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[casi] Blix bears brunt of hawks' frustration,3604,842958,00.html

Blix bears brunt of hawks' frustration

Right finds new target after losing argument to fight swift war on Iraq

Suzanne Goldenberg in Washington
Tuesday November 19, 2002
The Guardian

The claims by Hans Blix, the chief weapons inspector, that he has been the
target of a smear campaign by Pentagon hawks is the culmination of months of
tension at the heart of the Bush administration about the UN inspection team.

Earlier this year the deputy secretary for defence, Paul Wolfowitz, ordered a
CIA report on why Mr Blix, as chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency
during the 1980s and 1990s, failed to detect Iraqi nuclear activity. Mr Blix has
much more sweeping powers now, but that fact has failed to banish the suspicions
of a cluster of hardliners in the administration that includes Mr Wolfowitz,
Douglas Feith, the under-secretary for defence, and John Bolton, the deputy
secretary of state.

"There are a whole group of people in this administration who are against
multilateral institutions, and also the people that staff them," said Joseph
Cirincione, the director of the non-proliferation project at the Carnegie
Endowment for International Peace. "Hans Blix to some of these people is the
embodiment of everything that is wrong with the multilateral approach."

The resurrection of UN arms inspections for Iraq is seen as a defeat for the
hawkish sections of the administration - both for relatively straightforward
nationalists such as the vice-president, Dick Cheney, and the defence secretary,
Donald Rumsfeld, as well as for the faction led by Mr Wolfowitz, who have been
described by scholars as "democratic imperialists".

Mr Wolfowitz, influenced by Richard Perle, chairman of the defence policy
board, is believed to view US military action in Iraq as the first step in a
larger project of realignment and democratisation of the Middle East.

For months, the hardliners pressed home the case for a military strike
against Iraq, ratcheting up their arguments to such an extent that intelligence
officials complained of intense pressure to cook up information that would support
a war.

In August, Mr Cheney said Iraq would have nuclear weapons "fairly soon" -in
direct contradiction of CIA reports that it would take at least five more years.

Mr Rumsfeld, meanwhile, accused Saddam Hussein of providing sanctuary to
al-Qaida operatives fleeing Afghanistan - although they had actually travelled to
Iraqi Kurdistan, which is outside his control.

Until the summer, the hardliners were firmly in the ascendancy. But all their
efforts were undone by George Bush's decision to take America's case against Iraq
to the UN. "There is no question that a battle was won on September 12 when
President Bush went to the UN, and instead of condemning it, praised it and
embraced it and promised that the US would work through its administration to
disarm Iraq and to resort to military force only as a last resort. That is not the
strategy some in the Pentagon had been agitating for for months," said Mr

Powell's campaign

Mr Bush's decision to work through the UN was a product of a dogged campaign
by Mr Powell, detailed at great length in a series of reports in the Washington
Post which paint a picture of a highly changeable administration prone to shifts
in policy direction on an almost weekly basis.

However, Mr Powell had been disturbed for some time at his dwindling
influence in the administration - particularly on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
- a weakness he sought to remedy by requesting a series of personal chats with Mr

The conversations, which began in August, appeared to have paid off as Mr
Powell swayed Mr Bush towards his arguments to work with the UN. Even so, it was
not seen as a secure victory.

The hardliners continued to believe they could woo the president back to
their way of thinking, and the Washington Post reported blistering rows between Mr
Cheney, described as "hell-bent for action" against Iraq, and Mr Powell on the
wording of the speech. In the end, Mr Powell triumphed. The rhetoric of the speech
was scaled down, and he threw himself into the behind the scenes diplomacy that
resulted in a unanimous security council resolution on November 8 for sending
weapons inspectors to Iraq.

But, as Mr Blix noted yesterday, it is virtually certain that the hawks
remain determined to return to the ascendancy. "This may be a very low moment for
them, but I think they believe in the long run they will have their chance," said
Ellen Laitson, president of the Henry Stimson Centre, a Washington-based

"I think they have done a lot to set up very high expectations, and a very
high standard, and they are already preparing for the inspections not to work. If
you look at the deployment in the region, and how the bureaucracy is gearing up,
they are putting a lot in motion militarily even though there may be this
temporary lull of the inspections."

Some commentators have predicted the hawks will try to set a trigger date for
December 8 - when Iraq is supposed to provide a declaration of its arsenal. Amid
expectations of a patently false declaration, the hawks will try hard to get their
early war despite Mr Blix.

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