Mr Blairs Very Last Gamble At The UN
WAR PLAN IRAQ Update Number 15
AND THEN THERE WERE FIVE
The desperation is mounting. The US dropped
its demand for a vote 'by the end of the week. A European council
of war was hastily announced then dropped: 'This morning there
was a brief scurry by White House officials to arrange an overseas
trip for Mr. Bush, a war caucus with Mr. Blair and perhaps Prime
Minister José María Aznar of Spain. But there was
concern on both sides of the Atlantic that any such meeting would
only worsen Mr. Blair's current political troubles. The scramble
to make arrangements was ended as abruptly as the president's
lunch.' ' "There's a recognition this has not been our finest
diplomatic hour," said one senior official, his voice dripping
with understatement.' (New York Times, 14 Mar.)
Most amazingly, 'Britain signaled it was
willing to drop a demand that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein go on
television to acknowledge Iraq had been concealing proscribed
weapons and agree to immediately give them up.' (Reuters,
13 Mar., 21:55 ET)
The purpose of the six tests is to get Iraq
to reject them. They are designed to be refused, just as the first
oil-for-food offer in 1991 was designed to be refused (see War
Plan Iraq, chapter 11); just as Resolution 1441, which granted
extraordinary and intrusive powers to the UN weapons inspectors,
was designed to be refused.
The fact that the UK has given up on the
demand for Saddam to engage in public humiliation on national
Iraqi television, which Britain and the US must surely have seen
as their best chance of getting Iraq to reject the demands and
therefore give a pretext for war, is reveals the depths of Blair's
' "Another nutty day at the office,"
muttered one senior UN official involved with Iraq issues as he
arrived for work yesterday morning... Downstairs, diplomats, UN
staff and journalists swarmed over each other in a desperate hunt
for titbits of intelligence. Their motto was the one-liner uttered
by a senior diplomat earlier this week: "If anyone tells
you that they understand what is going on inside the Security
Council, they're wrong"... Britain's package of final measures
to test Saddam Hussein's resolve to disarm, formally tabled late
on Wednesday, was welcomed in public but privately mocked as a
desperate attempt by Tony Blair to ensure his survival at home.'
(Telegraph, 14 Mar., p. 14)
THE ILLEGAL SECURITY COUNCIL STRATEGY
The British strategy was to say, 'We will
go to war if there is an unreasonable veto in the Security Council,
but a majority of votes in favour of our [war] resolution.' This
was a way of isolating France, and concentrating efforts on the
'middle six' of undecided countries. If they could be brought
onside, then France would presumably bow to the inevitable and
abstain rather than veto the resolution. First get the weak countries
in line, then face down Paris and win the resolution.
The strategy had to be altered slightly
once the strength of Russian concern became apparent, to saying
Britain and the US would ignore multiple vetoes.
The 'unreasonable veto' idea has no legal
basis of course. Fifteen eminent British academic lawyers from
the universities of Cambridge, London, and Oxford wrote an open
letter to the Prime Minister warning him on this point: 'Before
military action can lawfully be undertaken against Iraq, the security
council must have indicated its clearly expressed assent. It has
not yet done so. A vetoed resolution could provide no such assent.
'The prime minister's assertion that in
certain circumstances a veto becomes "unreasonable"
and may be disregarded has no basis in international law. The
UK has used its security council veto on 32 occasions since 1945.
Any attempt to disregard these votes on the ground that they were
"unreasonable" would have been deplored as an unacceptable
infringement of the UK's right to exercise a veto under UN charter
article 27.' (letter, Guardian, 7 Mar.)
THE COLLAPSING SECURITY COUNCIL STRATEGY
The strategy started falling apart once the
French said they would definitely veto the resolution. 'In addition
to an almost certain French veto, and the possibility of a Russian
veto, officials said they were convinced they would not even achieve
what they call the "moral victory" of nine votes among
the council's 15 member nations. "It looks pretty grim,"
one senior administration official said. Another senior U.S. official
said: "There is no reason to believe positions will change
today or tomorrow."
'The apparent defeat of the resolution would
be a stunning diplomatic setback for President Bush and his closest
partner, British Prime Minister Tony Blair. U.S. officials have
made it clear that they only agreed to pursue a second resolution
at the request of Blair, who needed the imprimatur of the Security
Council for a war against Iraq to shore up political support at
home. But the failure to win all but a handful of votes for military
action is an unusually public rebuff of the United States.' (Washington
Post, 14 Mar, p. A01)
The P5 (permanent five members of the Security
Council) are now less significant than the U6 (undecided six members
of the Security Council). 'In varying degrees, all six need money,
trade and good will... Other than Pakistan, however, none has
a direct stake in the outcome of the Iraq crisis. All have said
they disapprove equally of what they see of the U.S. rush to war
and the French willingness to allow open-ended U.N. weapons inspections.
