Cheney and Rumsfeld turn up the heat

06 September 2002

The two leading advocates within the Bush administration for war on Iraq have stepped up their efforts to force the issue. Amid the war talk, Iraq is working hard to mobilise support within the Arab world for its position, and European states are showing mounting unease at the prospect of US military action.

US Vice President Dick Cheney on 26 August made the strongest case yet by any American official for a strike on Iraq and the overthrow of the regime of President Saddam Hussein. In a speech in Nashville to a Veterans of Foreign Wars meeting, Cheney argued the case that Iraq poses a direct threat to the security of the US, and therefore a pre-emptive strike is necessary. 'Deliverable weapons of mass destruction in the hands of a terror network or a murderous dictator, or the two working together, constitutes as grave a threat as can be imagined,' he said. 'The risks of inaction are far greater than the risks of action.'

This simple statement of the case came after the administration had come under fire from domestic critics for overcomplicating the issue. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, for example, has argued that the war case needs to be simple enough to put on a car bumper sticker.

Rumsfeld, addressing US marines at a base in California the next day, reiterated the case that Iraq poses a real danger to the US. He said that the US should not be too concerned about being isolated on the issue. 'I've found over the years that when our country does make the right judgments, the right decisions, that other countries do co-operate and they do participate,' he said.

Most Arab states have now explicitly voiced their opposition to military action against Iraq. Their number includes Qatar, whose Al-Udaid air base has been touted as an essential element in any US campaign. Qatari Foreign Affairs Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani met Saddam Hussein in Baghdad on 27 August. The Qatari minister said all Arab countries oppose an attack on Iraq.

Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan said in Damascus on 28 August that there was still room for a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

The UK has suggested that the UN could set Iraq a final deadline for admitting UN weapons inspectors. European leaders have sought to emphasise that getting the inspectors back into Iraq should be the priority. The US is insisting that the Baghdad regime should be removed whether the inspectors go back or not.

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