NATO Expected to Support Call to Help in Iraq
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
ISTANBUL, Turkey, June 27, 2004 The United States "is cautiously optimistic" that NATO will agree tomorrow to support Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's request for assistance, a senior defense official said here today.
Support for the new Iraqi government is expected to dominate discussions at the two-day NATO Istanbul Summit, which kicks off June 28.
Heads of state from NATO's 26 nations will discuss Allawi's request for help in bolstering Iraq's security forces to defeat terrorists he said "are determined to derail our political transition toward a stable democracy" and to reduce Iraq's reliance on foreign forces.
In a June 20 letter to NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, Allawi urged NATO and the international community to help equip Iraq's security forces and provide in-country training and other technical assistance.
Acknowledging that his nation is "going through a very difficult period in its history" and that "our indigenous capabilities remain limited," Allawi said he is confident that with NATO's help, Iraq ultimately "will deliver a major setback to terrorism globally."
Allawi said Iraq is expediting the formation of its army as well as its international security and counter-terrorism capabilities. "We are determined to defeat the terrorists," he wrote.
A senior defense official said here today the United States "will be pressing hard for NATO allies to be responsive to the Iraqis' request for assistance."
"If at this summit we can show support as an alliance for the Iraqis, that will be a big plus," she said. "If the goal is to support a sovereign Iraq, then building up their capabilities is very meaningful."
Once alliance members make a political decision to support Iraq's request something the United States expects on the summit's first day -- the task of coming up with options to carry it out will fall to military authorities, the official explained.
Iraq's call for NATO help was not unexpected. Earlier this month, the NATO secretary-general told the Centre of European Reform he didn't know when, or if, a sovereign and legitimate Iraqi government might request NATO assistance. But if the request did come, Scheffer said, the international community "simply cannot afford" to let Iraq fail. "I believe that, if both the U.N. and the Iraqi people call on NATO for help, the Atlantic Alliance cannot turn a blind eye," he said.
Sixteen NATO members have troops on the ground in Iraq, and NATO continues to support the Polish-led Multinational Division, Scheffer pointed out.