A few hours after the U.N. Security Council issued an ultimatum to Iraq to get out of Kuwait, the foreign ministers of the council’s five permanent members sat down to a private dinner to talk about how they can use the 45 days before the deadline passes.
No conclusions were announced immediately.
The fact that such a meeting was required is a clear indication that the Bush Administration and its allies do not really know how to make the most of what they all are referring to as a “pause for peace,” a final attempt to find a peaceful solution to the crisis in the Persian Gulf.
“We want to talk about what the prospects are for further political and diplomatic measures,” Secretary of State James A. Baker III said of the dinner, which he attended with the foreign ministers of the Soviet Union, Britain, France and China. “Over the course of these next weeks, we will be vigorously following the diplomatic and political course.”
But it is not clear what the five nations or other U.N. members can do that they have not done already to get the attention of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
One idea sure to be considered is that of sending a high-level envoy to Baghdad. But it is not clear who would make the trip.
U.N. Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar reportedly is not enthusiastic about making such a trip, after the rebuff he received on a similar mission earlier in the crisis.
Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze said he would be unwilling to visit Baghdad because the Soviet leadership had already made its position clear to Iraqi Foreign Minister Tarik Aziz during the Iraqi’s recent and acrimonious visit to Moscow. And the Bush Administration has made it clear that it is not prepared to open a high-level dialogue with Iraq.
It is also not certain what the United Nations could offer Hussein to induce him to remove his forces from Kuwait. Baker said the United States would reject any sort of negotiated settlement that would leave Iraq with anything to show for its invasion.
“You don’t have to offer anything that would reward an aggressor in order to be pursuing a political and diplomatic approach,” Baker said.
Shevardnadze suggested that the inducement might be only to refrain from destroying Iraq. He said that the 45-day delay was intended to permit “the instinct of self-preservation to come into play.”
Nevertheless, most members of the Security Council insisted on the six-week pause in the use of force, apparently to prove to the world and their own public opinion that all peaceful options will be tried.
The United States had originally called for an open-ended resolution authorizing the multinational force in the gulf to go on the offensive whenever it chooses, but most of the other council members were clearly unwilling to go that far.
Baker acknowledged that it was not easy for most of the council members to authorize the use of force, even with a long lead time. He had to engage in weeks of intensive lobbying to break down the reluctance of some nations to go even that far.
However, Baker said he does not believe that the delay will give Hussein reason to believe that the United States and its allies are unwilling to go to war over Kuwait.
“The intent of this resolution . . . is that it is self-executing,” Baker said. On Jan. 15, the United States and its allies will have a mandate to attack without having to request additional action by the Security Council.