Reading the Powell presentation to the Security Council the nature of the problem he faces is apparent.
You have to be fairly smart to understand an argument by inference. Powell does not have, or will not show, pictures of people in chemical weapons suits rushing around burying containers with a skull and cross bones and a big sign saying POISON on them. The Iraqis have not managed a clandestine weapons program for ten years by making mistakes like that.
So now the question is whether or not the members of the Security Council and the people of the nations they represent will be smart enough to understand the sorts of perfectly legitimate, but subtle, evidence he is presenting.
My bet is that until the inspectors report again on Valentine's Day, the French - from whom, apparently Our Lady of Peace at External Affiars in Canada takes his marching, or rather sitting, orders - will not accept Powell's evidence. Or, rather they will accept it unofficially because their own intelligence services are telling them exactly the same thing, but will not acknowledge the violation of 1441 officially. For the French, and the less important Germans, this has more to do with domestic politics than the strength of Powell's argument.
However, if the inspectors' next report confirms what Powell is saying today, or is at least consistent with it then a French veto of a second resolution is unlikely. Which is not, of course, the same as a favourable vote or, a troop commitment.
Canada does not have a veto - though we did a hell of lot more in WWII than the largely collaborationist French did - and I suspect our reponse will reflect the realities of our current Liberal leadership race more than any appreciation of the intelligence Powell presented.
In Canada look for Our Lady to be tugged between the wannabe old Europeans on the left of the Liberal Party - think Sheila Copps but only for a second for your own peace of mind - and the old and new right - Paul Martin for the wrinklies, John Manley for the slicks.
It is a double cleavage: the left will want to be seen supporting the UN as a talking, not fighting, organization. And they will want to make their anti-American credentials plain. On the right there will be pro-American Liberals who will want to support our ally regardless of the UN and there will be anti-Americans who want to disarm Saddam for policy goals ranging from Middle Eastern Peace through a desire not to have anthrax in their daily mail and on out to supporting the UN as a fighting as well as talking shop.
Most of all, the leadership hopefuls have to create meaningful distance between their positions and Paul Martin's relatively pro-American, pro-war stance. This has nothing to do with the electorate, rather it has to do with winning the votes of the relatively few, but very activist, leadership convention delegates who are not already in Martin's bag. As a group these activists will tend to be far more anti-war and anti-American than the party, much less the nation, as a whole. But they are where the votes are.
So much for inference, which way the delegate from Goose Bay Centre is going to vote will likely determine the position of Our Lady of External and, to our shame, Canada's overall policy.