We’re Moving Ahead In Spite Of Diplomacy

We Know Where The Economist Stands
Economist.com | America’s strategy with Iraq
How Blix’s last report could represent anything other than a material breach by Iraq is a mystery to me. They cited as “progress” that Iraq would allow U2 flights and some other items. Iraq was obligated to give these things immediately, without reservation, three months ago. They didn’t do it so they are in material breach of 1441.

IT LOOKS like a last effort to get the widest possible support for war against Iraq. Rebuffed last week in his first attempt, George Bush on February 19th decided to push for a “straightforward” new resolution at the United Nations Security Council authorising the use of force if Iraq does not disarm. As The Economist went to press, the timing, wording and reception of such a resolution were all in doubt. Would it simply assert that Iraq is in “further material breach”? Or would it set new demands, with a deadline for compliance? Would it be presented at the end of this week, as some officials had said, or later? When might it be voted on? And might France veto it?

Mr Bush’s decision to propose a new resolution shows that his policy of seeking UN support has not been knocked off course by criticism. At the same time, the uncertainties surrounding any resolution reflect the hammering his policy has recently taken—and raise doubts about whether a new resolution will pass.

The Americans had originally hoped to put forward the resolution after Hans Blix’s second report to the UN on February 14th. As they saw it, a tough report would back their claim that Iraq had failed to disarm, and must now face “serious consequences” (code for war). Yet Mr Blix’s second report differed little from his first.

Mr Blix repeated his claim that Iraq is not co-operating on matters of substance because it has failed to account for large quantities of chemical agents it is known to have possessed. He said Iraq has missiles with a range of more than 150 kilometres, which are banned under UN resolutions and must be destroyed, along with 380 illegal Iraqi missile engines. America and Britain say Iraq should be found in breach of its obligations if it omits any information about weapons programmes or if it possesses banned weapons. Mr Blix found Iraq guilty of sins of both omission and commission.

But in other ways, the report dashed American hopes. Mr Blix said progress was being made on process—that is, on Iraqi co-operation with the inspectors. Iraq has now permitted flights of U-2 surveillance planes and has allowed a few Iraqi scientists to be interviewed in private. He said his team’s job could be completed in a short time if Iraq provided “immediate, active and unconditional co-operation”. Nine of the 15 members of the Security Council, including veto-wielding France, China and Russia, argued that the inspectors should therefore be given more time (something the Americans might not mind if it were brief) and that progress short of complete compliance is reason enough not to authorise war yet.

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