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« Une journée unique, comme toutes les autres 7.4.07 [FR] | Main | Juan Cole about the Valerie Plame Affair »

Iran invasion: The Dutch going ... Dutch

It is definitely not a turning point on the meandering road to an eventual US attack on Iran.
However, the refusal of a small majority in the Parliament of The Netherlands, yesterday, to go blindly along with such an action, is a new warning sign sign on the White House wall of Nebuchadnezzar Bush.

Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen (photo: NRC-Handelsblad, 4.5.07)
In 2003, some months before the total absence of WMD in Iraq was revealed, the Dutch Government decided to participate in the Anglo-American occupation of Iraq. Against parliamentary opposition, who pointed out that there did not exist an UN-approved legitimation for military intervention in Iraq, the PM Balkenende found an escape in declaring the Dutch military mission 'political', not military. But his Government did not protest when Mr. Bush, some days later, included The Netherlands in his Iraq "Coalition of the Willing", together with e.g. Lithuania and Guatemala.

Mr. Balkenende, who also leads the new center-left Dutch government that came in power after elections in November 2006, is still haunted by his 2003 trick and is hiding behind a "for-your-eyes-only" letter from British PM Tony Blair, that he claims to have received in the spring of 2003, but that he balks at releasing. As part of the new government-agreement with the second biggest government party, Dutch Labour (PvdA) he succeeded in imposing upon that party to refrain from further asking about that letter.

The same Agreement, however, states, that new Dutch military engagements need an 'adequate' international juridical basis. Partnership with the US is, as the new vote in parliament states, not to be considered as such.

Knowing, that the most recent Security Council resolution on Iran excludes explicitly military action, Foreign Minister Verhagen, a right-leaning member of PM Balkenendes Christian-Democrat Party, pleaded unsuccessfully for a government mandate to eventually follow the US, without an UNSC resolution. He was defeated by a small majority in congress, government party PvdA voting with the left and centrist opposition.

An eventual US attack against Iran would not result in an Iraq kind of invasion/occupation. The country is too vast and too populated. It would consist of sea- and air-born terror bombings. The 200 Dutch F16s, entirely integrated into US guiding and communication systems (unlike those of other NATO-countries), could have played a sizable role in bombing out the American-chosen targets in Iran. The Dutch Navy was probably assigned to rearguard tasks outside the Strait of Hormuz, but is is conceivable, that Dutch guided missiles ships would also play a more vanguard role in American plans.

The signal is more political than military, however. Even the country of the NATO Secretary-General is backing away from Bush-Cheney adventurism.

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