|Blix in a Pickle
by John M. Curtis
Copyright February 10, 2003
n a major PR ploy, Iraq blinked, capitulating to U.S. demands to permit U.N. weapons inspectors to conduct U-2 surveillance flights. Putting the onus back on the White House, Saddam's latest move buys more time and further splits the U.N. Security Council, pitting France, Germany and Russia squarely against the U.S. "The inspectors are now free to use the American U-2s as well as French and Russian planes," announced Iraq's U.N. ambassador Mohamed al-Douri, giving the impression that Iraq was fully cooperating with U.N. inspectors. Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix returned from Baghdad with renewed optimism gaining new concessions for the Iraqi government. "There was a commitment they will fully comply" with U.N. Resolution 1441 said Mohammed ElBaradei, director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, concluding that Iraq has suddenly changed its stripes.
Since inspections resumed Nov. 27, Iraq pledged "unconditional" cooperation, giving inspectors unfettered access to all suspected weapons sites. On Dec. 8, Iraq declared it possessed no weapons of mass destruction, yet, at the same time, has threatened U.S. forces with possible biologic and chemical warfare, should the U.S. launch a preemptive strike. To avert war, French and German officials propose widening the scope and rigor of inspections. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell called upon the Security Council to meet its obligations under 1441 and determine whether "serious consequences are due at this time.” Powell rebuffed French and German proposals calling for new intense inspections, reminding the allies that unending delays undermines U.S. national security. Unlike Europeans, the U.S. is actively prosecuting its war on terrorism, taking the U.S. military to the next battlefrontIraq.
U.S. officials no longer accept Saddam's moves as anything other than "We have seen this game with Iraq many times before," said National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice. "When there's enough pressure, the Iraqis try to give just a little bit in order to release the pressure," rejecting today's overtures as inadequate. Keeping up the pressure, President Bush told congressional Republicans at a policy conference that Saddam "wants the world to think hide-and-seek is a game that we should play. And it's over," signaling that his administration won't be duped by Iraq's clever stalling tactics. Both Blix and ElBaradei seek more time to complete an inspection process designed, at the end of the day, to disarm Iraq. U.N. Resolution 1441 and U.S. authorities expect Iraq to come clean on their own, only using inspectors to verify the interdiction and destruction of proscribed materiel.
Speaking in the most euphemistic terms, Blix and ElBaradei seem less concerned about enforcing Security Council resolutions than avoiding war and justifying their continued usefulness. France, Germany and Russia hang on every word, hoping to drag out the inspection process to avoid armed conflict. "I perceive a beginning," said Blix after two days of talks in Baghdad, hyping expectations that he was making progress. "Breakthrough is a strong word for what we are seeing," said Blix, expecting Iraq to grant more concessions, including U-2 reconnaissance flights. Without faulting the Swedish career diplomat, Blix tipped his hand. "I would much rather see inspections than some other solution," referring to White House plans to disarm Iraq by force. Blix not only reveals his own ambivalence, but highlights how the U.N. inspections work at cross-purposes to U.S. national security.
Dragging on the inspection process enables Blix and ElBaradei to stay in business, gives authority to the Security Council to set U.S. defense policy and endangers U.S. national security by allowing Iraq to continue developing weapons of mass destruction. "There was a commitment they will fully comply,” said ElBaradei giving more false hope. Resolution 1441 wasn't supposed to turn U.N. inspectors into pawns for Saddam's propaganda machine. Yet, since Nov. 27, the White House has endured continuous references to "smoking guns" and a lack of proof. Every day that drags on, Saddam buys more time to hide dangerous weapons and turns world opinion against the U.S. Blix and ElBaradei aren't the only ones duped by pernicious propaganda. "We should not treat the U.N. Security Council as some kind of stumbling block," said Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), confused about what's best for national security.
Turning the inspection process on its head, Blix and ElBaradei must stop playing to world opinion and admit Saddam remains in material breach of U.N. Resolution 1441. Without Iraq's full capitulation, U.N. inspectors won't uncover deadly arsenals of proscribed weapons now threatening regional stability and U.S. national security. True allies recognize how a new U.S. defense strategy rose from the smoldering ashes of Sept. 11. Cold War thinking didn't stop 9/11 nor does today's appeasement stop rogue regimes and terrorists hell bent on seizing power by getting weapons of mass destruction. With nothing to lose, rogue nations and terrorists won't follow the civilized rules embodied by the global community in the United Nations. While the U.N. has time to burn, the U.S. can't sit idly by while madmen plot their next destructive moves. With or without the U.N., the U.S. must still do what it takes to prevent another Sept 11.
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