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Toward a European Strategy for Iraq

C·A·P Working Paper by Giacomo Luciani and Felix Neugart

Drafted by
Dr. Giacomo Luciani
Professor of Political Economy & Co-Director, Mediterranean Programme, Robert Schuman Center for Advanced Studies, European University Institute, Florence
Felix Neugart
Research Fellow, Bertelsmann Group for Policy Research, Center for Applied Policy Research, Ludwig-Maximilians-University, Munich

On the basis of discussions held in the informal Task Force Working Group initiated by the Bertelsmann Foundation's Project "Europe and the Middle East", Christian-Peter Hanelt

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01.03.2003 · Bertelsmann Forschungsgruppe Politik

The Iraq crisis has been a disaster for the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) of the European Union (EU). Member countries are very visibly split in their position towards the war against the regime in Baghdad. EU institutions have been unable to agree on more than the unconditional implementation of the relevant United Nations resolutions leaving the door open for widely diverging interpretations. The challenge of the Iraq crisis does not bode well for the future of a cohesive European Foreign Policy, and the CFSP requires a fresh approach.

We argue that the EU should develop a comprehensive strategy for a post-Saddam Iraq based on European principles and values. While the detailed formulation of such an approach is beyond the scope of this paper, our purpose is to present the basic building blocks in this regard. The first part of this paper discusses principles for the transition period in Iraq. We argue that the transition process should be overseen by a Multinational Task Force under the auspices of the UN and include domestic actors at the earliest possible stage. The second part of this paper sets out a vision for the post-Saddam Iraq in the domestic as well as the regional context. We claim that the establishment of an inclusive and accountable political system in Iraq requires first and foremost the distribution of the oil revenue among several centres of power. Furthermore, we believe that any effective approach to Iraq's problems requires a regional dimension. Iraq should be integrated gradually in a security system which includes Iran and other Gulf states and, at the same time, create a free trade zone with its Arab neighbours to the West with whom it shares important economic and cultural ties.

Two caveats should be made from the outset. First, this paper does not imply that the vision that is put forward can be realised in the short term. We argue that cohesive action on the part of the EU and its member countries requires basic agreement on long-term goals to be effective. The Iraq crisis has proven once more that there is no common vision, i.e., no shared approach to many international problems and threats among EU member countries, which is the indispensable base for any coherent foreign policy. A common EU approach on Iraq may kick-start a more comprehensive approach for the Middle East. Second, we do not assert that the EU will be able to realise this vision on its own. It is understood that the capacity for the EU to act unilaterally is limited since the US will be the major power broker in any post-Saddam scenario in Iraq as well as in the region. Yet, the argument made by many - that the United States simply will not allow the Europeans to play any role whatsoever - is misguided since America may well have to reach out to the EU for providing international legitimacy as well as other resources. It is upon the Europeans to carve out a role for themselves by consistently pursuing a cohesive and reasonable strategy which is capable of convincing the US and other international players and provide a basis for co-operation.

The recognition that regime change in Iraq is virtually certain must not be understood as an endorsement of war or the policies of the current US administration in general. Yet, whether the EU supports military action against the current regime or not, it will have to share responsibility in this undertaking within the framework of the international community. In fact, the EU's instruments for crisis management (let alone military intervention) are still in their infancy. The CFSP adopted at the European Council of Maastricht (1991) has yet to fine tune its institutions and capabilities. There is no common European strategy for the Middle East (though there is one for the Mediterranean region) that could serve as a starting point for a common approach to the crisis. In contrast, the impact of EU policies and institutions on long-term transformation and democratisation processes, especially in Southern and Eastern Europe, is well documented and generally acknowledged. The Union's approach of fostering structural change through trade liberalisation, transnational communication and regional integration, based of the success its own model, is well established. Europe may not be a superpower, but it certainly is a project.

Furthermore, the question of Iraq's future - beyond regime change - is of crucial importance for the transatlantic partnership and the development of a cohesive European policy in the region. It can be assumed that the envisaged regime change will imply broad regional realignment: indeed, any transition process in Iraq is bound to alter fundamentally the regional balance of power, given Iraq's substantial economic and political weight. Moreover, some circles in Washington perceive the war on Iraq as the opening move towards reshaping the entire region, whose problems are understood to be at the root of international terrorism. Any attempt to refuse to shoulder responsibility for post-Saddam Iraq will push Europe to the margin, in a region close to its backyard.

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