Wednesday, February 12, 2003

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LITMUS TESTS FOR EVERYONE!: Both the London Times and the New York Times report that the UN inspectors have found their smoking gun. According to the British paper:

"A panel of independent experts ruled that the Iraqi missiles could fly beyond the permitted 150km range and Dr Blix will declare the al-Samoud 2 missile a proscribed programme.... Before making a final decision on whether the missiles contravened UN rules, Dr Blix convened a meeting of outside missile experts from Britain, China, France, Ukraine, Germany and the US on Monday and Tuesday. Diplomatic sources said that those experts determined that the al-Samoud 2 exceeded the 150km range, but that the capability of the al-Fatah remained an 'open question'.

The experts also judged Iraq to be in violation of UN rules for repairing banned casting chambers for making illegal missiles and for building a new test stand that can test missile engines five times above the permitted thrust."

The NYT report also has some good stuff on the machinations going on at the UN, including France, Russia, and China's decision to have Friday's meeting be an open session, which is rankling even their sympathizers on the Security Council.

Now, if the reports are true, there are going to be some tough litmus tests for both anti-U.S. coalition at the Security Council, as well as Iraq:

FOR FRANCE RUSSIA, AND GERMANY: Their immediate fall-back defense will be that Blix's report is not evidence of material breach, but rather that the inspections are working, since the discovery came from some of the new information contained in Iraq's December 2002 report (never mind that Powell's speech proved otherwise). However, will even these countries will have to concede that unless Iraq hand over the banned weapons, they must be declared in material breach? If yes, then the hot potato shifts to Iraq; if no, then these countries will win the Best Foreign Policy Self-Immolation Award for 2003. (UPDATE: The Russian rsponse is to claim that the violation is a technicality, but I don't think that's going to fly).

FOR IRAQ: The UN is going to ask them to hand over the weapons. And here is where the Rumsfeldian rhetoric will pay dividends -- there is no chance they will comply. Hussein is probably convinced at this point that Bush will invade no matter what the Security Council decides, so why fight with only one arm? The only possible gambit they could employ would be a quid pro quo offer of handing over weapons in exchange for a general withdrawal of U.S. forces from the region. That, however, is not unconditional compliance, and probably won't fly.

FOR THE UNITED STATES: Can Negroponte and Powell avoid looking smug when they watch the aforementioned countries try to squirm their way out of these logical traps?


posted by Dan on 02.12.03 at 09:51 PM