Powell: "You Will Lose, Mr. President"
Editor's Note: There is a significant difference of opinion encapsulated in the two articles below, but both speak of an administration that is rapidly running out of diplomatic room to maneuver. The first article describes a number of administration advisees, including Secretary of State Colin Powell, informing Bush that he and the push for war on Iraq are set to take an embarrassing diplomatic pounding at the United Nations. These men are advising Bush to withdraw, seek political cover in the arrest of alleged 9/11 mastermind , rather than suffer a defeat before the Security Council. The second article reports that the administration is mulling over a plan to avoid a vote in the UN, but leaves a unilateral invasion very much on the table. "The president has made clear," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer is quoted as saying, "that whether the United Nations votes or does not vote, that we will disarm Saddam Hussein with a coalition of the willing," It has been clear in recent weeks that the hawks have come to rule the roost in Washington. It appears that, perhaps for the last time, there is again a struggle in the White House between those who want war now and those who have been advocating for a more diplomatic solution. - wrp
Advisors Warn Bush He Faces "Humiliating" Defeat on UN Resolution
Capitol Hill Blue
Tuesday 4 March 2003
Senior aides to President George W. Bush say he faces a humiliating defeat before the United Nations Security Council next week.
And signs emerged today that the U.S. may withdraw the resolution from security council consideration.
Secretary of State Colin Powell, fresh from his latest round of meetings with representatives of countries on the Security Council, delivered the bad news to Bush on Monday.
"You will lose, Mr. President," Powell told Bush. "You will lose badly and the United States will be humiliated on the world stage."
Powell told Bush he has only four of the nine votes needed for approval of a second resolution. As a result, some White House advisors are now urging the President to back off his tough stance on war with Iraq and give UN weapons inspectors more time.
"We have no other choice," admits one Bush advisor. "We don't have the votes. We don't have the support."
Presidential spokesman Ari Fleisher, in today's press briefing, appeared to signal a U.S. retreat from demanding a vote next week, saying "the president has said he believes that a vote is desirable. It is not mandatory."
John Negroponte, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said that while it is too early for the United States to withdraw the resolution, "we haven't crossed that bridge," Negroponte said.
Powell told Bush on Monday that Turkey's refusal to allow U.S. troops to stage at the country's border with Iraq doomed any chance of consensus at the UN.
"Many were watching Turkey," Powell told Bush. "Had they agreed, it might have helped us sway critical votes."
Powell met privately today with Mexico Foreign Minister Luis Ernesto Derbez to try and "parse" new language for the second resolution to satisfy a Mexican request to modify the text and extend the deadline for weapons inspections.
"It (the meeting) did not produce results," a Powell spokesman said afterwards.
Publicly, Powell is leaving the door open for the U.S. to withdraw the resolutions saying, telling a German television interviewer: "At the start of next week we'll decide when, depending on what we have heard, we will vote on a resolution. It will be a difficult vote for the U.N. Security Council."
Some Bush aides now admit privately that the President, for all his tough talk, may have to back down and postpone his plans to invade Iraq in the near future, delaying any invasion until April or May at the earliest.
"The vote in Turkey fucked things up big time," grumbles one White House aide. "It pushes our timetable back. On the other hand, it might give us a chance to save face."
"Saving face" could mean backing away from a showdown with the UN Security Council next week and agreeing to let the weapons inspection process run its course.
"The arrest of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed gives us some breathing room," says a Bush strategist. "We can concentrate on the favorable publicity generated by the arrest and the valuable intelligence we have gained from that event."
Mohammed, arrested in Pakistan, masterminded the 9-11 terrorist attacks. CIA agents found computer files, memos and other materials which pointed to plans for new attacks against the U.S.
"The prudent thing to do would be to let Iraq cool off on a back burner and concentrate on Mohammed," says Republican strategist Arnold Beckins. "Saddam isn't going anywhere. There's too much heat on him right now for him to pull something."
