It doesn't seem that it is just the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein who is gambling his political career by risking a confrontation with the United States, whose president said his patience was 'running out.' This week, several western leaders ' some for war, some against ' were also gambling their political career on the same issue. British Prime Minister Tony Blair confessed, on the eve of a tense summit with French President Jacques Chirac that he was risking his political career by backing America. At a House of Commons briefing on February 2, 2003, following talks with US President George W. Bush three days earlier, Mr. Blair said he was 'risking everything' to back an action to disarm the Iraqi dictator by force if necessary. It followed a majority of Blair's Labour party members ' including members of his selected Cabinet ' rejecting any war with Iraq without a second Security Council resolution authorising the use of force- to which Mr. Blair conceded in the wake of a an estimated one million strong anti-war demonstration in central London. Despite opposition from European and other NATO member states, both Mr. Blair and President Bush, maintained that UNSCOM Resolution 1441, passed last year, authorises the use of force by any member state, or group of member states, as it was passed under chapter 7 of the UN charter. Nevertheless, in the face of massive opposition in Britain ' over three quarters of the British electorate ' and in Europe as well as in the Middle East, Mr. Blair tried some exhaustive diplomatic manoeuvres to soften the wave of opposition to military action.
Not only ridiculed by majority of the press cartoons in Britain and
Europe, Mr. Blair was even subjected to a personal attack from Nelson Mandela,
the world's best ever loved and respected political leader in modern history.
Mr. Mandela warned the two Anglo-American leaders that their move to war
against Iraq was ill advised, foolish and would lead to disaster.
British diplomats, drafted the article with the Spaniard, and the office of Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi - who held audience with President Bush on the eve of Mr. Blair's Washington pilgrimage and seemed to be firmly in the Anglo-American camp.
Reinforcing the critics' view that London's White Hall has become President Bush's international messenger-boys' service, British diplomats buzzed around Europe's smaller capitals to secure the worlds first newspaper article with eight bylines. The Portuguese, the Czechs, the Hungarians, the Polish and the Danish added their names to the Anglo-Spanish article cooked with Italian herbs.
The French and the Germans - who held the presidency of the Security Council last month ( February) were never consulted, adding to the division. Both nations were to retaliate later with preparing their own initiatives to increase the numbers of inspectors backed by small military force and prolong the inspections forever. The British and the Americans only knew of the pna from the German magazine Deer Spiegel.
On 30th January, British officials briefed lobby reporters that The
Dutch were shown the article, contributed to it and approved it,
but it was agreed to take their name out of the byline because of internal
politics to do with coalition building after the election, according to
British diplomats briefing journalists.
With a Dutch egg added to his face, Mr. Blair flew to America to persuade its leader that it was essential to both address the Israeli Palestinian issue - to secure wider support in the Middle East and the Gulf, and to go to the United Nations for another mandate in order to secure wider European and Russian support.
The White House assured Mr. Blair that now with Israeli election out
of out of the way, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who won with greater majority,
would have a free hand to tow a dictated American line that would help
a positive outcome of a war with Iraq, according sources close to the summit.
However British and other western diplomats are alarmed by the Americans'
naiveté. Mr. Sharon is unpredictable and dangerously opportunistic
and for the Americans to think he could tow a line they dictate is
very irresponsible, as one British diplomat put it. The Americans at the
same time were trying their traditional chequebook diplomacy as well as
talking loudly while waving heavy sticks.
Ironically attempts on both side of the Atlantic to Link Saddam Hussein
to Al-Qaeda backfired badly, especially in Britain, where journalists,
automatically distrust officials and disbelieve politicians statements
until proven otherwise.
On his return from Washington, Mr. Blair said the United States backed the search for a second U.N. resolution -- if it could be agreed swiftly. "President Bush and I agreed we should seek maximum support for such a resolution provided, as ever, that seeking such a resolution is a way of resolving the issue not delaying or avoiding dealing with it at all," he told MPs as he briefed parliament on the visit February 2. However the body language between the two leaders during their White House Press conference reflected tension and disagreement in the meeting. President Bush appeared less enthusiastic over a second motion at their joint news conference. He said a second resolution was ' welcomed' as long as it was not used as ' a delaying tactic.'
