THE dangers inherent in the UK/US unilateral military action against Iraq have become only too clear in the past few days.
This invasion is the first example of America's new doctine of pre-emption, formalised by President Bush about a year ago, whereby Washington reserves the right to attack any country it considers to be a threat to its security. The judgement is Washington's alone. At the weekend, first Donald Rumsfeld and then Colin Powell criticised Iran and Syria for allegedly supplying military equipment to Iraq. Mr Powell's key words are worth recalling: “Syria now faces a critical choice. Syria can continue direct support for terrorist groups and the dying regime of Saddam Hussein, or it can embark on a different course. Either way, Syria bears the responsibility for its choices, and for the consequences.” Earlier, Mr Rumsfeld had said that Syria would be “held accountable” for their “hostile acts”. Syria has denied the accusations, but that is not really the point which is that the United States is throwing its weight around in a completely unacceptable way - unacceptable, that is, if it wants any long-term solution to the Middle East turmoil. It would be very difficult indeed for Washington to prove that Syria represents a threat to its security but, on the suspicion that Damascus may be assisting Iraq, it starts issuing pre-emptive threats about “the consequences”. Cannot anyone in the Bush administration see that pre-emption works both ways and that if Iran or Syria feel themselves threatened by the United States they might take their own unilateral action by means of the kind of terrorist act that is so difficult to detect and defeat?


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