Blair must spell it out

ANOTHER day, and another discordant voice on Iraq from within the US administration.

Furthermore, Mr Powell seemed to contradict the vice-president, Dick Cheney, who last week said there was no point in sending UN arms inspectors back to Iraq. Powell said: "Iraq has been in violation of these many UN resolutions for most of the last 11 or so years. So as a first step, let’s see what the inspectors find, send them back in - why are they being kept out?"

Of course, Mr Powell and Mr Cheney might be playing the classic good cop/bad cop routine, designed to wrongfoot Saddam Hussein on the matter of the UN inspectors’ return. If Saddam refuses to bow to the growing demands in the Arab world that he do so, then the US automatically has its causus belli. If he lets them in, he opens himself to the risk his weapons of mass destruction will be found, and again the door is open for multinational action to depose him.

On the other hand, the Bush administration may simply be at sixes and sevens over how to proceed. This places a great responsibility on Tony Blair. The Prime Minister now faces calls to use his influence with President Bush to persuade the US leader one way or the other. However, Mr Blair has been unaccountably quiet on the matter recently. That is not helpful, especially as he was so quick to back America on Iraq in the first place. Mr Blair should follow his first instincts and unequivocally back regime change in Iraq. Then the question becomes one of means not ends. And it is clarity over that question that we most urgently need.

Back to the top of the page