Along the Tracks

Friday, March 14, 2003

Where from here?

The United Nations process is officially a shambles, thanks to one country: France. The United States, the United Kingdom and Spain have gone the extra mile, the second extra mile and then another 10 kilometers in their effort to bring unity to the Security Council. Yet France has said flatly it will veto any new resolution on Iraq. That stand has given cover to all the little nations in the middle who don’t want to vote for a war, despite their responsibilities as Security Council members. The resolution is doomed.

At last week’s news conference, President Bush said he would call a vote no matter what the “whip count,” and force every country to put their cards on the table. I commend his sense of honesty, his effort to shine a light on the hypocrisy of the French position - and it made sense when the resolution was the simple statement of fact that Iraq had failed to live up to 1441.

Things have changed over the past week. Now there are amendments, public if not “official,” which muddy the resolution, setting timelines and tests for Saddam rather than stating the truth of his failure. If there is still a determination to call a vote - now perhaps not until early next week - it should be a straight up or down on the original resolution. If that is not diplomatically feasible, then we should call no vote at all. The weighed-down version clouds the real issue - Saddam’s intransigence - and its failure to pass, whether by majority or veto, could have repercussions in international law which would not be in America’s interest (whereas I believe the straight “Saddam has failed” version could have positive effects, whether it passes or fails). Bush may have to explain he was wrong about calling a vote. So be it.

Rumors are swirling of a summit between Bush, Blair and Spain’s Aznar this weekend. I hope they decide to withdraw the resolution, and make a joint statement that they will now act where the Security Council has failed, and disarm Saddam immediately.

UPDATE: Bush, Blair and Aznar will meet.

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