Pressure on Greece

Roughly 13 months after the occupation of Iraq by US and British forces, the Middle East country resembles a minefield. Even the orchestrators of this war have been forced to concede that things have not turned out as planned. The United States is currently trying to combine the uncombinable, to maintain their grip over this Mideast country while at the same time avoiding the political cost that they now have to shoulder as a result of their occupation of foreign land. The transfer of sovereignty from the US coalition to the American-appointed interim Iraqi government is designed to serve that purpose. So is Washington’s effort to turn its problem into a NATO issue, thereby implicating other members of the transatlantic alliance who had opposed the military campaign in the first place. That was the main goal of American diplomacy at the Istanbul summit meeting, and the US got most of what it wanted. Being a NATO member, Greece could little afford to resist the dominant trend. What it can and must do, on the other hand, is to maneuver within the contours of the alliance decision. Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis made clear that should Greece take part in training the security forces of the new Iraqi government, any such training will take place on Greek territory. Athens hopes that this will keep the Greek role to a minimum. The now-departed Socialist government had followed the same path. In Afghanistan, Greece has contributed a small number of auxiliary troops. It is worth noting that the Greek government has so far resisted pressure from NATO’s secretary-general to increase the size of the Greek deployment. Athens has so far turned down such requests on the grounds that the Summer Olympic Games will use up all its available troops. However, the Games will be over in September, and as the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan is unlikely to be any different by then, pressure from NATO and Washington is likely to intensify. In other words, Karamanlis’s conservative government must brace to resist the pressure. For the time being, it is very important that Greece has managed to keep its contribution to a minimum – given that it has to make some contribution. It has done so not only because this policy reflects the majority view but also because the Olympic Games must take precedent. Athens has no option but to exhaust all room for maneuver and not succumb to pressure from Washington, which will try to share out the political deadlock and the price of its own decisions.