Wednesday, January 22, 2003

France Vows to Block Resolution on Iraq War
"France suggested today it would wage a major diplomatic fight, including possible use of its veto power, to prevent the U.N. Security Council from passing a resolution authorizing military action against Iraq. Russia and China, which have veto power, and Germany, which will chair the Security Council in February, also signaled today they were willing to let the inspections continue for months."

"Rising opposition to war, particularly in France, appears to have played a role in the hardening positions on the Security Council. Foreign officials are also aware of polls in the United States suggesting that support for a war drops dramatically if the Bush administration does not have U.N. approval. At the United Nations, several foreign ministers said a war in Iraq would spawn more terrorist acts around the globe and, in the words of Germany's Joschka Fischer, have "disastrous consequences for long-term regional stability."

US Secretary of State Colin Powell is probably an unpopular figure right now in the Bush administration. The US hyperpower neither needs nor wants UN "endorsement" for their attack on Iraq. They did not seek or obtain UN endorsement for their wars against Yugoslavia and Afghanistan, and the decision to attack Iraq was made from the start on the basis that it would be unilateral if necessary. But now the potential UN opposition is emerging in domestic opinion polls as a serious political obstacle. At the time of UN resolution 1441 there was an argument that UN credibility would have been enhanced by vetoing the Resolution, which was regarded as a figleaf of diplomatic respectability for unilateral US aggression. The United States got the wording that if there was "material breach" Iraq would face "serious consequences", meaning war; however France and Russia stated immediately after the Resolution was passed that the UN Security Council would have to meet and consider the matter again before war was started.

Thus the international debate has been successfully framed in terms of a need for the UN Security Council to respond to the report of the Weapons Inspectors, and to be the body that authorises war. The US might not want to risk the bringing of a second resolution in order to avoid the embarrassment of it being vetoed or voted down. They will instead argue that Saddam is in "material breach" and a second resolution is not necessary. However France and Germany would be able to propose a resolution calling for an extension of time to allow the inspectors to continue their work, perhaps for months. Such a resolution would have every chance of being supported by the Security Council. The US would then be in the awkward position of either having to veto the resolution or else ignore it and commence the war at a time of their choosing. Either choice would reveal them as being starkly out of touch with both the UN and with the domestic populations of Western countries. Powell's efforts to push the Bush administration into seeking UN approval for their actions has in fact, either deliberately or not, only succeeded in creating substantial obstacles in front of the War party which dominates the Bush administration.

No comments: