Just as his father did, George W. Bush is offering generous packages of aid and arms to nations that join his drive for war against Iraq. There is so much bargaining going on that arms analyst Ira Shorr has called the Administration’s ad hoc alliance for war the “coalition of the wanting.” According to former Secretary of State James Baker, winning support for the first Gulf War involved “cajoling, extracting, threatening and occasionally buying votes.” This time there is far more buying and threatening than cajoling going on, and recruiting allies has been far more costly.
Would-be allies are driving harder bargains because Gulf War II is a much shakier proposition. As John Chipman of the International Institute for Strategic Studies has observed, “Then it was straightforward. Eject Iraq from Kuwait. Now it’s ‘regime change,’ and that’s…hard for many to swallow.” Bush officials are hoping that massive doses of US aid will make unpopular anti-Iraq positions go down more easily. The Administration is weighing proposals for nearly $30 billion worth of grants and subsidized loans for allies concerned about the political and economic side-effects of a new Gulf conflict.
Recipients of Administration largesse fit into two categories: (1) countries in the region seeking to be reimbursed for the negative impacts of the war, and (2) countries whose support is sought as a way to legitimize the war in the eyes of a skeptical world. The biggest aid deal is being offered to one of the former–Turkey. As this went to press, the Turkish Parliament was considering a US offer of $15 billion in aid–$5 billion in grants and $10 billion in guaranteed loans–in exchange for Turkey’s agreement to host 62,000 US ground troops for an invasion of northern Iraq.
The Administration is also finalizing separate deals for Israel, Egypt and Jordan. Israel is seeking a multiyear deal involving $4 billion in new grants and $8 billion to $10 billion in US-government guaranteed loans. Jordan is slated to receive an additional $1 billion in aid, and Egypt is seeking new aid beyond its current $1.3 billion, plus a free-trade deal similar to the one Jordan already has with the United States. In exchange for the increased aid, Jordan is hosting US special forces and engaging in joint intelligence gathering. Israel has shared intelligence and helped train US forces for urban combat, but the biggest “contribution” sought by the Administration is for the Sharon government to refrain from retaliating in the event of an Iraqi attack, to avoid regionalizing the conflict. Sharon has so far refused to make any such pledge. From Egypt, a key Arab ally whose population is overwhelmingly against the war, Washington is seeking a statement of political support and the use of some air bases.
Outside the Middle East, the most important battleground is the fifteen-member UN Security Council, where the United States is seeking a resolution justifying the use of force to oust Saddam Hussein. So far, Washington can count on support from the United Kingdom, Bulgaria and Spain. Bulgaria’s support was secured by a US pledge to see to it that Iraq pays its outstanding debts to Bulgaria in the post-Saddam period. The Administration’s next objective is to win over “swing states” like Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Guinea, Mexico and Pakistan with a mix of promises and threats.