CBS News | Brits Backing Out?
Editor's Note: A nightmare scenario appears to be unfolding for the Bush administration. Their diplomatic push for a majority vote in the Security Council approving war in Iraq has, for the moment, fallen to ashes. This has made Tony Blair's position virtually untenable; his government will fall to pieces if he jumps on the war bandwagon with Bush without UN approval. Britain has been the go-no go partner for Bush throughout this process. He desperately needed Blair's unequivocal support for war as political cover. That cover appears now to be gone. Rumsfeld's response: "So what?" No big surprise. - wrp
Brits Backing Out?
Tuesday 11 March 2003
Sources tell CBS News that Great Britain - America's closest ally - may find it politically impossible to commit its military to a U.S.-led attack on Saddam Hussein. And that could force the United States to go it alone in Iraq.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld hinted as much Tuesday.
"To the extent that they are able to participate that would obviously be welcomed. To the extent they are not, well, there are workarounds," Rumsfeld said.
War in Iraq is now supported by fewer than 20 percent of Britons, and Prime Minister Tony Blair has told Washington he needs U.N. authorization, reports CBS News Correspondent Bill Plante.
So Britain is now talking about a new amendment to the draft resolution in the Security Council that would extend the March 17 deadline by as much as another ten days and would include strictly defined disarmament benchmarks - something the U.S. has opposed in the past.
"The United Kingdom is in a negotiation and it's prepared to look at timelines and tests together," Britain's U.N. Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock said. "But I'm pretty sure we're talking about action in March, don't look beyond March."
The White House said it didn't object to the tests, but made it clear that the time is limited.
"What the president has said is that there is room for a little more diplomacy, but not a lot of time to do it. The vote will take place this week," said press secretary Ari Fleischer.
The Bush administration had talked of a vote as early as Tuesday, but with France and Russia threatening to veto the current draft resolution, and without the minimum nine "yes" votes, it held up action in the council.
Diplomats from six council nations considered swing votes - Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Guinea, Mexico and Pakistan - proposed Tuesday that Saddam be given 45 days to meet benchmarks and demonstrate that Iraq is disarming.
But that appeared out of the question for the United States and Britain.
"It's not going anywhere, there's only one resolution on the table," one U.S. official said.
Under the proposed British amendment, Saddam would have 10 days to prove Iraq has taken a "strategic decision" to disarm, which could be done with a series of tests or "benchmarks," council diplomats said.
If Iraq makes that decision, a second phase would begin with more time to verify Iraq's full disarmament, the diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Reacting to the possible British compromise, French diplomats said the resolution would still mean authorizing war, which France is unwilling to do. However, the French Foreign Ministry in Paris indicated it was open to new ideas.
"It's a new development and the future will tell us if it is a significant development," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Francois Rivasseau. "We've indicated we are open to dialogue."
Nonetheless, he stressed that the "red line" set out by France cannot be crossed: "We want no ultimatum. We want no element of automaticity. And we've said we want what the inspectors say taken into account."
Russia's U.N. Ambassador Sergey Lavrov was equally adamant.
"We see no reason whatsoever to interrupt the inspections and any resolution which contains ultimatums and which contains automaticity for the use of force is not acceptable to us," he said.
The U.S. has the support of Britain, Spain and Bulgaria, with Cameroon and Mexico reportedly leaning toward the U.S. position. But with Germany, Syria and Pakistan preparing abstentions or "no" votes, Washington is trying to appeal to Chile, Angola and Guinea.
While the diplomats debate a war with Iraq, the Pentagon pressed ahead with final preparations for waging war. On Tuesday, a new weapon was added to the mix: the biggest conventional bomb ever dropped from an airplane.
It is officially designated the Massive Ordnance Air Blast, or MOAB, although it has come to be called unofficially the Mother of All Bombs, a rough allusion to Saddam Hussein's claim before the 1991 Gulf War that that conflict would be the "mother of all battles."
The Pentagon's newest and biggest weapon had to be tested before it can be used in combat. And at 21,000 pounds it promised to cause such a massive detonation that residents around the Florida bombing range had to be warned in advance.
The speed with which the Pentagon released video of the test was clearly intended as a warning to the Iraqi military of what they might face if it comes to war, reports CBS News National Security Correspondent David Martin.
"The goal is to have the capabilities of the coalition so clear and so obvious that there's an enormous disincentive for the Iraqi military to fight," Rumsfeld said.
U.S. officials say there are already secret surrender negotiations underway with the commanders of some Iraqi military units. Rumsfeld says that before the shooting starts all Iraqi units will be given one last chance to give up.
"They will receive instructions so that they can behave in a way that will be seen and understood as being non-threatening and they will not be considered combatants," Rumsfeld said.
What effect Tuesday's bomb test will have on the Iraqi will to fight remains to be seen, but the sight of a bomb so powerful that a parachute is needed to slow its descent and give the plane which dropped it time to get away from the blast can only demoralize Iraqi troops. It might also convince them to take shelter in the cities since the U.S. could never use a weapon that powerful anywhere near civilians.
