Let’s see, what’s going on here. I am getting three impressions: First, the French and the Germans have asserted themselves against a war on Iraq and they seemed to have done so together, after talking it through. Further, this was a surprise, and I am betting that not only the President but Colin Powell were angered by this little conspiracy. Hence Powell’s hard attitude now gets harder; he is telling aides that he will accept military action even without a Security Council resolution. They must have lied to him, and their actions have backfired. Second, France and Germany know this and they are starting to react to little things that shouldn’t really bother them if they are really in the poker game. So they show irritation at Rumsfeld’s comment about "old Europe." This is an overreaction on their part. Sensitive (once big, now little) countries, are they not? The French-German attempt to influence world opinion, in the end, will have failed. They have no authority; in part because of their histories and also because they have a lot money/contracts tied up in Iraq: they are playing the most self-interested game of all. Third, the high diplomacy that is taking place, and not only in the UN, is going to fall together for the US. So announcements are being made about how Australia , etc., are helping and will do so even if there is no new UN resolution. And Condi Rice has a good article on Iraq in today’s New York Times that is part of our efforts at public persuasion. She says Iraq "is failing in a spectacular fashion."
But, in the end, Bush is holding the ace-in-the-hole because he will have a national and international audience in his State of the Union talk and that will be powerful and authoritative. While it is true that that speech will be effected by the Blix report to the Security Council, yet there is no reason to think that he will not condemn Iraq for violating the Security Council resolution. In the meantime, Saddam blusters, but that he is worried is shown by what’s going on internally, and because the other Arab countries are willing to do almost anything to avoid a war, (including getting rid of Saddam) although what they are saying publicly is that he ought to move towards assuming his responsibility for peace in the region. We are soon going to see who is holding the cards, and those that have already shown their hand, will fold. We have all played poker, but for lower stakes.