A Saddam Sell-off
Jude Wanniski
January 24, 2003


The sell off today must be related to the news accounts of how furious Secretary of State Colin Powell is with the French and Germans for announcing that they will not support military action in Iraq, but will insist on continued UN inspections. It appears on the surface that President Bush is so obsessed with getting rid of Saddam Hussein that he does not care if there is no evidence of a smoking gun when UNMOVIC and the IAEA report next week to the UN Security Council. According to Steven R. Weisman of the NYTimes, the Monday session at the UN left the State Department "struck dumb and stupid," according to an administration official. The French and Germans are said to have thought they were empowering Powell in his struggles with administration warhawks, but that Powell believes they undercut his position and let Saddam Hussein think he was off the hook and no longer needed to cooperate. 

The only explanation for these mysterious moves on the Iraqi chessboard is that the White House accepted the tactical move of the Pentagon in order to encourage a palace coup in Baghdad, and that Colin Powell agreed to be part of that ruse. For it to work, of course, everyone has to be singing from the same page in the choirbook. It is clear that UNMOVIC'S Hans Blix and IAEA's Mohammed Baradei were also signed up to talk tough about Iraq`s lack of cooperation, to keep the pressure on Baghdad to open up in ways that may finally produce "evidence" Mr. Bush can say is enough for him. The latest thrust, which came from the NSC's Condi Rice in the NYTimes this week, then followed up by Blix, is that South Africa was fully cooperative in coming forth with its nuclear program. According to Dr. Gordon Prather, my authority on all matters nuclear, the fact is that: "South Africa signed the NPT in June, 1991 and a Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA in Sept, 1991.  Yet, it was not till March 1993 that SA admitted having had a nuke program, which it claimed it destroyed prior to signing the NPT.  This was the first that the IAEA had heard about the SA ever having had nukes, much less about the destruction of the nukes and the associated research, development, production and storage facilities."

Prather insists Iraq cannot possibly have a clandestine nuke program at present, and that the mechanisms devised by the IAEA in 1998 to prevent any country from importing materials to develop a nuke program are air tight. In other words, there is no way Iraq can be a nuclear threat in the future, with or without Saddam.

It really is not possible for me to now imagine President Bush giving the order to start bombing, regardless of what the UN says, what NATO says, and what the Congress says. The public opinion polls here indicate only 22% support for unilateral US action without clear evidence that Iraq is an imminent and compelling threat. Such a move would cause so much wreckage to the international institutions that have been created over the past half century that one would expect the First Lady to restrain him as he squeezes the trigger, not to mention his father. Of course, I could be wrong, but I still think we will see the UNSC get a report next week that makes the case for continued inspections.