BRITAIN and America would have no alternative but to attack Iraq if the last-ditch diplomatic efforts by United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan fail.
That's the firm and honest opinion of Dr Terry Terrif an international security specialist at the University of Birmingham.
But it is not an action which he would feel comfortable with - or one which he thinks would end the growing crisis in the Middle East.
"My personal view is that a three-day bombing raid in itself is not going to be successful. What would it achieve? Nothing, in my view, apart from following through the threat that America and Britain have laid down.
"After three days of bombing, is Saddam going to say: 'OK, I give up, you can bring your inspection teams in after all'? I don't think so.
"Saddam is very likely to survive such a bombing campaign together with much of any weapons technology he may be hiding. This would gain him prestige, and he would be able to say: 'So now you've bombed me, what do you plan next?'.
"It would accomplish little apart from America and Britain being seen as the bully boys by other states in the Middle East.
"The use of military force is always fraught with danger, because we just don't know what the end result would be.
"Any amount of bombing would not get everything. The entire Gulf War bombing campaign did not even come close to destroying everything. And a nuclear attack is out of the question.
"Iraq is still a closed country. Saddam's ability to hide weapons is much better than our ability to destroy them."
Although some of these words make it sound as if he would be relieved if Britain and America decided against airstrikes, Dr Terriff is quick to dismiss this.
"Now America and Britain have set the train in motion in posing this threat, they would have no alternative if Saddam continues to defy them.
"No aggressor would ever take them seriously again if after all this talk and slow build up of military might they just sailed away from a confrontation.
"If Saddam refuses to back down this weekend the Western allies would have to launch air strikes. This is what I think will happen.
"But what the politicians, and people generally, must understand is that this is not just going to be a matter of a few days. The aftermath of such a campaign could be enormous, lasting years.
"Saddam survived the bombardments of the Gulf War, and the world would almost certainly still be faced with him after another series of airstrikes. It would be incredibly difficult to take out one man in such a huge, closed nation.
"This would enable Saddam to show himself as a strong survivor. Would America and Britain then want alut war with thousands of troops involved to topple him?
"These are the consequences that must be considered."
Surely there is still a chance of a satisfactory end to the growing crisis. Saddam may just buckle at the eleventh hour to pleas from the United Nations - with one eye nervously surveying the military might stacking up against him.
Dr Terriff agrees, adding: "Yes, after all, the Allies might be getting all this right.
"But it's a huge gamble. It all depends on Saddam - and he might consider it preferable to be bombed than to back down and lose face. And then what will Clinton and Blair do?"
IT is only a matter of time before Saddam Hussein unleashes his arsenal of chemical weapons on the world unless he is stopped now, warns Foreign Secretary Robin Cook.
In an interview with the Evening Mail, Mr Cook pledges that Britain would not stumble into war by accident as the last chance to avert a military blitz was being played out in Baghdad.
He stresses that the West could not settle for peace at any price.
Speaking in the sumptuous …