Saturday, October 26, 2002

Fergal Keane, of the UK’s very left-wing Independent, says that the real news right now is what’s going on in the UN:

Here is the scenario put to me by a diplomat friend well informed in the ways of the United Nations. There will be a vote sometime in the next fortnight involving all 15 members of the Security Council. Before that Bush will open a direct line to Putin and persuade him not to use the Russian veto. Abstain if he must, but no veto. The carrot will be billions of dollars in assistance to make up for what Russia stands to lose if Saddam is overthrown. The Americans also believe the Chinese won't use their veto. Ever the pragmatists, the Chinese take a long view in which relations with America on issues like trade and Taiwan are far more important than Saddam.

The French are now also regarded as less of a problem. President Chirac has already extracted maximum image benefit from the six weeks of negotiations at the UN, and in any case his position has always been contingent on being able to stand alongside bigger and mightier Russia. If the Russians were out of the picture, Mr Chirac would be most unlikely to stand alone. Again abstention would offer an honourable alternative.