The Washington Times

I wouldn’t bet the farm on it, but in fact there is a decent chance of another Security Council resolution on Iraq – one declaring that Saddam Hussein has missed his last chance and authorizing the forcible disarmament of Iraq. If there is, it will be an amazing diplomatic achievement for the Bush administration.

The administration, of course, takes the position that it does not need a final resolution. The Security Council has already passed judgment numerous times on the need for Iraq to disarm, most recently with its unanimous approval of Resolution 1441 on Nov. 8. That resolution found Iraq in “material breach” of its obligations, offered a “final opportunity” to comply and warned of “serious consequences” if it did not. It further recalled that its Resolution 678 of 1990 authorized “Member States to use all necessary means” to enforce Saddam’s compliance with Resolution 660, which demanded his withdrawal from Kuwait, and “all relevant resolutions subsequent to” 660, including 1441.

The United States would not have agreed to 1441 if its language did not authorize the use of force in the event of a showing that Saddam has failed to take advantage of his “final opportunity.” In truth, the United States would have been prepared to offer such a showing itself, outside the context of the Security Council, if indeed Saddam failed to comply. As it happened, however, the chief U.N. weapons inspector, Hans Blix, himself reported to the council that Iraq was not cooperating.

If the Security Council took no further action and the United States, in cooperation with a number of allies, went to war to disarm Iraq, no one could reasonably say that the United States lacked the council’s authorization. When they approved 1441, members knew what they were voting for.

In its own right, 1441 was an impressive diplomatic accomplishment. And in its aftermath, up until the past week, all of the well-informed people I have been talking to about this subject expected a war to start without further action by the council.

What has changed? In certain respects, not so much. The Russians and the French have long been officially committed to keeping an open mind on the subject of forcible disarmament [it seems unlikely that China would act alone to veto a resolution – that is, without political cover from Russia or France]. The position has been along these lines: Based on what we have seen so far, the answer is no, we do not support a war; but if we see something else, who knows?

That the Russians remain open has never been much in doubt. A key adviser to President Putin was in town last week pressing exactly that point. But then the week before last, the French made a mistake: In a gush of enthusiasm pertaining to Franco-German relations, President Jacques Chirac and Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin walked way out in front of their own policy, seemingly saying “no, never,” with Mr. de Villepin adding that the very presence of weapons inspectors is sufficient to check Saddam – a statement that does not accord with the text of Resolution 1441, which France worked so hard to obtain. U.S. diplomats, starting with Secretary of State Colin Powell, were simply stunned by this on-the-fly revisionism.

The question is whether life out on this particular limb, along with Germany in total opposition, is really sustainable. I think it is quite possible, if not yet likely, that a strong showing by Mr. Powell in the Security Council tomorrow will place in motion a sequence of events that will see not only France on board but also the French leading Germany back at least some distance closer to the United States – to the point at which the Germans don’t disrupt NATO’s participation, for example.

This is a pivotal moment for the United Nations. Given such developments as Iraq and Iran [thanks to alphabetical rotation] now co-chairing the U.N. disarmament panel and Libya at the head of the human-rights panel [having been elected!], the question is whether the Security Council might not be more than usually willing to act to establish its seriousness and credibility as an arbiter of acceptable conduct by member states of the United Nations.

Resolution 1441 was a huge step in that regard. But if the Security Council really wants to prove itself ready for the next looming challenge, namely, the dismantling of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, it might just be willing to prove its newfound seriousness by passing another resolution that states what everyone knows to be true: Saddam has failed to take advantage of his “final opportunity.” A new resolution, if there is one, would therefore authorize member states to use “all necessary means” to “uphold and implement” relevant Security Council resolutions.

Colin Powell must have enough information at his disposal to allow those who have been saying they need to hear more to say they now have. He will likely know whether a final resolution is in the cards by the end of the week.