US diplomats: War is decided, 'no' vote in UNSC will be unfriendly act
ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Tue Feb 25 04:23:16 MST 2003
U.S. Officials Say U.N. Future At Stake in Vote
Bush Message Is That a War Is Inevitable, Diplomats Say (abridged)
By Karen DeYoung Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 25, 2003; Page A01
As it launches an all-out lobbying campaign to gain United Nations approval,
the Bush administration has begun to characterize the decision facing the
Security Council not as whether there will be war against Iraq, but whether
council members are willing to irrevocably destroy the world body's
legitimacy by failing to follow the U.S. lead, senior U.S. and diplomatic
In meetings yesterday with senior officials in Moscow, Undersecretary of
State John R. Bolton told the Russian government that "we're going ahead,"
whether the council agrees or not, a senior administration official said.
"The council's unity is at stake here."
A senior diplomat from another council member said his government had heard
a similar message and was told not to anguish over whether to vote for war.
"You are not going to decide whether there is war in Iraq or not," the
diplomat said U.S. officials told him. "That decision is ours, and we have
already made it. It is already final. The only question now is whether the
council will go along with it or not."
What they must determine, U.S. officials are telling these governments, is
if their insistence that U.N. weapons inspections be given more time is
worth the destruction of council credibility at a time of serious world
"We're going to try to convince people that their responsibilities as
members of the Security Council necessitate a vote that will strengthen the
role of the council in international politics," national security adviser
Condoleezza Rice said yesterday.
Rice mentioned North Korea and Iran as issues where "the international
community has a lot of hard work to do. . . . And so we're going to try to
convince people that the Security Council needs to be strong."
raq, Rice told reporters in a White House briefing, "is an important issue,
a critically important issue for the United States. . . . So nobody should
underestimate . . . the importance of America's resolve in getting this
The administration holds out scant hope of repeating last fall's unanimous
council tally, when all 15 members agreed to demand Iraq submit to a tough
new weapons inspections regimen. Three of the five permanent members with
veto power -- France, Russia and China -- have called for a war decision to
be postponed while inspections continue. Of the 10 non-permanent members,
only Spain and Bulgaria currently support the U.S. position; Syria and
Germany are considered definite no's, and Pakistan either a no or an
All five of the others -- three in Africa and two in Latin America -- are
crucial to obtaining the nine votes necessary for non-vetoed passage. Last
weekend, Bush telephoned Mexican President Vicente Fox and Chilean President
Ricardo Lagos to ask for their votes but received no firm commitment,
officials said. Bush telephoned Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos
earlier this month, and Assistant Secretary of State Walter H. Kansteiner
III last weekend began a tour of the capitals of Angola, Guinea and
For some, particularly among the key five non-permanent members, there are
additional pressure points beyond an appeal to council unity. "They want
support for the resolution," said a diplomat from one of the five. "They are
not offering anything," or threatening reprisals, he said. "They are
anticipating trouble if there is not support . . . [and] quietly sending the
message that the United States would consider it an unfriendly act."
But another council diplomat said: "There is no mention of any sort of
threat or pressure. None whatsoever." Instead, he said, "The conversation is
very simple. There is a description of why they've presented a resolution,
an objection to the piecemeal approach" of ongoing inspections, and
insistence that "the council has to demonstrate that it is capable of taking
Even France, which has led the current council majority asking for more
inspections, has repeatedly spoken of unity as the primary council goal. As
it sets out to reverse a potential 11 to 4 vote against the new resolution,
the administration is hoping that Paris will ultimately decline to be the
spoiler and will opt for abstention. "The argument the Americans are giving
us," this diplomat said, "is 'if you support us, that will put pressure on
France and they'll dare not apply a veto.' " And if France can be persuaded
to abstain, several administration officials said they believe Russia and
China will do the same.
Although the administration appears willing to declare victory with a 9 to 2
vote, with four abstentions, other council members said it would be a false
victory. "Abstention will mean opposition, it will not mean support," a
non-permanent council diplomat said. "If the decision to go to war with Iraq
is adopted, it has to be adopted . . . with an important majority, including
at least Russia and China, even if France doesn't want to go along."
"This idea of putting three members with veto power on the outside is not
something that sounds much like unity," the diplomat said. "Are they going
to declare the Security Council 'relevant' by virtue of submission by the
If a nine-vote, no-veto majority cannot be assured, the senior U.S. official
said, the administration will make a "tactical decision" as to whether it is
better to proceed to war with no vote at all.
Staff writer Mike Allen contributed to this report.
© 2003 The Washington Post Company
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