The banner of the Islamist revolution in the Middle East today has largely passed to groups sponsored by or derived from the Muslim Brotherhood. This article develops an introductory examination of three key Muslim Brotherhood groups and compares their politics, interrelations, and methods. Each, of course, is adapted to the conditions of a particular country.
The banner of the Islamist revolution in the Middle East today has largely passed to groups sponsored by or derived from the Muslim Brotherhood. This article develops an introductory examination of three key Muslim Brotherhood groups and compares their politics, interrelations, and methods. Each, of course, is adapted to the conditions of a particular country.
First, it is important to understand the Brotherhood’s policy toward and relations with both jihadist groups (al-Qa’ida, the Zarqawi network, and others such as Hizb al-Tahrir and Hamas) and theorists (such as Abu Mus’ab al-Suri and Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi).
The Brotherhoods do not have ongoing relationships with Hizb al-Tahrir–which is regarded by them as a small, cultish group of no importance. Other than in Jordan, they have had little contact with it at all.
Regarding al-Qa’ida–both its theorists and its terrorist infrastructure–the Brotherhoods approve generally of its militancy, attacks on America, and ideology (or respect its ideologues), but view it as a rival. An example of this kind of thinking comes from Rajab Hilal Hamida, a Brotherhood member in Egypt’s parliament, who said:
His final sentence is intended to show the difference between the Brotherhood’s and al-Qa’ida’s views of strategy and tactics.
Al-Qa’ida has a growing presence in Syria, and it is trying to grab militants who would otherwise be Brotherhood supporters. In Jordan, it has operated independently as a small group carrying out terrorist operations–which have been condemned by the Brotherhood there, since a number of Jordanians and Palestinians have been killed in bombings.
In Egypt the story is somewhat different, since the jihadist group is an al-Qa’ida affiliate, and many leaders–in fact one might argue the principal influence–of the organization come from Egypt. Again, though the factors of rivalry and concern over government reactions would make the Brotherhood keep its distance from al-Qa’ida, individuals, wanting more immediate revolutionary action, have furnished recruits in the past.
In considering the relationship of the Brotherhood groups with al-Qa’ida three key factors must be kept in mind. First, the Brotherhood and the jihadists are the two main Islamist streams today. They are not enemies, and there has been no violent conflict between them, nor has there been a great deal of ideological battle. Yet at the same time they are rivals, following different strategies and knowing that one or the other would gain mass support and perhaps state power. Thus, it would be misleading to speak of cooperation, except in the special case of Iraq, as discussed below.
Second, a critical difference between the two groups is that the jihadists–except in Saudi Arabia and Iraq–focus on attacking what is called the “far enemy,” that is, Israel, the United States, the West in general. The Brotherhoods, in contrast, while strongly anti-Israel (and supporting Hamas, see below) and anti-Western, focus on the “near enemy,” that is, Arab governments. Thus, for them, while al-Qa’ida is fighting for the cause, it is also undermining it (except in Iraq) by pulling resources out of the struggle for change within the Arab world.
Third, while the Brotherhood groups are tactically flexible (as has been shown above), al-Qa’ida is exclusively focused on armed struggle. The Brotherhood groups view the revolutionary process as a long-term one, involving such things as providing social services, educating and indoctrinating young people through institutions, using elections, compromising at times with Arab governments, showing restraint to avoid government repression, at times allying with non-Islamist groups, and so on. Thus, while al-Qa’ida is far more of a danger in terms of terrorism, it is far less likely to seize state power because of what would be called in Leninist terms, its “infantile leftism.”
The best example of this is the use of elections. In Jordan and Egypt, Brotherhood groups embraced opportunities to run candidates in elections even when they knew that the regime would not count the votes accurately or let them win. Al-Qa’ida has condemned elections as putting human voters and parliamentarians in the place of God in terms of making laws. Contrast here the views of the al-Qa’ida leader in Iraq, Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi and the influential Brotherhood ideologue Qaradawi. In a January 23, 2005 statement, Zarqawi condemned the upcoming Iraqi elections and threatened to kill those running and voting. In sharp contrast, Qaradawi endorsed elections, arguing that the majority of voters would back an Islamist party, while liberals would get little support. If truly fair elections were to be held, he insisted, Islamists would win by a landslide. This analysis correctly predicted the results of the 2005 Egyptian and 2006 Palestinian elections.
In institutional terms, all the above points apply in discussing the Iraqi insurgency if one looks at it as a struggle led by al-Qa’ida. However, in terms of the insurgency itself, while the Brotherhood groups strongly support it and view it as an important struggle, there is no institutional involvement, as there has been in backing Palestinians in the past.
Additionally, the Syrian Brotherhood has a problem, because the government it is fighting is a major patron of the Iraqi insurgency and uses it to strengthen its support among the Islamists who function publicly in Syria. They support it enthusiastically, but in the short run, at least, it does not benefit them; the Syrian Brotherhood would be happier if the leadership did not come from al-Qa’ida.
If one wants a parallel to past experience, one might compare the Brotherhoods’ attitude to revolution and armed struggle to the official Communist parties and al-Qa’ida’s to Maoist groups in the 1960s and 1970s. The former argue that the time is not ripe for revolution and that a variety of methods be used; the latter are for all-out revolutionary struggle now.
Thus, the Brotherhood groups have a profile of their own, self-consciously quite different in strategy and tactics–though very parallel in ideology and goals–from the jihadist groups.
To what extent are the Brotherhood groups coordinating among themselves in the International Organization of the Muslim Brotherhood? Does it provide strategic orientation, tactical coordination, and financial and/or operational support?
The Brotherhoods operate in parallel rather than collectively, and there is virtually no coordination between them. If asked, Brotherhood leaders in Egypt, Jordan, and Syria would of course say that they support each other, but in practice it is surprising how little practical backing is offered. For one thing, they are all internally oriented rather than internationalist, except on the Palestinian and Iraq issues, though some funds raised by Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood-controlled institutions are donated to Islamist struggles abroad.
Aside from their daily focus and largely “national revolution” goals, there are other reasons for this orientation. Conditions in each country are very different; Abd-al-Majid al-Dhunaybat, controller-general of the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood, said in an interview that the groups in Egypt and Jordan make their own decisions based on local conditions. Indeed, he denied that any international organization existed and said that this was an idea put forth by the Brotherhood’s enemies.
At the same time, however, Dhunaybat admitted that the leader of the Egyptian Brotherhood–elected only by that group–is seen as being the supreme guide of the movement as a whole. In his words:
The individual Brotherhoods have a specific problem with coordinating too openly or extensively. The regimes in Egypt and Jordan would not appreciate a vocal stance of calling for the overthrow of other Arab governments, while in Syria the movement is too harried to help anyone else and–except from Jordan–receives little assistance in its life-and-death struggle. For all practical purposes, while these groups respect the same ideologues–for example, Yusuf Qaradawi–they operate independently and in response to local conditions. This is another distinction between them and al-Qa’ida, whose effort to create an Islamist International is in sharp contrast to Brotherhood practice.
