As the United Nations Security Council prepared to vote on a U.S.-British resolution that would authorize war against Iraq, the Bush administration was working furiously to win over the required nine votes they need for passage of the motion. Employing its levers of economic and military aid, the U.S. has placed enormous pressure on the so-called middle six countries now serving as non-permanent members on the Security Council, whose votes are seen as pivotal.
These nations, Guinea, Cameroon, Angola, Mexico, Chile and Pakistan have not only been subjected to promises of billions of dollars of rewards and threats of punishment, but they apparently have also been the targets of U.S. espionage. A report in the London Observer newspaper, based on a leaked document, details how American spy agencies have monitored communications at these countries’ U.N. offices in hopes of gaining an edge in their arm-twisting campaign. Although Turkey was promised a package of grants and loans from Washington worth $15 billion, that nation’s Parliament failed to approve a deal to base some 62,000 U.S. soldiers on their territory from which an invasion could be launched on northern Iraq. The White House continues to work for a second vote on the measure.
The Institute for Policy Studies recently published a report which examines the instruments of pressure being brought to bear on members of the U.N. Security Council and other countries the Bush administration is trying to recruit to support its war on Baghdad. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Sarah Anderson, director of the Institute’s Global Economy Project and a co-author of the report titled, “Coalition of the Willing or Coalition of the Coerced?” She summarizes the bribes and threats her group says have been employed by the White House to get its way.
Sarah Anderson: Well, lots of people have been saying that this is just politics as usual — and of course it’s true that there’s nothing brand new here — I do think though that the level of intensity is greater. We’re really seeing the “mother of all diplomatic wars” here. And the reason for that is because public opposition around the world to this war is so high. So that’s why our U.S. officials are out there having to really hustle, work harder to try to get countries to support their position.
But of course there are precedents for this in the past. Back in 1990 when they had the U.N. Security Council vote to authorize the first Gulf War, there was similar bribery and arm twisting. One of the clearest examples was with Yemen. Yemen was the only Arab country on the Security Council at that time. It dared to vote against the U.S. resolution and no sooner had the Yemen ambassador to the U.N. pulled down his hand after having voted no, than a U.S. official came over and told him, “That will be the most expensive “no” vote you have ever cast.” Within three days the U.S. aid to Yemen was cut off. It’s a country that’s very poverty-stricken and really felt that blow. So that stands as an example to a lot of other countries.
Right now there are three very poor African countries, for example, on the Security Council that would not like to see their aid cut off from the United States, so that’s one way to sort of intimidate countries.
Between The Lines: The so-called “middle six,” the countries whose vote is being sought by the United States including: Guinea, Cameroon, Angola, Mexico, Chile and Pakistan. Maybe you could talk about where the United States is likely to succeed, where it’s likely to fail and the leverage being brought against some of these countries.
Sarah Anderson: It’s really unclear at this moment. I have to tell you it’s just been high drama for the past week watching things go back and forth. With Mexico, it’s a very interesting case. Here’s a country that is completely dependent on the U.S. economy. Over 80 percent of their exports go to the United States. President Fox of Mexico has worked very hard to try to have a good relationship with President Bush. You know they get together in their cowboy boots on their respective ranches and so forth. He’s also tried very hard to get some concessions from the U.S. around immigration issues. He is really having the screws put to him right now. The U.S. ambassador to Mexico was quoted in the Washington Post saying basically that if Mexico votes no, they can expect big trouble from the U.S. government when it comes to matters of concern for Mexico. Right after that President Fox appeared to shift his position somewhat. He’d been very outspoken against the U.S. position. Then! he started to kind of waiver. Then there was a bit of a backlash, you know, Mexico is a very proud country, they don’t like being told that they have to do whatever the U.S. says. So now he appears to be shifting back to opposition and it’s really been like that all week.
I also want to point out because it was huge news this weekend, although it hasn’t been picked up much by the U.S. press yet. The London Observer, which is quite a reputable paper printed a blockbuster story which was based on a memo leaked to them — a U.S. government memo which laid out a plan for spying on the six countries that you mentioned, the swing countries on the Security Council. To wiretap the phones of the U.N. ambassadors from these countries, both their office and their home phones. It’s just, I think an outrageous action — that this is how they’re treating countries that are supposed to be our allies. It’s not enough that they have so much power to twist arms and to wheel and deal, but they’re having to play these dirty tricks at the same time.
Between The Lines: What in your view is the long-term damage to U.S. credibility throughout this whole process, even if the United States gets its way with a vote in the United Nations Security Council to authorize war?
Sarah Anderson: You know they can buy off support by offering Turkey $30 billion or whatever. Well, the next time that the U.S. wants to put together one of these phony coalitions, countries will hold out until they can get bought off. So it’ll just become more and more expensive every time we want to have a coalition effort around everything. Why wouldn’t countries hold out for big money once they’ve seen that kind of a precedent? I think it’s just a very ugly situation. This is not at all how to go about tackling issues that really are of concern to the whole world.
I think it’s really important for the American public to know that this is a sham and that the U.S. government is trying to hoodwink them into thinking that this is about multi- lateralism and it’s really not. Maybe this is a secondary matter, but if they’re out there offering Turkey say, $30 billion to go along with this plan, that’s U.S. taxpayer money and we should care about how that’s being spent.
Contact the Institute for Policy Studies at (202) 234-9382 or read a copy of their “Coalition of the Willing or Coalition of the Coerced?” report online at http://www.ips-dc.org