And each is dependent for its survival on public and political
opinion that is overwhelmingly against a vote for war in Iraq.
(Washington Post, 14 Mar., p. A22) Why should the U6 pay
a heavy political cost at home for supporting the US, when the
resolution is going to be vetoed anyway? Paris has reversed the
COLD FEET IN WASHINGTON
'U.S. officials also began laying the groundwork
today for Bush to reverse his pledge to call for a Security Council
vote, no matter how bad the vote count looked, because "it's
time for people to show their cards." Under one scenario,
the administration could say the resolution was being withdrawn
at the request of the co-sponsors, Britain and Spain. Secretary
of State Colin L. Powell told lawmakers on Capitol Hill today:
"The options remain go for a vote and see what members say,
or not go for a vote. But all the options that you can imagine
are before us and we will be examining that today, tomorrow and
over the weekend." ' (Washington Post, 14 Mar, p.
'The subtle political effect of Mr. Powell's
comments by the end of day was clear: the six countries are unlikely
to take the domestic political risk of publicly backing the United
States if they believe that Washington will abandon the vote altogether.'
(New York Times, 14 Mar.)
'German diplomats denied the existence of
a new resolution drafted by Berlin which would drag out arms inspections
until June. But a copy of the document was circulating widely
through the building. It contained one new proposal to help solve
the Iraqi crisis which has so far surfaced nowhere else: "Free
and secret elections to be carried out no later than June 1, 2004.'
(Telegraph, 14 Mar., p. 14) Something we can be sure will
not be incorporated into any US or UK proposals. (See chapters
on 'regime stabilisation/leadership change' in War Plan Iraq
and earlier ARROW Anti-War Briefings)
OTHER IDEAS - THE U6
The U6 presented some of their own ideas
on 13 Mar. The day before, the US had claimed that some of them
supported the US-UKdraft resolution. 'But the initiative by the
six countries Thursday demonstrated that they have their own ideas
on how to bring together supporters and opponents of the resolution.
With France threatening to veto the resolution and the Bush administration
weighing whether to abandon it, the six countries said they weren't
interested in discussing a British proposal that would require
Saddam to fulfill six disarmament requirements in a short time.
' "We are not negotiating the British
draft," said Chile's U.N. Ambassador Gabriel Valdes. "We
are putting out other ideas. We are going to announce now what
we believe." The ideas include a list of "doable"
tasks for Saddam to complete in a what its proponents said was
a realistic timeframe to prove Iraq's commitment to disarmament.
At the end of that period the council would meet to determine
whether Iraq had complied or not, council diplomats said, speaking
on condition of anonymity. There would be no automatic trigger
for war.' (AP, 13 Mar., 17:22 ET)
However, by the end of the day, U6 unity
seemed to have broken down: 'during a later closed-door meeting
of the 15-nation council, they each offered their own ideas rather
than a single shared proposal, council diplomats said. That left
the council deeply divided, as it has been for weeks, with Washington
and Britain well short of the nine "yes" votes and no
vetoes needed for a resolution to be adopted.' (Reuters,
13 Mar., 21:55 ET)
US MILITARY PREPARES FOR DELAYED WAR
In a closed-door briefing at the Pentagon,
Marine Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,
said that he could launch an invasion "tomorrow", but
waiting a month to invade in hotter weather would only slow down
U.S. forcesnot necessarily causing greater casualties. 'Retired
Army Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey, who attended the session, said he
"couldn't agree more" with Pace's comments on the negligible
effect of a delay. "In fact, if anything, I'd rather wait
14 more days, than not," said McCaffrey, explaining that
the additional time would give soldiers the opportunity they need
to unpack and test their equipment and fully prepare for combat.'
(Washington Post, 14 Mar., p. A19)
War Plan Iraq: Ten Reasons Why We Shouldn't Launch Another War
Against Iraq by Milan Rai
'An excellent weapon for all those opposed to Bush's war'.
'Excellent'. Alice Mahon MP
'Required reading for anyone concerned
about the risk of war'. Professor Paul Rogers, Bradford
School of Peace Studies
'Timely and important'. Hilary
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