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THE MOMENT OF TRUTH: War against Iraq imminent even without UN support


Paper No. 635                                              18.03.2003

by K. Gajendra Singh 

US president George W. Bush with prime ministers of UK, Spain and host Portugal in attendance made it crystal clear on the east Atlantic located Azores islands summit on 16 March that after some further international diplomacy by telephone, the coalition would disarm Iraq by force.  The decision on war could be announced in a day or so.  Throwing a gauntlet at those opposed to a second UN resolution, sponsored by USA, UK and Spain, Bush said that they could be allowed to participate in Iraq’s reconstruction.  Bush was particularly severe on French president Jacque Chirac.  Bush and Tony Blair, who speak to each other almost every day, had decided a few days ago to convene the pre-war summit at the Azores, when they felt that there was a little chance of getting a consensus on the second UN resolution.  This option had been discussed earlier but no date had been finalized.  But it was to be called as a 'last push for peace'.  The White House appears to have already drafted a 'declaration of war' speech by the president which was to be broadcast, within hours of a defeat in the security council or soon after a decision were taken not to put the resolution to the UN vote at all.  The speech writer reportedly traveled with the US president to the Azores for final drafting.  The war speech could made as early as 17th March night.

The Bush administration is not prepared to see any diplomatic discussions going beyond 18 March.  It would be too late for desert warfare after some time.  For Tony Blair, now perched on the brink of military conflict with out UN sanction, there could be a rebellion at home.  Now with a war imminent, his reputation and job are on the line.  It would be the same for Spanish prime minister Hose Aznar.  People of both Spain and the UK are over whelmingly opposed to a war.  A stage has been set for inevitable fundamental splits and restructuring in the international arena.  The position of five permanent veto wielding powers, US, UK and France, Russia and China is quite well known.  French president Chirac had categorically declared use of veto against any resolution authorizing use of force.  Russia has taken the same position but not that categorically, while China has expressed its opposition to the use of force. Among non permanent and non veto members, Germany and Syria are opposed the 2nd resolution, while Bulgaria and Spain (who along with UK and US has circulated it) are with USA and UK.  That leaves non committed 6 members, the so called U 6 (the undecided 6); Guinea, Angola and Cameroon from Africa, the three others being Pakistan, Chile and Mexico.  Mexico, in spite of a visit by the Spanish prime minister was not persuaded to side with USA.  Chile remained neutral, while Pakistan, which has fundamentalist parties in power in 2 provinces, which are also the main opposition parties in the federal parliament, had indicated that it might abstain. USA has tried to win it over by removing sanctions placed after the military coup in 1999 and promises of massive aid, but support to war resolution could make things very difficult for the regime.

The ones who are thus likely to shift their position to blandishments are Guinea, Angola and Cameroon.  Francophone Cameroon and Guinea, which is now in the French camp and had agreed in a summit in Paris to oppose the war.  Although Angola and its Soviet educated and supported President Eduardo dos Santos was USA enemy during the cold war, it is now with the west, but the situation is not very clear.  Here billions of US dollars disappear from the state accounts, so it is liable to be swayed by money.  Visits by French foreign minister Dominique de Villepin and British minister Baroness Amos led to open speculation about offers of aid and commercial concessions.  But they all Africans have insisted that the security council vote would be decided on principles alone.

The Angolan government in Luanda has sent conflicting signals about its intentions.  Its deputy foreign minister told the BBC that Angola would vote against the resolution but later the foreign minister, Joao Bernardo de Miranda, restored the ambiguity at a joint press conference with de Villepin, by saying: "War is inevitable and we're worried about the future of the United Nations.  We're worried about the aftermath of war, but I won't reveal Angola's position now."  French and US oil companies have both invested heavily in Angola's offshore deposits, giving both governments a degree of leverage over Luanda, prompting some analysts to predict that Angola could abstain.  In Guinea, now ruled by an ailing President Lansana Conte, France, its biggest bilateral aid donor, has influence.  But its army, which has been promised US military aid, has suggested that it might step in to preserve stability.  Cameroon has also left diplomats wondering about its intentions.  Till two weeks ago it was widely believed that it would follow France, but then some observers detected signs that visits by Washington officials, plus phone lobbying by President Bush himself, had begun to pay off.  Like Angola and Guinea, Cameroon had agreed to the African Union's pledge to oppose war in Iraq but is getting tempted.  To break ranks with their neighbours in Africa by backing USA and UK would erode some moral authority.  But who cares, say some Cameroon government officials.  There would be material benefits from USA.

According to the US national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, each security council member could be expected to pursue its own interests.  Last week it had appeared that US and UK by threats, charm and bribes had persuaded the 6 to vote for the second resolution. Thus 9 votes in favour would have given a 'moral majority', even if France or Russia used their veto.  But the U6 had wanted the timing of deadline to be discussed. But when President Chirac said in a TV interview that he would use the French veto against any resolution which gave Saddam Hussein an ultimatum 'whatever the circumstances’, it threw UN route off the rails. Dominique de Villepin, said that the undecided six would not be allowed to dictate policy.  To this French riposte USA replied  'This has gone on long enough,' Condoleezza Rice told the popular Al-Jazeera, Arab television network.  When the U6 made a last bid attempt and suggested a 3 week deadline, USA dismissed it as a 'non-starter'.  As a counter measure France, Russia and Germany, who strongly support more time to UN weapons inspectors than use of force to disarm Iraq, offered a ministerial level summit to discuss the time bound measures for elimination of weapons of mass destruction. But this was rejected by USA.  Of course there have also been accusations that USA and UK tried to tap the communications of the security council members not with USA, to help find out their position and take necessary counter measures.


The war on Iraq even with a resolution, while bringing death and devastation on poor hapless long suffering Iraqi population, will have unpredictable consequences. It will fully ignite the Crusade vs Jihad millennium old conflict.  Let there be no doubt about it.  It only exposes the bankruptcy of Anglo-Saxon policy, when 19th century methods are being used to handle 21st century problems. USA, realizing that Turkey might not join it, even after the swearing in of the new prime minister Recep Erdogan, has withdrawn its financial package for letting it use bases in SE Turkey to open a second northern front against Iraq.  This would make the US led coalition of the willing and servile face impossible odds to achieve their ends quickly and cleanly and lead to problems everywhere.

Iraq is now very much weaker than in 1991, but Saddam Hussein and his reliable Republican Guard would defend Baghdad and other Sunni cities and towns.  There could be total chaos verging on many civil wars in north Iraq.  This writer had a ringside view of the 1991 Gulf war in Amman.  A clear case of Iraqi aggression against an independent state of Kuwait had been established and was opposed by all Arab and Muslim countries. Their governments were able to contain the anger and frustration of the masses.  Since then they and the world has watched butchery being enacted daily by the state of Israel.  With Ariel Sharon in power, another mention of a solution of the Israeli Palestinian problem by George Bush, more as an afterthought, will not fool any one.

(K Gajendra Singh, served as Indian Ambassador to Turkey and Azerbaijan in 1992-96. Prior to that, he served as ambassador to Jordan (during the 1990-91 Gulf war ), Romania and Senegal. He is currently chairman of the Foundation for Indo-Turkic Studies.