The European Union emergency summit on Iraq has ended with a joint declaration. The joint declaration contains some reasonably bellicose language about what will happen if Iraq fails to “take this last chance.” (We really mean it this time.) But the bottom line is that France has won again–to the extent any of this matters.
The joint declaration acknowledges that “inspections cannot continue indefinitely in the absence of full Iraqi cooperation.” On the other hand, it says that “they must be given the time and resources that the U.N. Security Council believes they need.” In other words, the EU has now stipulated that only the Security Council can decide when (if ever) inspections are no longer productive. Since France has a veto on the Security Council, EU policy will now be made by France rather than by majority vote.
Jacques Chirac made this explicit to reporters: “We all agree the elimination of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction is absolutely imperative (but) only the Security Council can handle the means.”
While being mildly critical of Iraq, Chirac reserved his real ire for the eastern European countries who have supported the U.S. and Great Britain. In what the Associated Press termed an “extraordinary outburst,” he said: “It is not really responsible behavior, it is not well brought-up behavior. They missed a good opportunity to keep quiet.” It is impossible to imagine the uproar that such peremptory and contemptuous words from President Bush would provoke.
It seems that even Kofi Annan may be concerned that French obstructionism may be driving the U.N. off a cliff, as, in meeting with EU parliamentary leaders, he reportedly “stressed…that he did not want the weapons inspections to go on too long, suggesting the threat of action had to be real to preserve the body’s credibility.”
In the end, whether any of this matters depends on whether George Bush and Tony Blair allow it to matter. If they go forward decisively to liberate the Iraqi people, the Keystone Kops routine of Hans Blix, Jacques Chirac, Kofi Annan et al. will soon be forgotten.
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