Got to Original
U.S. Pushes for Iraq Vote Soon, Despite Flagging Support
By Timothy L. O'Brien
The New York Times
Tuesday 11 March 2003
The United States dropped its plans to seek a Security Council vote today on a draft resolution that would open the door to a military strike against Iraq, but the White House insisted that it would secure a vote this week even as support for its position appeared to be withering.
Britain, the United States' staunchest ally in its campaign to disarm Iraq, has begun to distance itself from the White House's insistence on confronting Baghdad with or without the United Nations' blessing. France and Russia said unequivocally on Monday that they planned to veto the draft resolution if and when a vote occurred.
While France and Russia have become familiar opponents of the United States in the Iraq debate, the possibility of a shift by Britain presages an even thornier diplomatic path ahead for the White House. Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain has come under strong domestic criticism of his support for the United States, criticism that has undermined his popularity and threatens the viability of his government.
In response, the British are now adopting a more temperate posture toward Iraq. Diplomats here say that Britain is hesitant to support military action against Iraq without United Nations backing and that it does not support the White House's advocacy of "regime change" in Baghdad to overthrow the Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
"In the U.K., because of the political situation there, there's a strong desire to keep the U.N. involved in the process, and I think the White House recognizes that," said Catherine Mackenzie, a spokeswoman for the British Mission to the United Nations.
The United States budged a bit itself today, agreeing to extend a proposed disarmament deadline for Baghdad beyond March 17. Nonetheless, the White House rejected a 45-day delay sought by six of the Security Council's 15 members who have yet to indicate which way they would vote on the draft resolution.
"There is room for diplomacy here," Ari Fleischer, the White House spokesman, said today at a news briefing. "Not much room and not much time."
Britain's ambassador to the United Nations, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, said in an interview with CNN about an extended deadline that he was "pretty sure we're talking about action in March - don't look beyond March."
The United States, Britain and Spain jointly introduced the draft resolution, which finds Iraq in breach of United Nations requirements that it disarm. But the three have yet to garner the nine votes needed from Security Council members to secure the resolution's passage. Even so, the White House expressed confidence that a vote would happen soon.
"The vote will take place this week," Mr. Fleischer told reporters at the White House.
Diplomats here said the British proposed a two-tiered plan for the draft resolution that would give Iraq 10 days after passage of the resolution to prove that it is disarming in accordance with various benchmarks established by the Security Council. After that, the clock would start ticking again as inspectors verify Iraq's full disarmament.
But members of the United States Mission to the United Nations said no language about benchmarks - or any other modifications to the draft resolution - had yet been presented to John Negroponte, the American ambassador to the United Nations.
Meanwhile, with Gen. Tommy Franks, the head of United States Central Command, on his way to the Persian Gulf, the White House continued to lobby the Security Council for support. President Bush had no public events scheduled today and personally solicited the support of President Jos Eduardo Dos Santos of Angola in a telephone conversation this morning. Mr. Bush also telephoned the leaders of Japan, China, South Africa, Oman, Spain and Turkey to seek their support.
Angola, Cameroon, Guinea, Mexico, Chile and Pakistan comprise the Security Council's swing votes. The United States, Britain, Spain and Bulgaria have thus far held together in support of military action against Iraq, while Russia, China, France, Germany and Syria have advocated giving United Nations weapons inspectors more time to examine Baghdad's weapons programs.
China's president, Jiang Zemin, told Mr. Bush in their phone call that there was "no need for any new resolution," according to a spokesman for China's Foreign Ministry in Beijing.
At a news conference today in Iraq, Hiro Ueki, a spokesman for the weapons inspectors, said there were still open questions about whether a drone jet suspected of being capable of spraying anthrax provides evidence that Iraq possesses unauthorized weapons.
"There are still a number of outstanding questions and Iraq needs to submit additional documents, evidence, explanations to address and answer those," Mr. Ueki told reporters.
On Monday, Kofi Annan, the United Nations secretary general, warned the United States not to take military action against Iraq without the Security Council's support, saying that if it did so it would violate the United Nations charter.
"The members of the Security Council now face a great choice," Mr. Annan said. "If they fail to agree on a common position and action is taken without the authority of the Security Council, the legitimacy and support for any such action will be seriously impaired."
The Security Council, at the request of the Non-Aligned Movement, a coalition of 115 smaller countries on the United Nations General Assembly, is conducting open meetings today and on Wednesday to air more views on how to manage the standoff with Iraq and close bitter divisions among the council's members. Some 42 speakers are scheduled to take part in the debate.
Pakistan's ambassador to the United Nations, Munir Akram, said ambassadors from the six countries met on Monday to search for a compromise and agreed to "explore the possibility of some sort of specific tasks which can be accomplished in a reasonable time."
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