IAIN WATSON: In the month after the attacks
in the United States, Defence Department officials have been drawing up
the military response. There was an expectation of swift retribution for
the killing of a hundred-and-twenty-four Pentagon staff and a further five
thousand people in New York; while initial presidential pronouncements
were robust, the timing of any action has been more restrained. Gathering
intelligence and deploying troops can't be rushed; but the apparent ambition
of an all-out war on terrorism appears to be receding.
LORD DOUGLAS HURD: I think that the early rhetoric
of the first days which implied the US Marines would be enforcing all these
kinds of measures against anyone who had a bank account or harboured or
allowed to, people who were called terrorists, to live in their lands,
I think that's faded away, we're talking about something which will take
longer, we'll have to be equally energetic, but we'll have to be good bit
more subtle if it's to be successful.
SENATOR THAD COCHRAN: Appropriate action will be taken,
and that can be not just military action. We've already seen an effort
to shut down the flow of money to those who are responsible for this terrorism
network's operations and activities. I think you can continue to see diplomatic
efforts used, persuasion.
WATSON: Memories of September
11th remain as vivid as the desire for justice; in Washington, there may
be concerns over how to wage a wider war on terrorism, but when it comes
to Afghanistan, diplomatic efforts are about to be transformed into military
action. But a former British minister is echoing the call of international
aid agencies for the US to delay any activity for humanitarian reasons.
CHRIS MULLINS MP: The immediate priority in my
view is to save as many as possible of the very large number of Afghans
who face starvation this winter and nothing will undermine the international
coalition more than the sight of thousands of starving, perhaps millions
of starving people, that could easily damage the coalition, it may destabilise
Pakistan and one or two other places that we don't want to destabilise.
So, given it's only six weeks to go until the winter sets in, in Afghanistan,
that in my view ought to be the priority for the international community
and Osama Bin Laden ought to be left to stew for a while.
WATSON: The Pentagon strategists
are preparing their military plans but for the moment these can't be put
into action. Both the American Defence Secretary and our own Prime Minister
have both been indulging in last minute shuttle diplomacy to keep the
international coalition against terrorism together.
But has this diplomatic push worked both ways? As well as stiffening the
backbones of moderate Muslim states over any action in Afghanistan, has
it also made it much more difficult for the US to launch a wider war against
An effigy of President Bush burns in the streets of Pakistan - and the
country's military leadership has no desire to share its fate. So their
support for the US came at a price - namely, the lifting of sanctions.
Such is their desire to build an anti bin-Laden alliance, America's transforming
former pariahs into partners. So, when the UN voted to end sanctions on
Sudan, a state officially listed by the US as a sponsor of terrorism,
the Americans abstained. This has been welcomed by the organisation representing
most Islamic states.
AMBASSADOR MOKHTAR LAMANI: We do believe that the system of sanctions,
it's a system that make a lot of harm to the people themselves and this
is something that has to be seen again how to deal with it.
LORD HURD: Up to now I do not think, I
don't know of any deals or compromises which have been made which I would
personally think are damaging. But we have to watch it, we have to watch
it, we, we shouldn't go starry-eyed into this tent of our new colleagues,
collaborators, because some of them have their own agendas, and some of
them will be hoping and asking for things which it's not in our interest
WATSON: This is where coalition
building gets tricky. Two weeks ago, Jack Straw became the first British
Foreign Secretary to visit Iran since the Islamic revolution of 1979.
Despite Iran's continuing place on the US list of state sponsors of terrorism,
Britain has been keen to encourage its more moderate leadership to continue
down the road of re-engagement with the western world, and has been calling
for the US to follow suit.
DOUG HENDERSON MP: Well our advice for some years
now has been that America needs to have a new approach to Iran, to look
at how you can build a relationship with Iran to make it a more positive
contributor to the international community. Now is the time where that's
got to happen and I hope that the Americans will recognise that if the
number one priority is a war on terrorism then they've got to build Allies
with those who they need support to carry through that task. Iran is one
of those countries and therefore I think that the United States will have
to try and rebuild its relationship, relax sanctions, try to help the Iranian
WATSON: This wider coalition building
is causing controversy within the Bush administration. While the secretary
of state Colin Powell, the veteran Gulf War commander, wants as many countries
on board to fight bin Laden, a hawkish pentagon adviser warns the US not
to take too much advice from Britain.
RICHARD PERLE: I think the British policy
is profoundly mistaken in this regard. There is, unquestionably, a division
within Iran between those Iranian leaders who support terror and those
who support it less. I haven't seen anyone denounce it.
WATSON: Iraq may also be, at least
a temporary, beneficiary of coalition building. The Jordanians suggested
that they'd been given assurances, to quell a restless populace, that there'd
be no military action aimed at Saddam Hussein's regime. But, sooner or
later, the US administration will want to take action. But there's a disagreement
between those who believe that non -military means will be the key to bringing
rogue nations to heel; and those who say that 'might' is more effective
PERLE: I mean, what sort of war
on terrorism is that, where we know support for terrorism is present in
a number of Arab states, if, if they are immune from attack? They'll go
on supporting terrorists. Now I don't think we have to attack them all.
