Tuesday, October 01, 2002

Edit: other oopsie fixed. Bloody picky HTML hyperlinks. Leave out one bracketed "A" and the whole thing goes blooie.

Jim Henley lays out the possibilities on the Turkish Uranium debacle:

1) Some Turkish cops and some foreign reporters got way, way hysterical over what turned out to be nothing at all. Odds: Decent.

2) The US and Turkish governments have decided that, on second thought, they really don't want people worrying about this stuff right now. Why: If they know a bunch of stuff did get through, or if they realized that the Uranium was destined for someone decidedly other than an authorized villain. (Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel all suggest themselves, though you'd think the Israelis could produce all the Uranium they need.) Odds: Decent.

3) They're playing the "released" smugglers, expecting to trail them back to their boss. Odds: Decent, but would be higher if we lived in TV.

4) This was a US/British covert op that went wrong. Odds: Non-negligible

5) This was an Israeli covert op that the US decided was ill-timed. i.e. Israel wanted to make it look like, oh, Bashaar Assad was smuggling Uranium into Syria (which is probably happening anyway) to get Syria moved up the invasion list. But the US just isn't ready for that. Odds: Small, but maybe better than the US/British op theory.

6) You and me actually ever find out what happened. Odds: Negligible.

Conclusion: Become a comics blogger instead. You get nice e-mails.
Hey, there's a reason I link to 8-bit theatre.

This, of course, is because the whole thing is becoming increasingly smelly- to the extent that now we are told that: "Former U.N. weapons inspector David Albright suggested the men could have been trying to swindle potential buyers. But he said investigators should try to determine both the source and the intended purchaser."

Um, yeah.

In related news, negotiations between Iraq and UNMOVIC appear to be plodding along well enough, and although there are still issues to be resolved, the negotiations are moving along and it appears likely that the inspectors will be going in on Oct. 15 as planned. This, of course, could end up as yet another blow to the U.S., after the twin setbacks of the Russian condemnation of the latest no-fly zone bombing and the French intransigence on the proposed new U.N. resolution gives new credence to the idea that the French will simply not allow a single resolution that both sets up the inspection conditions and authorizes military force if the conditions are breached.

The reason for this French position is apparent enough. a resolution like the one the Bush administration is proposing is tantamount to a declaration of war, as there is no doubt whatsoever that the Bushites would find some reason to find Iraq's actions lacking and use the resolution as cover for the invasion. The French propose instead...

a two-stage resolution: firstly demanding Iraq allow the weapons inspectors to do their work and then - only if Baghdad fails to comply - a second part authorising military intervention.
This is intended as a multilateral check on the Bush administration. The necessity of passing a second resolution returns the authority for action to the Security Council itself- while the U.S. could no doubt use an existing force provision in an existing resolution, the Security Council itself would be needed to pass the other one.

In some respects, though, where this goes will provide a valuable insight into the mentality of the Bush administration. It depends on how you see this. If you (and they) think that Iraq is going to comply with the current inspection regime (or a stronger-yet-reasonable alternative), then the Bushites would be definitely against this, as they need U.N. support to keep their domestic support up and to attempt to repair their tattered international relations. If they honestly believe that Iraq will try to end-run around the inspectors, then there's no reason why they couldn't accept the double resolution, because they know that they'll get their authorization in the end anyway. The BBC seemed to think that the U.S. might go for the French proposal, and I'm inclined to agree.

Still, if the negotiations are successful, then the French and Russians might go back to arguing that no new resolutions are required. It is true that the U.S. might horse-trade or buy them off, but I personally find that unlikely, because their own national security and domestic popularity could be hurt by this. (I know Blair's has.) That would be a huge victory for the Iraqis- invasion would be practically unthinkable if inspectors were on the ground in Iraq.

Unless, of course, the U.S. says "screw it" and invades anyway. That's possible- there's no doubt that the "debate" is entirely a sham, and that these U.N. machinations are solely because Bush stuck his neck out on the 12th and is trying to deal with ramifications of that perhaps rash decision. At this point, it's coming down to good old fashioned Realist conflicts of interests. Nothing surprising about that. That's what the U.N. is there for.

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