Even when the Brotherhoods influence the movement in other places, these contacts are bilateral. For example, Hamas in the Gaza Strip is related to the Egyptian Brotherhood, while Hamas in the West Bank has its links to the Jordanian Brotherhood. Furthermore, to make matters even more complex, the Hamas external leadership is located in Damascus, where the Syrian Brotherhood is outlawed, and its patron is the regime that persecutes the Brotherhood. At times, in discussing the Hamas victory, Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood sources have said that the “Muslim Brotherhood” won the Palestinian elections. Yet, again, these are parallel and fraternal movements, not truly branches of a transnational organization.
Next, the strategic and tactical orientation of each national branch (objectives, alliances, organizational forms, attitudes toward the political system in the country where it operates, etc.) should be considered.
What is truly remarkable in discussing the Muslim Brotherhoods of Syria, Jordan, and Egypt is how three groups so parallel in origin, ideology, and goals have developed so differently due to the local situations they face. This fact also reflects the difference between the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qa’ida groups. The former have proven tactically flexible; the latter committed to armed struggle as the only proper strategy.
One might sum up the conditions in this way: The Muslim Brotherhood groups are as anti-American and extreme in their goals as the bin Ladinist ones. However, they almost always put the emphasis on gaining power within the context of a single country, compared to the international jihadist policy of al-Qa’ida. Equally, Muslim Brotherhood groups are far more likely to seize power than the bin Ladinist ones, but as long as they do not govern countries, they are also less dangerous in terms of terrorist violence. It also should be noted, however, that many violent revolutionary groups–especially in Egypt–have emerged from the more militant end of the Muslim Brotherhood spectrum.
Briefly, the distinction between the Syrian, Jordanian, and Egyptian groups may be summarized as follows:
The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood is a revolutionary underground group, because it has been outlawed by the government there. Law Number 49 of 1981 declares mere membership in the group to be punishable by death. In 1982, the regime unleashed a huge wave of repression against the Muslim Brotherhood, destroying much of its infrastructure and driving it into exile. The Brotherhood has unsuccessfully tried to regain from the regime the right to operate in Syria. Thus, for example, in 2001, it supported a manifesto backed by a broad spectrum of oppositionists urging the end of single-party rule and holding democratic elections. Given the failure of these efforts, the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood today is part of a broad coalition of anti-regime groups, which include the former vice president of the regime. In political terms, it functions as a leading group–perhaps in the future, the leader–of the Sunni Arab community, which comprises roughly 60 percent of the population. Thus, it can be characterized as revolutionary (though not necessarily through its own preference) and communalist. Yet while the Egyptian and Jordanian Brotherhoods are in an optimistic mood and are arguably gaining ground, their Syrian counterpart is frustrated and prevented from exploiting a trend toward Islamist thinking in Syria. In recent years, the regime has cultivated Syrian Islamists by building new mosques, allowing radicals to be preachers, and supporting the Islamist insurgency in neighboring Iraq. For obvious reasons, these cultivated activists have not adhered to the Muslim Brotherhood and may build rival groups, including al-Qa’ida affiliates.
As for the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood, it is a legal group that uses peaceful methods and participates in elections through its political wing, the Islamic Action Front. It has at times cooperated with the monarchy, though recently relations have been strained by its show of sympathy for al-Qa’ida’s leader in Iraq, Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi, which led to a regime crackdown on the Brotherhood in July 2006. It is restrained due to fear of repression but also moderated by having a share of authority. It controls professional groups and other institutions. However, it also knows that the regime will never let it win elections. Thus, the key element of its strategy is a willingness to remain permanently a group that enjoys benefits and privileges but cannot take power or change the country. While it appeals to many Palestinians, the Jordanian Brotherhood also has a considerable East Bank membership and thus is not a communalist organization. Given the decline of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and Fatah (that is, Palestinian nationalism), the Brotherhood could become the main organization gaining loyalty from Jordanian Palestinians.
The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood is somewhere in between its two counterparts. It is not technically legal, but is allowed to function normally most of the time. Leaders and activists are periodically arrested by the government to remind the Brotherhood that it functions only if the regime finds its behavior satisfactory. Denied the right to have a party of its own, however, the Muslim Brotherhood has found it easy to work with or even virtually take over other parties, notably the Wafd in the 1980s, and is even willing to work with liberals to press the regime for concessions. In the 2005 elections, when allowed to run what amounted to its own slate, the Brotherhood won 20 percent of the seats in parliament. While it is incorrect to say that the Egyptian Brotherhood has not been involved with violence–and many factions have also left to form terrorist groups–the movement generally avoids it.
To gain a sense of how the Brotherhood can conduct a cultural war, the case of Faraj Fawda is indicative. Fawda was a liberal critic of the Islamists. In 1992, Fawda debated Brotherhood leader Muhammad al-Ghazali at the Cairo Book Fair. Brotherhood members in the audience heckled Fawda. When Fawda was murdered five months later by an Islamist, Ghazali testified at the killer’s trial, saying that he had acted properly in killing an “apostate” like Fawda. After being sentenced to execution, the defendant shouted: “Now I will die with a clear conscience!”
The Brotherhoods also played a key role in the Danish cartoon controversy. Qaradawi was a key person in spreading the protest movement. The Egyptian Brotherhood demanded an apology for the publication and urged a boycott of Danish products. The Islamic Action Front organized a protest demonstration in Amman. They clearly saw this as a good issue on which to build a broad base, as defending Islam against alleged attacks on it in the West. Abu Laban himself has strong ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, so he connected into this network on his visit in an attempt to get an active response on the issue.
To carry out their operations, the Brotherhood groups are reasonably well-funded. Their money seems to come from four major sources. First, rich adherents to the movements give donations. This is especially true of Egyptians who emigrated to Saudi Arabia or Kuwait and became rich there. One of the main Islamist Egyptian businessmen is Hisham Tal’at Mustafa, who is a partner of the Saudi billionaire Prince al-Walid ibn Talal al-Sa’ud. Second, the Brotherhoods in Jordan and Egypt control professional and other associations from which funds can be drained for their cause. Third, in Egypt at least, there are Islamic banks and enterprises–sometimes involved with major corruption scandals–which are a source of money. Finally, there is international funding, including Saudi state and Kuwaiti or Saudi charitable foundations, in some cases passed through the international organization. The Saudis and Kuwaitis involved are not so much trying to use the Brotherhoods as state sponsors but rather merely ensuring that they do nothing inimical to Saudi or Kuwaiti interests.
Is the Muslim Brotherhood conducive to dialogue with the United States, and if so, over what specific issues? If by dialogue what is meant is to talk to American officials, the answer is generally yes. However, if what is meant here is the ability of American officials to change Brotherhood positions through explanations and mutual understanding or to engage in negotiations that would lead to any cooperation, the answer is generally no.
The Islamic Front in Jordan says that holding such a dialogue is a decision that might be taken by any individual group. Dhunaybat has no objection to his Egyptian colleagues doing it, but:
Yet Ă?ÂŻĂ?ÂżĂ?Â˝Dhunaybat also has no objection to the Islamic Action Front in Jordan–which his group largely controls–from having a dialogue with the United States. This approach is clearly a division of labor in which the Brotherhood maintains the stance of an internationalist revolutionary group, while the Front, as a political party, can have such contacts if it aids its own interests.
There are some specific points on which the Brotherhoods both want to influence the United States and think that doing so would be possible. These include the Egyptian Brotherhood’s desire that the United States push harder for democratic elections and more civic rights in Egypt. While they would denounce such things publicly as imperialistic, the Brotherhood wants to widen its sphere for public action. If elections were freer, the Brotherhood could win more seats. Indeed, some leaders believe it would win outright in free elections, though this is more doubtful. Of course, another goal of the Brotherhood is to win legal status as an organization.
Syria is clearly the most interesting case. Both the United States and the Syrian Brotherhood view the regime as an enemy. Would this be a case of the adage that the enemy of my enemy is my friend? The answer is likely, yes. The Syrian Brotherhood might well be willing to talk about U.S. covert support. Indeed, since it is participating in a wider coalition also, it could more easily excuse such a policy as going along with its partners.
It should be stressed, however, that this is a dangerous game. A stronger Syrian Brotherhood might be able to seize leadership of the 60 percent Sunni Arab population and take over the country, transforming Syria into an Islamic republic. Such an outcome could create far worse crises and threats to U.S. influence in the region. In addition, it should be noted that while the Muslim Brotherhoods in Egypt and Jordan are the largest Islamist factors in their respective countries, this is no longer necessarily true for their counterpart in Syria.
The Brotherhoods’ view of the United States and its allies is profoundly hostile. They view the United States as extremely hostile, trying to take over the Middle East and destroy Islam. While they are passionately opposed to U.S. support for Israel, they are no happier with American support for the Egyptian and Jordanian regimes.
In terms of their analysis of and hostility toward the United States, there is not much difference between the Brotherhoods and al-Qa’ida, though their responses to this analysis are very different. One difference in analysis is that al-Qa’ida argues that American support is the main reason why Arab regimes survive. This legitimates their priority on attacking the United States. The Brotherhoods have a more sophisticated understanding of the sources of power and support for regimes, though they overstate American influence and responsibility in their own countries.
The preceding analysis may seem to apply mainly to Egypt and Jordan. The Syrian Brotherhood has to deal with the fact of American hostility toward Damascus, though it no doubt has some belief in conspiracy theories that they are secretly allied. At any rate, this does not make them any less anti-American. One response may be to argue that America is a great threat to Syria but that the Ba’thist regime is incapable of handling it and that only an Islamist government could do so victoriously.
Given these positions, the Brotherhoods’ support for the Iraqi insurgency is not surprising. All three, including their top leaders, have attacked the U.S. presence in Iraq in the most extreme terms and have called for supporting the insurgents. It should be remembered that even if the Brotherhood groups do not have institutional links to the insurgency leadership (which largely comes from al-Qa’ida), they are all Sunni Arab Islamists and in this case seem undisturbed by this distinction.
When Zarqawi, himself a Jordanian, was killed, Zaki Sa’d, the leader of the Islamic Action Front, praised him but also distinguished the Brotherhood from al-Qa’ida regarding their tactics. Zarqawi, he said, was acting not only legitimately but as a Muslim must act in fighting the American forces in Iraq, and the Islamic Action Front supported these actions. Yet it also denounced operations targeting innocent civilians. He did not specifically mention Iraqis in this context but used as his examples the bloody bombing of hotels in Amman by al-Qa’ida forces.
The Brotherhoods have not directly organized units or sent members to Iraq, though it is probable that some of the Jordanians (but fewer of the Egyptians or Syrians) who go there might be rank-and-file members. After all, the leaders of all three groups have told them that fighting the Americans is an Islamic duty. It should also be noted, however, that contrary to al-Qa’ida, the Brotherhoods focus on fighting the American forces rather than the Iraqi Shi’a and Kurds. For them, the battle in Iraq is against non-Muslims rather than an attempt to take over the country and defeat non-Arabs or non-Sunni Muslims there.
In what direction, then, are the Brotherhood groups evolving? Each Muslim Brotherhood group faces a key question regarding its evolution. For the Egyptians, it is whether to continue in the phase of da’wa–recruiting, propagandizing, base-building, and accepting the limits the government places on it–or to move into a more activist phase, demanding political changes and being willing to confront the regime. Given the organization’s current high level of confidence, as the younger generation takes over and the government perhaps appears weaker–especially during the transition to a new president–it could well push harder.
In Jordan, the movement faces the same options, but is probably even more skewed to the side of caution. Its choice is whether to accept the limits of its current operation or to push harder on elections and on a real parliamentary system in which the legislature can affect the monarch’s policies and decisions. Especially important–and delicate–here is the communal relationship. The Brotherhood could become more dependent on Palestinian support, which would broaden its base while also making it more suspect to the regime. It seems likely that caution will prevail.
As for Syria, the Brotherhood there faces the possibility of beginning an active revolutionary armed struggle to overthrow the regime, trying to use the unpopularity of the Alawite-dominated government (the Alawites are not even Muslims) to rouse the Sunni Arab majority to jihad. Given the weakness of the current Syrian leadership, its international isolation, and multiple problems–far greater than its counterparts in Egypt and Jordan–it is quite possible that a major crisis would be seen by the Brotherhood as creating such a revolutionary situation. Yet newer groups with stronger bases in Syria, or at least able to operate more freely there, might be the ones who gain most from this situation.
In terms of their stands on different issues, especially regarding international affairs, the Brotherhoods are fairly candid. Inasmuch as they conceal anything, it is to downplay their goal of an Islamist state in which they rule or specific points such as the likely treatment of non-Muslims in a country they would rule. The cautious rhetoric of the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood concerning domestic politics, the Syrian Brotherhood’s willingness to participate in a broad anti-regime front, and the Egyptian Brotherhood’s professions of support for democracy all conceal their objectives of monopolizing power and transforming their societies.
Yet this does not mean that these goals are not often discussed, even publicly. Sometimes this is done indirectly. For example, such key Egyptian Brotherhood leaders as Salah Abu Isma’il and Muhammad al-Ghazali, and then-head of the organization Omar al-Tilmisani praised Sudan at a time when it had temporarily become an Islamist state. They certainly endorsed the application of Muslim law, Shari’a, as the law of the land and have advocated this continually.
