Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 205

On November 3 Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov expressed what he suggested was Russia’s bewilderment over Iraq’s most recent decision to halt cooperation with UN weapons inspectors. In an interview broadcast by Russian television, Ivanov admitted that he found it “difficult to explain Baghdad’s actions.” That is particularly true, he said, because the Iraqi defiance came at “precisely the time when, thanks to the efforts of Russia and… China and France, we managed to reach an agreement on starting a comprehensive review of all disarmament problems relating to Iraq.” Ivanov called on Iraq to immediately revoke its decision to suspend cooperation with the UN disarmament commission. He also said that Moscow had informed the Iraqi leadership of its position, and that it was working with the UN Secretary General and a number of other countries to forge a “coordinated position and to prevent a further escalation of tension in the Gulf” (Russian TV, November 3).

Ivanov’s criticism of Iraq’s latest actions notwithstanding, Moscow has apparently not altered its opposition to the threat of punitive air strikes against Iraq. UN Security Council negotiations were set to continue last night on a British resolution that condemns Iraq’s defiance of the UN as a “flagrant violation” of its obligations to the UN. The draft resolution also demands an unconditional reversal of Baghdad’s policies. The strongly worded draft was said to have met with a generally favorable response from Security Council members. The document does not, however, contain a threat of military action against Iraq. That omission is reportedly the work–at least in part–of Russia, as Ivanov’s November 3 remarks would suggest (FWN, Reuters, November 4).

The United States and Britain, meanwhile, have continued to insist that force does remain an option in dealing with Iraq. U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen was expected to arrive in Kuwait yesterday, following visits this week to Britain, Austria and Saudi Arabia. He hopes to rally support for the military strike option against Iraq.