Wednesday, September 5, 2007

War unlikely for Iran, says Poland

War unlikely for Iran, says Poland
Email Print Normal font Large font Cynthia Banham Defence Reporter

AdvertisementONE of America's main allies, Poland, believes so many mistakes were made in the war in Iraq that any military intervention in Iran would be highly unlikely and the world would have to learn to deal with Iran having nuclear arms.

In an interview in Warsaw, the undersecretary of state for defence, Stanislaw Koziej, told the Herald the operation in Iraq "wasn't optimal, wasn't very effective and quite a lot of mistakes were done there and still we make a lot of mistakes".

Poland, one of the original "coalition of the willing" partners in Iraq, previously had 2500 troops there - its biggest military challenge since World War II. Today it has 900.

Through a translator, Mr Koziej said the experiences in Iraq, which greatly divided Europe, did not make it easy for the world to react in Iran. "I personally believe that military intervention in Iran is improbable," Mr Koziej said. "So we should get used to the fact that we will have to deal with Iran having nuclear armaments.".

The comments were telling, given how keen Poland, which joined NATO in 1999 and the European Union in 2004, is to engage the US in Europe.

In a separate interview, the undersecretary at the ministry of foreign affairs, Witold Waszczykowski, said it was vital to keep the US engaged. "We think that the American flag is waving in Warsaw above the roof of the American embassy and this is the only place you can find the American flag - it's a bizarre situation because in such a friendly country … [the US] is supposed to be much more visible," Mr Waszczykowski said.

Poland, which has a right-wing nationalist Christian government, is keen to co-operate with the US on its missile defence shield. It is considering hosting an American base, with further negotiations on Poland's role due at the end of the European summer.

But Mr Waszczykowski said his country was concerned that it did not host "another Guantanamo Bay" - that is, a US base over which the US would have sovereignty, a situation that exists in several other East European countries. "We cannot sell out a piece of Poland," he said.

Mr Koziej said public opinion in Poland did not support the country's presence in Iraq, the war having claimed the lives of at least 17 Polish soldiers.

Nevertheless, he said his Government would most likely extend its mandate - scheduled to run out at the end of this year - a further six months.

Mr Koziej said Poland's involvement in Iraq had shown that the country could make difficult strategic decisions in the face of opposition from its partners, and "even against the strong resistance" within the country.

He said Poland's strategy for Iraq was to gradually shift its role from a military presence to taking part in economic, cultural and social developments.

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