In its March 2004 platform, the Egyptian Brotherhood stated:
In order to achieve this goal, the Brotherhood’s “mission is to build a Muslim individual, a Muslim family and an Islamic rule to lead other Islamic states.” On specific points, it explains, this means that the media should be censored to coincide with Islam, and the economic and political system should also be structured in this vein. Equally, the “focus of education,” at least in the early years of schooling, “should be on learning the Qur’an by heart,” and “women should only hold the kind of posts that would preserve their virtue.” In parliament, Egyptian Brotherhood members have focused on trying to control the culture, with a great deal of indirect success.
The Brotherhood’s former leader and guide, Mamun al-Hudaybi, explained that its purpose is to establish Islamic unity and an Islamic Caliphate, while former Supreme Guide Mustafa Mashur stated: “We accept the concept of pluralism for the time being; however, when we will have Islamic rule we might then reject this concept or accept it.”
Within the Brotherhood groups, there are also examples of pluralism, most obviously in the Egyptian case. Like parties based on Marxism, from the start, the Brotherhood had a strategy built on the notion of stages. The first stage is base-building. Individuals and families are indoctrinated with proper thought and behavior, coming to constitute a society within the society based on Shari’a. This is the phase of da’wa, a historic Muslim word meaning spreading the faith but which here can be likened to mass- and cadre-organizing. As with Communist parties, the key question is when this phase should be turned into a revolutionary stage, where active measures are taken to seize state power.
The older leadership, which has a better memory of the massive regime repression during the period from the 1950s to 1980s, is more cautious. An example is the current guide, top leader Muhammad Mahdi Akif, who joined in 1948 and was imprisoned in the 1950s and 1960s.
Some of the younger and middle-aged members want a more energetic policy, not using violence but pushing harder for elections, being more aggressive in demanding legalization, and eventually running a candidate for president. Their experience often comes from involvement in the Jama’at al-Islamiyya (Islamic Group) in the 1970s, a more militant organization that did extensive student and community organizing, after which some of its members joined the armed struggle of the 1990s. Examples here include such Brotherhood leaders as Isam al-Aryan, head of the political bureau, and Abd al-Mun’im Abu al-Futuh.
One issue on which there are disputes is how to deal with the likely succession from President Husni Mubarak to his son, Gamal. One view is to make a deal with the government in which the Brotherhood accepts this transition in exchange for legalization, an end to the emergency laws, and fairer elections.
In Syria, there are not any clear major differences within the Muslim Brotherhood. This, however, does not just reflect strength. Those who have different views are instead operating as independent Islamists or perhaps even thinking of turning to al-Qa’ida rather than joining the Brotherhood and expressing their positions in its ranks. It should be emphasized that for a Syrian Islamist to join the Brotherhood today is a questionable decision, because he could organize for Islamism far more freely as an independent who conceals his ultimate goals. In other words, the Syrian Brotherhood might come to be seen as an outdated organization of a previous generation, a phenomenon that is clearly not happening in Egypt (where the Brotherhood outlasted its younger rivals) or Jordan.
*Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, Interdisciplinary University, and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest book is The Truth About Syria (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007). For details and to order, click here.
 Ruz al-Yusuf, January 28-February 3, 2006.
 For a history and analysis of Islamist movements in Egypt, see Barry Rubin, Islamic Fundamentalism in Egyptian Politics, Second Revised Edition (Palgrave Press, 2002).
 http://www.islah.300.org/vboard/showthread.php?t=120471, January 23, 2005.
 Al-Sharq al-Awsat, February 10, 2006.
 Al-Hayat, January 16, 2001.
 On the Brotherhood’s participation in the debate over elections, see A. Shefa, “Towards the September 7 Presidential Elections in Egypt: Public Debate over the Change in the Electoral System,” Middle East Media Research Insititute (MEMRI) Inquiry and Analysis Series, No. 237, September 2, 2005, http://memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Page=archives&Area=ia&ID=IA23705.
 On this and other issues in the struggle between Islamists and liberals, see Barry Rubin, The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (NY: Wiley Press, 2005), pp. 1, 23-24.
 Times of London, January 31, 2006.
 Gulf News, February 11, 2006.
 Al-Sharq al-Awsat, February 10, 2006.
 For examples, see the documents translated in “The Muslim Brotherhood Movement in Support of Fighting Americans Forces in Iraq,” MEMRI Special Dispatch Series, No. 776, September 3, 2004.
 See for example the interview with Humam Sa’id, assistant controller general of the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood, in al-Sharq al-Awsat, August 7, 2004.
 On these issues and on the Muslim Brotherhood as a parliamentary party, see Magdi Khalil, “Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and Political Power: Would Democracy Survive?” Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, Vol. 9, No. 2 (June 2006), http://meria.idc.ac.il/journal/2006/issue1/jv10no1a3.html.
 This point is discussed in Rubin, Islamic Fundamentalism in Egyptian Politics.
 For a detailed history of this era and group, see Rubin, The Long War for Freedom.
the debates within EU institutions regarding events in Iraq and the extent and nature of their engagement with that country in the post-Saddam era.
Differences in the European and U.S. approaches to the issue of Iraq began to emerge already in the 1990s. This period, following the successful expulsion of Iraq from Kuwait in 1991, was characterized by a policy of containment. Alongside this policy, however, the United States became progressively more involved in advocating democracy for Arab states, a process which had no parallel in Europe. The slow movement in Washington from a policy of containment to one of regime change reached a significant milestone in 1998, with the Clinton Administration passing the Iraq Liberation Act. No parallel movement took place in Europe.
European opposition to a policy of regime change in Iraq meant that little deliberation had taken place in Europe as to what a post-Saddam Iraq might look like. There was also a pronounced wariness in continental Europe regarding the Iraqi opposition. Even a December 2002 conference on the subject of democracy in Iraq had to be moved from Brussels to London because of the sensitivity of the subject for continental Europeans. In Britain too, the country closest to the United States on Iraq, relations between Iraqi oppositionists–who maintained a strong presence in London– and official circles were few.
As this article will show, the split between the “Atlanticist” British and the French, with their desire to balance the power of the United States, has been a key division throughout in the European response to Iraq as well as to other foreign policy issues. A general European suspicion of bold unilateral actions by states outside of the framework of international institutions is also a crucial element. Less pronounced in the United Kingdom, this is a theme constantly repeated by French and German critics of the invasion of Iraq.
Europe’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) came into being following the Maastricht Treaty in 1993. In 1999, the CFSP was solidified through the creation of the position of its high representative. The Iraq crisis was the most significant test with which the CFSP had yet been required to contend. Iraq, however, saw the EU failing to act as one. Rather, the approach of real crisis resulted in the major powers of the EU splitting–with France in a familiar fashion pioneering opposition to the U.S.-led plans for invasion of Iraq; Germany supporting the French stance (the Iraq crisis saw Germany adopting the unfamiliar stance of defiance of the United States); and the UK aligning itself firmly alongside America and committing troops to the invasion. Other European countries in essence gathered around one or other of these positions.
