BBC Home
Explore the BBC
BBC News
Launch consoleBBC NEWS CHANNEL
Last Updated:  Tuesday, 18 March, 2003, 21:54 GMT
Analysis: Widespread Iraq fallout

By Paul Reynolds
BBC News Online world affairs correspondent

Whichever way you look, the ties which bind international institutions together have been broken by the crisis over Iraq.

Putting them back together will in all cases take time and, in some, cases may never take place at all.

These are some of the organisations and relationships which have been affected:

The UN Security Council

The present US administration will hesitate before handing over its problems to the council again.

US President George W Bush (left) and French President Jacques Chirac
Will they meet again in the White House?

The hawks never wanted the council to handle this one and the experience will have burned US President George W Bush.

An early test of the American attitude will come when it has dealt with Iraq and turns to North Korea.

This does not mean to say that the council will be useless.

There will be an attempt to apply some balm to the wounds when the US and Britain ask for UN approval of an interim civilian government they hope to set up in Iraq in due course.

UN approval is vital if donors around the world, including the European Union and the international financial institutions, are to be persuaded to help.

Partners are not servants but neither are they rivals
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair
In the shorter term, the council will also be asked to take control of the oil-for-food programme which it has been running in conjunction with the Iraqi Government.

British officials say that this programme is the best hope for getting regular food to the needy in Iraq, where it is already feeding 60% of the population.

One can exaggerate the damage to the council, since it was already a body with limited influence.

Russia, for example, announced that it would veto military action against Serbia over Kosovo, so the US and its allies went to war through Nato instead.

The US and the world

With so few allies and so much opposition, the US will go through a period of isolationism.

Greek Defence Minister Yannos Papantoniou (left), EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana (centre) and Nato's Secretary General Lord George Robertson
The EU and Nato are badly split over the Iraq crisis

It will rely more and more on its own metal, literally so in this coming war.

Tony Blair finds himself in the middle arguing, as he put it in parliament, that having separate poles of power in the world is "misguided and profoundly dangerous for our world. Partners are not servants but neither are they rivals."

The effect on the "war on terror" is unpredictable.

It might be made harder if other governments, resentful of unilateral American behaviour, withhold co-operation.

It might be made easier if they respond to US leadership and power.

The European Union

At the very moment when the Union is discussing moves towards greater integration in its constitutional Convention, two of its leading members, Britain and France, split apart.

The EU summit on Thursday and Friday this week should be interesting.

One casualty of this falling out is the hope for a Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP).

This, it is now clear, will work only when all are agreed and will fall apart when they are not.

Governments, especially those as nationalistic as the British and French, will not permit others to decide their positions on issues of war and peace.

John Palmer, Director of the European Policy Centre in Brussels, commented: "The EU's cornerstone project of building a CFSP... lies in disarray - if not yet in total ruin."

However, there may be greater progress in the attempt to build up a common approach on some defence-related issues such as peacekeeping.

The EU has recently taken over in Macedonia and away from the shouting this process will continue, albeit slowly.

'Old' and 'New' Europe

France ticked off the Central and East European countries who supported the US and UK by telling them to "keep quiet".

There will be a payback time for that insult when those countries join the EU.

They will object to the French habit of meaning "France" when the word "Europe" is used.

Expect more rows over attitudes towards America. These countries regard the US as a protector not a threat.


Americans are normally tolerant of French behaviour but this time they are bitter.

President Jacques Chirac will not be invited to the White House again, one suspects.

For its part, France felt it had to make a stand against the growth of American power and has no regrets.

It may well feel that it must say "Non" again in future.

The Germans are a great disappointment to Washington as well, especially as they held so firm during the Cold War.

On the other hand, facing the problems of German pacifism is better than facing the problems of German militarism.


The Russians have played quite a clever game.

They stood their ground against war but the flak was directed at the French.

But there will be wariness on both sides from now on.


The long term future of US troops in Germany must now be in doubt.

Some commentators have suggested moving them to the "new" European countries further east where they would certainly be welcome.

But perhaps they will depart all together sooner rather than later.

Issues involving Turkey - the refusal of France and Belgium to approve the stationing of defensive equipment there and the refusal of the Turkish Parliament to allow US troops there - did not show Nato as a cohesive group.

A new Nato Secretary-General is going to have to come up with some ideas to help.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | World | UK | England | Northern Ireland | Scotland | Wales | Politics
Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health | Education
Have Your Say | Magazine | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific