Submission to the Iraq Inquiry headed by Sir John Chilcot
On 12 April 2010 I sent in the following submission to the Iraq Inquiry:
From: JONES, Lynne
Sent: 12 April 2010 14:09
Subject: Lynne Jones MP: Submission to the Chilcot Inquiry on Iraq
I attach my submission to the Chilcot Inquiry on Iraq and, as a separate document due to its length, Annex 10. I am also sending a hard copy through the post.
I should be grateful if you could confirm receipt of this email and also details of the form in which submissions are given to the panel - will they each receive a full copy?
I look forward to hearing from you.
LYNNE JONES MP
House of Commons
click here for Word version of my Submission and Annex 10 or see below:
SUBMISSION TO THE
CHILCOT INQUIRY ON
LYNNE JONES MP
Regime Change or Disarmament of Iraqi WMD – distinct objectives?
Did Tony Blair commit the UK to the policy of regime change?
France and the failure of the UN route
Hans Blix and the Iraq Inquiry
Gordon Brown’s Rationale for War – Respect for the United Nations
The ‘uranium from Africa claim
Conclusions and Recommendations
Letter from Jack Straw to Tony Blair, 23 July 2003
The Downing Street Memo
Today Programme 20/03/03Transcript of interview of Dr Hans Blix by Jim Naughtie (JN)
Robin Cook’s resignation statement
Carne Ross’ submission of evidence to the Butler inquiry
Extract from the website of David Morrison on Errors of Fact in the 24 September 2002 dossier
Letter to the Intelligence and Security Committee regarding reports of a meeting between Michael Shipster and Tahir Jalil Habbush
Transcript of 10 March 2003 interview with President Chirac
The UK Government resolution to go to war, 18 March 2003
Covering letter and submission on the ‘uranium from Africa claim’ to the Butler Review
In 2002, the UK’s foreign policy towards Iraq changed. Following 9/11, the use of military force was firmly on the table in the US and by Spring/Summer 2002 it was on the agenda in the UK. In this submission, I will ask why the policy changed, given that Saddam Hussein had no responsibility for the 9/11 atrocities and there were no credible links between his regime and Al-Qai’da.
The war critics' view
Critics of the 2003 Iraq war have long been of the view that the answer to the 'why now?' question is that the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, changed the UK's policy, not because of any increased threat from Iraq, but to bolster and cement the US/UK 'special relationship' in the wake of 9/11. The view is that Tony Blair gave his word to US President, George Bush, that the UK would support US military action to achieve regime change in Iraq. Pursuing regime change in Iraq would not have been politically or legally acceptable in the UK. Therefore, to keep his promise, Tony Blair sought evidence to support an accusation of active Iraqi non-compliance with UN resolutions on WMD. As Saddam Hussein was less of a military threat in 2002/2003 than at any time previously, Tony Blair both ignored evidence pointing towards Iraq’s lack of more than a residual WMD capability and misrepresented the classified intelligence available to him to both Parliament and the public.
The response of the former Prime Minister, Tony Blair
During his evidence to your Inquiry, in response to the ‘why now?’ question, Tony Blair suggested it was the '2010 question' that should be asked not the '2003 question'. He also proposed that a ‘binary distinction’ between regime change and breach of UN resolutions on WMD, as two separate policy objectives for war, should not be made. The rationale that Tony Blair gave to your Inquiry for the change in UK policy leading to the 2003 invasion is that the world could not take the risk of not 'dealing' with Saddam Hussein’s regime in the long term given the existence of the kind of terrorists who carried out the atrocities of 9/11. He said that his perception of the risk posed by Iraq changed in the wake of 9/11.
I assess these points and the war critics' arguments in the light of the rationale for the use of force that was given to the House and the public at the time we voted on whether to go to war in Iraq in 2003.
I frame a large section of my assessment on an analysis of Tony Blair’s answer to the ‘why now’ question when I put it to him in the House on 29 January 2003.
I also cover:
· The French position at the Security Council in 2003;
· The significance of the role of the UK in ousting the Director General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, José Bustani;
· The UK Government’s refusal to drop the claim that Saddam Hussein sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.
The purpose of this report is to assess whether information was manipulated by the UK Government in the run up to the war in order to get Parliamentary approval for the use of force.
I assess the difference between the US objective of regime change in Iraq and the UK policy of disarmament of Iraqi WMD with UN authority. I conclude that the former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, committed the UK to the US policy in private, whilst explicitly denying this on the floor of the House.
My submission includes an explanation of how a clear misinterpretation of the French position on a second UN resolution was inserted into the UK resolution to go to war, to secure the support of MPs who were concerned about the absence of UN authorisation.
I discuss the Prime Minister’s response in the House in January 2003 to the ‘why invade now?’ question and his assertions that Iraq was an ‘active and growing threat’.
Tony Blair’s statement that he had ‘no doubt’ that the intelligence demonstrated a current threat from Iraq is set against records that doubts and objections were being raised within the intelligence community; by his Foreign Secretary and by his Chief of Staff.
The credibility of the UK Government’s assertion that war was a last resort to disarm Saddam Hussein is considered in the context of evidence that the US and the UK knew, from at least two distinct sources, before the war, that Iraq had no more than a residual WMD capability.
There was sufficient evidence available in the public domain for both Government backbenchers and Opposition MPs to question the Government’s case for war. Those who voted for the war, particulatly those in senior positions that had access, or could have accessed original intelligence, failed in their duty to scrutinise the Government and to hold it to account in the gravest of circumstances.
I call upon the Inquiry to ensure that all relevant witness are called, particularly Dr Hans Blix, the Head UN Weapons Inspector, who has publicly indicated his willingness to give evidence. Were Dr Blix not called to the Inquiry, its credibility would be seriously compromised.
I resubmit the joint submission that I made in 2004, with Llew Smith MP on the ‘Uranium from Africa’ claim. This demonstrates my concern that intelligence was misused by the Government in making its case for war.
I also re-visit the UK support for the ousting of José Bustani, the Director General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in 2002. This provides an example of unquestioning UK support for an unjustified US initiative bound up with the drive to war.
In the course of my submission, I also point out that it is illogical of the present Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, who was a member of Cabinet at the time the Government committed to go to war, to site respect for UN resolutions as the justification for the use of military action when the UN did not agree a second resolution permitting the use of force, pursuant to SCR 1441.
My overall conclusion is that Tony Blair could not provide a convincing reply to the ‘why now?’ question because Iraq was not a threat. It was in fact Tony Blair and George Bush who were acting ‘regardless of the circumstances’, not President Chirac.
If Tony Blair genuinely believed that Iraq had WMD that posed an active threat, this could only have come about as a result of a lack of critical thinking and due diligence that cannot be casually excused. For Tony Blair to have held this belief he would have had to discount clear and repeated advice that Iraq was not a current threat. Conversely, it is arguable that, privately, he would have accepted the advice given to him and therefore it is at least questionable that he believed the claim when he made it to the public and the House.
Regime Change or Disarmament of Iraqi WMD – distinct objectives?
1. Legally, regime change and disarmament of Iraqi WMD via the United Nations were two separate and different bases for war. We know that it would not have been possible to get a legal agreement for war on the basis of regime change and this was made clear to Tony Blair in a letter from Jack Straw dated 25 March 2002.
2. Tony Blair was told this again in July 2002 in the ‘Downing Street Memo’. This records that the Attorney-General told the Prime Minister that the desire for regime change was not a legal base for military action. Yet, in his evidence to your inquiry, Tony Blair tries to ‘merge’ the two distinct rationales for going to war:
“I think there is a danger that we end up with a very sort of binary distinction between regime change here and WMD here”.
4. He continued with this point as he was questioned further:
“It is more a different way of expressing the same proposition. The Americans in a sense were saying, “We are for regime change because we don’t trust he is ever going to give up his WMD ambitions”. We were saying, “We have to deal with his WMD ambitions. If that means regime change, so be it”.
5. I urge the Inquiry panel to consider this very closely. Saying ‘we are going to remove a regime from power because we think it poses a threat’ is not the same as saying ‘we want to make a regime complaint with international obligations on WMD and will use force to achieve this if necessary’. Whilst the outcome of these two rationales for using force could be the same (regime change) the objectives are clearly distinct.
6. A number of statements by Tony Blair in the run up to the war show that in seeking support for his policy towards Iraq, he repeatedly made use of the clear distinction between the policies of regime change and disarmament. On the day the Government’s September 2002 dossier was launched in the House of Commons, Tony Blair was asked if regime change was his objective and he replied that it was not:
“Regime change in Iraq would be a wonderful thing. That is not the purpose of our action; our purpose is to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction…”
7. He made the distinction between regime change and disarmament again, on 25 February 2003:
“I detest his [Saddam Hussein’s] regime – I hope most people do – but even now, he could save it by complying with the UN’s demand. Even now, we are prepared to go the extra step to achieve disarmament peacefully.”
8. And on 18 March 2003 in his speech in favour of the resolution for war, Tony Blair told MPs that regime change was never the justification for military action:
“I have never put the justification for action as regime change. We have to act within the terms set out in resolution 1441 – that is our legal base.”
9. Tony Blair made a clear distinction between the two policies for political reasons as well as legal reasons. The public UK policy that Iraq had to disarm left open the possibility for Saddam Hussein to comply with the demands made on him, via UN resolutions, and for his regime to continue. This argument was used by Tony Blair to suggest that UK policy was in line with the principle that it should be left to the people of individual nations to change their regime/government unless pre-emptive military action is needed either to avert an overwhelming humanitarian catastrophe or for self defence and that there must be international consensus that this is the case (i.e. through the UN).
10. The principle is there because of the innumerable ramifications for the long term future of a country, its region and world stability when one Government is overthrown by another. The distinction between US-led regime change on the one hand and international action with UN authorisation on the other was very live within the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) in 2002/2003. Without majority PLP support, Parliamentary authority for the use of force might not have been won. The case that Tony Blair put to doubting colleagues was that regime change was not the basis for UK involvement and that he personally considered Saddam Hussein to be both a current and long-term threat because of WMD.
11. Regime change by outside military force and the disarmament of Iraq's WMD capability via the UN were two distinct and separate policy objectives, both politically and legally. Tony Blair clearly told the House that regime change was not the purpose of military action in Iraq. The question is, was he misleading the House?
Did Tony Blair commit the UK to the policy of regime change?
12. Your Inquiry questioned Tony Blair about whether he signed the UK up to military action during his private meeting with George Bush at his Crawford ranch in April 2002. He responded that the essence of his assurance to George Bush was only that “we are going to be with you in confronting and dealing with this threat” and that his private position was no different from his public position. Tony Blair sites the evidence of his Prime Ministerial foreign policy adviser, Sir David Manning, to back up the assertion that he had not committed the UK to a policy of regime change. In his evidence to you, David Manning appears to confirm this:
“Our view, the Prime Minsiter’s view, the British Government’s view throughout this episode was that the aim was disarmament. It was not regime change.”
13. However, a leaked memo from Sir David Manning to the Prime Minister dated 14 March 2002, reporting on discussions in Washington with US Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, clearly records that Tony Blair had committed the UK to a policy of regime change and that Sir David Manning was fully aware of this and the ramifications for managing this position in public:
“I said [to Condoleeza Rice] that you would not budge in your support for regime change but you had to manage a press, a parliament and a public opinion that was very different than anything in the States.”
14. After writing this memo, Sir David Manning remained the Prime Minister’s Foreign Policy adviser and was subsequently promoted to be British Ambassador to Washington. It is therefore fair to presume that David Manning accurately transmitted Tony Blair’s view to the US administration.
15. The Chilcot Inquiry was criticised in the press for not raising the 14 March 2002 memo from Sir David Manning to the Prime Minister with Sir David. I urge the Panel to take this memo into consideration if it has not been made available to them from source and to comment on the discrepancy between this memo and the evidence given by Tony Blair and Sir David that the British Government's objective was not regime change.
16. Evidence from the UK’s Ambassador to Washington, Sir Christopher Meyer, is also that Tony Blair had committed to regime change by March 2002 and he makes reference to a memo he sent to Sir David Manning on 18 March 2002 in which he stated:
“I opened by sticking very closely to the script that you used with Condi Rice. We backed regime change, but the plan had to be clever and failure was not an option. It would be a tough sell for us domestically, and probably tougher elsewhere in Europe.”
17. The memos referred to above are the closest to any high level record of UK policy on Iraq in early to mid 2002. They lend considerable weight to the conclusion that Tony Blair did commit to a policy regime change but knowing this would be difficult to ‘sell’, went about trying to secure international and domestic support for military action on the basis of the different stated objective of compliance with UN resolutions on disarmament.
18. Tony Blair’s assertion that he did not sign up for regime change in March/April 2002 thus has little credibility and neither has his later argument that the policies of regime change and disarmament with respect to Iraq in 2002/2003 were ‘a different way of expressing the same proposition’.
Evidence of US unilateralism and unquestioning UK support
The ousting of José Bustani, Director General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons
19. In Spring 2002, the UK Government supported the US Administration in a policy the latter considered important for its objective of regime change in Iraq, even though it was clear the US was not justified in the action it pursued: the ousting of the Director General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
20. Colin Powell and Donald Rumsfeld warned that we had to deal with the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The Bush administration feared that radiological, chemical, biological or nuclear weapons could fall into the hands of terrorists. Despite these concerns, the US was not paying its dues to the OPCW on time. Then on 22 April 2002, José Bustani, the Director General of the OPCW was ousted (halfway through his second term of office, to which he was popularly re-elected a year early) in a campaign led by the US.
21. The US charged the Brazilian diplomat with mismanagement and "ill-conceived initiatives" including ordering chemical plant inspections in certain countries for political reasons. Whilst the US posted a list of its allegations on a State Department website, it never produced any evidence and declined to conduct an enquiry to substantiate its allegations. The US did not answer Mr Bustani's rebuttal, which attributed financial problems to a lack of payments from member states and explained that the Director cannot order inspections.
22. In July 2002 the International Labour Organisation Administrative Tribunal (ILOAT), awarded Mr. Bustani, moral as well as material damages for unfair dismissal.
The role of the UK
23. The UK Government was the first member state to co-sponsor the US resolution to dismiss Mr Bustani in March 2002. The main thrust of the Government’s argument for taking this action was that other states had lost confidence in him. One of the states cited was India. However, at the Executive Council meeting of the OPCW in March 2002, India abstained on a vote of no confidence and made a strong speech in support of the Director General. At odds with this, at the vote in April at the Special Conference of States Parties, which led to Mr Bustani’s immediate dismissal, India voted with the US. In view of the likely back room manoeuvrings that brought about this ‘change of confidence’, it was not acceptable for the UK Government to plead strength of numbers as its main reason for supporting US allegations.
24. I arranged for Mr Bustani to come to the House of Commons after being unconvinced by the UK Government’s reasons for supporting the US campaign against him and, in May 2002, Mr Bustani met with MPs to discuss the future of the OPCW in the light of his ousting. He spoke of the pressure put on him to give differential treatment to major budgetary contributors:
"At the time of my ousting, there were 6 pending industrial inspections in the US that could not be closed due to, among other things, denial of access to inspectors".
25. Commenting on a Written Parliamentary Answer that the US, Germany and Japan had failed to honour their obligation to pay their contributions on time, Mr Bustani told MPs:
"This is illegal – they are bound to pay by 1st January and by not doing so they are hindering the Organisation’s programme of inspections".
26. Mr Bustani told MPs that his attempt to get Iraq to accede to the Chemical Weapons Convention and to apply the Convention in the US and the possibility of a successful outcome, was the main factor behind the US desire to remove him.
27. The decision of the UK Government to support the US-led campaign to oust the Director of the Organisation for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons, José Bustani, in Spring 2002, was shown to be both unjust and ill-judged following the subsequent International Labour Organisation Administrative Tribunal which ruled that Mr Bustani was treated unfairly and which awarded damages.
28. The UK support for the removal of Mr Bustani lends support to the view that, in the run up to the Iraq war, the UK was prepared to give unquestioning support to the US in foreign policy matters linked to the US drive to war with Iraq.
The ‘why now?’ question and the Prime Minister’s response to the House in 2003
29. On 24 September 2002, The Prime Minister told the House of Commons that
“His [Saddam Hussein’s] weapons of mass destruction programme is active, detailed and growing”.
In his foreward to the Government dossier released the same day, Tony Blair stated he was ‘in no doubt that the threat is serious and current’.
30. Was it true that Iraq was a current and growing threat at that time? On 29 January 2003, in the run up to the war I was the first MP to publicly put the ‘why now’ question to the Prime Minister
Lynne Jones (Birmingham, Selly Oak): Even if Saddam Hussein does possess weapons of mass destruction—most people accept that he probably retains some residual capability—can my right hon. Friend explain why he did not use those during the Gulf war when his arsenal was massively greater than it is now? In particular, can he explain why Saddam represents a greater threat today than he did in 1997, 1998, 1999 and all his time as Prime Minister until President's Bush's axis of evil speech, when apparently the situation changed?
31. The Prime Minister's response to my question was unusually long and the atmosphere in the House febrile. I have reproduced the Hansard record of his reply inserting a heading and comment on each point Tony Blair made in his response:
32. Why didn't Saddam Hussein use WMD during the Gulf war?
The Prime Minister: First, the one thing about which we can be sure is that his reason for not using his chemical, biological and nuclear weapons back in the early 1990s was not out of the goodness of his heart.
33. That was precisely my point. Saddam Hussein was shrewd and self interested and he only used WMD when doing so did not threaten his regime (against the Kurds and Iranians in the 1980s). It was clear in 2002/2003 that Saddam Hussein’s interest was first and foremost survival. He clearly recognised that use of WMDs would greatly reduce his chances of survival and did not use chemical or biological weapons against the US, Israel or anyone else during the Gulf War. It was highly relevant to the assessment of the threat Iraq posed in 2002/03 that Saddam Hussein did not use WMD when he attacked Kuwait in 1990, when at his most powerful.
34. The historical fact that Saddam Hussein only used chemical weapons when it was highly likely the international community would take no action against these transgressions was raised in a ‘Counter Dossier’ produced by Dr Glen Rangwala and Alan Simpson MP that was widely circulated and also sent to all Labour MPs. The Counter Dossier briefly summarised the history that the Iraqi government used weapons of mass destruction against Iran from 1981/82 to 1988, with a terrible civilian death toll from the use of sarin and tabun. Despite knowing of the attacks at least as early as 1983, the US administration went on to provide equipment and approve exports that were used in subsequent chemical attacks; blocked bills condemning Iraq in the House of Representatives (1985) and Senate (1988) and both the US and UK blocked condemnation of Iraq’s known chemical weapons attacks at the UN Security Council.
35. The Rangwala/Simpson dossier also reminded MPs of Iraq’s history of using chemical weapons against its own civilian population as well as the UK and US response:
36. As part of the Anfal campaign against the Kurds (February to September 1988, regarded as an act of genocide by Human Rights Watch) the Iraqi regime used chemical weapons extensively against its own population. This campaign included the infamous chemical assault on the town of Halabja in March 1988, which killed 5,000 people.
37. Like the appalling use of chemical weapons on Iran, the Anfal campaign was carried out without any real opposition from the West. Although the UK Government verbally condemned the Halabja massacre, ten days later it extended £400 million worth of trade credits to Iraq.
38. The US response was to escalate its support for Iraq: blocking a US Senate bill to cut off loans to Iraq; joining Iraqi attacks on Iranian facilities; and blowing up two Iranian oil rigs and destroying an Iranian frigate a month after the Halabja attack.
39. Tony Blair and George Bush were not responsible for the actions of the then US and UK leaders, President Regan or Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. However, Tony Blair did have a responsibility to critically assess the fact that Iraq had only used WMD in the past when he could expect Western acquiescence.
40. Saddam Hssein's selective use of WMD when he had the opportunity shows that he knew he would be subject to massive reprisals if he used WMD without the acceptance of the West.
41. Therefore, whilst Tony Blair was correct in the first part of his answer to my question that it was self interest that drove Saddam’s decision on whether to use WMD in the past, this begged rather than answered the question: if self interest meant Saddam had refrained from using WMD when he was at his most powerful, why would he act differently now when according to Dr Hans Blix: “Iraq was on its knees in 2003 after 10 years of sanctions”
42. Were the Weapons Inspectors saying Iraq's WMD posed a growing and current threat and that their role was exhausted?
Tony Blair’s reply to my question continued:
Secondly, my hon. Friend should study the UN inspectors' report. I shall read just one small part of it. Dr. Blix says:
29 Jan 2003 : Column 880
"The nerve agent V" is one of the most toxic ever developed . . . Iraq has declared that it only produced V" on a pilot scale, just a few tonnes and that the quality was poor . . . UNMOVIC, however, has information that conflicts with this account . . . There are indications that the agent was weaponised."
He then goes on to detail similar findings in respect of a lot more weapons.
43. As suggested, I did study Hans Blix’ 27 January 2003 report. The report showed there were some issues that required resolution, like Iraq’s declarations about the nerve agent VX and it was clear they were saying there was more work for Iraq to do. However, Tony Blair did not refer to parts of the report that describe areas of progress nor the closing message which was as follows:
Mr. President, we have now an inspection apparatus that permits us to send multiple inspection teams every day all over Iraq, by road or by air. Let me end by simply noting that that capability which has been built-up in a short time and which is now operating, is at the disposal of the Security Council.
44. Within 60 days of going back into Iraq, the inspectors had established a comprehensive inspection operation, with prompt access to the whole of Iraq (including Presidential sites), that was at the disposal of the UN. This was crucial information, relevant to any objective judgement about the level of threat Iraq posed, and the likelihood that the Inspectors could acheive more progress given the pressure being exerted on Iraq by the threat of force; yet Tony Blair made no reference to it.
45. The significance of the last paragraph of the January Inspectors' report was confirmed as the Inspectors’ continued to report to the UN that they had been given prompt access to multiple sites in Iraq and that they were making progress. On 20 March 2003, the day the war started, Hans Blix went on the BBC Today Programme to reiterate that real progress was being made and he had asked for but been denied more time to do his job.
46. Hans Blix’ reports did not substantiate the claim that there was an active and growing WMD programme in Iraq. On the contrary just before war commenced Hans Blix made it clear his inspectors had asked for more time and were "pretty close" to showing that after 700 inspections, there were no WMDs.
47. Was military action only seriously put on the table in the US and UK after the ‘Axis of Evil’ speech in Early 2002?
Tony Blair’s answer to my ‘why now’ question went on:
When my hon. Friend says that we did not regard Saddam as a threat between 1998 and the axis of evil speech, that is wrong. Precisely because he was a threat, thousands of British forces have been down in the Gulf the whole time, flying over the no-fly zones. Precisely because he was a threat, we have had to impose a sanctions regime on Iraq that, because of the way that Saddam implements it, means—I fear—misery and poverty for many, many millions of Iraqis. The fact is that, way before President Bush's speech, at the very first meeting that I held with the President in February 2001, I said that weapons of mass destruction were an issue and that we had to confront them.
48. In my question, I did not state that UK Foreign policy did not regard Saddam as a threat between 1998 and the 'Axis of Evil' speech. What I asked about was why Saddam was considered more of a threat after George Bush’s January 2002 speech.
49. Tony Blair intimated in his reply that there wasn't a sudden shift in US policy towards Iraq after George Bush's 'Axis of Evil' speech. In his evidence to you, Tony Blair makes the same suggestion, pointing to the fact that the US had had a policy of regime change under President Clinton, from 1998 arising from concern about Iraqi WMD and based on the Iraq Liberation Act (ILA).
50. However, other evidence to your Inquiry has made it clear that under the Clinton Administration the policy meant support for opposition groups to affect regime change from within. This interpretation of regime change continued with the Bush Administration until after 9/11 when the policy changed to one of 'active' regime change by US military force.
51. It is correct that in February 2001, Tony Blair said that Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction were an issue. However, both he and George Bush clearly stated that they intended to continue with the policy of containment.
52. This is backed up by evidence given to your Inquiry by Sir John Sawers, Tony Blair’s foreign policy adviser from January 1999 to summer 2001, (predecessor to Sir David Manning). Referring to foreign policy on Iraq at the time of the first meeting between the UK and US leaders in February 2001, Sir John confirms that military action was not on the table at this point:
"There was no discussion of a military invasion or anything like that.”
53. Perception of risk following September 11 atrocities and the ‘2010 question’
What changed to put military invasion on the table? Tony Blair’s answer to my ‘why now’ question moved on to the impact of 11 September 2001:
In the House on 14 September, I said that, after 11 September, it was even more important to deal with the issue. I simply say this to my hon. Friend: the UN having taken its stand, if we do not deal with Iraq now—
Mrs. Alice Mahon (Halifax): Who is next?
The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend asks who is next. After we deal with Iraq, we have to—[Interruption.]—yes, through the United Nations. We have to confront North Korea about its weapons programme—[Hon. Members: "Oh."] We have to confront those companies and individuals trading in weapons of mass destruction—
Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan): When do we stop?
The Prime Minister: Another question has been shouted at me. We stop when the threat to our security is properly and fully dealt with. I say this to the hon. Gentleman: if he reads Dr. Blix's report, who can doubt that Saddam is in breach of his UN obligations?
54. In his speech in the aftermath of the atrocities of 11 September, Tony Blair stated that those responsible would go further and use WMD if they could get them. He stated that there were groups and occasionally states, who would trade the technology and capability of WMD and as a result of 11 September this trade had to be ‘stamped out’
55. The Prime Minister did not name the states he was referring to on 14 September 2001. However, the implication in his answer to my question in January 2003 was that Iraq was one of them and if we did not ‘deal with Iraq now’ then we left open the danger that Iraq could trade WMD with the kind of terrorists responsible for 9/11. However, Tony Blair did not provide any logic to distinguish Iraq as more of a threat than other regimes where there were concerns over WMD, held by, for example, Iran and North Korea. Jack Straw had privately warned Tony Blair that he would need to deal with this point in the leaked March 2002 letter.
56. However, the idea that post 9/11 ‘rogue’ states might enter into trade of WMD with terrorists did not and does not provide adequate justification for military action.
57. On 29 January 2010, in evidence to your Inquiry, exactly 7 years after I first posed the ‘why now’ question, TB still avoided answering it by making oblique reference to the possible scenario that Saddam Hussein or his successor/s might have given WMD to terrorists:
”sometimes, what is important is not to ask the 2003 question but to ask the 2010 question”.
58. But what exactly is the ‘2010 question’?
59. Tony Blair went on to explain it to you in the following terms:
“Supposing we had backed off this military action, supposing we had left Saddam and his sons, who were going to follow him, in charge of Iraq, people who used chemical weapons, caused the death of over 1 million people, what we now know is that he retained absolutely the intent and the intellectual know-how to restart a nuclear and a chemical weapons programme when the inspectors were out and the sanctions changed, which they were going to be”.
60. This was not the rationale given to Parliament for using military action, and indeed it would not have been accepted as an adequate basis upon which to abandon the UN route and to go to war. The ‘2010 question’ is very similar to what President Bush said in his war statement to the American people:
61. "using chemical, biological or, one day, nuclear weapons obtained with the help of Iraq, the terrorists could fulfill their stated ambitions and kill thousands or hundreds of thousands of innocent people".
62. This was nonsensical. Why would Saddam Hussein have increased the threat to his own existence by giving WMD weapons to terrorists he didn’t control? Saddam Hussein was not a radical Islamist. He had no ideological or theological reason to assist terrorists.
63. What about other countries that the US or other major powers accuse of terrorist links? And what has the lesson of this been to other tyrants of the world when they see that Saddam Hussein was attacked precisely because he was so weak and did not possess nuclear weapons? This was a point that was forcefully made to the House by the former Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook the day before the vote in the House on whether to go to war. For ease of reference, I have reproduced Robin Cook’s speech in Annex 4, emphasising the relevant paragraphs.
64. The argument that our perception of the risks from terrorism changed after 11 September is not without validity. It is quite clear that following the atrocities of 9/11 we all became aware of a new type of terrorist threat. However, for what reason did Tony Blair only take account of the view prevalent in the Bush Administration that going to war with Iraq was necessary to reduce this terrorist threat?
65. Did Tony Blair objectively assess the possibility that military action in Iraq might increase the terrorist threat to the UK? For example, it appears that little account was taken of the inevitability that war in Iraq would take military resources and effort away from Afghanistan. The result has been that we are engaged in a protracted war in Afghanistan and it is far from certain that the eventual outcome will be the undermining of Al-Qaida.
66. It is also well documented that Tony Blair was told by his intelligence officials, before the invasion, that UK participation in a war on Iraq would increase the terrorist threat to the UK. Before the war, in February 2003, the Joint Intelligence Committee issued a warning that was reported by the Intelligence and Security Committee, which stated:
”The JIC assessed that al-Qaida and associated groups continued to represent by far the greatest terrorist threat to Western interests, and that threat would be heightened by military action against Iraq”
67. The essence of Tony Blair's '2010 question' mirrors George Bush's assertion that Saddam Hussein "could" at some point in the future have decided to support "the terrorists". This was a poor pretext to undertake a major unprovoked war, with no UN authority.
68. It is disappointing that the Panel did not question Tony Blair about why the Joint Intelligence Committee assessment that war on Iraq would increase the terrorist threat to the UK was considered less compelling than the vague, unsubstantiated assertion that Iraq might, at some unspecified time in the future, assist terrorists such as Al-Qaida, despite having no credible links to them.
69. Using fear of terrorism to justfiy regime change with no UN authority has set a dangerous precedent. This makes it essential that we properly hold those responsible for flawed decision making on Iraq to account.
70. Tony Blair should not be allowed to avoid answering specific and detailed questions about the basis upon which he took the country to war in March 2003 by means of the diversionary tactic of asking the Inquiry Panel to speculate about what the consequences might have been today had Saddam Hussein not been ousted.
71. ‘Why now?’ and the UN route
In the section of his reply reproduced above, Tony Blair casually implied that the role of the UN was complete, making military action necessary
“the UN having taken its stand, if we do not deal with Iraq now—“
However, this was an issue of great controversy. It was precisely the objection of both France and Hans Blix that the UN had not finished taking its stand. It was not a given fact that the role of the UN was exhausted. Their view was that progress was being made by the UN weapons inspections, albeit with the threat of military action on Iraq's doorstep.
72. Carne Ross was First Secretary in the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office Mission to the United Nations from December 1997 until June 2002. Mr Ross was responsible for Iraq policy, including policy on sanctions, weapons inspections and liaison with UNSCOM and later UNMOVIC and helped negotiate several UN Security Council resolutions on Iraq, including resolution 1284 which, inter alia, established UNMOVIC. In his submission to the Butler Inquiry, Mr Ross explains that during the negotiations on the establishment of UNMOVIC, the UK and US insisted that UNMOVIC required at least six months of inspections before it could reach a view on the degree of Iraqi disarmament and report to the UN Security Council. If this was the US/UK view in 1999, why did that change in 2003, when Hans Blix’ team was given just weeks to visit hundreds of sites across Iraq?
73. Tony Blair finished his response to my question by making further reference to the UN route:
74. We have talked about the UN in this House. Let us, therefore, follow the UN route. Let us implement the resolution and let us make sure that the threat to our security from those weapons is properly dealt with.
75. Tony Blair has always presented going to the UN as evidence that UK policy was to neutralise a threat from Iraq by pursuit of disarmament by peaceful means; with military action caused by Iraq’s failure to comply with UN resolutions. However, this presentation is at odds with evidence from July 2002. Despite weapons inspections on the ground being essential to the policy of disarmament, the ‘Downing Street Memo’ records that Tony Blair stated he did not want the arms inspectors back in Iraq:
“… it would make a big difference politically and legally if Saddam refused to allow in the UN inspectors”.
76. This statement lends weight to the view that the disarmament of Iraq though the UN route was being used as a pretext to take military action with the aim of overthrowing the regime. This is a view shared by the head of the UN weapons inspection team searching for WMD in Iraq, Hans Blix, who told the BBC that Tony Blair used WMD as a "convenient justification" for war.
77. The Inquiry panel should ask Tony Blair why he wanted Saddam Hussein to refuse entry to arms inspectors if his preferred aim was for Iraq to be disarmed by peaceful means via the UN route.
78. The evidence is that, even in the extreme circumstances of war, Saddam Hussein considered the use of WMD against the US or its allies to be counterproductive to his own survival. In answer to the 'why now'?' question in January 2003, Tony Blair did not take this into account; he omitted the message of progress from the Weapons Inspectors, instead suggesting the UN process was exhausted; and made an assertion that Iraq might trade WMD with terrorists and that this justified the use of military force.
79. In 2003 Tony Blair was not able to tell the House why Iraq was a greater threat in 2003 than in the years prior to George Bush's Axis of Evil speech because all the evidence was to the contrary.
The ‘active and growing threat’ claim – did Tony Blair conduct an objective assessment of the evidence available?
Doubts within the Intelligence Community that Iraq posed a ‘serious and current’ threat
80. Tony Blair’s answer to my ‘why now’ question did not substantiate the assertions he had previously made to the House that Iraq had a WMD programme that was ‘active, detailed and growing’
81. Tony Blair told your Inquiry that in the run up to the war, he did believe, beyond doubt, that Iraq had an active and growing WMD programme. On what basis did he believe this? When challenged on this during his evidence to you, Tony Blair said he couldn’t see how anyone could come to a different conclusion. Sir Lawrence Freedman asked if there had been any challenge to the intelligence. Tony Blair replied:
“When you are Prime Minister and the JIC is giving this information, you have got to rely on the people doing it, with experience and, with commitment and integrity, as they do. Of course, now, with the benefit of hindsight, we look back on the situation differently.”
82. Yet, on 11 July 2004, John Morrison, a career intelligence analyst, contracted by the Intelligence and Security Committee, referred to the ‘collective raspberry’ that went up around Whitehall when the Prime Minister stated in the UK Government Dossier of September 2002 that Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction posed a ‘serious and current threat’.
83. Commenting on his appearance on BBC Panorama, Mr Morrison told the BBC Today Programme that:
“ I'd appeared on Panorama because I felt somebody had to speak up about the misuse of intelligence - misuse of intelligence by MI6 in not handling it properly; misuse of intelligence by the senior management in the defence intelligence staff and misuse of intelligence terminology by the Prime Minister in talking about a threat when no threat existed.”
84. Mr Morrison went on to explain why he made the ‘collective raspberry comment’:
”Well, what I said was - when the Prime Minister used the word threat in relation to Iraq - as he did repeatedly in Parliament - I could almost hear the collective raspberry going up around Whitehall. And I said that because threat has got a very specific meaning in intelligence and the Prime Minister was misusing it.
….in intelligence terms a threat is a combination of capability and intention - if you've got the capability but you don't intend to do anybody any harm you are not a threat. If you've got the intention but you haven't got the capability then again you're not a threat.
Now we all thought that Saddam had some weapons of mass destruction capability but there was never any realistic suggestion that he intended to use it. The only circumstances we thought - the JIC thought he might use it would be as a last resort if attacked. In the end, as we know, he didn't have any WMD so he could not have been a threat in the correct intelligence terms.”