DIVISIONS IN THE APPROACH TO WAR
Concern at the ambitions of the Saddam Hussein regime and at the possibility that Iraq was concealing aspects of its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) program from UN inspection teams was common to the United States and all EU nations. On the basis of this shared concern, Security Council Resolution 1441 was passed on November 9, 2002, with the appearance of unity within the EU. Evidence of a differing orientation toward the use of force among EU countries, however, was already discernible.
In France and Germany, the willingness to break openly with Washington on this issue was particularly noticeable from the outset. The U.S. Administration noted and was angered by the use of populist anti-war rhetoric made by then German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in his bid for re-election in September 2002. It was the first sign of a new atmosphere of mutual impatience and exasperation between the United States and certain countries in Western Europe. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s much-quoted comments made at this time differentiating between “Old Europe”–France and Germany–and “New Europe”–the former Communist countries of Central Europe, who were more sympathetic to America’s stance on Iraq, confirmed the attitude of mutual suspicion emerging between the U.S. Administration and the French and German governments.
As military action began to look more and more inevitable in the first months of 2003, French President Jacques Chirac became the main spokesman for the view that UN weapons inspectors needed more time to search Iraq for banned arms. He backed a request by the UN’s chief nuclear weapons inspector, Muhammad al-Barada’i, for an extension of “several months.” The French president noted that his country was coordinating its positions closely with Germany. Germany indeed voiced its opposition to a UN Security Council vote on military action and, unlike France, indicated that it would oppose any request for UN support for military action.
The French desire to act as a counterweight to the United States on the international stage is, as noted above, a perennial feature of international affairs. Germany, however, has been among the most pro-U.S. countries in Europe, and so its emergent opposition to the U.S. stand on Iraq was more surprising. It may be seen as an aspect of Berlin’s increasing desire to play an independent, assertive role in international affairs in line with its own public opinion, as well as very deep skepticism in Europe regarding the reasons for war with Iraq.
Opposed to the emergent Franco-German alliance against the war were countries representing both “Old” and “New” Europe, in Secretary Rumsfeld’s terms. In the former category, both UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar were firmly with the U.S. view regarding the danger represented by Iraq, the brutally repressive nature of its regime, and its expansionist and WMD ambitions. There was clear resentment on the part of both these men for what they regarded as the high-handed attitude of the French president and the sense in which his attitude seemed to imply a situation of natural French leadership in Europe.
Blair placed more stress than did the United States on the need for a clear international mandate for action over Iraq, and was a leading voice in arguing for a second UN Security Council resolution before any further steps were taken. This position was vital from the point of view of the British prime minister’s domestic standing, but in practice served only to sharpen the differences between the British and French positions, rendering less likely the possibility of a joint European response.
As mentioned above, this rift between the UK and France over the Iraq question cast into bold relief two starkly different positions regarding the role of Europe in world affairs. Blair, in the Atlanticist approach favored by nearly all post-1945 British prime ministers, sought to align with the United States while seeking to influence it and to embed U.S. action in international consensus. Chirac, again in line with his own Gaullist tradition, considered that the building of alternative alliances and acting as a counter-weight to American dominance was the proper European role. These were the poles around which other member states now gathered themselves.
Thus, broadly supportive of the French and German position were Belgium, Greece, Luxembourg, and neutral states such as the Republic of Ireland. In the Atlanticist corner, meanwhile, apart from the UK were to be found Spain, Italy, Holland, and–less emphatically–Portugal and Denmark. The additional support of Central European and Baltic EU member states for the U.S. position, as declared in February 2003, served to anger the French and led to President Chirac’s famous outburst that the government of these countries had “missed an excellent opportunity to keep silent.”
There was a consensus in Europe that international action of one kind or another over Iraq was necessary. Yet it was differing outlooks regarding the efficacy of the use of force, the importance of the role of international institutions, and–not least–the power of the United States as much as analysis of the Iraq situation itself that seemed to determine the stance taken.
These differing stances did not remain on the declarative level alone. With no second UN resolution forthcoming, the UK, along with Spain and backed by the Netherlands, Italy, and Poland, committed troops to the invasion of Iraq. The war thus proceeded without the second UN resolution desired by the UK and with the open opposition of France and Germany. These latter countries found themselves in an unlikely alliance with Russia over the war.
The build-up to the Iraq War of 2003 witnessed an unprecedented situation, which revealed deep and basic divisions within Europe over the conduct of international affairs. These differences were based on known, differing conceptions of Europe’s role. Yet the nature of the crisis led to the differences acquiring a hitherto unseen sharpness.
Robert Kagan, famously, expressed the view that “Americans are from Mars, Europeans are from Venus.” The Iraq crisis, however, indicates that within Europe, both partially-“Martian” and “Venusian” tendencies exist. France and Germany were committed to a view that stressed the absolute centrality of international institutions as the only basis for international order and for action by states in defense of that order.
The United States, in contrast, as by far the strongest single state, exhibited a greater willingness to act alone or in cooperation with coalitions specifically created for the achievement of specific goals. Atlanticist-inclined European states, most significantly the UK and Spain, were to a degree caught between the two approaches. British Prime Minister Tony Blair was known to be concerned following the conclusion of the conventional state of hostilities in Iraq at the possibility of a real split of the developed world into opposing power blocs. Blair was undoubtedly no less sincerely committed to the goals of the war in Iraq than was the U.S. president. Yet the secondary goal of preventing such a rift from deepening was important for Britain.
The sharp rifts in the approach to war in Iraq led to the emergence of popular, caricatured versions of the two sides’ motivations. In Europe, the slogans of the large demonstrations that took place in the capitals depicted the American motivation for war as based on a desire for access to Iraqi mineral resources or a wish on the part of the U.S. president to continue the task of toppling Saddam, which his father had begun in 1991. In the United States, meanwhile, supporters of the war portrayed the French and German stance as motivated by the desire for contracts with Iraq or an inherent fearfulness of decisive international action.
In fact, however, what was revealed in the approach to the war were basic differences in the view of the international system, which did not disappear with the U.S. decision to rely only on the “coalition of the willing,” and which have continued to inform the approaches of European countries to Iraq in the period following the invasion. These different perceptions derive from a combination of intellectual conception and orientation, the self-interest and the desire of states to offset the power and influence of other states, and of course economic interests.
EU AND EUROPEAN STATES’ POLICY ON IRAQ FOLLOWING THE INVASION
In observing the direction and nature of European policy since the invasion, the following section will focus on three areas: the political/diplomatic, economic, and military/counterterror fields.
