FIVE TESTS! Mr Blair’s Very Last Gamble At The UN ARROW Anti-War Briefing 38 (14 March 2003) 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 JosÃ© MarÃa 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 panic.
DIPLOMATIC CHAOS ‘ “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 U6 strategy.
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. A01) ‘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.)
OTHER IDEAS-GERMANY ‘
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. forces-not 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)
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