87. Tony Blair’s assertion that it wasn’t possible to come to any other conclusion than that which he came to from the intelligence available was also challenged by another longstanding and respected member of the intelligence community, Brian Jones. Mr Jones was, from 1987 until January 2003, a branch head in the scientific and technical directorate of the Defence Intelligence Analysis Staff (DIAS) which is in turn part of the Defence Intelligence Staff (DIS). In an article in the 8 December 2009 edition of the Guardian, Mr Jones criticised the Government’s argument that it received intelligence advice that Iraq possessed significant stocks of WMD and that quite simply, this was wrong. He points out:
”My evidence to both Hutton and Butler was that the real intelligence analysts did their best to ensure a balanced assessment reflecting the uncertainty about this emerged for the public, but were overruled at the most senior level by those without the appropriate experience and expertise.”
88. Mr Jones made it plain in an article for the Independent in 2004 that he was ‘mystified’ as to how Tony Blair had come to the conclusion that Iraq had significant amounts of WMD:
“The headline conclusion of the Iraq Survey Group (ISG) report-- that Iraq had no significant stockpiles of chemical or biological weapons - came as little surprise to me. The assessments that my colleagues and I on the Defence Intelligence Staff made in 2002 suggested that this might be the case, a view that was rejected by the Prime Minister, his team at No 10, the Cabinet, the Cabinet Office and the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC).”
89. The information from Brian Jones - that in 2002, DIS assessments were being rejected by the Prime Minister - contradicts Tony Blair’s evidence to your Inquiry that it is only with hindsight that any doubts were raised:
”The most difficult thing, when you are faced with a situation like this, is that it all depends what happens afterwards as to how people regard your behaviour at the time”.
90. We know from the evidence of Jonathan Powell, Tony Blair’s Chief of Staff that it was made clear to Tony Blair before he made the ‘growing threat’ claim to Parliament and the public that the intelligence did not support this:
”As I made clear in my comments on my email on the dossier, I didn’t think it was right to claim there was an imminent threat.”
91. The leaked letter of March 2002 from Jack Straw to Tony Blair shows that Jonathan Powell’s September 2002 advice was not news to Tony Blair:
"Objectively, the threat from Iraq has not worsened as a result of 11 September."
92. This contrasts starkly with Tony Blair’s September 2002 declaration that he was:
“in no doubt that the threat is serious and current”
93. In his recent evidence to your Inquiry, at the same time as suggesting that only with hindsight was it possible to come to a different conclusion from that which he arrived at in 2002/2003, Tony Blair has also suggested that he was aware, in the run up to the war, that Iraq was not ‘objectively’ a growing threat:
“it wasn’t that objectively he had done more, it is that our perception of the risk that had shifted”
94. The ‘growing threat’ claim has also been challenged by Carne Ross. Mr Ross (see para 72), in his evidence to the Butler Review, later made public as evidence to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, stated that he read the available UK and US intelligence on Iraq every working day for the four and a half years of his posting. He went on to state:
”During my posting, at no time did HMG assess that Iraq's WMD (or any other capability) posed a threat to the UK or its interests.”
95. Mr Ross goes on to describe the FCO’s assessment of Iraq’s military weakness:
”Iraq's ability to launch a WMD or any form of attack was very limited. There were approx 12 or so unaccounted-for Scud missiles; Iraq's airforce was depleted to the point of total ineffectiveness; its army was but a pale shadow of its earlier might; there was no evidence of any connection between Iraq and any terrorist organisation that might have planned an attack using Iraqi WMD (I do not recall any occasion when the question of a terrorist connection was even raised in UK/US discussions or UK internal debates).”
The question of Iraq’s intentions, distinct from its capabilities was also covered in Mr Ross’ submission:
”There was moreover no intelligence or assessment during my time in the job that Iraq had any intention to launch an attack against its neighbours or the UK or US.”
96. Raising the ‘why now’ question on what had changed to cause the UK to state that Iraq was a growing threat, Mr Ross states that he was aware of no new evidence from either the FCO or the MOD:
“I quizzed my colleagues in the FCO and MOD working on Iraq on several occasions about the threat assessment in the run-up to the war. None told me that any new evidence had emerged to change our assessment; what had changed was the government's determination to present available evidence in a different light.”
For ease of reference I have reproduced Mr Ross’ submission to the Butler Review as Annex 5.
97. It does not appear from the Inquiry website that Carne Ross has been invited to give evidence to your Inquiry. I urge the Panel to ensure that he is asked to sit before the Inquiry.
98. Tony Blair should be held accountable for making the ‘growing threat’ claims against the advice of Jonathan Powell and Jack Straw and for stating there was ‘no doubt’ that Saddam Hussein posed a serious and current threat when evidence shows that clear disagreement with this proposition was being raised within the intelligence community.
99. Was evidence being fixed around policy?
There is further evidence from other top-level people that lends weight to the view that proponents of the war were fixing evidence around policy. The Downing Street Memo records that ‘C’ the Head of the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), Sir Richard Dearlove, expressed the view that:
"George Bush wanted to remove Saddam Hussein, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."
100. Hans Blix, the head of the UN weapons inspections team in Iraq in the run up to the war has stated:
”The war was sold on the weapons of mass destruction, and now you feel, or hear that it was only a question of deployment of arguments, as he said, it sounds a bit like a fig leaf that was held up, and if the fig leaf had not been there, then they would have tried to put another fig leaf there."
101. The Downing Street memo also recorded the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, as drawing up a plan to get evidence to support policy, stating the case for war was ‘thin’ and so the UK needed to ‘work up a plan’ to ‘help with the legal justification for the use of force’:
”It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran. We should work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN weapons inspectors. This would also help with the legal justification for the use of force.”
102. Both the US and UK Governments gave disproportionate weight to any intelligence that appeared to support the case that Iraq was an immediate military threat. For example, the section on nuclear weapons in the September 2002 dossier ends by raising the spectacle that with the help of foreign sources
"Iraq could produce a nuclear weapon in between one and two years"
103. Yet, in his evidence, John Scarlett, Head of the JIC, stated
"there was no clear intelligence on the nuclear programme"
Even today, the UK Government continue to make the claim that Iraq sought to procure uranium from Africa, despite the view of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that this was based on forged documents.
104. As Annex 3 to this document, I am re-submitting the joint submission from myself and former MP Llew Smith, to the 2004 Butler Inquiry on the lack of credibility of the ‘uranium claim’ and I discuss my concerns about the adequacy of the findings of the Butler Report on this issue in a separate section below.
105. I do not have the resources to assess the entirety of the 24 September 2002 dossier, but it is significant that it was published with at least two errors of fact that leant in the direction of the Government’s case.
106. The UK Government Dossier stated that Iraq denied UNSCOM inspectors access to any of the 8 presidential sites in Iraq when the UNSCOM website reports that access was allowed to all 8 sites. The second error of fact was a misrepresentation of what happened in December 1998, to cause the UN inspectors to leave Iraq. The dossier refers to the ‘effective ejection’ of the weapons inspectors, when they were withdrawn at the request of the US Government prior to Operation Dessert Fox. David Morrison, a writer on Iraq points out that these mistakes were not intelligence assessments that were arguably wrong, but facts that were definitely wrong. These errors do not inspire confidence in those who produced the document and their motives for doing so.
107. For ease of reference, I have reproduced the section from Mr Morrison’s website which explains these errors in more detail as Annex 6.
108. Tony Blair made a passionate and certain speech to the House on 24 September 2002 painting a frightening picture based on intelligence reports he was being shown on WMD in Iraq. However, in marked contrast, we know that the JIC assessments the Prime Minister was getting at the time described knowledge of developments in Iraq's WMD and ballistic missile programmes as 'patchy'. William Ehrman, the FCO Director of International Security, in his evidence to you, referring to a period from April 2000 to September 2002, also described the intelligence on Iraq's WMD as'patchy', 'sporadic', 'poor' and 'limited'. This does not fit with Tony Blair’s unequivocal statement that Iraq’s continued production of WMD was ‘beyond doubt’.. This is important because we were encouraged by Tony Blair to rely on his interpretation of the intelligence as it was necessarily secret:
109. I am aware, of course, that people will have to take elements of this on the good faith of our intelligence services, but this is what they are telling me, the British Prime Minister, and my senior colleagues. The intelligence picture that they paint is one accumulated over the last four years. It is extensive, detailed and authoritative.
110. Based on the balance of evidence available at the time, it was not reasonable for the British Government to come to the conclusion that Saddam Hussein was a growing threat, to the point where a pre-emptive war was necessary in March 2003.
111. Attempts to link Iraq to the September 11 atrocities
Ever since September 11, 2001, the Bush Administration attempted to make a connection between Saddam Hussein and the horrific events of that day. That effort was successful. A New York Times/CBS survey released on March 11 2003 found that 45% of Americans thought that Saddam Hussein was "personally involved" in the Sept. 11 attacks. In his news conference on 6 March 2003, President Bush claimed that Saddam Hussein:
"has trained and financed Al Qa’ida-type organizations before - Al Qa’ida and other terrorist organizations".
Secretary Colin Powell told the United Nations there was:
"a sinister nexus between Iraq and the Al Qa’ida terrorist network".
112. President Bush and his administration, were leading the American people to believe that Saddam Hussein played a direct role in the September 11th attack to get public support for military action. Tony Blair knew that there was no link between Iraq and Usama Bin-Laden/Al-Qaida. On 18 March 2003, during his speech before the vote on whether to go to war, I asked Tony Blair if President Bush was accurate when he told the American people that Iraq had aided, trained and harboured terrorists, including operatives of Al-Qaida, he replied:
“yes, I do support what the President said.”
113. Yet, in the memo to Tony Blair on 25 March 2002 Jack Straw put the ‘why now’ question directly to Tony Blair with the heading ‘WHAT IS WORSE NOW?’. Jack Straw plainly states that there is no evidence to link Iraq and Al-Qaida:
114. “ If 11 September had not happened, it is doubtful that the US would now be considering military action against Iraq. In addition, there has been no credible evidence to link Iraq with UBL and Al Qaida. Objectively, the threat from Iraq has not worsened as a result of 11 September. What has however changed is the tolerance of the international community (especially that of the US), the world having witnessed on September 11 just what determined evil people can these days perpetuate.”
115. Why did Tony Blair support a statement by George Bush linking Iraq and Al-Qaida when knew from his Foreign Secretary and other intelligence sources there was ‘no credible evidence’ to sustain such a link?
Evidence that the US and UK knew before the war that Iraq’s WMD had been largely destroyed
116. The evidence of Lt. General Hussein Kamal al-Majid
Saddam Hussein’s son-in-law, General Hussein Kamal al-Majid, (also sometimes spelt Kamil or Kamel) Director of Iraq’s Military Industrialisation Corporation, was in charge of Iraq’s weapons programme when he defected from Iraq in August 1995. He was interviewed by a joint UNSCOM/IAEA team in Amman on 22 August 1995. The details of the interview did not become public knowledge until February 2003 when a facsimile of the official notes of the interview was uncovered by the academic, Dr Glen Rangwala. In the interview, Kamal says:
“I ordered destruction of all chemical weapons. All weapons – biological, chemical, missile, nuclear were destroyed” (p13).
117. On Page 7 of the interview Hussein Kamal described anthrax as the “main focus” of Iraq’s biological programme. When asked if weapons and agents were destroyed he responded:
“nothing remained” (p7)
On page 8 Hussein Kamal continued:
“not a single missile left but they had blueprints and molds [sic] for production. All missiles were destroyed.” (p8)
118. Tony Blair made specific reference to the information revealed by Kamal in his opening speech to the House on the resolution to go to war:
”…In October 1994, Iraq stopped co-operating with the weapons inspectors altogether. Military action was threatened. Inspections resumed. In March 1996, in an effort to rid Iraq of the inspectors, a further full and final declaration of WMD was made. By July 1996, however, Iraq was forced to admit that declaration, too, was false.
In August, it provided yet another full and final declaration. Then, a week later, Saddam's son-in-law, Hussein Kamal, defected to Jordan. He disclosed a far more extensive biological weapons programme and, for the first time, said that Iraq had weaponised the programme—something that Saddam had always strenuously denied. All this had been happening while the inspectors were in Iraq.
Kamal also revealed Iraq's crash programme to produce a nuclear weapon in the 1990s….“
119. Tony Blair appears to get the dates muddled here, stating that Hussein Kamal defected in 1996, when this occurred in 1995. This inaccuracy may have been a simple error.
120. In his speech to the House on the resolution to go to war, Tony Blair suggests that after he defected to the west in the mid 1990’s, Saddam Hussein’s son in law, Hussein Kamal, disclosed that Iraq had an extensive WMD programme when in fact, the transcript of the interview with UNSCOM/IAEA records Hussein Kamal’s statements that Iraq’s WMD programme had been destroyed and nothing remained.
121. On 2 March 2003, in the Independent on Sunday (IoS), shortly before the start of the war, Tony Blair made another factually inaccurate statement relating to Hussein Kamal’s defection:
"The UN inspectors found no trace at all of Saddam's offensive biological weapons programme – which he claimed didn't exist – until his lies were revealed by his son-in-law."
122. Tony Blair’s statement here was wrong. The UN had already determined that Iraq had had a biological weapons programme before Hussein Kamal defected. In the face of the evidence that the UN put to them, the Iraqi regime admitted that they had an offensive biological weapons programme on 1 July 1995. Saddam Hussein's son-in-law defected on 7 August 1995. Tony Blair should have been aware of this as these dates are clearly laid out on page 37 of the Government’s 24 September Dossier, to which he wrote the foreword.
123. The Panel should establish why the September 2002 Dossier and Tony Blair in his 18 March 2003 speech made no mention of Hussein Kamal’s interview in Amman with UNSCOM/IAEA on 22 August 1995 in which he indicated that all Iraq’s WMD had been destroyed.
124. In the same 2 March 2003 IoS interview Tony Blair’s inaccurate claims about Kamel continued:
"Only then [after Hussein Kamel's defection] did the inspectors find over 8,000 litres of concentrated anthrax and other biological weapons, and a factory to make more."
Dr Rangwala (see paragraph 34) assessed this claim pointing out that UN inspectors had never found anthrax in Iraq. Iraq claimed that it had destroyed all its stocks of anthrax in 1991, and the dispute over anthrax since then concerned the UN's attempts to verify these claims. The factory at which Iraq had made anthrax, al-Hakam, had been under inspection since 1991, contrary to the Prime Minister's claim.
125. Tony Blair’s comments relating to Hussein Kamal appear to be an attempt to discredit the work of weapons inspections. This would fit with Tony Blair’s suggestion in July 2002 that it would ‘make a big difference’ if Saddam Hussein refused to allow the weapons inspectors in (see para 75).
126. Allegation by Ron Suskind that the head of Iraqi Intelligence told MI6 Iraq had no WMD before the war
In his book 'The Way of the World' about the pre-war intellingence on Iraqi weapons, Ron Suskind alleges that a senior MI6 officer named Michael Shipster met Tahir Jalil Habbush, the Head of Iraqi Intelligence, in Amman in the early days of 2003, and that Habbush assured Shipster that Iraq possessed no active nuclear, chemical, biological or other weapons of mass destruction.
127. According to Suskind, Mr. Habbush told Michael Shipster that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction, and that far from seeking to conceal the presence of such weapons, he actually wanted to conceal their absence because he was more concerned about a possible invasion from Iran than about an invasion from the United States.
128. Mr Suskind’s information is based on his reports of conversations that he had with Sir Richard Dearlove, former head of MI6, and his Deputy Nigel Inkster. Both MI6 officials have dismissed Mr Suskind’s recollection of those conversations but neither have explicitly denied that Mr Habbush told Mr Shipster that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, nor that this intelligence was ignored by those at the highest level.
129. On 3 March 2009, I wrote to the Intelligence and Security Committee asking the ISC to investigate and respond to these allegations and my letter to the Chair, Kim Howells and his response of 16 December 2009 is reproduced as Annex 7, which confirms the above view.
130. The ISC reply from the Chair, Kim Howells, states that the allegations were investigated but that the outcome remains classified. Kim Howells does not give any reason why the outcome should remain classified or why it would not be suitable for publication in the Committee’s unclassified reports.
131. The writer, Ron Suskind’s central allegations have not been denied by the Government, despite my raising them on the floor of the House on more than one occasion. If untrue, the Government could have simply responded by stating this to be the case. As they stand, the allegations add substance to the belief of many that the UK and US Governments, in their zeal to go to war, had little concern for whether Iraq actually possessed weapons of mass destruction. As such, they should be considered as vitally important to any review of the events that led to the decision to go to war.
132. I urge the Panel to both assess the ISC’s investigation and whether it is necessary for it to remain classified and to call Michael Shipster to give evidence to the Inquiry to ascertain the veracity of the allegation that the Head of Iraqi Intelligence told a UK MI6 agent that Iraq possessed no active nuclear, chemical, biological or other weapons of mass destruction.
133. It is clear that there were people in the UK intelligence community who knew before the war that Saddam Hussein did not pose a threat and did not possess weapons of mass destruction. Somehow, their views were suppressed and MPs and the public were given a false view of what the intelligence said.
France and the failure of the UN route
134. Military action went ahead on 20 March 2003, despite there being no ‘second’ UN resolution further to UNSCR 1441 to authorise the use of force. As one of the five permanent members of the Security Council, France had the power to veto a second resolution. In an interview on 10 March 2003, President Chirac indicated that as things stood, France would use its veto in the unlikely event that a second resolution authorising military action got the necessary majority of nine members of the Security Council:
"My position is that, regardless of the circumstances, France will vote "No" because she considers this evening that there are no grounds for waging war in order to achieve the goal we have set ourselves—to disarm Iraq."
