Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Thursday, March 27, 2003

News Analysis: Iraq War Damages 'London Bridge'

As the ongoing US-led war on Iraq enters its seventh consecutive day on Wednesday, British Prime Minister Tony Blair is flying to Camp David for talks on Iraq withUS President George W. Bush.


As the ongoing US-led war on Iraq enters its seventh consecutive day on Wednesday, British Prime Minister Tony Blair is flying to Camp David for talks on Iraq withUS President George W. Bush.

Blair, the staunchest US ally on a regime change in Iraq, told a Downing Street news conference on Tuesday that besides the military campaign in Iraq, political and diplomatic aftermath of this war would also be high on the agenda of his meeting with Bush.

Despite his argument that the war on Iraq is going by plan, analysts here said, Blair becomes well aware that this is truly "acrucial time" both for the coalition forces and for his diplomacy,to be a "bridge" between Europe and the United States.

The military outcome may still be unclear, but one thing for certain is that the "London bridge" is falling down, the analysts said.

Whatever happens in the Iraq war, the British role as pivot or indispensable lubricant between Washington and Europe may never have the meaning of uniqueness, which is so passionately pursued by Blair, they said.

Considering the Washington end, the build-up to disarm Iraq hasbeen a lesson for Blair, who has to face the reality that it is the United States who makes the last decision.

Special Anglo-American relationships mean that he had to join the US-led war even without a new UN resolution, which the US saidwas not necessary for its military action in Iraq.

When most of the UN Security Council members refused to supportthe new resolution that would authorize war against Iraq and the United States seemed to lose patience with the UN route, Blair, who ushered the war game into the Security Council, had nothing todo but listen to the rhetoric of some US officials that the UN should cease to have any role in global politics.

And when US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said his country could enter the war alone without the support of Britain, the unspoken words would be "Brits are a necessary inconvenience."

So this is the kind of ally Blair is standing with, abusive about old friends and contemptuous of multinational diplomacy.

At the other end of the bridge, Iraq has had the same destructive effect on European unity.

Analysts argued that it was Blair himself who took down many ofthe "bricks" from the "bridge" by sponsoring the divisive letter of eight eastern European countries, which voiced their support for the US tough line on Iraq without noticing France and Germany.

Bitter rift had been growing between Europe and the United States in the months leading up to the US-led invasion of Iraq, since France and Germany strongly opposed the US tough line on disarming the country by force.

The Iraq war has posed real problems for Europe, which became clear at last week's Brussels summit, where Blair's dream of beinga big player in EU saw a further blow when Belgium proposed a summit on common EU defense policy without inviting Britain.

Fearing of being marginalized in Europe, Blair was ready to enter the fray again.

Europe and America must begin trying to heal the rift that grewbetween them over Iraq, Blair stressed, calling for European unityin post-war nation building in Iraq.

During his hour-long Downing Street news conference on Tuesday,Blair time and again expressed his confidence that the United Nations would play a pivotal role in the post-war administration of Iraq.

As he flew to Washington on Wednesday, he could be under no illusion about the perils that lie ahead, analysts said.

With his position weakened in the eyes of the White House by his failure to secure a second resolution sanctioning war, Blair had to confront divisions in Washington over whether to back a newresolution to pave the way for a UN-led civil administration in Iraq.

Even if the Bush administration comes on board, it is still farfrom certain that France and Germany, both Security Council members, will sign up to it.

So, the analysts concluded, there lays the reality before Blair:to secure a set of post-war UN resolutions on Iraq and step onto another diplomatic minefield.

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