Diplomacy was never the word of the day for the Bush administration. Rumsfeld’s snide reference to “Old Europe” and Powell’s insinuations of cowardice have done little to improve transatlantic relations.
Colin Powell yesterday showed his frustration in a veiled attack against France, Germany and Belgium, in an interview with radio France-Inter. He stated that an on-going inspections process could not be considered as an effective solution for the crisis “because some countries are afraid”.
He then went on to mention Washington’s “friends and allies”, a further reference to the notion now famous in this administration that the world is black and white and that “either you are with us or against us”.
This simplistic approach to crisis management would be acceptable for the cowboy mentality of Bush. That the country’s foremost diplomat, its Secretary of State, can use such language is a telling example of how frustrated Washington is becoming at not being given a free hand to attack Iraq.
Time is running out, with sources connected to the Armed Forces stating that March 3rd would be the best date for a night-time assault using the full moon, as Baghdad and Basra are cut off from the rest of the country, in a sweeping, high-speed invasion from the north, west and south, while 300 guided missiles clinically pick off their targets.
Without doubt, Washington hopes to over come France’s opposition to any second resolution by the UN Security Council (UNSC). White House spokesperson Ari Fleischer stated in a press conference on Wednesday that “We continue to work with France” but he did not state what kind of pressures are being applied behind the scenes.
There is a current of opinion that Washington will table a new resolution at the UNSC, pressing for an armed intervention against Iraq, hoping for an abstention by Russia and China and putting France under extreme pressure, forcing it to be the only permanent member of the Council to use the veto, in effect, isolating Paris from the rest of the Security Council.
However, this is counting on an abstention and not the use of veto by Russia, whose Foreign Minister, Igor Ivanov, again declared today that the USA is applying far too much pressure on the weapons inspections teams and reiterating that any action to be taken against Iraq must take place within the UNSC.
Even if Russia chose not to use its right to veto, a resolution must be passed with at least nine votes out of fifteen in the Security Council. A more plausible consensus might be reached if Washington and London understood that world opinion is against war because hard as they have tried, a plausible causus belli has not been presented and acted accordingly.
A resolution tabled at the UNSC under which Iraq was given fixed dates to present weaponry for destruction by the UNMOVIC team might gain the nine votes needed and present President Saddam Hussein with the ball firmly in his court. Only then will the trans-Atlantic rift begin to heal.
However, the failure to use diplomacy in a world which clamours for a New World Order, based on a multi-lateral approach towards crisis management, using the UNSC as the proper forum for debate, has made Bush and Blair the losers, whatever the scenario. If they wage war, they will be seen as monsters who used a sledge-hammer to crack an egg. If they do not, they will be seen as having backed down and losing to Saddam, the man they love to hate, so long as Bin Laden remains so elusive.
Timothy BANCROFT-HINCHEY PRAVDA.Ru