135. By only quoting the words ’regardless of the circumstances’ when describing the French position on authorisation of the use of force, proponents of the war blamed France for blocking military action against Iraq no matter what evidence emerged of a breach of 1441.
136. Tony Blair’s misrepresentation of the French position as against military action ‘whatever the circumstances’ was included in the resolution in support of military action that was put to the House on 18 March 2003:
137. …regrets that despite sustained diplomatic effort by Her Majesty's Government it has not proved possible to secure a second Resolution in the UN because one Permanent Member of the Security Council made plain in public its intention to use its veto whatever the circumstances;
138. The inclusion of this misrepresentation in the resolution was important as some MPs stated that it changed their mind on whether to vote for it:
Hugh Bayley (City of York): Will my right hon. Friend give way?
The Prime Minister: Very well.
Hugh Bayley: I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. I took the view that Britain should not engage in military action without a second resolution, but the decision of some members of the Security Council to back away from the commitment that they gave in November to enforce resolution 1441 has made me change my mind. Does my right hon. Friend agree that France's decision to use the veto against any further Security Council resolution has, in effect, disarmed the UN instead of disarming Iraq?
The Prime Minister: Of course I agree with my hon. Friend. The House should just consider the position that we were asked to adopt. Those on the Security Council opposed to us say that they want Saddam to disarm, but they will not countenance any new resolution that authorises force in the event of non-compliance. That is their position—no to any ultimatum and no to any resolution that stipulates that failure to comply will lead to military action. So we must demand that Saddam disarms, but relinquish any concept of a threat if he does not.
139. Such was the willingness of colleagues to accept that the French would use their veto at any time that I was ridiculed when I attempted to raise the issue in the debate on the motion to go to war. Tony Blair continued a little further on in the debate:
But the moment we proposed the benchmarks and canvassed support for an ultimatum, there was an immediate recourse to the language of the veto. The choice was not action now or postponement of action; the choice was action or no action at all.
140. Giving evidence to your Inquiry, Jack Straw suggested that President Chirac’s use of the phrase ‘this evening’ did not describe the French position on the evening of the interview, thereby indicating this could change in the future but it was simply an introduction to what he was saying that evening. He put this argument to the Panel by specifically stating the order of phrasing of Chirac’s words, down to where a comma is used.
141. However, the transcript shows that Jack Straw did not give the phrasing in order. The phrase ‘this evening’ comes after ‘regardless of the circumstances’ whilst, Jack Straw says it comes first and so changes the meaning of Chirac’s words to suit his argument:
”…I know there has been some textual analysis of the use by President Chirac of the word “Le soir”, but I watched him say this and I took this as no more than saying, “This evening”, comma, and then he announces, “France will, whatever the circumstances”, he says, right?”
142. It is disappointing that the Panel did not challenge Jack Straw on his mis-quotation of President Chirac’s words. The Inquiry should formally record the actual transcript of the 10 March 2003 interview and point out that contrary to the evidence given by Jack Straw, ‘ce soir’ was used to refer to the actual situation that existed on 10 March 2003 and to distinguish it from hypothetical situations that might arise in the future.
143. During the 10 March interview, M Chriac made it plain that the French would not support any resolution that cut short the weapons inspection process but he did not rule out the use of force in Iraq in any circumstances. In fact, he explicitly ruled in the possibility that military action might be needed. Below, I reproduce a further section of the transcript which makes the French position clear: if the weapons inspectors reported, after more time, that they were not able to do their job then war would be inevitable, but it wasn’t ‘today’:
Q. – But isn't 100% cooperation a sine qua non [an essential condition]?
THE PRESIDENT – Certainly.
Q. – Yet today it isn't 100%. (...) The inspectors are saying this.
THE PRESIDENT – No, the inspectors say that cooperation has improved and that they are today in a position to pursue their work. And this is what is of paramount importance. It's not for you or me to say whether the inspections are effective, whether Iraq is sufficiently cooperative. In fact, she isn't, I can tell you that straightaway.
Q. – Not sufficiently.
THE PRESIDENT – Not sufficiently. But it isn't for you or for me to decide that, that's for the inspectors to whom the UN has entrusted the responsibility of disarming Iraq to say. The inspectors have to tell us: "we can continue and, at the end of a period which we think should be of a few months" – I'm saying a few months because that's what they have said – "we shall have completed our work and Iraq will be disarmed". Or they will come and tell the Security Council: "we are sorry but Iraq isn't cooperating, the progress isn't sufficient, we aren't in a position to achieve our goal, we won't be able to guarantee Iraq's disarmament". In that case it will be for the Security Council and it alone to decide the right thing to do. But in that case, of course, regrettably, the war would become inevitable. It isn't today [my bold]
144. The clear statement that there were future circumstances in which France would countenance military force against Iraq was ignored by Tony Blair. On 18 March 2003, during the debate before the Parliamentary vote on whether to authorise military force, Tony Blair told the House of Commons that France had indicated that it would never authorise military force against Iraq:
18 Mar 2003 : Column 764
Last Monday, we were getting very close with it. We very nearly had the majority agreement. If I might, I should particularly like to thank the President of Chile for the constructive way in which he approached this issue.
Yes, there were debates about the length of the ultimatum, but the basic construct was gathering support. Then, on Monday night, France said that it would veto a second resolution, whatever the circumstances.
145. The French position was in fact that progress was being made with weapons inspections and given this France was opposed to replacing the existing inspections process with an ultimatum that would lead to war in a few days.
146. I urge the Inquiry panel to write to Tony Blair asking for a direct answer to the question put to him during his evidence to your Inquiry, asking if the French Government had been in touch with Number 10 through diplomatic channels to tell him that the UK were misinterpreting President Chirac’s words, before he spoke to the House on 18 March 2003. By way of response Tony Blair stated to you that he spoke to President Chirac on 14 March but he did not confirm or deny whether France had complained, prior to 18 March, that the UK Government were misrepresenting the French position.
147. The phrase "regardless of the circumstances" was not a helpful one and it was unfortunate that President Chirac used these words as they were easily taken out of context. However, this does not detract from the responsibility of those, including Tony Blair and Jack Straw who misinterpreted and continue to misinterpret the 10 March interview given by President Chirac in order to blame France for the failure to obtain a ‘second’ UN resolution.
148. It was far easier for proponents of war to blame France for the failure to get a second UN resolution than to address the underlying reasons why there was a lack of international consensus for military action. In 2003 the UN weapons inspectors findings were supporting rather than contradicting the view that Saddam had no more than a residual WMD capability. It was because evidence showing Iraq to be an active and growing threat was non-existent that it was not possible to get UN authorisation for the use of force, not because of French ‘intransigence’ as stated by UK ministers.
Hans Blix and the Iraq Inquiry
149. So far, Hans Blix, the head UN weapons inspector in the run up to the war, has not appeared before your Inquiry. My assistant telephoned the Inquiry office to ask if there are plans to call Dr Blix but the response was the information could not be given either way but we should keep checking the Inquiry website. At the time of writing, there is no indication on the Inquiry website that Dr Blix is to be called despite clear public statements by Dr Blix that he is willing to give evidence.
150. Hans Blix, has also stated that former Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, gave some incorrect answers to the Inquiry Panel. Jack Straw told your Inquiry in January, that he had acted on the basis of the best evidence available at the time about the threat posed by Iraq and that the UK’s backing for military action depended on it being a last resort.
151. Dr Blix suggests Jack Straw misrepresented what the Inspectors had reported and had been incorrect to suggest, in 2002, that UN weapons inspectors were not being allowed access to certain sites. The BBC website reported Blix’ comments on Straw’s evidence:
"He did not focus at all on what I had said about the increased Iraqi co-operation," he said, explaining: "he focused upon - say - that the Iraqis are not allowing you to interview people and they are stopping you from getting to sites. That was not true," he said.
152. Hans Blix has undermined Jack Straw’s assertion that he was looking objectively at the evidence with war as the decision of last resort. I urge the Inquiry to call Hans Blix to give evidence; given the importance of his role, not to do so would call into question the credibility of those undertaking the Inquiry.
Gordon Brown’s Rationale for War – Respect for the United Nations
153. In his recent evidence to you, Prime Minister Gordon Brown explained that his rationale for supporting the war was Iraqi non-compliance with UN resolutions. His stated view was that the systematic ignoring and flouting of international law provided justification for invasion. However, this does not explain on what basis Iraq was singled out at this particular time from other countries who were non-compliant with binding UN resolutions (resolutions which can lead to the use of military action if breached); for example: Turkey in relation to northern Cyprus; Uganda and Rwanda in relation to the Democratic Republic of Congo; Liberia on the acquisition of arms.
154. Other countries were persistently non-compliant with non-binding UN resolutions that despite their non-binding status were still a cause of great concern to many in the international community. For example Israel has consistently ignored the UN resolutions calling for its withdrawal from the territories it occupied in 1967 and other resolutions relating to its illegal settlement activity (the House of Commons Library state that the balance of opinion is that the UNSCRs which call on Israel to withdraw from the Occupied Territories are probably non-binding).
155. Even if it could be shown that Iraq was the only country that had a history of breaching UN resolutions, it is illogical of Gordon Brown to site respect for UN resolutions as the justification for the use of military action when the UN did not agree a second resolution permitting the use of force, pursuant to SCR 1441.
The ‘uranium from Africa’ claim
156. On June 17 2004, Llew Smith MP and I made a joint submission to the Butler Review on the grave doubts about the veracity of the UK Government claim that Iraq 'sought to procure significant quantities of uranium from Africa'. The UK Government still stands by this claim despite the fact that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) stated it had not received any intelligence to support the claim that was not based on forged documentation.
157. Given the limited resources available to us, we were not able to investigate all the claims that Saddam Hussein possessed WMD or was seeking to build up capability and so we used the uranium from Niger claim as a proxy assesment.
158. Whilst I am aware that your Inquiry will be looking at the evidence that was before the Butler Review, I am concerned that our submission was not considered by Lord Butler and his team as there was no reference to it in the Butler Report. Indeed, in a private conversation with Lord Butler, whilst he clearly recalled my written Parliamentary questions on this issue (to which he stated he was responsible for drafting replies) he seemed to have no knowledge of our submission. I am therefore submitting the enclosed copy to the current Inquiry to ensure that it is considered by you (please see Annex 10).
159. I did not consider the Butler Review’s conclusions on this matter adequate and tabled an Early Day Motion (EDM) about the credibility of the conclusions and sent two letters with Llew Smith MP, to the Guardian letters page. I also tabled a further EDM to put on the record the Government’s lack of co-operation in responding to Parliamentary questions on this matter.
160. These two EDMs and letters are reproduced below and I should be grateful if you would consider the points made therein in addition to the submission I made to the Butler Review itself.
161. EDM 1531 BUTLER COMMITTEE CONCLUSIONS ON THE UK GOVERNMENT CLAIM THAT IRAQ SOUGHT URANIUM FROM AFRICA 15.07.04
That this House notes the Butler Committee support for the Government’s claim that Iraq sought to procure uranium from Africa; notes that after stating Iraqi officials visited Niger in 1999, the Butler Review’s reasons for agreeing this was to discuss uranium procurement were (a) uranium is Niger’s main export (b) Iraq had purchased uranium from Niger in the 1980’s (c) Iraq could not access indigenous uranium and (d) due to ‘other evidence of Iraq seeking to restart its nuclear programme.’; further notes the Review states elsewhere ‘The JIC cautioned that, on Iraq’s nuclear programme: We have no clear intelligence…’; recalls that the Government stated (PQ-147621) it gave no intelligence to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on this issue; questions why GCHQ intelligence on the visit of the Iraqi official to Niger was not given to the IAEA if this was the basis of the claim; questions the relevance of the Butler Committee’s reference to intelligence ‘from additional sources’ on the Niger claim and intelligence that Iraq had procured uranium from the Democratic Republic of Congo, as parliamentary answers state that Niger was the Country in question and that the Government is relying on one source from a third country which discussed the information with the IAEA before the latter concluded that the specific Niger allegations were unfounded; further notes that Butler solicited the IAEA view and then made no comment on it; concludes that Lord Butler's conclusions on the uranium from Africa issue are not credible.
162. EDM 1498 PARLIAMENTARY QUESTION ON THE UK GOVERNMENT CLAIM THAT IRAQ SOUGHT TO PROCURE URANIUM FROM AFRICA 12.07.04
That this House notes with concern the refusal of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to answer Parliamentary Question 182618 of 8th July put by the honourable Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak on whether signals intelligence picked up by GCHQ concerning a visit by an Iraqi official to Niger was passed on to the International Atomic Energy Agency, instead stating that 'it would not be appropriate to comment publicly on the detail of this intelligence reporting'; notes that no detail was being requested in this question; is perplexed because previous parliamentary questions asking what information has been passed to the IAEA by the United Kingdom Government have been answered by Foreign Office ministers; calls upon the Foreign Secretary to make it known to the House whether the GCHQ intelligence in question was passed to the IAEA; further notes that since 6th May in response to other parliamentary questions regarding the claim in the Government's September 2002 Dossier, Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction that Iraq had attempted to procure significant quantities of uranium from Africa, PQs 170513, 171178, 173387, 175478, 175493 and 175494, the Foreign Secretary has refused to answer, referring to the fact that Lord Butler of Brockwell is conducting a review; believes that by referring to the Butler Review instead of answering parliamentary questions, the Government is replacing parliamentary accountability with a secret inquiry on these matters; and suggests to the Foreign Secretary that by his uncooperative actions he is undermining the House's rightful role of scrutinising the policies and actions of ministers.
163. July 16, 2004
Guardian Letters page:
You reproduce the Butler report's conclusion in support of the government's lonely view that Iraq sought to procure uranium from Niger (Evidence stretched to "outer limits", July 15). But in the main body of the report, the weakness of this conclusion is exposed. After stating that Iraqi officials visited Niger in 1999, the explanation given as to how the UK came to "know" the visit's purpose is: (a) because uranium ore accounts for almost three-quarters of Niger's exports; (b) Iraq had purchased uranium from Niger in the 1980s; (c) Iraq could not access indigenous uranium; and (d) due to "other evidence of Iraq seeking to restart its nuclear programme". However, Butler also tells us that "the JIC cautioned that, on Iraq's nuclear programme, we have no clear intelligence".
Lynne Jones MP, Labour,Birmingham Selly Oak
Llew Smith MP, Labour, Blaenau Gwent
164. July 23, 2004
Guardian Letters page:
It is interesting that the US press is willing to accept Butler's conclusion on the uranium from Niger claim so unquestioningly (The Editor, July 22).
In fact, Butler solicited the view of the International Atomic Energy Agency, but astoundingly makes no comment on its conclusion that there is no evidence to support the claim. Butler also completely ignores our official submission (www. lynnejones.org.uk/uranium).
The US media do not report that when questioned by the press on the credibility of his support for the isolated UK view on this matter, Butler pointed to his committee colleague, Ann Taylor MP, and reminded us of the conclusion of the intelligence and security committee (which is appointed by the prime minister), of which she is chair.
Without impugning the integrity of the ISC chair, it is self-evidently bad practice to appoint someone to a committee when their previous conclusions are under scrutiny. There must be a rigorous independent inquiry.
Lynne Jones MP, Labour,Birmingham Selly Oak
Llew Smith MP, Labour, Blaenau Gwent
Conclusions and Recommendations
By January and February 2003, following the reports of the weapons inspectors, it became clear that much of the intelligence that the UK had disseminated to the public was wrong. If Tony Blair wanted to avoid war, he should have ordered a reassessment of the intelligence on Iraq’s WMDs following these revelations. He did not do so.
By March 2003 the burden of justification required to undertake a major unprovoked attack had not been met. It was for this reason that it was not possible to secure UN authority for the use of force in Iraq.
Tony Blair should be held to account for both mis-using intelligence and misleading the House in order to secure Parliamentary support for war.
