The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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It now seems increasingly likely that a US-led war against Iraq could take place very soon, and only the most dramatic diplomatic initiative can prevent it

The speech by the secretary of state of the United States of America, General Colin Powell, to the United Nations security council was designed to secure the support of the multilateral organization for possible military action against Iraq. In essence, Mr Powell argued that Iraq has continued with a policy of denial and deception for over one decade. The verdict of the American secretary of state was emphatic. Even while Iraq was committed by UN resolutions, and its own pledges, to get rid of all existing stocks of weapons of mass destruction and the capacity to build them again, it has been cheating. While President George W. Bush’s recent state of the union speech had also made the same case forcefully, General Powell’s address brought fresh evidence to bear on the matter. These included audiotapes and satellite photographs, and indeed much of what was disclosed was very damaging to Iraq’s stand and may weaken its list of supporters even further.

Consider the audio tapes that were produced by Mr Powell. These included recordings of conversations between Iraqi military officials and their attempts to “clean up the area” before the UN inspection team arrived. One of these exchanges was recorded in November last year and another as recently as January 30. This attempt by Iraq to sanitize particular places before inspections, presuming that the tapes are authentic, is most unfortunate. Mr Powell also claimed that Iraqi officials ordered the removal of banned weapons from key sites and had hidden prohibited items in their homes. He also asserted that the president of Iraq, Mr Saddam Hussein, had threatened Iraqi scientists with death if they disclosed information to the UN inspectors. It is believed that the American secretary of state will reveal further classified information in bilateral meetings with foreign ministers of countries that are members of the UN security council. It remains to be seen if the US’s own sceptical allies, France and Germany, are convinced of the merits of American policy after the new evidence. It now seems increasingly likely that the military action against Iraq could take place within weeks, and only the most dramatic diplomatic initiative can prevent another war in the Persian Gulf area. It is also, however, clear that the US would still like to obtain the full UN security council’s support for a war. But it is unlikely that the US would change its policy in the event of the UN security council not supporting military action. What, however, is still unclear is what shape Iraq will take after the departure of Mr Hussein, if the US succeeds in accomplishing its most immediate aim.

American policy has rarely taken a long view of its foreign policy and can often be very short-sighted. Although the examples of Japan and Germany might suggest that the US is capable of post-war nation building, there are scores of other examples, from more recent history, that seem to suggest the very opposite.

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