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Tuesday, 3 September, 2002, 10:24 GMT 11:24 UK
Is Washington in disarray over Iraq?
Secretary of State Colin Powell, left, President George W Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
Hawks and Doves may be working together

The American Secretary of State, Colin Powell's low-key approach to Iraq expressed in an interview with the BBC in recent days has repeated a familiar theme - the Bush administration displaying its seemingly irreconcilable internal differences over how to deal with Baghdad.

In his comments favouring a return to Iraq of United Nations weapons inspectors, Mr Powell described this as a '"first step" and said the world must be given evidence of the threat posed by the Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein before any military action is taken.


Some might argue that Colin Powell appears as committed to ridding the world of Saddam Hussein as the Hawks

This appeared in direct contrast to statements earlier in the week by Vice-President Dick Cheney who, in two separate speeches, scorned the idea of sending back inspectors saying "there's a great danger that it would provide false comfort".

In his comments Mr Cheney delivered his clearest justification yet for action to overthrow Saddam Hussein, saying the risk of "inaction" was greater.

But the supposedly conflicting sentiments which came from Mr Powell are not entirely new, and they do not differ substantially from what he has said since February this year in testimony before Congress.

Doves v Hawks

The secretary of state is of course the celebrated leader of the doves in an oft-acknowledged debate within the administration over the best course of action.

Dick Cheney, along with the defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld, leads the hawks.

It is the classic split between the departments of state and defence. Meanwhile the White House continues to insist that President Bush, who holds the power, has not made any decision on Iraq.

UN weapons inspectors in Iraq
Powell called for the return of weapons inspectors
So the question becomes whether the two camps differ so fundamentally as to make his task impossible.

But there is another question often overlooked: Whether this is all a carefully stage-managed process in which Colin Powell's words are tailored to soothe the concerns of sceptical world leaders, while Dick Cheney and his cohorts provide the rhetoric for ardent supporters of action against Baghdad.

This may be, but it certainly doesn't leave America's allies with any clarity. It is tempting to become obsessed with what has become a central aspect of this debate, namely the return of weapons inspectors.

Many European leaders agree this is a crucial first step in exploring peaceful ways of resolving the issue.

Work hampered

These UN personnel left Iraq back in 1998 after saying their work in monitoring Iraq's weapons development was being hampered.

To many it seems logical to push for their return before taking military action, and this is the approach now seemingly being supported by Colin Powell.

But he has also repeatedly favoured President Bush's call for "regime change" in Iraq, a euphemism for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, regardless of what any future mission of arms inspectors may uncover.

It begs the question of how much he and Dick Cheney actually disagree. Some might conceivably argue that Colin Powell appears as committed to ridding the world of Saddam Hussein as the hawks, it is just that his manner of doing so may be somewhat more diplomatic.


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03 Sep 02 | Middle East
03 Sep 02 | Politics
02 Sep 02 | Middle East
02 Sep 02 | Middle East
31 Aug 02 | Europe
30 Aug 02 | Middle East
30 Aug 02 | Media reports
30 Aug 02 | Middle East
02 Aug 02 | Middle East
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