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A Look at the Influence of the Crisis in Iraq on European Foreign Policy

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What has been the impact of the war in Iraq on European foreign policy?

The Iraq War was an armed conflict that began in March of 2003 with the invasion of Iraq by the United States. The reason frequently cited for this invasion was that the Bush Administration believed that the leader of Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. The Iraq War not only affected the U.S, but it also greatly affected Europe and the foreign policies in many European nations. These effects were diverse. The Iraq War had a monetary impact on the economies of European nations. Public opinion in European countries was influenced by the war, and that in turn affected foreign policy. The war directly affected the relationship between France and the United Kingdom, and the war set back Tony Blair’s foreign policies in the United Kingdom. Additionally, the war divided permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and caused a split in the Atlantic Alliance. Finally, the European discord over the war in Iraq undermined the European defense policy.

The “ Effect of the Iraq War on Foreign Bank Lending to the MENA Region”, written by Evren H. Damar, examined foreign bank lending from developed countries to emerging markets. Using country-level data, Damar explored the lending relationships between several European banks and the countries in the MENA region. He found that the Iraq War discouraged British and Italian banks from lending to the region of the Middle East and North Africa. During the last two decades there have been rapid globalization of financial markets, leading to increased foreign bank participation in emerging markets. (20, H. Damar) The author studied the effect of the conflict in Iraq to determine whether it influenced foreign bank lending to five non-oil producing countries: Israel, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia and Turkey. Some analysts predicted that the war and the consequent instability would result in falling stock markets in the regions of Turkey and Jordan. Also, retaliatory strikes would adversely affect tourism in these countries, thus weakening the countries’ economies. (21, H.Damar) Other analysts noted that removing Iraq as a military threat would positively affect Israel’s economy, according to Damar. Damar evaluated data supplied by the Bank for International Settlements from the first quarter of 2000 until the second quarter of 2005 and determined that credit from the United Kingdom and Italy were affected by the Iraqi conflict. He also noted that the destabilization of the region through war played a major role in lending by the banks from Great Britain and Italy. The data suggested that the increased risk of war after September 2002 had negative effect on foreign bank credit to the MENA region. Banks in Europe, specifically in Italy and Great Britain, reduced their activities in these countries to avoid negative financial exposure, according to the author.

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Another factor that affected foreign policy in Europe was public opinion concerning the Iraq War. There is a significant relationship between public opinion and foreign policy. Jan Stuchlik in Perspectives states that public opinion “constrains” foreign policy. (11, Stuchlik) The author analyzed the foreign policy arguments of France and the United Kingdom in relation to public opinion during the Iraq War. Both of these countries are permanent members of the UN Security Council, and both are influential members of the EU. However these countries greatly differed on their foreign policy solutions to the Iraq War. (12, Stuchlik) The time frame for the study was September, 2002 to March, 2003 when the American and British troops invaded Iraq. The data used to draw the conclusions regarding the direction of foreign policy came from statements in speeches from French and British politicians and some material from EU documents. Citizens’ attitudes in both countries were assessed through interviews.

The relationship between France and the United Kingdom was greatly affected during the Iraq War along with their the foreign policies because of their differences in opinions and solutions militarily. According to Stuchlik, both France and the United Kingdom are permanent members of the European Union. Second, they are leading forces in the development of the Common Foreign, Security and Defense Policy, but they differ in their visions of how European foreign policy should be shaped. Each of the European countries supported different operations and solutions to the Iraq crisis, which meant either favoring the solutions of United Kingdom or France. “Hence these two countries may be considered spokesmen for each opinion-camp. On the UK side were, for example, Spain, Portugal and Italy. On the French side were Germany and Belgium” (12, Stuchlik). The Iraq crisis is designated as the period before the second Gulf War started. “…from September 2002, when American president George Bush raised the issue at the UN General Assembly, to March 2003, when American and British troops invaded Iraq” (12, Stuchlik). The data used for analysis of French and British political arguments, and arguments of the EU, are the speeches of French and British politicians, and the common positions of the EU. (12, Stuchlik) According to Stuchlik, there was a poll conducted by the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations and the German Marshall Fund of the United States, which outlined the public opinion on foreign policy in France and the UK. The poll compared both American and European public opinions on foreign policy. “The data in the poll were collected in June and July, 2002. For the purpose of this study I use only the data dealing with European public opinion. For the characteristics of French and British public opinion I use the methods developed by Chittick and Freyberg, and Inan, dividing the questions asked into three categories, according to whether the respondents prefer unilateralism or multilateralism in international relations, whether they support the use of military power or not, and whether they support the engagement of their country for the solution of international problems or not…”(13, Stuchlik). The analysis of public opinion in France and the UK is based upon polls conducted by the British institute Mori, and French institutes Ifop and TNS Sofres, according to Stuchlik. The analysis and their comparison to general patterns of public opinion in these specific categories should prove “whether it was possible to forecast the public reactions at the beginning of the Iraq crisis and if so, whether these forecast were fulfilled” (13, Stuchlik). It is important to recognize that the citizens’ in each country reacted to external threats very differently. “It is therefore important to understand how citizens perceive external threats, and in which cases they would support a military intervention” (13, Stuchlik). According to Stuchlik, the polls gave great examples of what each nation’s ideas and fears were. “The interviewees ranked their perceptions of the most important threats for their countries’ interests differently. Frenchmen ranked international terrorism (60%) in first place, followed by global warming (52%), Islamic fundamentalism (46%), and Iraq’s development of WMDs (43%). British citizens cited the most important threat as Iraq’s development of WMDs (75%), and continued with international terrorism (74%), and Islamic fundamentalism (55%)” ( 14, Stuchlik). It is obvious that the British feel relatively more endangered by the international environment than the French. Citizens of both countries were asked to name any of the most important issues for their countries, and the British mentioned a foreign political issue (terrorism) in six percent of answers. The French did not cite any international problems among domestic issues, which interested Stuchlik. (14, Stuchlik). The British and the French were not completely different when it came to their opinions because both nations believed that military action was needed, and they did prefer humanitarian missions rather than strictly combat ones.