Politics and Diplomacy
Following the invasion and the destruction of the Saddam Hussein regime, the initial stance taken by France, as the main Western opponent of the war, was for the rapid ending of the U.S. and British occupation, and, in its place, the creation of a UN administration of Iraq. There was little attempt to disguise the fact that the French view of the invasion as an illegitimate act was at work here. This view, and the subsequent failure of the United States and its allies to find the Iraqi WMD, over which the war was fought, formed an important backdrop to the subsequent stance taken by France and Germany. It has been noted that France and other European countries were keener on UN involvement in Iraq than was the UN itself at that time. This was despite the evidence that the UN did not enjoy high levels of legitimacy and popularity among ordinary Iraqis, and hence its involvement was no clear panacea or solution to the issue of occupation.
The French were also highly critical of the political arrangements put in place by the United States following the war. On April 5, 2003, French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin was scathing about U.S. plans for reconstruction in postwar Iraq. The French foreign minister criticized the United States for the issuing of contracts to U.S. companies. Iraq, he said, should not be seen as a “paradise for invaders,” or a pie in which all could have a finger. De Villepin’s statements were made at a joint press conference with the German and Russian foreign ministers and are indicative of the atmosphere of anger and suspicion engendered by the war.
For France and its allies in the anti-war camp, the issue of the rapid recovery of Iraqi sovereignty and the ending of the American occupation was paramount from the outset. In this regard, the French justified their failure to engage closely with bodies associated with the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) by claiming that to doing so would legitimize an invasion and occupation to which France had been opposed. As 2003 wore on, it became apparent that this stance was not winning France friends within Iraq itself. An article in Le Monde in March 2004 depicted this. The article spoke to Iraqis from a variety of backgrounds and ethnic origins. It found that French failure to engage with postwar Iraq had led to widespread disillusionment and hostility among Iraqis, including those Iraqis fiercely opposed to the U.S. invasion.
For the UK, leader of the “pro-war” faction among European countries, the most pressing diplomatic problem following the war was preventing further deterioration in U.S.-EU relations. The British had their own criticisms of U.S. handling of the occupation in the first months. There were differences with the United States over military tactics, with British observers critical of the performance of the 3rd Infantry Division in Baghdad, and particularly of the performance of the team under General Jay Garner, who for a short period administered postwar Iraq. A series of secret memos sent by Prime Minister Tony Blair’s envoy John Sawers to 10 Downing Street depict early severe doubts on the part of senior British Foreign Office personnel.
Sawers’s dispatches, of course, may tell us as much about internal differences within the UK regarding Iraq policy as they do about the actual state of affairs in Iraq. Some of the criticisms, however, later became commonly expressed. This included the sense of insufficient planning for the postwar period and the wholesale sackings of Ba’th Party members–including very junior ones–from their posts, which critics believed needlessly hampered efforts to build up coherent administrative structures in Iraq in the period following the war.
Despite these misgivings, British diplomacy centered on mending the transatlantic rift. Tony Blair was worried at the possibility that the differences that emerged during the war could lead to “two rival centers of power,” as he put it at the time. He sought common ground, while never retreating from his staunch defense of the war itself. The British commitment of troops in Iraq remained the most significant after that of the United States.
The differing outlooks of the UK and France were not fundamentally altered by the war itself. Nor have they been changed by subsequent developments. On June 28, 2004, power was formally handed over by CPA Head Paul Bremer to an interim Iraqi government to be led by Ayad Alawi. The handover took place in secret, against the backdrop of the continuing insurgency and bloodshed in Iraq. British Prime Minister Tony Blair was the only European leader to be aware that the handover of power was made earlier–an indication of Britain’s role as the European country closest to the United States.
France again led the charge in its trenchant criticism of the new arrangements emerging after June 2004. The French were critical of the make-up of the new government, which they maintained did not represent a sufficient departure from the previous, U.S.-led administration. Some observers, however, felt that French diplomacy was wrong-footed by the June 2004 transfer of power and the appointment of Prime Minister Alawi. The French had placed such an emphasis on the need for a transfer of power, that their continued trenchant criticism seemed at times more intent on deliberate obstruction than constructive engagement.
From June 2004, the beginnings of a more general cautious re-engagement of EU countries with the new Iraq can begin to be discerned. A strategy paper produced by the EU the same month recommended an active European engagement with the new Iraqi government. The document envisaged the EU inviting Iraq to join the EU’s Strategic Partnership for the Mediterranean and the Middle East. It also recommended that EU states join in pushing for Iraq to be admitted to the World Trade Organization, and that the EU should reinstate favored trading partner relations with Baghdad.
This document, while representing a significant change in tone from the EU, has suffered from many of the usual drawbacks of policy statements issued by the EU. That is, while it laid out a coherent and new general strategy for the EU to follow, it had little to say regarding the immediate short-term priorities that the EU needed to adopt regarding events in Iraq. As such, it served to paper over the very real differences between member states and Iraq, rather than really confronting and then reconciling them.
The result was that the new strategy had less impact than had been hoped by those who formulated it. Whatever the ringing declarations emerging from Brussels, European countries remained deeply divided.
A year after the war, while the two camps remained clearly defined, there was movement between them. As mentioned, the essential dividing line in European perceptions on Iraq ran between France and Germany on the one hand, and Britain and the Spain of Jose Maria Aznar on the other. Smaller neutral countries then tended to align with France and Germany, and a number of new member states were with the UK and Spain. In mid-2004, however, following Aznar’s defeat in elections by the Spanish Socialist Party of Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, Spain effectively crossed over to the other camp. Zapatero announced his intention of withdrawing his country’s forces from Iraq. Spain had committed a force of 1,400 troops. Zapatero, demonstrating his fealty to the French view of events in Iraq, initially stated that he might be willing to see Spanish forces stay as part of a UN-led solution in Iraq. Since this was clearly not on the horizon, he ordered their withdrawal, which began on April 20, 2004, and was completed within six weeks.
Yet the Spanish departure notwithstanding, the involvement even of anti-war countries with the new Iraq was slowly moving ahead. The announcement on November 22, 2004 of elections in Iraq played a further important role in the slow, cautious re-engagement of European countries. Events were clearly moving forward, and regardless of differences over the policy that had led to the occupation of Iraq, it was clear that European countries would only harm themselves by being sidelined from engagement with the forces now emerging to dominate the new Iraq. At the same time, the presence of insurgency and the sense of vindication among countries that had opposed the war limited the scope of involvement.
Holland, which had supported the war and which held the EU presidency in the year 2004, was keen to promote practical assistance in the elections. A mission was sent with the intention of exploring the possibility of European monitors taking part in the Iraqi polls. Divisions among member states hampered these efforts, however, and it proved impossible to secure agreement among member states for the commitment of observers.
