Accessibility links

Breaking News

British Analysts:  Blair Should Appeal to Bush for Softer Military Tactics in Iraq - 2004-04-14

British defense and foreign policy experts say Prime Minister Tony Blair should appeal to President Bush for softer military tactics in Iraq and a bigger role for the United Nations when they meet in Washington on Friday.

There is an air of urgency and crisis about this week's Bush-Blair meeting amid the recent surge in violence in Iraq, though the talks were scheduled long ago.

Aides to Prime Minister Blair say he and President Bush agree on the basic strategy and approach to dealing with Iraq, including a commitment to hand over sovereignty on June 30.

But British defense analysts say Prime Minister Blair should raise concerns about U.S. military tactics in Iraq that many Britons consider to be excessively violent and counterproductive.

The former British military assistant chief of staff, Timothy Garden, says there is a lot of disquiet among the British officer corps.

?If you are trying to promote the rule of law and provide security for the Iraqis, then killing large numbers of them in urban environments is not a very good way of doing it,? he said.

Mr. Garden says there is also resentment that, while Britain has nearly 9,000 troops in Iraq, and has been the most loyal U.S. ally there, it does not have much influence on coalition policy.

?We've got a problem that we've got our troops at risk and we don't get any say in terms of the way the campaign is conducted and it seems to be conducted over the year with a degree of incompetence that often beggars belief,? Mr. Garden said.

The opposition Conservative Party agrees that Mr. Blair should demand from President Bush a more influential role in the political and military decision-making of the coalition. The party's foreign affairs spokesman, Michael Ancram, also told British radio the June 30 date for handover of power should be reconsidered.

?I'm not saying that the transfer cannot happen on the 30th of June. What I'm saying is that if you set it in stone you are setting a target for those who wish to see Iraq descend into even more chaos to make sure that transfer cannot happen in a sustainable and stable way,? Mr. Ancram said.

A number of British foreign affairs experts have appealed for a bigger role in Iraq for the United Nations.

The former British U.N. ambassador, Crispin Tickell, says he is pleased President Bush supports a new U.N. resolution to get more countries involved in Iraq.

?I greatly welcome that. I think it's high time we started talking more about the United Nations and rather less about NATO. You've got to bring in the United Nations in order to do something to steer us away from the wreckage,? he said.

Prime Minister Blair will meet U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan on Thursday to discuss a greater U.N. role in Iraq. Mr. Annan remains concerned about security following last August's bombing of the U.N. office in Baghdad. But the defense analyst, Mr. Garden, says the United Nations is the key to attracting more European participation in Iraq.

?I hope the prime minister, having come the day before from talking to the U.N. Secretary General, will have something to bring to President Bush in terms of greater U.N. involvement in the political process, which is what much of Europe needs in order to start helping in terms of providing troops and the like," he said. "Whether he will get anything from Kofi Annan is, of course, questionable, given the reservations the U.N. has over putting more of their people at risk.?

Another topic on the Bush-Blair agenda will be the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Mr. Blair has stressed the importance of a Middle East peace agreement to help defuse Islamic militancy. British officials say the two leaders are expected to review the status of what is called the "road map" to Middle East peace in light of the outcome of President Bush's meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Wednesday.