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Home > Special Topics > Europe Report Last Updated: 15:16 03/09/2007
Europe Report #98: July 23, 2004

Is the Iraq Conflict still Polarizing World Politics?

Sir Jeremy Greenstock GCMG (UK Special Representative for Iraq, 2003-March 2004; former UK Permanent Representative to the UN, 1998-2003)
Denise Fabian (Anglo-French Journalist)
Bill Hawthorn (Royal Institute of International Affairs)
Arthur Goodman (Jews for Justice for Palestinians and Royal Institute of International Affairs)
J. Sean Curtin (GLOCOM, Fellow and Asia Times)

The former number-two man in occupied Iraq, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, frankly discusses some of the key issues arising out of the controversial conflict and speaks about his future hopes for Iraq.

Denise Fabian: With regard to the polarization of world politics, would you agree that the war in Iraq has further polarized our world politics? Isn't it also the case that you need not only to convince hearts and minds in Iraq and in the Arab world, but also here in the West? You have said that perception is politics and given the modern world that we live in with its 24-hour news media, we know that there is a lot perception amongst ordinary citizens who feel that there have been a lot of cover ups. How do we change that perception?

Sir Jeremy Greenstock GCMG, UK Special Representative for Iraq & former UK Permanent Representative to the UNSir Jeremy Greenstock: I think actually that Iraq the saga has added to polarization [of the world]. I think that is almost an objective thing we see. But there are other things at work and the full story has not yet been told. If Iraq turns out better than in Saddam's day, I think that history will be more forgiving. I think what I am talking about in terms of global polarization of cultural and economic differences around the world will have to be settled by proper measures. I would also like to point out that since 9 April 2003 there have been three unanimous [UN] Security Council resolutions in New York that is not polarization. That is quite determined reconstruction from a very controversial background of international cohesion to the extent that they can of each moment of the approach to Iraq and it has got better each time.

There is determination to reduce the polarization effect of Iraq. So, yes there has been polarization but yes also there has been a strong attempt to address that polarization. What effect it may have on elections hither and yonder I leave to the future.

Bill Hawthorn: You mentioned policies being in the hands of the Iraqi provisional government and operations control being handled by the Americans. If the current attacks continue, given the tendency of the American forces to shoot first and ask questions afterwards do you think there is a great potential there for difficulty for the selected Iraqi government to maintain its policies?

Sir Jeremy Greenstock: The style and use of American power on the ground. Clearly some of it has been wrong, but mostly it was OK. Fallujah, I think, was not well handled. It went through the mill four times until it came up [to a resolution]. Samara was a hard knock. If you remember, in December or January there was a heavy incident in Samara. That has never really raised its head again. Baquba and Tikrit have been difficult, but not impossible. Fallujah has been the bad one and I would say the exception. The rest are not like that. Rumadi and Mosul and the others from time to time, Najaf and Karbala in a different context prone to some nastiness.

There is a question here about the training and traditions of the American military. The British have a different experience. We cannot generate a fraction of the power of the United States military. We cannot change things in the way the United States can.... But our style in [the British controlled city of] Basra and in the South has been closer to a recreation of the society the Iraqis want than perhaps elsewhere. We have had a more homogenous community to deal with.

I would point to the work of [US Army Major] David Petraeus around Mosul as being just as good as the British generals did in Basra. So, it is a mixed picture, but there is a tendency somewhere in the [US] military to hit too hard because they have been hit and not realize that that can produce the wrong result.

Arthur Goodman: It was very welcome to hear you say that the road to a just settlement in the region does not lie in Iraq. That was one of the very foolish things we heard from Washington a while ago when this thing started. I think the road clearly lies through Washington. How much influence do you think the UK can have on Washington on this?

Sir Jeremy Greenstock: As for UK influence on the US, I have learnt to be pretty realistic in this effect…I had a little exchange at the [UK] Cabinet office committee at ministerial level that I attended in the autumn when I said gently and humbly, "Please don't expect me to have 50 percent of influence in Baghdad if you are putting in 2 percent of the resources." There was a silence around the table until the treasury man said, "And 2 percent it will remain."

Americans sought out there hardest policy decisions with Americans. It was [US Secretary of State] Colin Powell who persuaded the President to go to the UN in September 2002. Although Tony Blair's influence on Bush and on the argument was used by Colin Powell. Indeed, there was an objective influence of the UK in that the President decided that the Americans should not do this unilaterally and if there was to be a coalition, the number one member of that coalition should be the United Kingdom as the key to many others. That's an influence. I think this President does listen to this prime minister and they communicate more than any pervious pair. But when it comes to the hard decisions, it's the American principle officers of state who make the decisions.

The above discussion took place at the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London on 24 June 2004.

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Europe Report #96, 30 June 2004

Multinational Forces in Iraq and Future Perceptions of the Conflict
Debates, GLOCOM Platform, 30 June 2004

Key Figure in Iraq Administration Delivers "Half-term Report" to Europe
Europe Report #67, 24 December 2003

Italian Foreign Minister Looks to Iraq's Future, not Past Divisions
Europe Report #95, 22 June 2004

Reference Map

Map of Iraq

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