this new Iraq resolution. If in February and early March some saw in the actions of France and Germany to staunchly oppose an American imposition on the Council, this time around there is a willingness to bail the Americans out of a big mess. Still France, Germany and Russia have told Washington that it must listen to the alternatives that are being proposed.

One perception here is that beyond what Mr. Bush may have to say in his address this Tuesday, his meetings on the sidelines with leaders of France and Germany are going to be critical; and the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, will be in Camp David towards the later part of the week.

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