There is a concern among regional and western leaders - who openly or
tacitly want to see the back of the Iraqi leader- that such discussion
in the UN could be used as delaying tactics which would send Saddam
Hussein a wrong message. '' Saddam has WMDs and once the pressure
is lifted he will use it against his neighbour,'' said one Middle Eastern
foreign minister in condition of not naming his nation. '' By relaxing
the pressure, Saddam would try to exploit the world disunity, and that
is a dangerous situation which might lead to America a acting alone,''
he concluded. A number of Middle Eastern intelligence chiefs assess that
Saddam believes the war would be a re-run of the 1991, and that a massive
bombardment would destroy Iraq but he could survive it. '' It is essential
that the pressure remains and Saddam must not be given the wrong message,''
one Middle Eastern intelligence chief told Mideastnews. ''
Ironically, by raising the pressure and massing troops as well as building
the strongest coalition possible, we could avoid war by creating a situation
inside Iraq, either for Saddam's removal by internal forces or by compelling
him to disarm and comply, thus weakening him.''
On the day - January 27, Hans Blix presented
his report, the Security Council issued a strong statement urging
the Iraqis to engage in full and active co-operation with UNMOVIC and IAEA.
`` The Iraqi authorities must, as an imperative, provide the inspectors,
without delay, with all additional and complete information on questions
raised by the international community,'' the statement said. Both Mr. Blix
and Dr El-Baradie have indicated that many questions were still unanswered
by Iraq. Although agreeing to go to Baghdad to talk to authorities
Mr. Blix told the BBC on February 4 that it was `` 5 minutes to midnight
However some permanent Security Council members see the glass as half full while the others see it as half empty, according to Sir Jeremy Greenstock, Britain's ambassador to the UN, who told reporters that Dr Blix's statement on Monday has changed character of the debate. He suggested that it is question of attitude and whether the Iraqis are getting the point or not?
Gulf and western diplomats in the region and certainly the view in London
was that the Iraqis are not getting the point. Just three days after Prime
Minister Blair told the Commons that there was s a huge infrastructure
of deception and concealment designed to prevent the inspectors from doing
their job, the Iraqi dictator, in a rare TV interview appeared to be totally
detached from reality and lives in an isolated world of his own. Channel
4 news broadcast an interview with the Iraqi leader conducted by
left wing anti-war campaigning veteran Labour MP Tony Benn who was last
in Baghdad in 1990 in a bid to secure release of non Iraqi citizens held
by Baghdad as ' humanshields'. President Hussein, who faced Mr. Benn across
a table in gilded armchair, asked the Iraqi camera crew - who filmed interview-
to make sure he looked good.
But the British prime minister knows that he has a battle on his hands
not just to convince the British public of his case for war but in order
to win over many of his own backbenchers.
However the French President also seems to risk a rift with America,
especially if he has proven to be wrong. He met with Mr. Blair, perhaps
symbolically for Mideastnews THE , in the Northern French
coastal town of Le-Touquet - famed for doubling as the capital of
British gamblers in the 19th century. Critics accused Chirac of playing
the populist card. With leaks and doubling as damning the other
side on both sides of the English Channel, there was a built up to the
summit which reporters predicted it to be another bust-up. The two leaders
disagreed strongly over Iraq, Zimbabwe and Common Agricultural Policy
in Europe. But as President Chirac was preparing for ash down with Mr.
Blair French Aircraft carrier group was on its way to the Gulf. It was
a signal that despite President Church's anti war tough talk in public,
he would however, extend a hand in turning the massive screwdriver tightening
the pressure on Saddam. Although the French export over one quarter of
all Iraqi needs under the oil for food programme - which explains their
opposition to war- European diplomats believe they would not only come
on board once the fire works start, but they will be part of the action
in order to have a bigger slice of the cake after the war.
No smoking gun but America keeps pressure on * Hans Blix's text 14 Feb 2003 * who will have the last laugh? * Sorting out Saddam ? * The raid *. Iraqi Official Statement *. The View from Britain * American policy on Iraq in disarray * .Saddam, the popular dictator among Arabs. .
Iraqi Mission in the UN.
British Ministry of Defence
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