As the UN Security Council meets Friday to hear from chief
weapons inspector Hans Blix, it is more divided than ever over Iraq -
raising deep questions about the international community's ability
to take on the world's knottiest security issues.
Mr. Blix's most recent public pronouncements indicate he will
give the council an update that finds "genuine disarmament" is
occurring under his inspectors' direction in Iraq. But he will also
lament that Iraqi cooperation is still not what is necessary for
quick and verifiable completion of the inspectors' task.
Such a mixed finding - by now a Blix hallmark - seems unlikely to
sway many votes in the 15-member council or to relieve the stalemate
dominating it for the past six weeks. Consequently, the scenario
will likely play out that many have expected all along: the United
States abandons the UN disarmament process to fight a war with Iraq
largely on its own and without a UN mandate. That would be further
evidence, experts say, of how some of the world's key multilateral
institutions are losing their ability to meet major challenges.
"This is a very serious test of the international security
system," says Andrew Kuchins, a foreign-policy expert at the
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. "The
repercussions will be considerable, but not necessarily irreparable -
especially if the war follows the best-case scenario of a short
conflict, and the US executes more successful diplomacy for
If the US does go to war with only a small coalition, "the UN
will survive, but the Security Council will be tremendously
weakened," says James Phillips, a Mideast expert at the Heritage
Foundation in Washington. The Iraq conflict has shaken not just the
UN, but "NATO has been weakened; the EU [European Union] is also
wounded by its rifts over this," Mr. Phillips adds. "This
demonstrates the weakness of collective security and other
multilateral arrangements at a time when more countries are looking
at these issues from the national-interest perspective."
American officials, in particular Secretary of State Colin
Powell, are still claiming publicly that they're optimistic about
achieving the minimum nine votes needed to pass the resolution the
US, Great Britain, and Spain have introduced to the council. That
resolution finds Iraq has "failed" to disarm and indirectly
authorizes the use of force to disarm it.
The US and Britain say they will call for a vote next week,
although Secretary Powell is still leaving the door open for
withdrawing the resolution based on the impact of Blix's report.
But with France and Russia saying they will "not allow" passage
at this moment of any resolution that authorizes the use of force -
signaling their readiness to use their veto power as permanent
council members - any hope of finding the unity on Iraq that reigned
briefly last fall looks dim. …