The conclusions and recommendations highlighted in this report are reproduced as follows:
A number of statements by Tony Blair in the run up to the war show that, in seeking support for his policy towards Iraq, he repeatedly made use of the clear distinction between the policies of regime change and disarmament. (paragraph 6)
Regime change by outside military force and the disarmament of Iraq's WMD capability via the UN were two distinct and separate policy objectives, both politically and legally. Tony Blair clearly told the House that regime change was not the purpose of military action in Iraq. The question is, was he misleading the House? (paragraph 11)
The Chilcot Inquiry was criticised in the press for not raising the 14 March 2002 memo from Sir David Manning, the Prime Minister’s foreign policy adviser, to the Prime Minister with Sir David. I urge the Panel to take this memo into consideration if it has not been made available to them from source and to comment on the discrepancy between this memo and the evidence given by Tony Blair and Sir David that the British Government's objective was not regime change. (paragraph15)
Tony Blair’s assertion that he did not sign up for regime change in March/April 2002 thus has little credibility and neither has his later argument that the policies of regime change and disarmament with respect to Iraq in 202/2003 were ‘a different way of expressing the same proposition’. (paragraph 18)
The decision of the UK Government to support the US-led campaign to oust the Director of the Organisation for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons, José Bustani, in Spring 2002, was shown to be both unjust and ill-judged following the subsequent International Labour Organisation Administrative Tribunal which ruled that Mr Bustani was treated unfairly and which awarded damages. (paragraph 27)
The UK support for the removal of Mr Bustani lends support to the view that, in the run up to the Iraq war, the UK was prepared to give unquestioning support to the US in foreign policy matters linked to the US drive to war with Iraq. (paragraph 28)
The essence of Tony Blair's '2010 question' mirrors George Bush's assertion that Saddam Hussein "could" at some point in the future have decided to support "the terrorists". This was a poor pretext to undertake a major unprovoked war, with no UN authority. (paragraph 67)
It is disappointing that the Panel did not question Tony Blair about why the JIC assessment that war on Iraq would increase the terrorist threat to the UK was considered less compelling than the vague, unsubstantiated assertion that Iraq might, at some unspecified time in the future, assist terrorists such as Al-Qaida, despite having no credible links to them. (paragraph 68)
Using fear of terrorism to justfiy regime change with no UN authority has set a dangerous precedent. This makes it essential that we properly hold those responsible for flawed decision-making on Iraq to account. (paragraph 69)
Carne Ross was First Secretary in the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office Mission to the United Nations from December 1997 until June 2002. Mr Ross was responsible for Iraq policy, including policy on sanctions, weapons inspections and liaison with UNSCOM and later UNMOVIC and helped negotiate several UN Security Council resolutions on Iraq, including resolution 1284 which, inter alia, established UNMOVIC. In his submission to the Butler Inquiry, Mr Ross explains that during the negotiations on the establishment of UNMOVIC, the UK and US insisted that UNMOVIC required at least six months of inspections before it could reach a view on the degree of Iraqi disarmament and report to the UN Security Council. If this was the US/UK view in 1999, why did that change in 2003, when Hans Blix’ team was given just weeks to visit hundreds of sites across Iraq? (paragraph 72)
The Inquiry panel should ask Tony Blair why he wanted Saddam Hussein to refuse entry to arms inspectors if his preferred aim was for Iraq to be disarmed by peaceful means via the UN route. (paragraph 77)
The evidence is that, even in the extreme circumstances of war, Saddam Hussein considered the use of WMD against the US or its allies to be counterproductive to his own survival. In answer to the 'why now'?' question in January 2003, Tony Blair did not take this into account; he omitted the message of progress from the Weapons Inspectors, instead suggesting the UN process was exhausted; and made an assertion that Iraq might trade WMD with terrorists and that this justified the use of military force. (paragraph 78)
In 2003 Tony Blair was not able to tell the House why Iraq was a greater threat in 2003 than in the years prior to George Bush's Axis of Evil speech because all the evidence was to the contrary. (paragraph 79)
It does not appear from the Inquiry website that Carne Ross has been invited to give evidence to your Inquiry. I urge the Panel to ensure that he is asked to sit before the Inquiry. (paragraph 97)
Tony Blair should be held accountable for making the ‘growing threat’ claims against the advice of Jonathan Powell and Jack Straw and for stating there was ‘no doubt’ that Saddam Hussein posed a serious and current threat when evidence shows that clear disagreement with this proposition was being raised within the intelligence community. (paragraph 98)
The UK Government Dossier stated that Iraq denied UNSCOM inspectors access to any of the 8 presidential sites in Iraq when the UNSCOM website reports that access was allowed to all 8 sites. The second error of fact was a misrepresentation of what happened in December 1998, to cause the UN inspectors to leave Iraq. The dossier refers to the ‘effective ejection’ of the weapons inspectors, when they were withdrawn at the request of the US Government prior to Operation Dessert Fox. David Morrison, a writer on Iraq points out that these mistakes were not intelligence assessments that were arguably wrong, but facts that were definitely wrong. These errors do not inspire confidence in those who produced the document and their motives for doing so. (paragraph 106)
Based on the balance of evidence available at the time, it was not reasonable for the British Government to come to the conclusion that Saddam Hussein was a growing threat, to the point where a pre-emptive war was necessary in March 2003. (paragraph 110)
In his speech to the House on the resolution to go to war, Tony Blair suggests that after he defected to the west in the mid 1990’s, Saddam Hussein’s son in law, Hussein Kamal, disclosed that Iraq had an extensive WMD programme when in fact, the transcript of the interview with UNSCOM/IAEA records Hussein Kamal’s statements that Iraq’s WMD programme had been destroyed and nothing remained. (paragraph 120)
The Panel should establish why the September 2002 Dossier and Tony Blair in his 18 March 2003 speech made no mention of Hussein Kamal’s interview in Amman with UNSCOM/IAEA on 22 August 1995 in which he indicated that all Iraq’s WMD had been destroyed. (paragraph 123)
The writer, Ron Suskind’s central allegations have not been denied by the Government, despite my raising them on the floor of the House on more than one occasion. If untrue, the Government could have simply responded by stating this to be the case. As they stand, the allegations add substance to the belief of many that the UK and US Governments, in their zeal to go to war, had little concern for whether Iraq actually possessed weapons of mass destruction. As such, they should be considered as vitally important to any review of the events that led to the decision to go to war. (paragraph 131)
I urge the Panel to both assess the ISC’s investigation into the allegations by Ron Suskind and whether it is necessary for it to remain classified and to call the top MI6 agent, Michael Shipster, to give evidence to the Inquiry to ascertain the veracity of the allegation that the Head of Iraqi Intelligence told a UK MI6 agent that Iraq possessed no active nuclear, chemical, biological or other weapons of mass destruction. (paragraph 132)
It is clear that there were people in the UK intelligence community who knew before the war that Saddam Hussein did not pose a threat and did not possess weapons of mass destruction. Somehow, their views were suppressed and MPs and the public were given a false view of what the intelligence said. (paragraph 133)
It is disappointing that the Panel did not challenge Jack Straw on his mis-quotation of President Chirac’s words. The Inquiry should formally record the actual transcript of the 10 March 2003 interview and point out that contrary to the evidence given by Jack Straw, ‘ce soir’ was used to refer to the actual situation that existed on 10 March 2003 and to distinguish it from hypothetical situations that might arise in the future. (paragraph 142)
I urge the Inquiry panel to write to Tony Blair asking for a direct answer to the question put to him during his evidence to your Inquiry, asking if the French Government had been in touch with Number 10 through diplomatic channels to tell him that the UK were misinterpreting President Chirac’s words, before he spoke to the House on 18 March 2003. (paragraph 146)
It was far easier for proponents of war to blame France for the failure to get a second UN resolution than to address the underlying reasons why there was a lack of international consensus for military action. In 2003 the UN weapons inspectors findings were supporting rather than contradicting the view that Saddam had no more than a residual WMD capability. It was because evidence showing Iraq to be an active and growing threat was non-existent that it was not possible to get UN authorisation for the use of force, not because of French ‘intransigence’ as stated by UK ministers. (paragraph 148)
Hans Blix has undermined Jack Straw’s assertion that he was looking objectively at the evidence with war as the decision of last resort. I urge the Inquiry to call Hans Blix to give evidence; given the importance of his role, not to do so would call into question the credibility of those undertaking the Inquiry. (paragraph 152)
Even if it could be shown that Iraq was the only country that had a history of breaching UN resolutions, it is illogical of Gordon Brown to site respect for UN resolutions as the justification for the use of military action when the UN did not agree a second resolution permitting the use of force, pursuant to SCR 1441. (paragraph 155)
Letter from Jack Straw to Tony Blair, 23 July 2003 
SECRET AND PERSONAL
1. The rewards from your visit to Crawford will be few. The risks are high, both for you and for the Government. I judge that there is at present no majority inside the PLP for any military action against Iraq, (alongside a greater readiness in the PLP to surface their concerns). Colleagues know that Saddam and the Iraqi regime are bad. Making that case is easy. But we have a long way to go to convince them as to:
(a) the scale of the threat from Iraq and why this has got worse recently:
(b) what distinguishes the Iraqi threat from that of eg Iran and North Korea so as to justify military action;
(c) the justification for any military action in terms of international law:
and (d) whether the consequence of military action really would be a compliant, law-abiding replacement government.
2. The whole exercise is made much more difficult to handle as long as conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is so acute.
THE SCALE OF THE THREAT
3. The Iraqi regime plainly poses a most serious threat to its neighbours, and therefore to international security. However, in the documents so far presented it has been hard to glean whether the threat from Iraq is so significantly differently from that of Iran and North Korea as to justify military action (see below).
WHAT IS WORSE NOW?
4. If 11 September had not happened, it is doubtful that the US would now be considering military action against Iraq. In addition, there has been no credible evidence to link Iraq with UBL and Al Qaida. Objectively, the threat from Iraq has not worsened as a result of 11 September. What has however changed is the tolerance of the international community (especially that of the US), the world having witnessed on September 11 just what determined evil people can these days perpetuate.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN IRAQ, IRAN AND NORTH KOREA
5. By linking these countries together in this “axis of evil” speech, President Bush implied an identity between them not only in terms of their threat, but also in terms of the action necessary to deal with the threat, but also in terms of the action necessary to deal with the threat. A lot of work will now need to be to de-link the three, and to show why military action against Iraq is so much more justified than against Iran and North Korea. The heart of this case — that Iraq poses a unique and present danger — rests on the facts that it:
* invaded a neighbour;
* has used WMD and would use them again;
* is in breach of nine UNSCRs.
THE POSITION IN INTERNATIONAL LAW
6. That Iraq is in flagrant breach of international legal obligations imposed on it by the UNSC provides us with the core of a strategy, and one which is based on international law. Indeed, if the argument is to be won, the whole case against Iraq and in favour (if necessary) of military action, needs to be narrated with reference to the international rule of law.
7. We also have better to sequence the explanation of what we are doing and why. Specifically, we need to concentrate in the early stages on:
* making operational the sanctions regime foreshadowed by UNSCR 1382;
* demanding the readmission of weapons inspectors, but this time to operate in a free and unfettered way (a similar formula to that which Cheney used at your joint press conference, as I recall).
8. I know there are those who say that an attack on Iraq would be justified whether or not weapons inspectors were readmitted. But I believe that a demand for the unfettered readmission of weapons inspectors in essential, in terms of public explanation, and in terms of legal sanction for any subsequent military action.
9. Legally there are two potential elephant traps:
(i) regime change per se is no justification for military action; it could form part of the method of any strategy, but not a goal. Of course, we may want credibly to assert that regime change is an essential part of the strategy by which we have to achieve our ends — that of the elimination of Iraq’s WMD capacity; but the latter has to be the goal;
(ii) on whether any military action would require a fresh UNSC mandate (Desert Fox did not). The US are likely to oppose any idea of a fresh mandate. On the other side, the weight of legal advice here is that a fresh mandate may well be required. There is no doubt that a new UNSCR would transform the climate in the PLP. Whilst that (a new mandate) is very unlikely, given the US’s position, a draft resolution against military action with 13 in favour (or handsitting) and two vetoes against could play very badly here.
THE CONSEQUENCES OF ANY MILITARY ACTION
10. A legal justification is a necessary but far from sufficient pre-condition for military action. We have also to answer the big question — what will this action achieve? There seems to be a larger hole in this than on anything. Most of the assessments from the US have assumed regime change as a means of eliminating Iraq’s WMD threat. But none has satisfactorily answered how that regime change is to be secured, and how there can be any certainty that the replacement regime will be better.
11. Iraq has had no history of democracy so no-one has this habit or experience.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
25 March 2002
The Downing Street Memo
SECRET AND STRICTLY PERSONAL - UK EYES ONLY
From: Matthew Rycroft
Date: 23 July 2002
S 195 02
cc: Defence Secretary, Foreign Secretary, Attorney-General, Sir Richard Wilson, John Scarlett, Francis Richards, CDS, C, Jonathan Powell, Sally Morgan, Alastair Campbell
IRAQ: PRIME MINISTER'S MEETING, 23 JULY
Copy addressees and you met the Prime Minister on 23 July to discuss Iraq.
This record is extremely sensitive. No further copies should be made. It should be shown only to those with a genuine need to know its contents.
John Scarlett summarised the intelligence and latest JIC assessment. Saddam's regime was tough and based on extreme fear. The only way to overthrow it was likely to be by massive military action. Saddam was worried and expected an attack, probably by air and land, but he was not convinced that it would be immediate or overwhelming. His regime expected their neighbours to line up with the US. Saddam knew that regular army morale was poor. Real support for Saddam among the public was probably narrowly based.
C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.
CDS said that military planners would brief CENTCOM on 1-2 August, Rumsfeld on 3 August and Bush on 4 August.
The two broad US options were:
(a) Generated Start. A slow build-up of 250,000 US troops, a short (72 hour) air campaign, then a move up to Baghdad from the south. Lead time of 90 days (30 days preparation plus 60 days deployment to Kuwait).
(b) Running Start. Use forces already in theatre (3 x 6,000), continuous air campaign, initiated by an Iraqi casus belli. Total lead time of 60 days with the air campaign beginning even earlier. A hazardous option.
The US saw the UK (and Kuwait) as essential, with basing in Diego Garcia and Cyprus critical for either option. Turkey and other Gulf states were also important, but less vital. The three main options for UK involvement were:
(i) Basing in Diego Garcia and Cyprus, plus three SF squadrons.
(ii) As above, with maritime and air assets in addition.
(iii) As above, plus a land contribution of up to 40,000, perhaps with a discrete role in Northern Iraq entering from Turkey, tying down two Iraqi divisions.
The Defence Secretary said that the US had already begun "spikes of activity" to put pressure on the regime. No decisions had been taken, but he thought the most likely timing in US minds for military action to begin was January, with the timeline beginning 30 days before the US Congressional elections.
The Foreign Secretary said he would discuss this with Colin Powell this week. It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran. We should work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN weapons inspectors. This would also help with the legal justification for the use of force.
The Attorney-General said that the desire for regime change was not a legal base for military action. There were three possible legal bases: self-defence, humanitarian intervention, or UNSC authorisation. The first and second could not be the base in this case. Relying on UNSCR 1205 of three years ago would be difficult. The situation might of course change.
The Prime Minister said that it would make a big difference politically and legally if Saddam refused to allow in the UN inspectors. Regime change and WMD were linked in the sense that it was the regime that was producing the WMD. There were different strategies for dealing with Libya and Iran. If the political context were right, people would support regime change. The two key issues were whether the military plan worked and whether we had the political strategy to give the military plan the space to work.
On the first, CDS said that we did not know yet if the US battleplan was workable. The military were continuing to ask lots of questions.
For instance, what were the consequences, if Saddam used WMD on day one, or if Baghdad did not collapse and urban warfighting began? You said that Saddam could also use his WMD on Kuwait. Or on Israel, added the Defence Secretary.
The Foreign Secretary thought the US would not go ahead with a military plan unless convinced that it was a winning strategy. On this, US and UK interests converged. But on the political strategy, there could be US/UK differences. Despite US resistance, we should explore discreetly the ultimatum. Saddam would continue to play hard-ball with the UN.
John Scarlett assessed that Saddam would allow the inspectors back in only when he thought the threat of military action was real.
The Defence Secretary said that if the Prime Minister wanted UK military involvement, he would need to decide this early. He cautioned that many in the US did not think it worth going down the ultimatum route. It would be important for the Prime Minister to set out the political context to Bush.
(a) We should work on the assumption that the UK would take part in any military action. But we needed a fuller picture of US planning before we could take any firm decisions. CDS should tell the US military that we were considering a range of options.
(b) The Prime Minister would revert on the question of whether funds could be spent in preparation for this operation.
(c) CDS would send the Prime Minister full details of the proposed military campaign and possible UK contributions by the end of the week.
(d) The Foreign Secretary would send the Prime Minister the background on the UN inspectors, and discreetly work up the ultimatum to Saddam.
He would also send the Prime Minister advice on the positions of countries in the region especially Turkey, and of the key EU member states.
(e) John Scarlett would send the Prime Minister a full intelligence update.
(f) We must not ignore the legal issues: the Attorney-General would consider legal advice with FCO/MOD legal advisers.
(I have written separately to commission this follow-up work.)
(Rycroft was a Downing Street foreign policy aide)
Today Programme 20/03/03Transcript of interview of Dr Hans Blix by Jim Naughtie (JN)
(Source: typed up from the audio clip available on the BBC website in 2003: www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/today).
Blix: It’s clearly a disappointment, we had begun about 3½ months ago and I think we had made a very rapid start, we did not have any obstacles from the Iraqi side in going anywhere. They gave us access and prompt access and we were in a great many places over Iraq and we had managed also to get going the destruction of the Al Samoud missiles. We destroyed over 70 of them with Iraqi cooperation. So, of course, I think that after 3½ months to say that now we call it a day and close the door is rather short and I somewhat doubt when they adopted the resolution last autumn that they really had intended to give only 3½ months for inspections. The impatience took over and they concluded that this really would not get to the bottom of the barrel and therefore armed action was necessary.
JN: Why do you think, having had as many conversations with the White House as you have, that the American administration in particular, decided that more time wouldn’t solve the problem.
Blix: Well, I think they were doubtful from the beginning, the resolution that was adopted last autumn was one that was extremely demanding and perhaps they weren’t sure or doubted that the Iraqis would go along with it and that you would have a stalemate, a clash already from the beginning but I think they did cooperate with us and they [the Americans] lost patience, I think some time towards the end of January or the beginning of February.
JN: Is that because they believed that their intelligence was producing evidence of material that you weren’t able to confirm and that that produced what we might call a political frustration?
Blix: No, I think that -- I have a high regard for intelligence and I think it necessary but I must say that when you watch what came out of intelligence you were not so convinced, We had a question of the aluminium tubes which were alleged to be for building of centrifuges and was much doubted even by lots of American experts and you have the even more flagrant case of the contract which was alleged that Iraq had concluded with Niger, or tried to conclude about the importation of raw uranium as a yellow cake and the IAEA found this was a fake. Now these things did not do much to strengthen the evidence coming, well not the evidence, but at least the stories coming from intelligence and the fact that we did not find things at the sites which were, or in very few cases found anything at sites which were given by intelligence also I think weakened that position.
