Wall Street`s bullish reaction to the U.S. decision to yank the resolution off the table at the UN Security Council when it was clear it would lose by 11-to-4 is the best evidence we have that war with Iraq is NOT inevitable. The weakness in equities and the strength in gold before word came the resolution was being pulled was more in line with war, but if there is no fresh resolution the UN will continue to operate under UNSC #1441 which has a momentum of its own and could still produce a diplomatic breakthrough. The evacuation of the weapons inspectors for their own safety, should the bombing begin this week, was ordered by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan under his own authority to relocate UN personnel and merely "noted" by the Security Council. This also stops short of a directive by the Security Council to evacuate in a way that would make it permanent. The fact that UNMOVIK`s Hans Blix is today still laying out a work program on the last measures Iraq needs to be declared fully disarmed informs us that the UN is still functioning on #1441.
Secretary of State Colin Powell today said the diplomatic window had closed when adjustments in the wording of the resolution could not attract more support. My reading, though, has been that Baghdad would readily accept the kinds of benchmarks and tests at the core of the British resolution. Like the 11 members of the Security Council who opposed the resolution, Iraq was disturbed only by the wording that could trigger automatic military authorization on flimsy excuses. Diplomacy has failed thus far only in that it has not produced the war desired by the hawks in the Bush Administration. There is still room here to open that window of diplomacy.
We will have to see what President Bush says tonight in his address to the nation. The early advertisement that he will give Saddam Hussein so many days to leave Iraq for exile elsewhere indicates there would be enough time for diplomacy to rescue a peaceful solution. What President Bush really needs is some specific political victory that would permit him to say he has forced a permanent solution to Iraq`s interest in acquiring weapons of mass destruction. Jeremy Greenstock, the British UN ambassador, this afternoon specified that Saddam Hussein could resolve the problem himself by making a strategic decision to cooperate with the inspection process. I have believed for the last several months that this could be accomplished by an Iraqi acceptance of perpetual inspections and that Iraq would do so if asked by the inspectors. This would enable the President and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair to say they are now satisfied there would be a cork in the WMD bottle, which cannot be more strategic in its commitment to disarmament.
It is also important to note that Colin Powell this weekend for the first time said the decision to go to war would not be based on the weather. It has been conventional wisdom that the hawks demanded action by this week so the troops in the field would not have to fight in the brutal Iraqi heat that would come in another month or so. In other words, Powell is saying the troops can remain deployed while a time line is extended for the UNMOVIK work program. Time has not run out. The window has not closed. A peaceful solution is easily within reach.