Sunday

7th Mar 2021

Bush issues deadlines for UN and Iraq

US president George Bush has issued a deadline for UN Security Council members to rubber stamp the use of force against Iraq, motioning toward war within days.

Speaking after an emergency summit in the Azores, attended by leaders from Spain and the UK and the hosts, Portugal, the US president said he gave the other members of the Security Council 24 hours to agree to issue a deadline for the Iraq regime to disarm.

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According to the rhetoric only two peaceful outcomes are now possible, the Iraqi government going into exile or complete disarmament.

With both of these scenarios extremely unlikely it is now clear that any deadline will be a de facto declaration of war and crucially that this war will go ahead with or without UN backing.

Last chance

Mr Bush billed the deadline as an opportunity for the UN to get its "legs of responsibility back." Mr Blair was clearer, without a credible ultimatum "more debate just means more delay," he said.

France has repeatedly stated that they would veto any resolution that includes an automatic trigger for war.

The UK, US and Spain are now likely to push for a ‘moral majority’ securing the votes of nine of the 15 members of the security council regardless of any veto. If nine votes are not found, the new resolution is not likely to be put to the vote for fear that the already dubious legality of military force would be undermined.

On Sunday key members of the British government were claiming that resolution 1441, which spoke of "serious consequences" for non-disarmament by Iraq, gives legal cover for going to war despite the fact the US ambassador to the UN said this was not the case when the resolution was being negotiated.

Most undecided Security Council members are likely to opt not to back a move to war that is domestically unpopular, and one that will go ahead in any case.

Domestic problems

In the past week the US has become more and more eager to press ahead with the military campaign but stayed the course of diplomacy in order to help UK Prime Minister Tony Blair's case at home.

Without a second resolution, Mr Blair may be faced with a wave of resignations including that of the former Foreign Minister and now leader of the House of Commons, Robin Cook.

The Spanish Premier, José Maria Aznar, is unlikely to face resignations but with polls indicating 80% of Spain’s population is against the war, his Partido Popular, commentators say, has already lost the next election.

Atlanticism

Opening the press conference following the hour-long meeting, Portuguese Prime Minister, Durão Barroso, spoke of the symbolism of the Azores lying midway between Europe and North America and the importance of transatlantic ties.

Mr Blair echoed this sentiment "Europe and America should stand together on the big issues of the day." It is hard to imagine Europe’s future without a transatlantic commitment, added Mr Aznar.

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