The Iraq War had a unique and direct affect on the foreign policy of the United Kingdom because of its vital role alongside the United States in invading Iraq. When Tony Blair became the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom he faced many unresolved problems of the second half of the twentieth century. In the article Blair’s Britain After Iraq, written by Steven Philip Kramer, Blair defined a grand strategy to meet these unresolved issues. “At stake was how to sustain economic prosperity and increase social equality, how to respond to the decay of traditional British national identity and British political institutions, how to develop a new relationship with Europe in which the United Kingdom would play a central and self-confident role, and how to balance ties to Europe and the special relationship with the United States” (90, Kramer). Blair’s efforts seemed to succeed up until the Iraq crisis drove Washington in the opposite direction of Germany and France. “The crisis challenged the cornerstone of Tony Blair’s grand strategy- that the United Kingdom could act as a bridge across the Atlantic” (90, Kramer). As stated earlier, the relationship that Blair had worked so hard to build with the French in 1998 would now change significantly because of the Iraq War. On December 3, 1998, the relationship between France and the United Kingdom was salvaged by Tony Blair. “The Franco-British summit in the French city of Saint-Malo on December 3-4,1998, called for an EU capacity for ‘autonomous action, backed up by credible military force’ to act at times when NATO as a whole was not engaged. Once involved in the push for ESDI, the United Kingdom became its de facto leader” (95, Kramer). Ultimately, the choices that Tony Blair made during the Iraq War greatly affected the UK’s relationships with other European nations. Blair handled the Iraq War crisis well. Kramer explained Blair’s response, “…before moving against Iraq, there would have to be absolute evidence of Iraqi complicity with al Qaeda,” which was not available at the time. Throughout Europe, there was widespread opposition to what was perceived as a bullying American approach and a strong belief that any intervention should take place only with the authorization of a UN Security Council resolution. The United Kingdom gave verbal support to the United States throughout the crisis. They were willing to make a significant military contribution to the war as well. “Blair never opposed the use of force, if necessary, to eliminate Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction” (97, Kramer). Blair identified the goal as getting rid of weapons of mass destruction, not a regime change.

The Iraq war divided permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and caused a split in the Atlantic Alliance. In the article The End of Bipartisan Consensus? Italian Foreign Policy and the War in Iraq, Osvaldo Croci identified the divide that the intervention had not only on the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, but on the Atlantic Alliance. The Iraq War was probably the most negative event to impact foreign policy issues in the history of both organizations, according to Croci. “The war put an end to the bipartisan consensus in Italian foreign policy, which had emerged at the end of the 1970’s and consolidated in the 1990’s” (113, Croci). The article identified the position of Italy on the War in Iraq and how it differed from other European nations’ policies at this time. According to Croci, none of the arguments made by the Bush Administration were worth going to war over (102, Croci). He even stated that the arguments put together were even less persuasive than originally thought.. The German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder chose to play the anti-war card in the elections in Germany. “German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder chose to play the anti-war card in the electoral campaign for the Bundestag elections. He announced that Germany would not take part in, nor pay for -as it had done in the 1991 Gulf War- any ‘adventure’ in Iraq” (102, Croci). The German decision would not change, according to Croci. The United States was not worried about certain European countries opposing its plan of action. “With the transatlantic rift widening further, the disagreement turned into a vituperative match when France and Germany tried to block NATO’s approval of a formal request by the U.S. government to plan logistical support for itself and Turkey in the event of war. On 30 January, the UK, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland released an innocuous joint statement of transatlantic solidarity, which under the circumstances, however, meant endorsement of the U.S. position” (104, Croci). France and Germany were obviously not pleased with the countries that agreed to help the United States in its Iraq mission. These political and military decisions caused long term problems for the permanent members of the UN, and the discord also caused a split in the Atlantic Alliance as well.

The war in Iraq affected Europe and the foreign policies in many European nations. It was a war that was also very controversial, especially within the European countries. For example, the war had a negative effect on France and the United Kingdom’s relationship. Many countries did not want to become involved in this conflict, but the Bush Administration was eager and willing to put “boots on the ground.” The war also set back Tony Blair’s foreign policies in the United Kingdom. He had great success in the United Kingdom until the War in Iraq was started. Also, public opinion in the European countries was significantly influenced by the war. Ultimately, the War in Iraq greatly affected the European nations and their foreign policies. There were monetary repercussions, the Atlantic Alliance was negatively affected, and relationships between European nations suffered due to the Iraq War.


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