NATO on the road to Iraq

Posted in Broader Middle East , NATO , Iraq , Asia | 09-Feb-04 | Author: Dieter Farwick

BrigGen(ret.) Dieter Farwick is former Director of Germany’s "Federal Armed Forces Intelligence Office" and
Global Editor-in-Chief of
The significance and complexity of the challenges the world faces,including those in the Balkans, Iraq, Afghanistan and Israel/Palestine make it necessary for the international community and especially for the West and the NATO, the Transatlantic Alliance, to overcome the quarrels and irritations which have dominated the last 15 to 18 months.

At the 40th annual Munich Conference on Security Policy, held from Febr 6 to Febr 8, the atmosphere and mood of the gathering of the strategic community from both sides of the Atlantic revealed a sincere search for consensus. Many speakers stressed the need to overcome the past and to look forward to a "new NATO", "new mission", "new strategy" and "complementary initiatives and actions". Even a "new Harmel-Report" was brought into the discussion by the German Minister of Defence.

The threat and risk assessment showed almost total agreement: "The jihadist terrorism" (Joschka Fischer, German Minister for Foreign Affairs), the existence and illegal proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, drug related issues, border-crossing organised crime and failed states form an explosive mixture - especially if and when they are combined.

The "Greater Middle East" - ranging from Marrakech to Bangladesh - was the region most speakers focused on. Afghanistan, Iraq and Israel/Palestine are, beside the Balkans, the "hot spots" on the globe today and the foreseeable future. To make things worse, all of them are interwoven. They can not be treated sequentially but simultaneously. Some speakers ( namely Joschka Fischer, His majesty King Abdullah II, Jordan, and US Senator Richard G. Lugar) called for a transatlantic initiative to tackle the problems of this region.

The numerous calls for new initiatives and declarations provoked the comment by the Chairman of the conference, Horst Teltschik: "There is no lack of initiatives, but who is going to start doing something ?" He was echoed by Senator Lugar´s comment: "We have the political will to do all these important things, but there are financial limitations for all of us". These national constraints bring NATO back into the game.

The emerging success of NATO in Afghanistan was praised by all speakers - especially the growing number of "Provincial Reconstruction Teams"(PRT) enhancing security and stability "beyond Kabul". NATO SecGen Jaap de Hoop Scheffer made it crystal clear that NATO is prepared to take over more responsibility in Iraq, where already 14 of NATO`s 19 member countries have troops committed. An official demand for support by a sovereign Iraqi government and a UN mandate can provide the bridge NATO forces can cross - including France and Germany.

On the German side there was an important difference to be recognised. While the Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said strictly "no" to sending any German soldiers to Iraq, his colleague Peter Struck, German Minister of Defence, did not exclude any German involvement in Iraq, if the above mentioned pre- conditions are fulfilled.
The German opposition leader Angela Merkel followed her line on Iraq declaring that German soldiers can not stay at home, if and when the Alliance decided to follow a UN mandate. That discussion will lead to a hot political summer in Germany - latest after the NATO summit in Istanbul taking place in June. After the discussion in Munich it is hard to believe, that Germany will choose political isolation within the Alliance. That is especially true concerning Fischer´s initiative for the "Greater Middle East", which sharply contrasts with his position of German soldiers in Iraq.

Kai Mörk
(from left) Dr. Peter Struck, Germany, Michèle Alliot-Marie, French Republic, Prof.Dr. h.c. Horst Teltschik, Organizer and Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, NATO Secretary General, Netherlands.
The emerging success of NATO in Afghanistan seems to be a stimulant for other engagements. Even Israel/Palestine were mentioned as a possible area for another NATO commitment after a peace settlement. Yet NATO and NATO nations have to avoid overstretch. With the Balkans, Afghanistan and later Iraq NATO forces will be "sold out" for years. A reduction of NATO forces in the Balkans in 2004 with the takeover of responsibility by EU will ease existing constrains, but with a commitment in Iraq these constraint will reappear.

Another good news for NATO is the emerging NATO Response Force, which will achieve ga operational readiness latest 2006 .

The discussion concerning EU´s military capabilities for EU-led operations seems to have passed its peak. NATO Sec Gen and the German Minister of Defence were clear in their call:
"NATO first !" It seems obvious that EU will not be capable for greater military operations
without great support by NATO based upon the "Berlin plus accord".

One area of common concern was "intelligence". The failure of almost all secret services with their pre-war information must lead to in-depth investigation.
From my own experience in this area, there are at least six major deficiencies:
  • Lack of clear political guidance "We want to know ..."
  • Almost exclusive reliance on technical means of reconnaissance such as satellites
  • Negligence of HUMINT(human intelligence)
  • Lack of highly qualified analysts who can select the important information out of the ocean of data and who can transform this information to knowledge
  • Lack of permanent dialogue between the analysts and political leadership
  • Too many people in too many agencies
The atmosphere of exchanging kindness - including Donald Rumsfeld - was hurt only once by US Senator John McCain in his harsh comments on Russia. He said : "President Putin´s rule has lately been characterised by the dismantling of Russia´s independent media, a fierce crackdown on the political opposition, the prosecution of a bloody war against Chechnya´s civilian population, and a new assertiveness that challenges the democratic and territorial integrity of Russia´s sovereign neighbors ..."

Good will and initiatives are there, but now it is time to implement them in a well orchestrated way. There is no time-out in enhancing security and stability in the world - especially in the "Greater Middle East".