The general sense regarding the government of Ayad Alawi was one of caution and skepticism among formerly anti-war European countries. The European “hands off” attitude toward Alawi’s administration contrasted sharply with European attitudes to aid and involvement elsewhere in the region, for example in the Palestinian Authority area. Whereas there, European countries have been particularly conspicuous in their grassroots efforts to aid social and political processes (for example, the prominent European role in the PA elections of January 2006, and the extensive social and educational projects maintained by European governments and NGOs dealing with all aspects of life in the Palestinian areas), in Iraq, the attitude has been more circumspect. In Iraq, there has been a desire to make involvement conditional on progress toward democracy while, crucially, avoiding what might be seen as a European endorsement of, or partnership with, what is seen as the U.S. project of the invasion and re-making of Iraq. This attitude does not, of course, apply to EU member states such as the UK, which supported the war. Yet the sharp divisions that continued in the postwar period served to prevent a common, coherent European stance.
In the run-up to the elections, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell publicly expressed his hopes that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which played an important role in supervising elections in Ukraine, would undertake similar tasks in Iraq. This did not take place, however, and the responsibility for international supervision of the elections of January 30 was undertaken by a relatively small group of 35 UN staffers. The European Commission donated the sum of 31.5 million Euros toward preparation for the elections, which included a training program for Iraqi observers of the electoral process and the deployment of three European experts to Baghdad to work with the UN mission. The small size of this group was attributed to the problematic security situation in Iraq. In addition, an ad hoc group called the International Mission for Iraqi Elections monitored the electoral process from Jordan, because of fears related to the security situation. This mission included members from Britain, but no other EU country.
Despite determined attempts by Sunni insurgents to disrupt the elections, the January polls were hailed as a success. The model of genuine but limited European support for the political process in Iraq was here established, and has not been substantially deviated from in subsequent landmark events in Iraq. Thus, EU involvement in the referendum on the constitution consisted of a 20 million Euro contribution toward the constitutional process, which again was channeled through UN bodies working on the referendum. The successful conduct of the referendum was welcomed by European governments and by the Commission. Yet direct European involvement was not a feature of the referendum process.
The same situation held for the Iraqi elections of December 2005. Once again, the European Commission provided a limited amount of assistance for the election, channeled through UN-controlled bodies. The victory of the United Iraqi Alliance, a Shi’a religious-led list, in the elections was an indicator that the putting in place of an electoral framework had not served to alter fundamentally the confessional and ethnic basis of politics in Iraq. The possibility of growing Iranian influence in Iraq now became a matter of concern.
The “hands off” policy of France, Germany, and the countries that had opposed the war seemed to them to be justified by as the failure to return stability to Iraq following the toppling of Saddam Hussein. Further defections from the pro-U.S. camp took place in 2006. Elections in Italy in May 2006, brought back to power a coalition led by the Socialist Party. The new prime minister, Romano Prodi, used his first speech in parliament following his victory to issue a harsh criticism of the war in Iraq. He referred to it as a “grave error” that could ignite war across the Middle East. Prodi announced his intention to withdraw Italy’s commitment of 2,700 troops in Iraq. This, together with the substantial cutting down of the Polish contingent in Iraq, left the United States with its British allies almost alone in attempting to maintain their commitments in Iraq.
Thus, the very sharp divisions that existed from the outset in the views of major European countries regarding the U.S.-led enterprise in Iraq persisted following the conclusion of the conventional phase of the conflict. These differences have served to prevent the emergence of a coherent, pan-European policy. Europeans who opposed the war derive a sense of vindication from subsequent events in Iraq. At the same time, however, as representative bodies have emerged in Iraq, so a limited engagement with them has taken place.
The next section will consider how this dynamic has been reflected in the areas of European economic and commercial engagement with the new Iraq and will also discuss European attitudes to the ongoing insurgency in the country.
European Economic Relations with the New Iraq
European funding and aid for the reconstruction of Iraq has been limited. Once again, the opposition of principal European countries to the invasion has been the key factor here. At the Madrid donor conference in October 2003, shortly following the invasion, the total of $33 billion was contributed for the reconstruction of Iraq. Of this sum, fully $20 billion came from the United States, $5 billion was donated by Japan, and $1 billion by the UK. France declined to make any contribution. In total, $1.5 billion was donated by other EU member states. European levels of aid to the new Iraq have remained at a modest level. The European Commission as a body has donated 518.5 million Euros. Individual contributions have varied according to the stance toward the war taken by the country, but have remained overall low.
In November 2004, the sensitive issue of Iraq’s public debt was addressed in an agreement between the new government in Iraq and Paris Club member states. A major debt reduction plan was agreed upon, which would bring the debt down by 80 percent over three phases, linked to Iraq’s compliance with the IMF standard program.
Regarding trade with Iraq, the United States is its main trading partner, with 40.7 percent of the total amount traded. The EU is second, with 20.7 percent. The EU is also the second largest exporter to Iraq. Regarding imports, as Iraqi oil production has picked up, so energy exports to Europe have correspondingly increased. Iraq is now tenth among the major energy supplies to Europe. Iraq is responsible, however, for only 1.4 percent of the total of European energy imports. There is thus a long way to go before pre-1991 levels of trade are regained. Trade fell sharply in 1991, before picking up again after the beginning of the oil-for-food program in 1997. By 2001, the EU accounted for 33.3 percent of overall trade and 55 percent of Iraq’s imports, after which it began to decrease once again. 
European economic engagement with Iraq is thus increasing, and can be expected to continue to increase depending, ultimately, on the level of stability in Iraq. European aid for reconstruction in Iraq, however, has been modest, and here political factors are significant. Countries that opposed the war have been reluctant to contribute largely to the rebuilding of Iraq in a process that they regarded as fundamentally illegitimate. The French refusal to make a donation of any kind at the conference in Madrid in October 2003 offers perhaps the clearest example of this.
Europe and the Insurgency
Again, the approaches of European countries to the insurgency in Iraq, and to broader questions of security, cannot be separated from their core interpretation of the Iraq invasion. For France and Germany, the insurgency at least tacitly seemed to offer a vindication of their warnings regarding the very advisability of the invasion. The French attitude on security at the outset stressed the need to develop a UN-led security effort in Iraq, as an aspect of their broader desire for greater UN involvement.
France and Germany, having opposed the invasion, felt themselves under no obligation to commit forces to police post-Saddam Iraq or to oppose the efforts of Sunni Arab insurgents in the center of the country. Yet even countries that had supported the war provided only small contingents in the post-conventional phase of the conflict. The entire occupation force was, of course, also of relatively modest dimensions–an aspect which would later be the subject of much criticism. Britain took security responsibility in the Shi’a south of the country, centering its operations in Basra. The British army, with its experience in Northern Ireland and other post-1945 insurgency situations, was confident in its ability to maintain order in the Shi’a south successfully, where in any case there was little immediate interest in a strategy of rebellion. Italy, Spain, and Poland also committed forces at the outset. Smaller commitments were made by Denmark, the Netherlands, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, and Norway.
