January 23, 2004 | Broadcast

Market Call

In Switzerland today, Annan also had some criticism for the U.S. war on terrorism.


KOFI ANNAN, U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL: On the security front, international terrorism is not only a threat to peace and stability, it also has the potential to exacerbate cultural, religious and ethnic dividing lines. And the war against terrorism can sometimes aggravate those tensions, as well as raising concerns about the protection of human rights and civil liberties.


SCHAFFLER: So are U.S. interests at risk with U.N. involvement? It’s our “Tough Call” today. Joining us Lawrence Korb, senior fellow at the Center for Americans Progress, and Andrew Apostolou, director of research from the Foundation for Defense of Democracy. It’s good to see you gentlemen with me.



SCHAFFLER: Andrew, let me start with you. What is the relationship now between the U.S. and U.N.

APOSTOLOU: Well, unfortunately, what’s happening is that we have the Bush administration in panic mode. Some months the Bush administration is bold, impressive and has great strategic vision. At the moment, they’re having difficulty doing up their shoelaces. And so they’re running to the U.N. for political cover for Mr. Bremer’s backside.

I’m afraid Kofi Annan isn’t going to give it. As you’ve seen, Kofi Annan is making it very clear, you have to come begging to him. Well, don’t worry, the Iraqis don’t want the U.N. We should regain our calm, regain our vision and get on with the good job that we’re doing. And as you just heard from those American soldiers, you can see the improvements in Iraq every day.

SCHAFFLER: Larry, would you agree that the U.S. is running scared?

KORB: Well, I think they’re more concerned about getting the situation under control and getting the U.S. out before the election, rather than worrying about the long-term situation in Iraq. There’s no way that you can really have a legitimate government in place by the end of June, which they’re trying to do, and make sure that that government has the support of all of the people there, that you can work out a realistic status of forces agreement that protects the rights of U.N. troops.

And the clock is ticking. And the Shiite clerics particularly know that, and so they’re playing hardball. And the only way for the Bush administration to get out of this self-imposed trap that they put themselves in is to go hat in hand to the United Nations because Kofi Annan can provide some cover for Sistani, who is the Shiite cleric who really speaks and has the support of all of the Shiites, who are the majority of the people.

SCHAFFLER: Andrew, if this happens, if the U.S. has to, in your words, possibly go begging, does that mean the U.S.’ position is just weakened globally?

APOSTOLOU: Well, it’s embarrassing and it will be humiliating but it won’t work. Look at what Mr. Sistani, Ayatollah Sistani, His Eminence Sistani, let’s call him that, is saying. On one day he’s saying, I’d like the U.N. in. The next day he’s saying, I don’t trust the U.N. Look at what the Iraqi Kurds have said. They’ve said they don’t need the U.N. in. The fact is, the U.N. has a legacy of failure in Iraq. The U.N. was providing money to Saddam’s sons but wouldn’t build cancer hospitals for the Kurds. The Iraqis don’t want the U.N. We have to listen to the Iraqis. Let’s not listen to our bleating regional allies in the State Department.

SCHAFFLER: Larry, at this point, where do we go?

KORB: Well, again, I would disagree. I think that the U.N. has much more sway with Ayatollah Sistani now than we do and that’s a problem we’ve created for ourselves and this is the only way that we can get out of it. We shouldn’t have set that deadline, but we did. Now we have to make the best of the situation.

And I agree that Kofi Annan is playing hardball against the U.S. because we basically humiliated the United Nations in the run-up to the war because we never had any intention of not going to war, regardless of what the inspectors found. But I do think that if we go hat in hand to Kofi Annan, which Jerry Bremer, Ambassador Bremer, did this week, that’s the only way out of this. Because if we don’t, we’re going to have a real mess on our hands come the end of June when you have a government in there that doesn’t have the support of the Iraqi people. And it could descend into chaos there.

SCHAFFLER: Now, Larry, what’s the problem with just extending the deadline? I mean, certainly deadlines get extended. Why can’t we do that or won’t we do that?

KORB: Well, I think we should but this is not the deadline I put in. The Bush administration did this basically because they wanted to put it behind it before the election. I think it’s foolish. It makes Jerry Bremer a lame duck and it makes us a lame duck. And it’s harder for us to do what needs to be done. We need to be there. I mean you can’t really have elections until at least 2005. And this caucus system we put in is more confusing than the Iowa caucuses over there. And so nobody knows what’s going on.

SCHAFFLER: Andrew, moving beyond the Iraq story, what happens the next time we have to go to the U.N. for some matter?

APOSTOLOU: Well, actually, if you look at what’s been happening in the U.N. in the last few months, we’ve actually got the resolutions passed unanimously. I mean the fact of life is, Kofi Annan doesn’t work for himself, he works for the Security Council. He works for the member states. He should reconsider his comment that he’s independent.

We have to work with the U.N.. What the U.N. should have done after last August when the Ba’athist terrorist, the people who Mr. Annan said in 1998 he could do business with, remember that infamous comment about Saddam, when they attacked the U.N., the U.N. should have turned around and said, you know what, we’re all in this together. We’re going to fight these terrorists together. He didn’t do that. That’s his problem.

We have done the right thing. We have a good working international coalition in Iraq. We’re making progress. Most Iraqi supporters, all the Kurds supporters, most Shiite supporters, and a lot of Sunnis are supporting us now that we’ve pulled Saddam out of that hole in the ground. We’re doing well. Let’s keep on.

SCHAFFLER: So, Larry, quickly, is this just a bump on the road?

KORB: No. I think it’s more than a bump on a road because with the deadline that the administration put us in. If they hadn’t done that, I agree, we could have continued to make progress slowly but surely and kept the situation under control. But they panicked in November with all of the casualties concerned about elections and now they’ve got a tough hole to dig themselves out of.

SCHAFFLER: Larry Korb, Andrew Apostolou, thanks so much, gentlemen. Nice conversation.

APOSTOLOU: Thank you very much.