JN: Do you think, let me put this bluntly, do you think that Saddam Hussein is in possession of Weapons of Mass Destruction or not?
Blix: Well, I must say that I am very curious to see what the American’s may now find because now they are able to talk to people and when these people are no longer fearing repression by a regime if they tell the truth, so in all likelihood they will tell the truth and that we have never maintained as certain that Iraq has Weapons of Mass Destruction but whether anthrax or VX what we have said is that their reporting on it demonstrated a great lacuna in the accounting but having something unaccounted for is not the same thing as saying that it does exist.
JN: Let me ask you a question about the future, do you think that the way that this episode ended at the UN is going to make it more difficult for operations of this sort through the Security Council involving weapons inspectors to be conducted in the future, because some people will have lost confidence because of the diplomatic impasse that we reached last week?
Blix: Well of course, I can put the question, if this type of inspection with all the powers that it had and several hundred men outside did not succeed when will it succeed, that is much too general a question, I don’t think any of the diplomats here really doubt that inspection will be very useful in the future, we have the case from South Africa when they did away with their nuclear weapons and inspections were quite useful to give confidence in that and I think that they will look at in an ad hoc manner.
JN: So, although your mission was brought to what you consider to be a premature end, there may be something for the future left from it?
Blix: I think we have learnt a lot and I think that in distinction from UNSCOM, the preceding organ we also managed to show that you can have this as a genuinely international operation. We were not the prolonged arms of any intelligence agency anywhere, we had cooperated with and we had good relations with them but we were genuinely serving the Security Council and I think that is necessary if the UN is going to do it.
JN: What is your reflection now as you look back?
Blix: Well, you see, if they have, say, anthrax or if they have VX then it should be easy for them to put it on the table and it’s just, of course, it is embarrassing, it’s a loss of face, but it would be easy. But if they don’t have it, then it is very difficult for them to give the evidence, they can take various people for interviews and so forth, but they have no credibility. We can never believe what the regime says, inspectors, it’s not for inspections, it is not to believe in anybody, we have to have evidence, whether it comes from Iraqis, or it comes from intelligence and when the Americans go in now, they will be able to go to ask people who will no longer be fearing what they say and if the Iraqis have something, they will probably be lead to it
JN: and in the end we will know the truth?
Blix: Yes, I think so, I am very curious to see, if they find something. In ways paradoxical because if they don’t find something then they have sent 250,000 men to wage a war in order to find nothing, it is also paradoxical for Saddam Hussein, if he has nothing it is curious that he has been making difficulties for the inspectoions in the past, not so much this year.
Robin Cook’s resignation statement
17 Mar 2003 : Column 726
Mr. Robin Cook (Livingston): This is the first time for 20 years that I have addressed the House from the Back Benches. I must confess that I had forgotten how much better the view is from here. None of those 20 years were more enjoyable or more rewarding than the past two, in which I have had the immense privilege of serving this House as Leader of the House, which were made all the more enjoyable, Mr. Speaker, by the opportunity of working closely with you.
It was frequently the necessity for me as Leader of the House to talk my way out of accusations that a statement had been preceded by a press interview. On this occasion I can say with complete confidence that no press interview has been given before this statement. I have chosen to address the House first on why I cannot support a war without international agreement or domestic support.
The present Prime Minister is the most successful leader of the Labour party in my lifetime. I hope that he will continue to be the leader of our party, and I hope that he will continue to be successful. I have no sympathy with, and I will give no comfort to, those who want to use this crisis to displace him.
I applaud the heroic efforts that the Prime Minister has made in trying to secure a second resolution. I do not think that anybody could have done better than the Foreign Secretary in working to get support for a second resolution within the Security Council. But the very intensity of those attempts underlines how important it was to succeed. Now that those attempts have failed, we cannot pretend that getting a second resolution was of no importance.
France has been at the receiving end of bucketloads of commentary in recent days. It is not France alone that wants more time for inspections. Germany wants more time for inspections; Russia wants more time for inspections; indeed, at no time have we signed up even the minimum necessary to carry a second resolution. We delude ourselves if we think that the degree of international hostility is all the result of President Chirac. The reality is that Britain is being asked to embark on a war without agreement in any of the international bodies of which we are a leading partner—not NATO, not the European Union and, now, not the Security Council.
To end up in such diplomatic weakness is a serious reverse. Only a year ago, we and the United States were part of a coalition against terrorism that was wider and more diverse than I would ever have imagined possible. History will be astonished at the diplomatic miscalculations that led so quickly to the disintegration of that powerful coalition. The US can afford to go it alone, but Britain is not a superpower. Our interests are best protected not by unilateral action but by multilateral agreement and a world order governed by rules. Yet tonight the international partnerships most important to us are weakened: the European Union is divided; the Security Council is in stalemate. Those are heavy casualties of a war in which a shot has yet to be fired.
I have heard some parallels between military action in these circumstances and the military action that we took in Kosovo. There was no doubt about the multilateral
17 Mar 2003 : Column 727
support that we had for the action that we took in Kosovo. It was supported by NATO; it was supported by the European Union; it was supported by every single one of the seven neighbours in the region. France and Germany were our active allies. It is precisely because we have none of that support in this case that it was all the more important to get agreement in the Security Council as the last hope of demonstrating international agreement.
The legal basis for our action in Kosovo was the need to respond to an urgent and compelling humanitarian crisis. Our difficulty in getting support this time is that neither the international community nor the British public is persuaded that there is an urgent and compelling reason for this military action in Iraq.
The threshold for war should always be high. None of us can predict the death toll of civilians from the forthcoming bombardment of Iraq, but the US warning of a bombing campaign that will "shock and awe" makes it likely that casualties will be numbered at least in the thousands. I am confident that British servicemen and women will acquit themselves with professionalism and with courage. I hope that they all come back. I hope that Saddam, even now, will quit Baghdad and avert war, but it is false to argue that only those who support war support our troops. It is entirely legitimate to support our troops while seeking an alternative to the conflict that will put those troops at risk.
Nor is it fair to accuse those of us who want longer for inspections of not having an alternative strategy. For four years as Foreign Secretary I was partly responsible for the western strategy of containment. Over the past decade that strategy destroyed more weapons than in the Gulf war, dismantled Iraq's nuclear weapons programme and halted Saddam's medium and long-range missiles programmes. Iraq's military strength is now less than half its size than at the time of the last Gulf war.
Ironically, it is only because Iraq's military forces are so weak that we can even contemplate its invasion. Some advocates of conflict claim that Saddam's forces are so weak, so demoralised and so badly equipped that the war will be over in a few days. We cannot base our military strategy on the assumption that Saddam is weak and at the same time justify pre-emptive action on the claim that he is a threat.
Iraq probably has no weapons of mass destruction in the commonly understood sense of the term—namely a credible device capable of being delivered against a strategic city target. It probably still has biological toxins and battlefield chemical munitions, but it has had them since the 1980s when US companies sold Saddam anthrax agents and the then British Government approved chemical and munitions factories. Why is it now so urgent that we should take military action to disarm a military capacity that has been there for 20
17 Mar 2003 : Column 728
years, and which we helped to create? Why is it necessary to resort to war this week, while Saddam's ambition to complete his weapons programme is blocked by the presence of UN inspectors? [my emphasis]
Only a couple of weeks ago, Hans Blix told the Security Council that the key remaining disarmament tasks could be completed within months. I have heard it said that Iraq has had not months but 12 years in which to complete disarmament, and that our patience is exhausted. Yet it is more than 30 years since resolution 242 called on Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories. We do not express the same impatience with the persistent refusal of Israel to comply. I welcome the strong personal commitment that the Prime Minister has given to middle east peace, but Britain's positive role in the middle east does not redress the strong sense of injustice throughout the Muslim world at what it sees as one rule for the allies of the US and another rule for the rest.
Nor is our credibility helped by the appearance that our partners in Washington are less interested in disarmament than they are in regime change in Iraq. That explains why any evidence that inspections may be showing progress is greeted in Washington not with satisfaction but with consternation: it reduces the case for war. [my emphasis]
What has come to trouble me most over past weeks is the suspicion that if the hanging chads in Florida had gone the other way and Al Gore had been elected, we would not now be about to commit British troops.
The longer that I have served in this place, the greater the respect I have for the good sense and collective wisdom of the British people. On Iraq, I believe that the prevailing mood of the British people is sound. They do not doubt that Saddam is a brutal dictator, but they are not persuaded that he is a clear and present danger to Britain. They want inspections to be given a chance, and they suspect that they are being pushed too quickly into conflict by a US Administration with an agenda of its own. Above all, they are uneasy at Britain going out on a limb on a military adventure without a broader international coalition and against the hostility of many of our traditional allies.
From the start of the present crisis, I have insisted, as Leader of the House, on the right of this place to vote on whether Britain should go to war. It has been a favourite theme of commentators that this House no longer occupies a central role in British politics. Nothing could better demonstrate that they are wrong than for this House to stop the commitment of troops in a war that has neither international agreement nor domestic support. I intend to join those tomorrow night who will vote against military action now. It is for that reason, and for that reason alone, and with a heavy heart, that I resign from the Government. [Applause.]
Carne Ross’ submission of evidence to the Butler inquiry
Supplementary evidence submitted by Mr Carne Ross, Director, Independent Diplomat
SUBMISSION TO BUTLER REVIEW
I am in the Senior Management Structure of the FCO, currently seconded to the UN in Kosovo. I was First Secretary in the UK Mission to the United Nations in New York from December 1997 until June 2002. I was responsible for Iraq policy in the mission, including policy on sanctions, weapons inspections and liaison with UNSCOM and later UNMOVIC.
During that time, I helped negotiate several UN Security Council resolutions on Iraq, including resolution 1284 which, inter alia, established UNMOVIC (an acronym I coined late one New York night during the year-long negotiation). I took part in policy debates within HMG and in particular with the US government. I attended many policy discussions on Iraq with the US State Department in Washington, New York and London.
My concerns about the policy on Iraq divide into three:
The Alleged Threat
I read the available UK and US intelligence on Iraq every working day for the four and a half years of my posting. This daily briefing would often comprise a thick folder of material, both humint and sigint. I also talked often and at length about Iraq's WMD to the international experts who comprised the inspectors of UNSCOM/UNMOVIC, whose views I would report to London. In addition, I was on many occasions asked to offer views in contribution to Cabinet Office assessments, including the famous WMD dossier (whose preparation began some time before my departure in June 2002).
During my posting, at no time did HMG assess that Iraq's WMD (or any other capability) posed a threat to the UK or its interests. On the contrary, it was the commonly-held view among the officials dealing with Iraq that any threat had been effectively contained. I remember on several occasions the UK team stating this view in terms during our discussions with the US (who agreed). (At the same time, we would frequently argue, when the US raised the subject, that "régime change" was inadvisable, primarily on the grounds that Iraq would collapse into chaos.)
Any assessment of threat has to include both capabilities and intent. Iraq's capabilities in WMD were moot: many of the UN's weapons inspectors (who, contrary to popular depiction, were impressive and professional) would tell me that they believed Iraq had no significant mate"riel. With the exception of some unaccounted-for Scud missiles, there was no intelligence evidence of significant holdings of CW, BW or nuclear material. Aerial or satellite surveillance was unable to get under the roofs of Iraqi facilities. We therefore had to rely on inherently unreliable human sources (who, for obvious reasons, were prone to exaggerate).
Without substantial evidence of current holdings of WMD, the key concern we pursued was that Iraq had not provided any convincing or coherent account of its past holdings. When I was briefed in London at the end of 1997 in preparation for my posting, I was told that we did not believe that Iraq had any significant WMD. The key argument therefore to maintain sanctions was that Iraq had failed to provide convincing evidence of destruction of its past stocks.
Iraq's ability to launch a WMD or any form of attack was very limited. There were approx 12 or so unaccounted-for Scud missiles; Iraq's airforce was depleted to the point of total ineffectiveness; its army was but a pale shadow of its earlier might; there was no evidence of any connection between Iraq and any terrorist organisation that might have planned an attack using Iraqi WMD (I do not recall any occasion when the question of a terrorist connection was even raised in UK/US discussions or UK internal debates).
There was moreover no intelligence or assessment during my time in the job that Iraq had any intention to launch an attack against its neighbours or the UK or US. I had many conversations with diplomats representing Iraq's neighbours. With the exception of the Israelis, none expressed any concern that they might be attacked. Instead, their concern was that sanctions, which they and we viewed as an effective means to contain Iraq, were being delegitimised by evidence of their damaging humanitarian effect.
I quizzed my colleagues in the FCO and MOD working on Iraq on several occasions about the threat assessment in the run-up to the war. None told me that any new evidence had emerged to change our assessment; what had changed was the government's determination to present available evidence in a different light. I discussed this at some length with David Kelly in late 2002, who agreed that the Number 10 WMD dossier was overstated.
The legality of the war is framed by the relevant Security Council resolutions, the negotiation and drafting of which was usually led by the UK.
During the negotiation of resolution 1284 (which we drafted), which established UNMOVIC, the question was discussed among the key Security Council members in great detail how long the inspectors would need in Iraq in order to form a judgement of Iraq's capabilities.
The UK and US pushed for the longest period we could get, on the grounds that the inspectors would need an extensive period in order to visit, inspect and establish monitoring at the many hundreds of possible WMD-related sites. The French and Russians wanted the shortest duration. After long negotiation, we agreed the periods specified in 1284. These require some explanation. The resolution states that the head of UNMOVIC should report on Iraq's performance 120 days once the full system of ongoing monitoring and verification had been established (OMV, in the jargon). OMV amounts to the "baseline" of knowledge of Iraq's capabilities and sites; we expected OMV to take up to six months to establish. In other words, inspectors would have to be on the ground for approximately ten months before offering an assessment. (Resolution 1441, though it requested Blix to "update" the Council 60 days after beginning inspections, did not alter the inspection periods established in 1284.) As is well-known, the inspectors were allowed to operate in Iraq for a much shorter period before the US and UK declared that Iraq's cooperation was insufficient.
Resolution 1441 did not alter the basic framework for inspections established by 1284. In particular, it did not amend the crucial premise of 1284 that any judgement of cooperation or non-cooperation by Iraq with the inspectors was to be made by the Council not UNMOVIC. Blix at no time stated unequivocally that Iraq was not cooperating with the inspectors. The Council reached no such judgement either.
Resolution 1441 did not authorise the use of force in case of non-cooperation with weapons inspectors. I was in New York, but not part of the mission, during the negotiation of that resolution (I was on Special Unpaid Leave from the FCO). My friends in other delegations told me that the UK sold 1441 in the Council explicitly on the grounds that it did not represent authorisation for war and that it "gave inspections a chance".
Later, after claiming that Iraq was not cooperating, the UK presented a draft resolution which offered the odd formulation that Iraq had failed to seize the opportunity of 1441. In negotiation, the UK conceded that the resolution amounted to authority to use force (there are few public records of this, but I was told by many former colleagues involved in the negotiation that this was the case). The resolution failed to attract support.
The UN charter states that only the Security Council can authorise the use of force (except in cases of self-defence). Reviewing these points, it is clear that in terms of the resolutions presented by the UK itself, the subsequent invasion was not authorised by the Security Council and was thus illegal. The clearest evidence of this is the fact that the UK sought an authorising resolution and failed to get it.
There is another subsidiary point on the legality question. During my spell at the UN, the UK and US would frequently have to defend in the Security Council attacks made by our aircraft in the No-Fly Zones (NFZs) in northern and southern Iraq. The NFZs were never authorised by the Security Council, but we would justify them on the grounds (as I recall it, this may be incorrect) that we were monitoring compliance with resolution 688 which called for the Iraqi government to respect the human rights of its people. If our aircraft bombed Iraqi targets, we were acting in self-defence (which was in fact the case as the Iraqis would try to shoot down our aircraft).
Reading the press in the months leading up to the war, I noticed that the volume and frequency of the attacks in the NFZs considerably increased, including during the period when UNMOVIC was in country inspecting sites (ie before even the UK/US declared that Iraq was not complying). I suspected at the time that these attacks were not in self-defence but that they were part of a planned air campaign to prepare for a ground invasion. There were one or two questions in Parliament about this when the Defence Secretary claimed that the NFZ attacks were, as before, self-defence. His account was refuted at the time by quotations by US officials in the press and by later accounts, including Bob Woodward's "Plan of Attack", which confirmed that the attacks did indeed comprise a softening-up campaign, of which the UK was an active part.
Alternatives to war
I was responsible at the UK Mission for sanctions policy as well as weapons inspections. I had extensive contacts with those in the UN responsible for the oil-for-food programme, with NGOs active in Iraq, with experts in the oil industry and with many others who visited Iraq (I tried to visit on several occasions but was denied a visa by the Iraqi government). I read and analysed a great deal of material on Iraq's exports, both legal and illegal, sanctions and related subjects, such as the oil industry.
Much of my work and that of my close colleagues was devoted to attempting to stop countries breaching Iraqi sanctions. These breaches were many and took various forms.
The most serious was the illegal export of oil by Iraq through Turkey, Syria and Iranian waters in the Gulf. These exports were a substantial and crucial source of hard currency for the Iraqi regime; without them the regime could not have sustained itself or its key pillars, such as the Republican Guard. Estimates of the value of these exports ranged around $2 billion a year.
In addition, there were different breaches, such as Iraq's illegal and secret surcharge on its legal sales of oil through the UN. Iraq would levy illegal charges on oil-for-food contracts. The regime also had substantial financial assets held in secret overseas accounts. The details of these breaches and our work to combat them are complicated.
