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Will Peter Foster save Saddam ?

December 18th, 2002

This NYT piece on the Bush response to the Iraqi declaration takes a long time to get the point, but finally says that Bush will not claim that the well-publicised omissions are sufficient to justify an invasion

Mr. Bush, some aides expect, will take a cautious approach, denouncing Iraq but stopping short of any pre-emptive action. Most likely, some officials say, is that President Bush will declare that what Washington sees as Iraq’s failure to account for missing chemical and biological weapons, and Baghdad’s declaration that all its nuclear weapons research has stopped, are the latest in a series of steps that violate Security Council Resolution 1441.

“I don’t expect the President will say that this this alone is casus belli” — a cause for war — said one senior Administration official. “But it builds the case.

Of course, the NYT has its best sources in the peace camp within the Administration, and people like Rumsfeld are clearly keen to declare war now, but the crucial point made in the report is that the British government is unwilling to back the claim that the declaration is a “material breach” sufficient to justify war. This accords with my reading of the British press. As I’ve consistently argued, Britain has an effective veto, not only because its military contribution is significant but also because the US public won’t support a war without international support and British participation is a minimal requirement for this.

An interesting sidelight is that the recent ‘Cheriegate’ mini-scandal over Cherie Blair’s dealings with Australian conman Peter Foster have been perfectly timed to weaken Tony Blair’s capacity to dragoon the Labour cabinet into supporting a war, assuming that this is what he wants. But the crucial factor is the weakness of the US case and the increasingly strong evidence that the ‘dossier’ Blair used as evidence against Iraq was at best erroneous in key respects and at worst fabricated. In these circumstances, it’s doubtful that Britain will be inclined to support any action until the UN weapons inspectors have made their report.

Obviously, all this is speculation. But I’ve had a pretty good track record on this so far. By contrast, the warbloggers have repeatedly overestimated the likelihood of war, and underestimated the need for international support. In September, for example, Steven Den Beste predicted

Support for the war in the US will rise; concern about foreign support for it will fall; American unilateralism will reemerge; Congress will grant formal approval in October; and actual hostilities will begin no later than the end of December.

We’re right on track.

I pick SDB because he’s among the most sensible of the warbloggers. As I noted a while ago, the majority have now descended into self-parody, or else moved on to other things.

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