London?s The Observer has a story today anticipating a Vanity Fair piece that shows, among other things, that British Prime Minister Tony Blair, at a discussion in Washington with George W. Bush a few days after the September 11 attacks, learned of the U.S. intention to attack Iraq.
The paper remarks:
But the implications for Blair may be still more explosive. The discussion implies that, even before the bombing of Afghanistan, Blair already knew that the US intended to attack Saddam next, although he continued to insist in public that ?no decisions had been taken? until almost the moment that the invasion began in March 2003. His critics are likely to seize on the report of the two leaders? exchange and demand to know when Blair resolved to provide the backing that Bush sought.
But the real news is buried at the bottom of the story. It is that the French told the Bush administration in January 2003 that they would not use the U.N. to block a war in Iraq, on condition Washington ?not seek a second resolution, [since] the previous autumn?s Resolution 1441 arguably provided sufficient legal cover…?
Why did the U.S. go ahead with a second resolution anyway? Because Blair needed it to substantiate his claims made domestically that the Bush administration would seek a second resolution on war. So, in effect, a U.N. fight became inevitable (though the French could perhaps have abstained on a war resolution) because of American promises to Blair, despite the fact that the administration, like the French, felt they had enough of a mandate in resolution 1441 to go to war.