On repeated occasions, I and my colleagues at the mission (backed by some but not all of the responsible officials in London) attempted to get the UK and US to act more vigorously on the breaches. We believed that determined and coordinated action, led by us and the US, would have had a substantial effect in particular to pressure Iraq to accept the weapons inspections and would have helped undermine the Iraqi regime.
I proposed on several occasions the establishment of a multinational body (a UN body, if we could get the Security Council to agree it) to police sanctions busting. I proposed coordinated action with Iraq's neighbours to pressure them to help, including by controlling imports into Iraq. I held talks with a US Treasury expert on financial sanctions, an official who had helped trace and seize Milosevic's illegal financial assets. He assured me that, given the green light, he could quickly set up a team to target Saddam's illegal accounts.
These proposals went nowhere. Inertia in the FCO and the inattention of key ministers combined to the effect that the UK never made any coordinated and sustained attempt to address sanctions busting. There were sporadic and half-hearted initiatives. Bilateral embassies in Iraq's neighbours would always find a reason to let their hosts off the hook (the most egregious example was the Embassy in Ankara). Official visitors to the neighbours always placed other issues higher on the agenda. The Prime Minister, for example, visited Syria in early 2002. If I remember correctly, the mission sent a telegram beforehand urging him to press Assad on the illegal pipeline carrying Iraqi oil through Syria. I have seen no evidence that the subject was mentioned. Whenever I taxed Ministers on the issue, I would find them sympathetic but uninformed.
Coordinated, determined and sustained action to prevent illegal exports and target Saddam's illegal monies would have consumed a tiny proportion of the effort and resources of the war (and fewer lives), but could have provided a real alternative. It was never attempted.
9 June 2004
Extract from the website of David Morrison on Errors of Fact in the 24 September 2002 dossier
Errors of fact
Both errors are in Part 2 of the document, entitled History of UN Weapons Inspections. First, on page 34, paragraph 5, on UNSCOM access to presidential sites:
“In December 1997 [the head of UNSCOM] Richard Butler reported to the UN Security Council that Iraq had created a new category of sites, ‘Presidential’ and ‘sovereign’, from which it claimed that UNSCOM inspectors would henceforth be barred. The terms of the ceasefire in 1991 foresaw no such limitation. However, Iraq consistently refused to allow UNSCOM inspectors access to any of these eight Presidential sites. [bold added] Many of these so-called ‘palaces’ are in fact large compounds, which are an integral part of Iraqi counter-measures designed to hide weapons material.”
If you go to the UNSCOM website and look at a report by Charles Duelfer in document S/1998/326, you will read:
“The initial entry to the eight presidential sites in Iraq … was performed by mission UNSCOM 243 during the period from 25 March to 4 April 1998.”
In other words, contrary to what the dossier says, access was allowed to all 8 sites. This was confirmed by the Foreign Office in a written answer to Paul Flynn MP on 4 February 2003:
“Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether UNSCOM 243 entered Iraqi presidential palaces between March and April 1998. 
“Mr. Mike O'Brien: Yes.”
This error is of some importance, since the alleged exclusion of the inspectors from these sites gives credence to the view that Iraq was hiding something there that it didn't want inspectors to see. To reinforce this proposition, the next page of the dossier contains a map of an unnamed presidential site with Buckingham Palace and its grounds superimposed on it to the same scale. The purpose of the map was to convey the impression that there is more to this presidential site than just serving the needs of a head of state. And there are 8 presidential sites in Iraq. Of course, had an outline of Balmoral been superimposed instead, the impression would have been entirely different.
(This device must have dreamed up in Downing Street: perhaps it was one of the “presentational suggestions” Alistair Campbell has admitted making to the chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee about the dossier. It served its purpose well because it was a big talking point when the dossier was published.)
Second error of fact
The second error of fact, on page 39, paragraph 13, is yet another instance of Government misrepresentation of what happened in December 1998, to cause the UN inspectors to leave Iraq. This is but one of the hundreds of such instances that took place in the lead up to war, most memorably in Jeremy Paxman’s interview with Tony Blair on 6 February 2003, when he had to be corrected five times (transcript here).
The dossier speaks of “the effective ejection of UN inspectors” from Iraq in December 1998. Of course, the inspectors were not ejected by Iraq: they were withdrawn by Richard Butler at the request of the US Government because of the imminence of Desert Fox, the 4-day US/UK bombing campaign on Iraq, as the following extract from his book Saddam Defiant shows:
“I received a telephone call from US Ambassador [to the UN] Peter Burleigh inviting me for a private conversation at the US mission. ... Burleigh informed me that on instructions from Washington it would be 'prudent to take measures to ensure the safety and security of UNSCOM staff presently in Iraq.' … I told him that I would act on his advice and remove my staff from Iraq.” (p224)
The people who caused the UN inspectors to be ejected from Iraq were Bill Clinton and, his ally in Desert Fox, Tony Blair.
Letter to the Intelligence and Security Committee regarding reports of a meeting between Michael Shipster and Tahir Jalil Habbush
Dr Kim Howells MP
Chair of Intelligence and Security Committee
Our Ref: MIN/D0045W/TP
Date: 3 March 2009
I am writing to you about reports from the journalist Ron Suskind, in his book ‘The Way of the World’, about high-level intelligence meetings and briefings in the run up to the Iraq war, which are absent from the ISC report on WMD intelligence and to which they were highly relevant.
I would particularly like to raise the issue of Michael Shipster’s meeting with Tahir Jalil Habbush, the Head of Iraqi intelligence, just before the start of the war in 2003. This meeting involved firm reassurances from Mr Habbush that Iraq had no active nuclear, chemical, biological or other weapons of mass destruction.
Mr Suskind goes on to claim that, shortly before the invasion of Iraq, Sir Richard Dearlove, then the MI6 chief, flew to Washington to brief the head of the CIA, George Tenet, about this and that Tenet, in turn, immediately briefed President Bush. None of the British or American officials that Mr Suskind refers to have so far denied that the meeting between Mr Shipster and Mr Habbush took place in Amman, or that Mr Habbush told Mr Shipster that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction.
I raised this matter recently in the House during a debate about Binyam Mohammed and was told, as you will see from the copy of my exchange with the Foreign Secretary, printed overleaf for your information, that this was a question “for another day”.
I am surprised that this matter was not considered as part of your aforementioned report on WMD intelligence and I should like to request that the Committee considers this issue. Of course, if this is a matter already considered by the Committee, I should be pleased to receive further details.
I should be grateful for your response to these concerns.
LYNNE JONES MP
5 Feb 2009 : Column 1002
Lynne Jones (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend share my concern that the former US Administration were prepared to use torture to extract information from detainees—information that, by definition, must be unreliable—yet ignored reliable information provided by one of the UK’s top agents, Michael Shipster, through his long-standing source at the highest level of the Iraqi Government, that the Iraqi Government did not have weapons of mass destruction? That information also provided a credible explanation for Saddam Hussein’s reluctance to admit that.
David Miliband: I was with my hon. Friend for the first half of her question. The differences that existed between this Government and the previous Administration were discussed widely, specifically on whether water-boarding constituted torture. Those differences were exemplified by the position that the Government took, which I think was shared elsewhere in the House, that it did. Our position is absolutely clear: we are signed up to international conventions and covenants, never mind national laws, in that respect. I think that the Iraq question is for another day.
ISC 2009/10/061 16 December 2009
Dr Lynne Jones, MP
House of Commons
Thank you for your letter of 30 July 2009 regarding your letter of 3 March 2009.
I can confirm the Committee took the points you raised very seriously and has investigated them. I can also confirm that we have now completed our inquiries of the matters you have raised. It has taken considerably longer than expected to research the issues involved (in part due to the fact that the Committee was already conducting a number of investigations, but mostly due to the time elapsed since the events in question, and to additional lines of inquiry developing as our
investigation progressed), but we are now satisfied that the questions raised have been dealt with.
You will be aware that the Intelligence and Security Committee does not disclose details of its work or investigations, except through its unclassified published reports. However, whilst I cannot provide any details of the outcome of our investigation (which remains classified), I can direct you to the following public statements which were issued at the time that Mr Suskind’s book was published:
Sir Richard Dearlove, Chief of SIS in 2003, said:
"Suskind's book is misleading. His conclusions and most of his central facts, as far as they refer to issues which I know about, are quite simply wrong. His imaginative use of his meeting with me to substantiate his own thesis I find unacceptable.”
Nigel Inkster, Deputy Chief of SIS in 2003, said:
“Having read the comments attributed to me in Mr Suskind's new book, The Way of World, I can only describe them as inaccurate and misleading. Mr Suskind appears to have conflated two separate conversations, one about the problems of reading Saddam Hussein's intentions, an issue which is dealt with in the Butler Report, and one about Habbush. I made it clear to Mr Suskind that I was in no position to comment on the substance or significance of any dealing with the latter since I had not been privy to the detail of what had taken place, something Mr Suskind has chosen not to mention. And in any event I made it clear to Mr Suskind when he first approached me that I would not divulge any classified information to which I had access during my time in government. Mr Suskind's characterisation of our meeting is more the stuff of creative fiction than any serious reportage and the impression it conveys is inaccurate and misleading.”
Finally, you asked about the possibility that the ISC might refer your questions to the Chilcot Inquiry in addition to conducting its own investigation. I would like to make clear that the issues you have raised have not been referred by us to the Chilcot Inquiry.
Transcript of 10 March 2003 interview with President Chirac
Iraq - Interview given by M. Jacques Chirac, President of the Republic, to TF1 and France 2, Paris 10.03.2003
Q. – (…) Firstly, given that this is your first interview since the beginning of this crisis, let’s go back a bit to the start. Can you explain to us why, from the outset, France has so firmly opposed war? (…)
THE PRESIDENT – (…) We want to live in a multipolar world, i.e. one with a few large groups enjoying as harmonious relations as possible with each another, a world in which Europe, among others, will have its full place, a world in which democracy progresses, hence the fundamental importance for us of the United Nations Organization which provides a framework and gives impetus to this democracy and harmony. We want a world where the inevitable crises – regional crises, or what we call proliferation crises – can be managed as effectively as possible (…). Finally, we want a world which attaches special importance to respect for the Other, the dialogue of cultures, dialogue of civilizations, and tries to avoid clashes.
In this context, we have from the outset found ourselves up against a problem, an Iraq which obviously possessed weapons of mass destruction, which were in the hands of an indisputably dangerous regime and consequently posed a definite threat to the world. So it was essential to disarm that regime, that country, to eliminate its weapons of mass destruction.
Q. – Precisely, has Iraq cooperated properly on this?
THE PRESIDENT – There were two ways to disarm her. There was war, of course, but there was also the method of inspections and exerting pressure, the one which consisted in going over there, with the UN’s authority, to control these weapons, find and then destroy them. And the international community, by adopting UNSCR 1441 unanimously, took the decision which consisted in saying: "we are going to disarm Iraq peacefully, i.e. through the inspections. We are going to appoint inspectors, and they will tell us whether or not this method is possible".
Q. – But after 1441, can one say that Iraq is still, this evening for example, a dangerous country?
THE PRESIDENT – A country which has Iraq’s past and political structure is always a dangerous country. But the country is genuinely dangerous only if it has the capabilities to commit aggression, if it has the capabilities to attack.
Q. – And for you it doesn’t have them today?
THE PRESIDENT – The problem was to make sure that it no longer had those capabilities or, at any rate, that those capabilities could be controlled and destroyed. So the UN sent the inspectors. I’d like to remind you that this isn’t a technique which is being tried out for the first time. From 1991 until 1998, there was an inspections regime which, regrettably, was halted as a result of blunders. There was an inspections regime which destroyed more weapons in Iraq than were destroyed throughout the Gulf War and which, in particular, resulted in the complete, almost complete eradication in all likelihood – at any rate according to what the inspectors say – of Iraq’s nuclear programme…
Q. – Weapons are still being found today…
THE PRESIDENT – There are some certainly. Missiles with a longer than permitted range are being destroyed. There are probably other weapons.
Q. – Once Saddam Hussein can no longer be trusted, isn’t the quest to disarm through inspections a never-ending one? That’s what the United States is saying.
THE PRESIDENT – Firstly, I don’t believe that. I think that the inspectors, who are skilled experts in whom we can have total confidence, consider today that if they are given the necessary time and resources – that’s what Mr Blix said at the last Security Council meeting, he said that he considers today, if Iraq steps up her cooperation, which is, of course, never sufficient but which has improved, the set objective could be achieved, i.e. the elimination of the weapons of mass destruction.
Q. – But isn’t 100% cooperation a sine qua non?
THE PRESIDENT – Certainly.
Q. – Yet today it isn’t 100%. (…) The inspectors are saying this.
THE PRESIDENT – No, the inspectors say that cooperation has improved and that they are today in a position to pursue their work. And this is what is of paramount importance. It’s not for you or me to say whether the inspections are effective, whether Iraq is sufficiently cooperative. In fact, she isn’t, I can tell you that straightaway.
Q. – Not sufficiently.
THE PRESIDENT – Not sufficiently. But it isn’t for you or for me to decide that, that’s for the inspectors to whom the UN has entrusted the responsibility of disarming Iraq to say. The inspectors have to tell us: "we can continue and, at the end of a period which we think should be of a few months" – I’m saying a few months because that’s what they have said – "we shall have completed our work and Iraq will be disarmed". Or they will come and tell the Security Council: "we are sorry but Iraq isn’t cooperating, the progress isn’t sufficient, we aren’t in a position to achieve our goal, we won’t be able to guarantee Iraq’s disarmament". In that case it will be for the Security Council and it alone to decide the right thing to do. But in that case, of course, regrettably, the war would become inevitable. It isn’t today.
Q. – Some people are arguing: rather than disarm Saddam, couldn’t his regime simply be toppled, because after all he’s a dictator who has been cruel to his country, we’ve seen that?
THE PRESIDENT – Yes, that’s another problem. There are other regimes to which that could also apply.
Q. – You mean the list is too long?
THE PRESIDENT – I’m not today going to draw up a list but, anyway, the North Korean regime naturally comes to mind, it’s in no way better than Iraq’s and has weapons of mass destruction, in particular nuclear ones which aren’t hypothetical, but, regrettably, definitely exist.
Q. – Some people are saying (…) "why not start with Iraq?"
THE PRESIDENT – (…) We have to say what we want. We could have said: "we want first and above all to change the Iraqi regime". That would have been a different argument, a different problem, one which would nevertheless have needed, as you will recognize, consultation, particularly at United Nations level.
We have said: "we want to disarm Iraq". (…) We unanimously chose the path of disarming him. Today, nothing tells us that this path is a dead end and, consequently, it must be pursued since war is always a final resort, always an acknowledgement of failure, always the worst solution, because it brings death and misery. And we don’t consider we are at that point. That’s why we are refusing to embark on a path automatically leading to war so long as the inspectors haven’t told us: "we can’t do any more". And they are telling us the opposite.
UNSC MEETING AT HEAD-OF-STATE LEVEL
Q. (…) France has proposed that the heads of State themselves go to the meeting, tomorrow or the day after, when the vote is taken. Will you yourself go to New York to voice, defend the French position at the Security Council?
THE PRESIDENT – I myself proposed that the next Security Council meeting be held at head-of-State and government level. Why? First of all for one essential reason. It’s that, when it comes to deciding on war or peace, with all the consequences that entails at the human, economic and political levels, and with all the risks it simultaneously presents for men, women, children in the region, it seemed to me legitimate for the decision to be taken by the heads of State and government themselves. That seemed to me to be their responsibility. (…)
We shall see, discussions are under way and we’ll see what’s decided.
There was [also] a second reason which, in my view, makes a Security Council discussion at summit level inevitable, it’s that, as I told you just now, there are other crises in the world. Regional crises, like the Middle East with the Israeli-Palestinian problem, and proliferation crises like that of North Korea. And there are regrettably others. It seems to me important and useful for this problem of how to resolve crises to be assessed at the highest level.
VOTE ON SECOND RESOLUTION/FRENCH VETO
Q. – And if you go to the UN, it’s to say what? It’s to vote "no", possibly use your veto or to abstain?
THE PRESIDENT – What’s involved here? Today, we are following a course of action laid down by UNCSR 1441. This means that the international community, expressing its view through the unanimous adoption of this resolution by the fifteen Council members, particularly at the suggestion of France who played a very active part in drafting it, has decided to disarm (…) Iraq, through inspections, detection then destruction of the weapons of mass destruction…
Q. – Now, we’re moving on to a second resolution….
THE PRESIDENT – (…) and in our view, the inspectors’ reports confirm that there are no grounds for changing, that we must pursue this path and that the goal can be achieved by pursuing it. Some of our partners, who have their reasons, consider that we need to finish the task fast and by taking another approach, that of war.
Q. – With an ultimatum?
THE PRESIDENT – That led to the proposal of a new resolution setting an ultimatum. To start with, there was talk of 17 March, then of a possibility of a British amendment to postpone the date of the ultimatum a bit, it’s of little consequence. In other words, we move from a course of action involving the pursuit of the inspections in order to disarm Iraq to a different one consisting of saying: "in so many days, we go to war".
Q. – And you don’t want that?
THE PRESIDENT – France won’t accept it and so will refuse that solution.
Q. – If need be, she will threaten to exercise her veto? (…) That way you will scupper the resolution.
THE PRESIDENT – I repeat: France will oppose that resolution. Now what does that mean? There are fifteen members of the Security Council. Five permanent members and ten members who change every two years. For a resolution to be adopted, it must have a majority of nine members. So the first scenario which is today, this evening, the most probable, is that this resolution won’t get a majority of nine members.