I think that once it becomes clear that the price you pay if you support
terrorism is that you yourself are vulnerable to attack, a number of countries
will get out of the terrorism business.
SENATOR GEORGE MITCHELL: This may be a conflict - people
use the word a new war rather loosely, but in fact in this effort military
action, while the most visible and most publicized, may not be the most
significant area of activity. Economic, diplomatic, legal, financial and
others will play a significant role.
WATSON: Just over a week ago, in
just three minutes flat, the UN Security Council agreed its most far-reaching
and apparently hard-hitting anti-terrorist resolution ever.
Member nations were given just 90 days to report back on what they're
doing to weed out terrorism in their own countries. That may sound tough,
but in practice, any member of the Security Council - and that includes
Russia and China - could veto any military action against unco-operative
states. So there are those who argue that this whole process shouldn't
negate America's right to self-defence.
COCHRAN: The United States has
been attacked. We know who did it. We're now beginning to take action
against them to keep these things from being repeated. We have a right
to disrupt and defeat those efforts. The United Nations doesn't have to
give us permission to do that.
HURD: I don't believe it's necessary
in international law to get UN endorsement, any more than it was for Desert
Storm. We were advised then and I think clearly ministers here are advised
now, that Article 51 of the charter which provides for self defence, cover
this situation, just as they covered what we did to free Kuwait.
WATSON: America has seven rogue
nations in its sights. But some say tackling the unedifying symptoms of
terrorism isn't enough; the virulent causes must also be removed. Some
influential voices are arguing that, in the Middle East, this means a lasting
solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. There's been a change of
tone recently from President Bush - he's talked explicitly about a Palestinian
state. But any shift from rhetoric to reality could cause the toughest
tensions yet within the US administration.
The latest Palestinian
uprising -or Intifada - has just entered its second year. When the group
representing fifty-seven Islamic states, the OIC, convenes this week they
will not just condemn terrorism but demand a clear definition of the term
- one which would include Bin Laden but exclude people such as the Palestinians
who are fighting for their own homeland.
LAMANI: We have to make a distinction
between terrorism that everybody is condemning, and as you know some of
our member states were the first victims of terrorism and they are still
fighting a lot of terrorist acts and when it comes to struggling for ending
the occupation if there is an occupation and I think this is legitimate
when people are fighting for - against the occupation of their land.
WATSON: Any move in that direction
by Washington would upset Israel which has already accused the US of travelling
down the road to appeasement. And President Bush could find this spat between
two allies is a mere foretaste of a much larger argument at the very heart
of American politics.
PERLE: It would be a great mistake,
a profound error, now, in the aftermath of an attack on civilians in this
country, to alter, in any way, our policy toward the Arab-Israeli dispute,
because that would reward terror. What it would say to the terrorists is,
if you wish to gain the support of the United States in applying pressure
to Israel, don't attack Israel, attack the United States.
MITCHELL: Even if this terrible
tragedy of September 11th had not occurred, it makes sense for the United
States to be actively involved in trying to achieve a resolution of the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict. So that's an independent, valid basis in
and of itself and secondly, it's quite clear that the administration believes
that will be helpful in building a coalition among those Arab nations which
are favourably disposed to the United States. And I believe that's a legitimate
basis as well.
WATSON: On this side of the Atlantic,
some politicians are saying that Britain should bolster those in the US
administration who want to see a settlement in the Middle East, even at
the expense of irritating Israel.
MULLIN: Certainly if America wants
to win friends and influence people in the Arab world - and indeed hold
its head up in the wider world - they have to start using their considerable
influence with Israel, to persuade the Israelis to negotiate seriously.
And negotiating seriously means withdrawal from some of the settlements
on the West Bank and the end to the colonisation of the West Bank.
WATSON: The Prime Minister returned
home last night after a frantic round of diplomacy during which the occupant
of number Ten had been described as the chief ambassador - for the United
States. But those with government experience, on both sides of the Atlantic,
believe our influence with America over how to fight terrorism, or to
tackle its underlying causes, will be strictly limited.
HENDERSON: Ultimately America makes its
own mind up. Sometimes Britain can influence the degree with which the
argument is put or the timing of the action but I think when it comes to
the decision America will make that itself and hope that it can persuade
others including Britain to back it.
PERLE: We work closely with our
friends, but we cannot yield the most fundamental of governmental responsibilities,
the protection of our citizens, to any other authority. So we listen carefully
to what everyone has to say, but at the end of the day, we have to act
in our own defence.
WATSON: Although military action
in Afghanistan seems to be getting closer, Washington appears far less
settled on how to wage a wider war on terrorism. It may be some months
before it's clear whether the US really does favour arm-twisting over armed