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
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there