Raid on Iraq: UK and France in support role

GIVEN their ambitions to remain world powers, albeit of a decidedly medium size, wild horses could not have stopped Britain and France from taking part in the US-led action against Iraq last night.

But there was a fundamental difference from the war of two years ago: there was no need for the painstaking, months- long building of a coalition with Arab countries to avoid the appearance of an act of US imperialism and prevent them siding with Iraq.

Another difference was that although the British and French were brought in when the time came to strike, they appear not to have been consulted when the US administration first hatched its plot to prompt the overthrow of Saddam Hussein - of which last night's action forms a part.

This failure to consult would have been intolerable to someone like Margaret Thatcher, who spent the run-up to the last war making sure the Americans included her in everything, and who informed President Bush soon after the invasion of Kuwait that 'George, this is no time to go wobbly'.

British officials say privately that though they do not oppose this US plan to help unseat President Saddam, they are more cautious about the project as a whole than they were about war two years ago - but this may be due, in part, to the fact that it was not their idea in the first place, and also to a lack of consensus on who, or what, should succeed President Saddam if the plot works.

Yet when it came to last night's military strike, the action was a typical manifestation of co-operation limited to the 'P3' - the three Western permanent members of the UN Security Council - with the addition of the most crucial Arab ally, Saudi Arabia. President Bush secured the support of the Saudis when he held talks with King Fahd in Riyadh on New Year's Eve.

Sam Gardiner, a retired US air force colonel, said last night he hoped the action would not appear to be a unilateral American move and that, to this end, the participation of the British and French was of greater symbolic than military importance. 'And if the aircraft take off from Saudi Arabia, so much the better,' he added.

Before the war two years ago, the allies spent more than five months building a coalition that took in Arab powers, such as Syria, Egypt and Morocco, to prevent the Arab world siding with Iraq. With the exception of strays such as Jordan and the PLO, the Arabs sided with the allies, and their involvement did not need to be secured a second time.

A key issue then was that if Iraq had dragged Israel into the war, the Arabs would have had to join Iraq against the Jewish state. This time, President Saddam's emasculated military machine is in no position to provoke a conflict on such a scale.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SEN Learning Support Assistant

£60 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Group: Youth Support Workers Glouceste...

IT Technician - 1st Line

£19000 - £21000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPOR...

PPA Cover Teacher

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Pr...

Primary Teaching Jobs Available NOW-Southport

£80 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: **Due to an increase in dema...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London