UNITED NATIONS, Jan. 27 — Hans Blix, one of the chief United Nations weapons inspectors, gave a broadly negative report today on Iraq's cooperation with two months of inspections, providing support to the Bush administration's campaign to disarm Iraq by force if necessary.
"Iraq appears not to have come to genuine acceptance — not even today — of the disarmament which was demanded of it and which it needs to carry out to win the confidence of the world and live in peace," Mr. Blix said, summing up a grim 15-page catalog of Iraq's chemical and biological arms programs that provided an exhaustive account of ways in which Saddam Hussein has failed to prove that he has eliminated illegal weapons.
After Mr. Blix spoke, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said in Washington: "Time is running out. We've made it very clear from the very beginning that we would not allow the process of inspections to string out forever."...
And over at the Editorial page, I detect subtle signs of a drift towards a "Give War a Chance" policy:
he mixed report on Iraqi weapons compliance presented yesterday by the United Nations' two chief weapons inspectors begins an intense week of diplomacy and decision-making on the next steps in the international campaign to disarm Saddam Hussein. Their findings argue strongly for giving the inspectors more time to pursue their efforts and satisfy international opinion that every reasonable step has been taken to solve this problem peacefully. As President Bush has repeatedly said, war, if it comes to that, must be a last resort.
...More time is needed for further searches, for analysis of recent findings and for pursuing the intelligence leads now being provided by Washington and other governments.
As expected, Hans Blix, chief inspector for biological and chemical weapons, told the Security Council that he had not yet uncovered hard evidence that conclusively proved that Iraq is developing prohibited weapons. But as he rightly recognized, that fact does nothing to sustain Baghdad's unsupported assertions of innocence. Mr. Blix distinguished between the superficial cooperation Iraq has provided and its lack of cooperation on the core matter of what it has done with its weapons programs since the last round of inspections ended in 1998. Iraq has forfeited numerous opportunities to remedy the omissions and discrepancies in the badly flawed weapons declaration it submitted last December. It has provided no satisfactory accounting for alarming quantities of nerve gas and anthrax it is known to have possessed.
Mr. Blix properly stressed the need for far more active Iraqi cooperation, including help in setting up private interviews with Iraqi scientists....
Without Baghdad's full cooperation, inspectors cannot disarm Iraq. They can, however, keep enough pressure on Baghdad to contain its unconventional weapons development and perhaps produce evidence that would mobilize an international consensus for additional steps.
Secretary of State Colin Powell warned Baghdad yesterday that not much time remains to begin disarming, but he said a peaceful solution was still possible if Iraq changed course. The White House should not be impatient to invade Iraq. War there could be a messy, bloody business. The world must be reassured that every possibility of a peaceful solution has been fully explored. To that end, the inspectors should be granted additional time.
Well, it is clear to me that the international consensus the Times hopes for will never materialize. However, how much time are we talking about? The Germans have a proposal which shocked me as being nothing more than a diplomatic fig leaf, and not a serious attempt to derail the US-led disarmament effort. From the original Times story:
Britain, the United States' closest ally, expressed support for a German proposal that the inspectors report back to the Council again on Feb. 14. Such a date for a further interim report would allow the United States and Britain to continue preparations for a war in late February or March while demonstrating to skeptical allies, including France, that they are not rushing to judgment.
Most Security Council nations supported the German proposal today. The United States accepted it, but said no significance should be attached to the date.
Happy Valentine's Day? Three more weeks is nothing, especially since, for logistical reasons, the US may not be ready to attack until the middle or end of February anyway. Is there an election in Germany on February 13? Is Schroeder angling to get back in Bush's good graces? Does someone seriously believe that, come Feb 14, the inspectors will pronounce themselves satisfied?