BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Spanish Portuguese Caribbean
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Americas  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
LANGUAGES
EDITIONS
Friday, 1 November, 2002, 08:04 GMT
US Iraq timetable in doubt
Colin Powell (l) and Donald Rumsfeld
American leaders have a limited window on Iraq

After seven weeks of deadlock, there are growing signs that the Security Council may finally be about to agree on a new resolution on Iraq.

Whether or not that makes war more likely is still an open question.

State department officials have talked of bringing this tortuous debate to a conclusion in a matter of days, or perhaps a week.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell has a long planned meeting in the South Korean capital, Seoul, on 10 November. So that seems to have become the unofficial deadline for a deal.

Timing for war

To get that resolution, members of the Bush administration have launched a major confidence-building operation, designed to reassure Security Council allies that this is not just meant as a trigger for war.

The president understands that that means that we will have to wait for them to do their work and complete their report

Colin Powell, US Secretary of State

In a radio interview earlier this week, Mr Powell insisted that the United States would allow the weapons inspectors to do their work in Iraq.

"We understand that it will take time," said Mr Powell, "and the president understands that that means that we will have to wait for them to do their work and complete their report."

That all suggests a timetable that may have the Pentagon planners scratching their heads.

All the experts agree that the ideal war fighting season in Iraq ends, roughly in March.

After that, life for the military becomes very difficult, working in the hot and bulky suits they need to protect against biological and chemical attack.

And there is only so long this level of alert, and of public preparedness, can be maintained.

Yet even if the American are now about to get their way in the UN, it will be several weeks before the inspectors start their work, several months before they reach a conclusion about Iraq's weapons programmes.

Mixed signals

Remember, also, President Bush's recent remarks about the policy of regime change.

If Saddam Hussein allowed the weapons inspectors to do their work, argued the president, it would show the regime had changed. Hence - by implication - no need for military action to unseat him.

All that suggests that perhaps members of the Bush administration are having their doubts about a possible war with Iraq.
M1 Abrams main battle tank
War preparations continue with the US moving men and materiel to the region

Certainly, as one senior diplomat put it this week, some of them have realised that potentially it is a "can of worms".

Nevertheless, war preparations go ahead regardless.

The chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix, was urged when he visited the White House earlier this week, to be as tough as necessary with the Iraqis. The administration almost seemed to be inviting a confrontation.

The military machine is also clanking forward relentlessly.

Even journalists have been invited by the Pentagon to undergo military style training later in November, in case they find themselves on the front line.

So the signs are ambiguous. Once again the administration looks as if it is divided.

There are, at the very least, different levels of enthusiasm for war. But after weeks of beating the drum, it is difficult to see how President Bush can now step back from the brink.


Key stories

Analysis

CLICKABLE GUIDE

BBC WORLD SERVICE

AUDIO VIDEO

TALKING POINT
See also:

31 Oct 02 | Middle East
19 Sep 02 | Europe
29 Oct 02 | Middle East
28 Oct 02 | Americas
27 Oct 02 | Americas
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Americas stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Americas stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes