As Washington and London step up calls for action on Iraq, they are soon expected to send a proposal to the UN Security Council making tough new demands upon Baghdad. RFE/RL looks at what demands the proposal could include and how they may be received by the other three permanent members of the Security Council.
Prague, 25 September 2002 (RFE/RL) -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair clearly summed up Washington's and London's joint position on Iraq yesterday as he presented a dossier of evidence charging Baghdad with pursuing weapons of mass destruction.
Speaking to an emergency session of the British parliament, Blair said that he would like to make Baghdad disarm peacefully through a new UN resolution, but that use of force must be held in reserve.
He said that "Alongside the diplomacy, there must be a genuine preparedness and planning to take action if diplomacy fails."
That position -- that diplomacy must be backed with the threat of military force -- is likely to be repeated often in the coming days, as Washington and London seek to convince the other three permanent members of the United Nations Security Council to adopt a tough new resolution against Iraq. Reuters reported that a draft of the new resolution could be circulated among Security Council diplomats as early as this week, but that any vote is not expected before next week.
Analysts say the U.S.-British initiative will call on the Security Council to demand that Baghdad comply with arms inspections within a defined period of time. If those conditions are not met, the proposed resolution would give the Security Council the right to use all necessary means to force Baghdad to comply.
Jean Pascal Zanders, an arms-control expert at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute in Sweden, said it is too early to know whether London and Washington will include a deadline for Iraqi disarmament in the draft. But he said that if there is one, it is likely to be before the end of winter to facilitate military action in case of Iraqi defiance. "The time pressure comes from the urgency to start possible military action over Iraq. And one can easily see that if such action would take place that probably the preference would be to start somewhere in January or February, like in the 1991 [Gulf War] because of temperature, if there is a certain expectation of [troop] exposure to chemical- or biological-warfare agents," Zanders said.
High temperatures would make it impossible for troops to operate while wearing protective suits against biological or chemical weapons.
Zanders also said the resolution will likely seek to toughen the mandate for UN arms inspectors, which has been weakened due to years of bickering between the UN and Baghdad over what sites can be inspected and how. "Over the UNSCOM years, there have also been quite a few compromises with Iraq. And the most notorious one is probably the memorandum of understanding of January-February 1998, over the so-called 'presidential sites,'" Zanders said.
In the dispute, Iraq won a concession from UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan that such locations would only be visited in the presence of international diplomats who would arbitrate on-site disputes. UNSCOM was the UN's previous arms-inspection group for Iraq, since transformed into the current UNMOVIC (UN Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission).
The U.S.-British proposal also could include demands that Iraq comply with UN resolutions in several areas other than arms inspections.
In addressing the UN on 12 September, U.S. President George W. Bush said that if Baghdad wants peace, it also must immediately end all support for terrorism -- something all states are required to do under existing UN Security Council resolutions.
Bush also said the Iraqi regime must end human rights abuses against its civilian population, account for all Gulf War personnel whose fates are still unknown, return stolen property to Kuwait, and immediately end illicit trade outside of the UN-approved oil-for-food program.
As Washington and London are now reported to be close to presenting a draft resolution to the Security Council, it remains to be seen how much the other three permanent Council members -- France, China, and Russia -- will support or resist the terms.
Strong initial resistance to passing any final resolution that includes a threat to use force against Iraq could come from Russia. Moscow has long been the Security Council member most sympathetic to Iraq because the two countries have good political and trading relations.
Britain's ambassador to Moscow, Roderic Lyne, said yesterday that he feels Russia is moving closer to the British position after he presented Blair's dossier on Iraq's weapons program to the Russian government. But Russian officials themselves have said little to give a clear idea of Moscow's stand.
Following Blair's speech to the British parliament, a spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry told "The Guardian" British daily that Russia shares the view that "Iraq should implement all Security Council resolutions," adding that, "What counts most now is returning the inspectors so that only specialists will clearly [determine] whether Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction."
But many analysts say Moscow could be willing to negotiate with Washington to lessen its opposition to tough action on Iraq in exchange for political or economic concessions from the United States.
Zanders said that would follow a pattern Russian President Vladimir Putin has already pursued by cooperating with the U.S.-led war on terrorism, partly, he said, in return for less Western criticism of Moscow's policy in Chechnya.
France has also hesitated to link threats of military action to new demands on Iraq. President Jacques Chirac said this week he does not oppose any new Security Council resolution that would reiterate the UN's existing conditions for the return of arms inspectors, though he does not regard a new resolution as "indispensable."
With the U.S. and Britain now insisting on a new resolution, French officials have said they favor a two-tiered approach to the process. That would be to reiterate the UN's demands that Baghdad disarm but postpone any talk of using force until Iraq is judged to be refusing to comply.
A French envoy told the U.S. daily "Los Angeles Times" this week that Paris favors a "two-step process.... It will be easier to get world support if we first urge the Iraqi regime to disarm and, if the regime does not comply, then think of the consequences."
Some analysts say that France would be prepared to endorse military action if Iraq were later seen to defy the new UN demands.
Steven Everts, director of the Trans-Atlantic Program of the London-based Center for European Reform, told RFE/RL recently that the French would back the enforcement of UN resolutions, though they do not endorse Washington's demands for a regime change in Baghdad. "If you talk about the French position on Iraq, it's a very carefully calibrated one. They've been using very careful language: that the issue here is enforcement of UN resolutions, not regime change. Provided there is a very tightly argued and tightly phrased UN resolution, it's my expectation that the French will probably support military action, not just in political terms but also in military terms," Everts said.
Chirac has rejected any unilateral attack on Iraq by the United States and says any such action must be backed by the UN Security Council. He has also said military action should only be taken if Baghdad refuses to cooperate with weapons inspectors.
Beijing said yesterday it would consider a new UN resolution but gave no details of China's position beyond that. Beijing has in the past repeatedly urged Baghdad to abide by all UN resolutions and to resume cooperation with weapons inspectors. But it has also said it favors only a political solution to the crisis.
Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rongji said in Copenhagen yesterday that Beijing would only support military action under a UN mandate. "We request Iraq to comply with the resolutions without any preconditions and accept the UN inspection, and we also ask that Iraq's sovereignty and territorial integrity are respected. Without [the UN's] authority and mandate and without firm evidence, any actions will lead to severe consequences. This is the Chinese position," Zhu said.
With debate over the U.S.-British proposal about to begin, it is unclear how quickly any new resolution on Iraq might be approved. But both U.S. and British officials have signaled they want fast action.
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has said he expects a new resolution before any teams of inspectors return to Iraq. Following Iraq's recent agreement to readmit arms monitors, chief UN inspector Hans Blix set 15 October as the date for resuming work.
Blix is due to meet Iraqi arms inspectors in Vienna on 30 September and 1 October to discuss the practical aspects of resuming the arms inspections.