As the insurgency gained pace in late 2003, there was some British criticism of U.S. tactics and strategy. The British, in the much more peaceful south, stressed attempts to work with and coopt potentially hostile forces, including the Mahdi army of the young firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The U.S. view was, initially at least, a more across-the-board opposition to all illegally constituted militias. The British considered that their own approach–which they viewed as more respectful of existing local power structures and traditions and less openly assertive–stood a greater chance of success.
In practice, however, in the course of 2004, British and U.S. practices were tending toward convergence. A number of violent incidents placed a clear limit on the extent of British ability to co-opt and cooperate with local organizations. The United States, meanwhile, found its own way toward limited dialogue with Sunni militias, for example, in its contacts with such organizations to end the Fallujah situation in April 2004. At the same time, the British desire and belief in the possibility of a more police-oriented, less military approach has remained a constant and observable point of disagreement between the UK and the United States.
As detailed above, changes in government in a number of countries, such as Spain and Italy, have led to a reduction of the European military commitment in Iraq. European commitment to involvement in civil policing has been similarly limited.
In the course of 2005, however, following the beginnings of greater European engagement in Iraq and moves toward greater Iraqi self-government and elections, the views of the governments of countries opposed to the war became more nuanced. While opposition to the original project in Iraq remained, there was a growing sense that what was now important was the successful maintenance of the situation in order to avoid the collapse of the country into chaos, which was in the interest of none but the forces of radical Islam. Thus, in December 2005, when asked on CNN regarding the issue of a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. and coalition forces from Iraq, French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin did not issue a demand for the immediate end of foreign military involvement in Iraq. Rather, he said that “the real timetable is the Iraqi situation…. We should avoid at all costs the chaos in Iraq, which, of course, will be disaster for the whole region.”
De Villepin had been among the most vocal and active French opponents of the war in 2003. However, statements of this type have not translated into substantive aid in combating the insurgency, nor in major contributions to the building up of the new Iraqi security forces. The pattern in which countries opposed to the war have preferred to hang back rather than be associated with what they regard as a failed policy has remained. The general sense in Europe–certainly among European public opinion–is that the Iraqi invasion has been an unsuccessful enterprise. This is the case also in countries such as the UK, where government policy has remained consistent in its support for the war, active engagement in counter-insurgency, and the building up of the new Iraq.
However, the trend–as witnessed in Spain and Italy–has been for countries initially supportive of the war to go over to the more skeptical camp. The result is that regarding European security commitments, efforts by coalition allies have been toward seeking to maintain existing commitments (with limited success) rather than expanding the European representation.
A combination of widespread prewar opposition to the policy of invading Iraq, a sense that initial doubts have been vindicated, and genuine apprehension at the deepening uncertainty regarding the future of Iraq have limited European willingness to engage in the reconstruction of Iraq. This has applied even to areas where the European contribution could not have been construed as retrospective justification for the policy of invasion.
This policy has not been of unambiguous benefit to European countries. There is evidence, for example, to suggest that France’s opposition to the policy of invasion could paradoxically have been to the benefit of the French in engaging with the new Iraq, and the reluctance of France to engage was a source of disappointment and surprise to some Iraqis.
Clearly, these arguments apply in the main to the anti-war camp in Europe. Europe remains split between the camp led by Britain, which includes a number of new, Central European member states, and the camp led by France, which includes a number of smaller, traditionally neutral countries. Since the Iraq War of 2003, two major European countries–Spain and Italy–have, in effect, passed from the British-led camp to the French-led camp as a result of elections in those countries. Germany, meanwhile, has gone over to the broadly Atlanticist camp as a result of general elections. Current chancellor Angela Merkel was publicly critical of Gerhard Schroeder’s Iraq policy when she was leader of the German opposition, and she also made her opposition clear during visits to the United States.
A paper produced in 2004 at a pro-Blair think tank in London suggested that ample opportunities for a constructive European role in Iraq existed, for example, in assistance in security reform, mediating with insurgents, and helping political parties to develop. “Existing challenges,” the writer concluded, “provide ample opportunity for the EU to apply its own experience and expertise to good effect.” While European engagement has increased since 2004, strong factors militate against the likelihood that European involvement will move substantially beyond current levels. The reasons for this reluctance are to be found in issues of high politics and policy, and can only be understood with reference to these, rather than in practical limitations preventing efforts from being made. These issues of policy have served to prevent a united European response on Iraq.
The European response on Iraq offers the latest proof for the survival of specific and sometimes opposed foreign policy orientations among leading European states. British Atlanticism versus the French desire to balance U.S. power internationally remains the key divide. Despite the existence of bureaucratic bodies attesting to the existence of a Europe-wide foreign policy, the experience of Iraq from 2003 until now indicates that no such policy can be said to exist in a meaningful sense.
*Dr. Jonathan Spyer has served as a special advisor on international affairs to Israeli Cabinet ministers. He is currently a research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, Herzliya, Israel.
 Richard Youngs, “Europe and Iraq: From stand-off to engagement?,” Foreign Policy Centre, October, 2004. p. 6.
 Gerard Baker, James Blitz, Judy Dempsey, Robert Graham, Quentin Peel, and Mark Turner, “Blair’s Mission Impossible: The Doomed Effort to Win a Second UN Resolution,” Financial Times, May 29, 2003, http://www.ft.com.
 Youngs, “Europe and Iraq.”
 Remy Ourdan, “France’s Policy is Still Sharply Criticized by Iraqis,” Le Monde, March 18, 2004.
 Helm, “Blair fears new Cold War.”
 See “The EU’s relations with Iraq – Overview,” http://ec.europa.eu/comm/external_relations/iraq/intro/.
 “Iraq: Situation after referendum on Constitution,” speech by European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighborhood policy Benita Ferrero-Waldner in European Parliament in Strasbourg, November 16, 2005, European Commission website, http://ec.europa.eu/comm/external_relations.
 The Paris Club is an association of major creditor nations. It has nineteen members, including France, the United States, the UK, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Canada, and Finland.
 See “Bilateral Trade Relations,” European Commission website, for further details on Europe’s past and current economic relationship with Iraq, http://ec.europa.eu/trade/issues/bilateral/countries/iraq/index_en.htm.
 John C. Hulsman and Nile Gardiner, “US-German relations in the Merkel era,” Backgrounder # 1907, Heritage Foundation Policy research and analysis, January 11, 2006, http://www.heritage.org; “German-Iraqi business conference highlights opportunities,” July 22, 2005, http://www.portaliraq.com. Since a gradual increase in engagement of formerly anti-war countries may be traced from mid-2004 onwards, Mrs. Merkel was not confronted with a policy of strict disengagement from Iraq and has not radically increased levels of involvement. Germany was among the Paris Club members who voted to relieve Iraq’s debts in November 2004. By that year, the value of German exports to Iraq totaled $479 million, about prewar level. This example is quoted to show that the situation is not black and white. Increased European engagement, particularly in the economic sphere, is occurring to a limited degree.
 Youngs, “Europe and Iraq.”