Q. – The Americans are saying the opposite. Colin Powell thinks he will get it.
THE PRESIDENT – I’m telling you what I feel. I firmly believe, this evening, that there isn’t a majority of nine votes in favour of that resolution including an ultimatum and thus giving the international green light to war.
Q. – In other words, France wouldn’t need to use her veto?
THE PRESIDENT – In this scenario, that’s exactly right. In this scenario, France will, of course, take a stand. There will be nations who will vote "no", including France. Some will abstain. But, in any case, there won’t, in this scenario, be a majority. So there won’t be a veto problem.
Q. – And if the opposite happens?
THE PRESIDENT – Then, the second scenario: what I believe this evening to be the views of a number of people change. If this happens, there may indeed be a majority of nine votes or more in favour of the new resolution, the one authorizing war, to put things simply. If that happens, France will vote "no". But there is one possibility, what’s called exercising a veto, it’s when one of the five permanent members – the United States, Britain, Russia, China and France – votes "no", and then even if there is a majority in favour of it, the resolution isn’t adopted. That’s what’s called exercising a veto.
Q. – And, this evening, this is your position in principle?
THE PRESIDENT – My position is that, regardless of the circumstances, France will vote "no" because she considers this evening that there are no grounds for waging war in order to achieve the goal we have set ourselves, i.e. to disarm Iraq.
Q. – So, exercising this veto – in fact, some people call the veto the diplomatic atom bomb –, some people, including some members of the governing party, have said this would be firing a bullet in our allies’ back…
THE PRESIDENT – Don’t let yourself by influenced by polemics. I repeat: war is always the worst solution. And France which isn’t a pacifist country, who doesn’t refuse war on principle, who is in fact proving this by currently being the leading contributor of troops to NATO, particularly in the Balkans, France isn’t a pacifist country. France considers that war is the final stage of a process, that all possible means must be used to avoid it because of its tragic consequences. (…)
Q. – At the end of the day, wouldn’t using your veto be committing a practically unprecedented act vis-à-vis the United States?
THE PRESIDENT – First of all, it’s been done quite often.
Q. – But not against the US, except in 1956.
THE PRESIDENT – Vetoes have been used very often. All in all, France has used it eighteen times, the last time in 1989, at the time of the Panama crisis. Britain has used it thirty-two times and the United States seventy-six times. So what you call using the veto, i.e. going against a majority isn’t exceptional, it happens, it’s allowed under international rules, under international law.
Q. – You will use this veto regardless of the position of the Russians or the Chinese who can also use it? Will it be a common position?
THE PRESIDENT – I believe today that the Russians and Chinese, who are in the same situation as France regarding the possibility of saying a definitive "no", are, I think, prepared, if there’s a resolution authorizing war, to adopt the same attitude as France.
Q. – (…) Colin Powell was saying that that veto would have very serious consequences, a very serious impact on bilateral relations between France and the United States. Wouldn’t it trigger a crisis with our allies?
THE PRESIDENT – (…) I told you that France wasn’t a pacifist country. Nor is she anti-American, it’s absurd to think that. We have two centuries of common history, of sharing the same values. We have always been together at difficult moments, hand in hand, and our relations and our friendship have deep roots in our peoples, going far beyond isolated events. So there’s no risk of the United States and France, of the American and French peoples quarrelling or falling out.
Q. – But don’t you fear reprisals, for example an economic embargo on a number of our products?
THE PRESIDENT – That doesn’t make any sense. First of all, because I know the Americans too well to imagine them using that type of method…
Q. – They’ve already done so in the past…
THE PRESIDENT – (…) The US is a free-market country and, above all, we’re no longer in the 1960s or 1970s, we’re in a globalized world with international organizations. Trade today is governed by the rules of the World Trade Organization, of the European Union. If the Americans wanted to take measures vis-à-vis France, they would have to take them vis-à-vis the whole of Europe, including Britain. So that’s not serious. (…)
Q. – …Franco-American relations will, nevertheless be affected for a long time…
THE PRESIDENT – I’m absolutely convinced of the contrary. In fact, I note that President George Bush has said so very clearly, and to my mind speaking from the bottom of his heart. Two days ago, talking about his difference of views on the Iraq problem with the French and the Germans, he said with the utmost clarity: "the French and Germans are our friends and will remain so". Of course! We have a difference of views, but don’t let’s get blinded by the problems of this particular moment. Let’s not sacrifice our principles and our values because, at a given moment, there’s a crisis.
US UNILATERAL ACTION
Q. – And if the Americans don’t get this majority, some way or other, at the Security Council, do you think they will nevertheless wage war?
THE PRESIDENT – I can’t give an opinion on that point since it’s not my decision or my place to interfere in the one the Americans will take. There are almost daily telephone contacts between us (…) and we have told them to take care, that one couldn’t be a standard bearer for democracy, dialogue and not use every possible method to avoid a war. And if the international community didn’t give its approval, a dangerous precedent would be set if the United States bypassed the UN. You will tell me: "they have deployed 200,000 men". But they have already won! I had the chance to tell President Bush this not long ago. It’s highly probable that, had the Americans and British not deployed such significant forces, Iraq wouldn’t have provided the more active cooperation the inspectors demanded, which they have found and has probably been obtained because of that pressure. So, it can be said that in actual fact, through their strategy of disarming Iraq, the Americans have achieved their goal. They have won.
Q. – So they wouldn’t lose face?
THE PRESIDENT – I don’t see how they would lose it. You know, you can’t lose face if you achieve your goal without waging war.
Q. – If there is war, if the United States decide to wage war regardless of whether there’s a UN mandate, if it’s without a UN mandate, will France take any part at all in that war? (…)
THE PRESIDENT – We aren’t involved and won’t be if there’s no UN decision, of course.
Q. – No aircraft carrier, base, or deployment of men or soldiers?
THE PRESIDENT – No military capability.
Q. – Overflying national territory, if the request is made?
THE PRESIDENT – That goes without saying. It’s part of the normal relations between allies. The Americans are our allies. We don’t agree with them on an immediate war in that part of the world, in Iraq, that doesn’t mean we aren’t allies. If the Americans need to overfly our territory, it goes without saying [they can], that’s normal between allies.
Q. – If a war were triggered without a UN mandate, could France, not being involved in the armed operations, be involved in rebuilding Iraq?
THE PRESIDENT – No one can say in advance what the results of a war will be. It’s rare for them to be positive. There are first of all dead women, men and children and subsequently, in this specific case, the risk of the country breaking up, with all that means in the way of uncertainty. Then a bit of calm will have to be recreated in a region which has, regrettably, been traumatized for a long time, is vulnerable and really doesn’t need an extra war. So we don’t know exactly what the consequences of a war will be. But what is certain is that after a war things do indeed have to be repaired.
Q. – And France will ask to participate in that reconstruction?
THE PRESIDENT – She will be asked to do so! There will have to be reconstruction both at the structural and political levels. And that reconstruction can be done only through the UN. One can’t imagine anyone taking on alone the responsibility of restoring a viable situation in that country and that region, and that also applies to the United States.
Q. – Even with an American protectorate?
THE PRESIDENT – That’s a risky hypothesis.
Q. – You don’t believe in it?
THE PRESIDENT – I don’t know what the Americans want to do, but I’m saying that’s a risky hypothesis. On the other hand, what is certain is that we shall all have to join together to repair, if I may say so, the damage. Quite obviously, France will have her part to play there and will shoulder her responsibilities. But we would prefer, I repeat it once again, to achieve the goal the international community has set itself, i.e. to disarm Iraq. And Iraq’s disarmament, make no mistake about it, will bring about the end of the regime. Since disarmament requires transparency. And dictators don’t withstand scrutiny for long.
Q. – In the United States, Richard Perle was saying that, at the end of the day, in this crisis, France is seeking to establish her position in the world by opposing Washington. Is the opposite true, do you yourself get the impression that this crisis is revealing hegemonic designs on the part of the United States vis-à-vis the organization of the world?
THE PRESIDENT – There you’re indulging in polemics and I don’t do that. Above all, I don’t wish to do so with the Americans. But here we’re getting to a problem of principle. We’re in no way in conflict with the United States, we have no reason for having a conflict with the United States. But here we are faced with a problem of principle, I would say a moral problem. Are we going to wage war when there’s perhaps a means of avoiding it? In line with her tradition, France is saying: "if there’s a way to avoid it, it must be avoided". And we shall do our utmost to do so.
Q. – But they’re saying it’s a moral problem and Tony Blair too is saying: "there’s the axis of evil and that axis of evil must be destroyed"…
THE PRESIDENT – Let’s take care to avoid extreme language.
Q. – Does that seem uncalled for to you?
THE PRESIDENT – I didn’t approve of it.
Q. – Whatever happens, there will, nevertheless, be a loser in this crisis: Europe.
THE PRESIDENT – I don’t believe so. Firstly, because I’ve never thought that Europe was a bed of roses. The European path is difficult, steep and full of pitfalls. And you will note that, ever since we’ve pursued it, we’ve always made progress, regardless of the difficulties and pitfalls. And whenever there’s been a crisis, we’ve emerged from it with a stronger Europe. Take the example we’re dealing with today. We made efforts, in the wake of the single market, a number of other reforms and the single currency, to embark on the path of establishing a common foreign and defence policy. Here again, we knew very well that we would have difficulties. They have surfaced with the Iraq issue. Let me remind you, to give you an example, that at a time when we were obviously taking two different positions, we – the British and ourselves – met for our latest Franco-British summit at Le Touquet, and (…) while noting our difference of view on the Iraq issue, made very significant progress on a whole range of decisions, which went somewhat unnoticed because of the Iraq crisis, but allowed us to make headway on the path towards a common defence. (…)
Q. – Even so, Europe is deeply divided…
THE PRESIDENT – No, don’t you believe it! You know, I have long experience of Europe. I know Europe well. I know how it works. (…) It won’t be at all divided once the crisis is over. And the remorse felt at having been unable to form a single position will give it new strength to achieve the goal it has set itself. That’s the whole story of Europe. Europe’s history is punctuated by crises from which, in every case, it has emerged stronger. And this will happen again. Quite simply because everyone is aware that, if we want (…) a multipolar world in which Europe counts for something and exists, it must be genuinely united. And it will be.
Q. – Our compatriots are worried about two or three things. If there is war, first of all, the risk of a possible resurgence of terrorism. Secondly, that there could be antagonism between the different communities which make up this country, that there could be clashes between them. And, thirdly, about the economy which, finally, has slowed down a great deal recently. And people tend to think it’s due to these threats of war. Can you reassure them on these subjects?
THE PRESIDENT – Terrorism first of all. It’s certain that, if there’s war, the first victors will probably be those seeking confrontation, the clash of civilizations, cultures and religions. In my opinion, a war of this nature can lead only to increased terrorism. In any event it’s highly likely.
Q. – Including France?
THE PRESIDENT – (…) France has suffered painfully from terrorism, she has experienced it. And consequently she is perhaps a bit more on her guard than others. At any rate, what I can tell you is that, in this sphere, it seems to me that war is something which will break up the world coalition against terrorism. Since, after all, we mustn’t forget that a very great majority of the world’s countries and peoples are against this war, a very, very great majority of them. France isn’t isolated, far from it. So if there’s war there is indeed a risk of a new upsurge in terrorism. What I can [also] tell you is that the French government has taken a set of the most effective measures possible to combat what is an extremely unpredictable development, to prevent terrorism growing. I note, moreover, that, over the past two or three months a number of spectacular operations, most of which have in fact been made public, have neutralized some really dangerous terrorist rings. At least those have been neutralized.
Q. – On inter-community tension?
THE PRESIDENT – France is a country which has always aimed to integrate her children and doesn’t want to accept the separation of communities along ethnic lines. And so everything which can worsen this problem must be combated. We are trying to do the utmost to ensure that, in France and elsewhere in the world, understanding, respect for the Other – regrettably too often ignored – dialogue, particularly between religions, communities and cultures, prevents these fruitless, dangerous and cruel clashes.
Finally, you referred to the economy. Certainly the sound of boots, so to speak, doesn’t help the economy. We can clearly see that growth is falling, with the tragic consequences this entails for employment, that investment is being postponed, that there’s an absence of confidence, consumption is suffering and that, consequently, admittedly, the economy is today having problems. It’s to a large extent due to the international situation and the prospects of war.
Here too we have to try to act as efficiently as possible. And I believe that the government, from this point of view, has not just taken the right path, but the only possible one, i.e. the one which consists in combining a policy to promote employment, for social reasons, with one to encourage the economy and particularly investment and consumption.
Q. – Just one word about yourself, President Chirac. There’s a lot of talk about your adopting a Gaullist position. Does this please you? Are you drawing inspiration from Gaullism, particularly when it comes to opposing the United States?
THE PRESIDENT – Hold on, General de Gaulle never opposed the United States. General de Gaulle was even the first to stand at the United States’ side whenever there was a crisis.
Q. – Let’s say, if you like, that he didn’t hesitate to express his opposition?
THE PRESIDENT – No he never opposed the United States.
Q. – He slammed NATO’S door, for example.
THE PRESIDENT – Yes, he asserted France’s interests.
Q. – You don’t think about that today? Do you feel that connection? Or don’t you ever have such thoughts?
THE PRESIDENT – I can but be flattered, at all events, with the comparison you want to make. But I try to find my own inspiration.
ODDS ON AVOIDING WAR
Q. – I have one final question to ask you. What today are the odds on avoiding war? People feel it’s inevitable.
THE PRESIDENT – I don’t know at all. What I know is that even if they are one in a thousand or a million, that wouldn’t in any way lessen my determination to do my utmost to enable us to resolve the Iraq problem without waging war. (…)./.
The UK Government resolution to go to war, 18 March 2003
That this House notes its decisions of 25th November 2002 and 26th February 2003 to endorse UN Security Council Resolution 1441; recognises that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and long range missiles, and its continuing non-compliance with Security Council Resolutions, pose a threat to international peace and security; notes that in the 130 days since Resolution 1441 was adopted Iraq has not co-operated actively, unconditionally and immediately with the weapons inspectors, and has rejected the final opportunity to comply and is in further material breach of its obligations under successive mandatory UN Security Council Resolutions; regrets that despite sustained diplomatic effort by Her Majesty's Government it has not proved possible to secure a second Resolution in the UN because one Permanent Member of the Security Council made plain in public its intention to use its veto whatever the circumstances; notes the opinion of the Attorney General that, Iraq having failed to comply and Iraq being at the time of Resolution 1441 and continuing to be in material breach, the authority to use force under Resolution 678 has revived and so continues today; believes that the United Kingdom must uphold the authority of the United Nations as set out in Resolution 1441 and many Resolutions preceding it, and therefore supports the decision of Her Majesty's Government that the United Kingdom should use all means necessary to ensure the disarmament of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction; offers wholehearted support to the men and women of Her Majesty's Armed Forces now on duty in the Middle East; in the event of military operations requires that, on an urgent basis, the United Kingdom should seek a new Security Council Resolution that would affirm Iraq's territorial integrity, ensure rapid delivery of humanitarian relief, allow for the earliest possible lifting of UN sanctions, an international reconstruction programme, and the use of all oil revenues for the benefit of the Iraqi people and endorse an appropriate post-conflict administration for Iraq, leading to a representative government which upholds human rights and the rule of law for all Iraqis; and also welcomes the imminent publication of the Quartet's roadmap as a significant step to bringing a just and lasting peace settlement between Israelis and Palestinians and for the wider Middle East region, and endorses the role of Her Majesty's Government in actively working for peace between Israel and Palestine.
Covering letter and submission on the ‘uranium from Africa claim’ to the Butler Review
The Butler Review,
Our ref: OTH/D0045w/ID
Date: 15 June 2004
To the Review Committee,
Further to my letter of 7 May, I am writing with Llew Smith MP, enclosing a copy of our submission to the Review regarding the claim that Iraq ‘sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa’ made in the September 2002, UK Government Dossier, Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction.
We are submitting this document (and a separate annex of relevant press coverage by email) after the 31 March 2004 deadline for written evidence, as Foreign Office Ministers have responded to recent Parliamentary Questions on this issue by referring to the work being done by the Butler Review. The following reply from the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw MP of 6 May 2004 has formed the basis of answers to the majority of questions on this subject:
“Lord Butler of Brockwell is currently examining the accuracy of the intelligence on Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction up to March 2003, and any discrepancies between the intelligence gathered, evaluated and used by the Government before the conflict, and what has been discovered by the Iraq Survey Group since the end of it”.
Secondly, new material has become available since the deadline for written evidence: the book published on 30 April 2004 by Joseph Wilson, the US Official sent in February 2002 by the CIA to investigate the claim that Iraq had sought to procure/procured uranium from Africa; and a communication of 25 May 2004 from the International Atomic Energy Agency to Lynne Jones.
There has been no response to the request to you of 7 May that the intelligence upon which the Government based its claim that Saddam Hussein sought to procure uranium from Africa, and the Government’s use of that intelligence, be assessed by the Butler Review, with witnesses called. We should be grateful for your response to this request and we should also be grateful if you could let us know whether you will be considering the enclosed submission.
LYNNE JONES MP LLEW SMITH MP
Please click here for content of Butler Review Submission
 Hansard, 29 January 2003 col 879:
 Source: Independent On Sunday, Publication date: 2 March 2003, Page: 20
 Source: Independent On Sunday, Publication date: 2 March 2003, Page: 20
 Official Report: 6 May 2004, , column 1733-1734W (170513, 171178); 19 May 2004, column 1085W (173387); 26 May 2004, column 1638-1639W (175478, 175493, 175494)