With the Netherlands having formally ended its military activities in Iraq this week, and the latest news that Italy is to follow suit, the multinational force in that country now appears to be rapidly falling apart.In image terms it may be even worse than that.
Following Spain's decision to pull out of Iraq last year, this week has seen the conclusion of the Dutch contribution to the international mission in Iraq. Poland and Ukraine have already announced their intention to withdraw later this year, and now Italy has surprised friend and foe with its plan to implement a phased pullout, commencing in September.
And then Italy
The announcement by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi that his country is to gradually diminish its military presence in Iraq must have come as an unpleasant surprise to Washington. In military terms, it will have a major impact because Italy - with some 3,000 troops - has the fourth largest foreign contingent in the country after the United States, the United Kingdom and South Korea.
The term commonly used for the foreign troops in Iraq, the 'multinational force' is deceptive to a certain extent. The factual situation is that there is an Anglo-American occupation force, officially recognised by the United Nations, with additional units from more than 20 other nations which, roughly speaking, are there to lend a helping hand in restoring law and order to Iraq.It's too bad for the 'multinational force' that their Spanish friends were unable to retain power -- apparently elections in Spain are not as easy to subvert as in the USA. Word on the Euro street was that the Madrid bombings were sponsored by the government in an attempt to generate enough fear to get re-elected. If that was the case, it certainly backfired. Anyway, the Spanish Social Democrats will not be sending troops to Iraq anytime soon. And so it goes.
Spain's large military contingent was pulled out last year following the parliamentary elections - held shortly after the 11 March terrorist attacks in Madrid - which saw the government of the conservative Partido Popular, part of the coalition with Washington and London that launched the invasion of Iraq, forced to make way for the social democrats, who were totally opposed to the country's military involvement in Iraq.
The coalition "appears to be rapidly falling apart". What else is new?