Thursday 23 January 2003

Once again, U.S. finds itself isolated on Iraq

The endgame has begun -- not only with Iraq, but with America's friends.

By escalating his threats against Baghdad, and insisting he is unwilling to participate in "the rerun of a bad movie," President Bush is serving notice on Iraqi President Saddam Hussein that the time for prevarication is over. More immediately, he is signaling U.S. allies that he is prepared to go to war with Iraq without their approval.

The increasingly bellicose White House rhetoric puts the Bush administration sharply at odds with many of its European allies, particularly France, which has threatened to veto a second United Nations Security Council resolution authorizing a war with Iraq over its weapons of mass destruction. Even British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Bush's most loyal supporter, has called for U.N. weapons inspectors to be given the "time and space" to complete their work.

There remains a possibility that a "smoking gun" will emerge that will persuade the French and other allies of the case for early military action. For now, however, the United States faces the prospect of fighting a major war with little international support. Less than three months after winning a unanimous Security Council vote that gave Hussein one "last chance" to surrender his nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, the United States and Britain find themselves diplomatically isolated.

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