Weasels triumphant--Inspectors get 6 more weeks
Tony Blair and George Bush yesterday agreed to give the UN weapons inspectors and the intelligence agencies as long as six weeks to persuade a sceptical France and Arab countries to come on board for military action against Iraq.
|I wonder how that's going to fit in with the impending "Colin Powell Moment"... |
In talks at the White House, Mr Blair impressed on the Americans that European public opinion, including in Britain, will not back a war without an explicit second UN resolution. Mr Blair secured support for this longer coalition-building strategy from the US president in a phone call on Thursday. His call coincides with opinion in the US senate. They ended their council of war in Washington with the US president saying: "This is a matter of weeks, not months. Any attempt to delay the process for months would be resisted by the United States." Mr Bush added: "Saddam Hussein is not disarming. He is a danger to the world." He also rejected any suggestion that the UN weapons inspectors should renegotiate the terms of their work inside Iraq: "There are no negotiations. The idea of asking the arms inspectors to negotiate is a charade."
|He's sticking to his guns, even though Tony's got domestic problems and the Dems are coming down with their trademark vapors. Those two factors are what Sammy's trying to exploit. It'll be interesting to see how the Bush team tries to counter that exploitation... |
But Mr Bush did not reject the idea of going back to the UN security council for a second resolution, saying: "I was the guy that went to the UN in the first place."
|He's already said that if he doesn't get what he wants, he's going to do it without the UN. If he has to do that, there's no more UN... |
Mr Blair said he was confident that the UN would endorse a second resolution "because in the original resolution 1441 we made it clear that failure to disarm would lead to serious consequences. So this is a test for the international community". He again stressed that "the judgment has to be... that Saddam is not cooperating with the inspectors and therefore is in breach of the UN resolution. That's why time is running out". Mr Bush stressed: "This needs to be resolved quickly. Should the United Nations decide to pass a second resolution, it would be welcomed if it is another signal that we are intent on disarming Saddam Hussein. But 1441 gives us the authority to move without any second resolution. Saddam must understand, if he does not disarm for the sake of peace, we along with others will go along and disarm Saddam Hussein."
He implied that the US secretary of state, Colin Powell, will next week produce evidence to the security council detailing links between Iraq and al-Qaida. Mr Bush and Mr Blair have a big public relations battle ahead, but they also have time to put the squeeze on the French to recognise that there is no chance of President Saddam fully cooperating with the UN weapons inspectors.
|The Frenchies are more worried about Sammy and crew cooperating with them than they are about him cooperating with the inspectors... |
Asked directly if he wanted a second UN resolution endorsing war, Mr Blair said: "Absolutely. I think it's right we go for a second resolution because that's a way of saying this is an issue the international community is not going to duck." The second resolution would give explicit UN support for a military strike on the basis that Iraq has failed to cooperate with the inspectors.
|Somehow I can't see the UNSC actually saying something that definite... |
US and British officials have embarked on a wide diplomatic offensive to win the backing of a majority of the 15 members of the UN security council for a resolution mandating military action. Over the last few days the US has agreed to blacklist three rebel Chechen groups, a long-standing request from Russia; approved $4.1m (Â£2.48m) for the resettlement of returnees to Angola; and approved an extra $2.1m for Liberian refugees hosted by Guinea, another council member. Only four of the 15 members currently favour a war, but a British source predicted an eventual majority of 13, with only Syria and Germany voting against. The US and UK need to win the backing of at least nine members for a resolution, which is expected to be tabled in a few weeks.
|That's the sausage-making part of it. Don't loook... |
Mr Blair, speaking before the talks with Mr Bush, which were rescheduled from Camp David because of fog, said he did not favour an arbitrary deadline. He did not believe President Saddam would ever cooperate, but the judgment lay with the chief UN weapons inspector, Hans Blix, not himself. In remarks that may reassure dissenting Labour MPs, he stressed: "I believe this is best dealt with through the United Nations. I think it's a huge challenge for the international community." Referring to the fissure in Europe over fears of a rushed military timetable, he said: "When people ask how long do you give it, I say you give it as long as it takes to a conclusive and final judgment they are not cooperating."
|With some parties, that implies waiting until several weeks after Doomsday... |
Hinting at his frustration with the French, he added: "A failure to cooperate is a material breach but in part because our other partners and the people who have worked with us want to be absolutely sure of this then I think it is sensible - with a fresh report from Dr Blix in a couple of weeks time - to give it some time." Mr Blair highlighted the Iraqi refusal to let scientists be interviewed free from Iraqi officials, the need for high aerial reconnaissance and the failure to detail the whereabouts of thousands of tonnes of chemical weapons unaccounted for since 1988. He has already been briefed on the intelligence expected to be released to the security council by Mr Powell. Britain is impressed by surveillance photographs showing systematic evasion of the inspectors, but is less convinced than the Americans that there is convincing proof that the Iraqi government has been harbouring al-Qaida agents.
|If they can show that Zarqawi had surgery in Baghdad and then popped up north to join up with Ansar al-Islam, then had a hand in assassinating our diplomat in Jordan, that should lay that argument to rest — though the naysayers will continue saying "nay" under any circumstances. |
The Bush-Blair delay will also give the US more time to gather its forces in the Gulf, and to win final agreement by Turkey for US troops to be based there.
Posted by: Anonymous 2003-02-01