Tough times ahead

The course of the US-led war in Iraq has roused alarm as Washington’s hopes of a swift victory yield to grimmer forecasts. The warnings by US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld against Iraq and Syria, which he accused of engaging in «hostile acts» against the USA because it had allegedly allowed the transit of Iraq-bound supplies and troops through its territory, were yesterday reiterated by US Secretary of State Colin Powell. «Syria bears the responsibility for its choices, and for the consequences,» Powell said, making it clear that «Syria can continue direct support for terrorist groups and the dying regime of Saddam Hussein, or it can embark on a different and more hopeful course.» As for Iran, Powell said, «It is now time for the entire international community to step up and insist that Iran end its support for terrorists» and «stop pursuing weapons of mass destruction.» It is to be hoped that these developments will not signal the spilling-over of the military campaign into other countries in the region. They do, however, give a foretaste of tough times, filled with tension, volatility, diplomatic and perhaps military conflict, with unknown and potentially far-reaching repercussions. Greece must brace itself for an unfriendly international environment marked by uncertainty and confrontation. The government should abandon its uselessly reassuring statements about the lack of danger and instead consolidate the country’s economic and political defenses. Aspiring to further integration into Europe, of which it is an integral part but, at the same time, taking into account the country’s peculiar security status – that is, affected by a Turkey highly susceptible to US influence – the government must brave the political cost of making difficult and, at times, painful decisions. The unwavering and unreserved support offered by Greece’s conservative opposition for the country’s European orientation underscores the unanimous stance of the two main Greek political parties on this principal strategic issue. The Greek administration must realize the gravity of the situation, avoid procrastination and spasmodic moves, and take the necessary measures when developments call for them. In the tough times ahead, our leaders must not remain silent, hoping the storm will pass with minimum damage to the country.