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Analysis: NATO States Divided Over Iraq

  • Kathleen Ridolfo

NATO's Supreme Allied Commander for Europe General James Jones said 10 member states were refusing to send troops to Iraq as part of the alliance's new training mission there, ft.com reported on 15 November. Jones said the move by the 10 states, which he refused to name publicly, could undermine the alliance itself and threaten the long-term viability of the operation.

The website reported that the U.S. government has already complained that France and Germany have ordered their staff seconded to NATO headquarters in Belgium and to Norfolk, Virginia, not to participate in Iraq missions. Both countries were opposed to the U.S.-led war in Iraq. Opponents to the NATO program have argued that a larger NATO presence in the country equates to putting the alliance into the battlefield through the back door, Reuters reported on 14 November.

Germany's ddp news agency reported that the German government has "consistently refused to send German soldiers directly to Iraq." However, according to a 15 November ddp report, 32 Bundeswehr instructors will be training Iraqi security forces to operate five-ton trucks in the United Arab Emirates. Germany has also committed to training Iraqis at a NATO center in Oberammergau, Germany. Norway is training Iraqis at the Joint Warfare Center in Stavanger (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 22 October 2004).
"In Europe, we still have complicated discussions, be it in the European Union or be it national discussions, of how far governments could go in the relationship with their citizens in the fight against terrorism. I think Europe should catch up here." -- Jaap de Hoop Scheffer


NATO committed itself last month to sending 300 trainers to Baghdad and 1,000-1,500 soldiers to the capital to provide protection for its in-country program, which will train 1,000 Iraqi officers a year at a military academy currently being set up near Baghdad. The project received final approval on 17 November.

Jones's statements came just days after NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer met with U.S. President George W. Bush and addressed the UN Security Council in New York. De Hoop Scheffer supported the war in Iraq before becoming head of NATO in January. The secretary-general suggested to reporters after his 10 November meeting with Bush that the NATO alliance is strong, saying, "It is a very important sign that I was the first foreign visitor, indeed, to meet President Bush in the Oval Office" following Bush's reelection, international media reported. He told the UN Security Council the following day that NATO's decision to assist Iraq was based on the security interests of its member states, which are "affected by events" there.

He took a more critical view of European member states in the war on terror at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York on 12 November. "In Europe, we still have complicated discussions, be it in the European Union or be it national discussions, of how far governments could go in the relationship with their citizens in the fight against terrorism. I think Europe should catch up here," independent.co.uk quoted him as saying in a 13 November report.

De Hoop Scheffer went a bit further in a 14 November interview with Italy's "Corriere della Sera," saying that Europeans need to "wake up" to the terrorist threat. "The average U.S. citizen perceives terrorism as being by far the most serious threat. That is not the case in Europe. A large part of the population has to wake up to the fact that everything has changed," de Hoop Scheffer said. He added that Europeans "find it difficult to understand that something might happen in some far-off region of Asia which might place their own personal security in jeopardy." "This gap in perception compared to the United States gives me cause for concern," he said. De Hoop Scheffer said his goal is to turn NATO into an institution for political dialogue on security issues between the United States and European member states.

Of the 18 NATO member states that individually committed (outside of NATO) troops to Iraq, only about half remain committed to keeping troops there. Most Western European states have said they will pull out altogether in the coming months.

Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia have all opted to stay indefinitely. Hungary announced on 16 November that it may send military trainers to Iraq as part of the NATO contingent. Prospective NATO members Albania, Croatia, and Macedonia said on 13 November that they too are eager to support the NATO training mission in Iraq.

For the latest news on Iraq, see RFE/RL's webpage on "The New Iraq".
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