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The Rice is right

Staff Reports

Our new Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, has made an excellent start. In a week of jet-setting diplomacy, she reached out to our recalcitrant allies in Europe with something resembling an olive branch. “It is time to turn away from the disagreements of the past,” Rice said. “It is time to open a new chapter in our relationship, and a new chapter in our alliance.”The underlying message of the trip is the desire to turn a new page in the trans-Atlantic relationship, after years of animosity and diplomatic insults following the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003. It was Condoleezza Rice herself who was quoted not so long ago as advising the President to “punish France and ignore Germany” for their opposition to US plans. But it appears that some Europeans at least may be willing to forgive, if not to forget, the past as long as progress towards common goals can be seen.These common goals include: a desire to stop further proliferation of nuclear weapons by ensuring that Iran’s nuclear weapons development program is put on hold, if not eliminated totally; the wish for progress on an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement; and a goal for a peaceful Iraq. What remains to be seen is how much commonality there is in the different approaches to achieving these ends.The Europeans favor a diplomatic approach to Iran, in spite of Iran’s history of deception as to exactly what it has been doing with its so-called “peaceful” development of nuclear technology. Britain, France and Germany have been holding talks with Tehran in an attempt to have Iran’s uranium enrichment program permanently frozen. They appear not to have learned from the history of North Korea’s nuclear weapons development under the very noses of the IAEA inspectors; or from Libya’s clandestine program, which the IAEA failed to notice until the Libyans themselves brought it to their attention as a result of US pressure.The US position on Iran is more robust. “The Iranians need to hear that if they are unwilling to take the deal the Europeans are giving then the Security Council referral looms,” Rice said. “We have believed all along that Iran ought to be referred to the Security Council and then a variety of steps are available to the international communityThey need to hear that the discussions that they are in with the Europeans are not going to be a kind of way station where they are allowed to continue their activities; that there’s going to be an end to this and that they are going to end up in the Security Council.”As for Palestine, the US position has been much less accepting of Palestinian corruption and terrorism than that of most Europeans. The US administration has sent clear signals that a prerequisite for any progress is for the Palestinian Authority to control the terrorists in the same way that Israel has to control the settlers when it comes to evacuating settlements in the Gaza Strip. The European position is that the US should put further pressure on Israel to make more concessions so that Mahmoud Abbas can show his people that giving up terrorism will pay handsome dividends.The Secretary of State is hopeful that the success of the recent elections in Iraq will give the US and its allies a common purpose. She said “We do now have a common agendanow that we are facing the fact of an Iraqi people who are taking risks of their own for their democratic future, it’s very clear what is ahead of us.”This statement may be overly optimistic. While France and Germany may join us in a common wish to see a peaceful, democratic Iraq, there is little will to put their own troops at risk. Their current involvement in helping to train Iraqis to take over their own security is minimal, but they continue to sit on the sidelines and criticize the lack of progress on rebuilding Iraq’s damaged infrastructure. Still, there may be some hopeful signs. Several NATO nations are offering to train Iraqi security forces in their own countries. Spain has offered to train police, as well as some soldiers, in land mine removal techniques, and the NATO Secretary General said he has appealed to all 26 allied nations to contribute more troops to help meet a goal of training 1,000 Iraqi officers per year. He said it was his goal to have pledges from all nations to help by the time President Bush visits Europe later this month.All this is encouraging and a step in the right direction. We need allies and a more diplomatic approach to settling our differences so that we can work effectively in fighting threats to world peace. VTPeter Leslie is a former CFO of the United Nations Development Program, now living in Vail. His comments on UN issues are on the web site of the Foreign Policy Association and his column appears periodically in the Vail Trail.


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