Right now, only the U.S., Britain and Spain favor immediate military action against Iraq. With most of the other allies lining up against the U.S., Bush faces both a diplomatic and public relations nightmare if he proceeds against Hussein without UN backing.
"We've always needed an exit strategy," admits a White House aide. "Circumstances have given us one. Perhaps we shouldn't ignore it."
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U.S. May Consider Resolution Withdrawal
By Ron Fournier
Las Vegas Sun | Associated Press
Tuesday 4 March 2003
With other nations' opposition hardening, the White House left open the possibility Tuesday that it would not seek a United Nations vote on its war-making resolution if the measure was clearly headed for defeat.
U.S. troop strength in the Persian Gulf neared 300,000, and President Bush and his advisers were looking beyond the diplomatic showdown in the U.N. to make plans for a public relations buildup to potential war with Iraq.
One option under serious consideration was Bush giving Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein a final ultimatum, perhaps with a short-term deadline, in an address next week, two senior White House officials said.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, stressed that a variety of options are on the table and all depend on the outcome of a U.N. Security Council debate on the U.S.-backed war resolution. In a new blow, Russia's top diplomat said Moscow may use its veto against the measure.
Even without a veto from Russia, China or France, the United States still doesn't have the nine votes needed to win approval of the resolution, according to both supporters and opponents. Many undecided council members are looking for a compromise.
Secretary of State Colin Powell, in an interview with RTL television of Germany, said that early next week U.S. leaders would "make a judgment on whether it's time to put the resolution up to a vote."
At the White House, spokesman Ari Fleischer said, "The vote is desirable. It is not necessary."
Once the vote is resolved one way or another, Bush will intensify his case for war, officials said, barring unforeseen events such as Saddam suddenly disarming or going into exile.
In addition to a possible address, they have discussed a presidential news conference and a Cabinet meeting as ways for Bush to communicate his plans to the nation next week. He may stop short of a specific ultimatum, officials said, but would make it clear that war is imminent in other ways, such as warning journalists and humanitarian workers to get out of Iraq.
Meanwhile, Bush telephoned leaders of India and Egypt to discuss his plans. And officials said Powell had had two telephone conversations and a one-on-one meeting in recent days with Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Ernesto Derbez in his search for Mexican support.
The Army's oldest armored division, "Old Ironsides," got its orders to head for the Persian Gulf, and Pentagon officials said U.S. land, sea and air forces were approaching 300,000 in the region.
Tommy R. Franks, the commander who would lead the war, met at the Pentagon with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and was to consult with Bush on Wednesday.
Still to be resolved was the military question of whether Turkey would allow its territory to be used for U.S. ground forces to open a northern front against Iraq.
At the White House, Fleischer said Turkey would lose a proposed $15 billion aid package unless it went along.
"The particular package that we've been talking to them about was predicated on assistance and cooperation in any plan for the use of force against Iraq," Fleischer said.
Until Tuesday, the spokesman had suggested part of the package would be available to Turkey regardless of whether 62,000 American troops are allowed in the country. White House officials said they were turning up pressure on Turkey in hopes that the parliament would grant the U.S. request on a second vote.
At the United Nations, meanwhile, Secretary-General Kofi Annan called Baghdad's destruction of missiles "a positive development," putting him at odds with Bush's assessment.
Russia's Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, renewing Moscow's opposition to quick military action, indicated Russia may use its veto against the U.S.-backed U.N. resolution.
Both developments further complicated Bush's efforts to win passage of the resolution, adding significance to talk of what the administration would do if U.N. opposition hardens.
"The president has made clear, that ... whether the United Nations votes or does not vote, that we will disarm Saddam Hussein with a coalition of the willing," Fleischer said. "We are proceeding with all the plans for the vote."
"Now, if you are asking me if all of a sudden support around the world crumbles and there is absolutely no one for it, I can't predict with metaphysical certitude every eventuality," Fleischer said.
U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte was asked whether the United States would withdraw the resolution if it didn't have the votes to pass it.
"We haven't crossed that bridge," he said. "We believe that support should be there. We are not facing that kind of situation but we will cross the bridge when we come to it."
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