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Peter Willetts, Professor of Global Politics


Documents and Speeches on the Crisis over Iraq

This collection is intended to be a useful archive of important primary materials. The texts of the documents has not been amended, but usually some copy-editing of the lay-out has been done.
In any use of these materials, please acknowledge the source as being www.staff.city.ac.uk/p.willetts/IRAQ/INDEX.HTM




Tony Blair on the Iraq crisis and the Middle East
Interview with the Financial Times, 9 December 2002


Blair on Saddam and Middle East Peace

Extract from an interview by the Financial Times, published on their website on 9 December 2002, and summarised in a newspaper story on 10 December 2002.

Question       Let's move on then to one of the issues that you think - well clearly is - of great importance to people, Iraq. If you talk to people from Washington you get a much stronger sense that war is inevitable than you do perhaps when you talk to people in London or in other parts of Europe. There seems to be a gulf. Do you think that war with Iraq is inevitable in the next few months, or do you think it can be avoided, and would we support a war that didn't actually have the support and backing of another second UN Resolution.

Blair      It's plainly not inevitable if Saddam complies. But you would have to be somewhat na´ve not to be sceptical about the likelihood of his compliance, given his past history. But the short answer is, his duty is to co-operate. If he fails to co-operate, either in any false declaration or in refusing access to the sites, or interviewing witnesses, or any of the rest of it, then that is a breach. And in those circumstances, my understanding is that the United Nations are very clear there should action.

     As for a second Resolution, we said we would go back for a discussion, but the implication of what we agreed before was that, OK we will go the UN route, but the UN route has the implication that if there is a breach and Saddam doesn't comply, then we are prepared to take action.

     We want to do this with the maximum international support and I believe that support will be there. So we wait and see what circumstances we get to. But in my view it is clear and right that if Saddam is in breach then we have to impose by conflict, that which we would have preferred to impose by the will of the UN and the inspectors.

Question      Have the events of the weekend in which he is saying well I don't have any weapons of mass destruction made you more pessimistic about the outcome?

Blair      We will obviously have to study very carefully what this declaration actually amounts to. You will know the dossier we have put out earlier, and anyway he has made his declaration.

Question      But there were no hidden triggers in that UN Resolution were there?

Blair      No, we have always been very open with people about this. His duty is to co-operate and that includes making an honest declaration and if he is in breach of that duty, then we act.

Question      You seem to be saying by saying that you want the maximum international support, that in an ideal world you would have a second Resolution which would demonstrate that support, if he is indeed in breach, but actually that you don't need a second Resolution to take military action against him.

Blair      If we get to a situation, let us say, where there is a clear breach and the circumstances that we always .... would result in action - someone puts an unreasonable block down on it - well as we have seen before when we were in the situation over Kosovo you cannot say there are no set of circumstances in which you would ever refuse to act, because in my view if he breaches and the UN does nothing, then the authority of the UN is then hugely weakened. But I don't believe that will happen. I believe that at the heart of that UN Resolution is really a deal. Let's be frank about it. There was a deal which said OK the US and the UK and those who feel really strongly about the threat that Saddam and weapons of mass destruction pose, they are prepared to go the UN route, to bring everyone together, to say right we will put in the inspectors and give him the chance to comply. We'll go back to the UN route as the way of enforcing this, then the quid pro quo is OK but if he then having been given the chance to do the right thing does the wrong thing, we are not going to walk away from it. And I think that was a very sensible way of proceeding. Again, it is difficult. I mean it is difficult for two reasons. It is difficult because I think a lot of people don't share our view of the importance of weapons of mass destruction, and I am completely passionate on this. I think this is one of the biggest threats that the world faces. And I should just point out that at the first meeting I had with George Bush in February 2001, at my press conference I actually majored on this topic. It didn't get picked up at the time because it wasn't a great issue at the time. But I think what is happening with the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the potential of this to fall into the hands of either unstable states or terrorist groups is enormous. And I would just point out to people that if anybody had come along in August 2001 and said that we needed to deal with Afghanistan, people would have thought you had gone off your rocker. But actually we do need to deal with this issue.

Question      The other thing you have pressed on is the Middle East Peace Process. Do you think there is any prospect in the short term for pushing that process along.

Blair      I hope so. But obviously there is a complicating factor with the Israeli elections, but I have no doubt at all that this is a very dark shadow over the region, the world, and our relations with the Arab world and the relations between the Muslim world and the outside world, and for many people I think in the Arab and Muslim world they feel that we are not wrong about Saddam, but we are not sufficiently serious about the suffering that the Palestinians are facing. Now my answer to that is, look we have got to be clear about this, the Israelis are also facing their citizens being butchered in appalling terrorist attacks. The only way of resolving this is to start working out on the basis of the principles, that are actually clearer now than they have ever been. To be fair George Bush has set out in the Two-State solution the clearest enunciation of the end game in this that there has ever been. So we should be able to take it forward. But my point always is that these peace processes, as we found with Northern Ireland, they never move unless there is intensive activity, and usually from external forces. There is no doubt at all that there is a strong feeling in the Arab and Muslim world that we have engaged in double standards here. I don't believe that is justified because I think that people like ourselves really are working very hard to try and get this situation changed. But I understand that feeling and it is important we are sensitive to it. I always think there is a big issue to be made about the US and the relations with Europe and how we play a part in that. I think it is very important - I was dealing with this at a Party meeting in Bristol on Thursday - that we actually take on some of the anti-Americanism there is and put some of the criticisms into proper perspective. It's a very important thing in the world today as well.



Mispresentation of Tony Blair's Position on
the Role of the UN Security Council in the Iraq crisis


There has been persistent mis-reporting of what was agreed in the UN Security Council on 8 November 2002, when Resolution 1441 (2002) was passed. In order to win a unanimous vote, both the US representative and the UK representative in the Council had to agree that, under no circumstances, would they go to war against Iraq, without returning to the Council, to ask for a second resolution. It remains a matter of dispute whether the US and UK governments would be able to go to war, were the Council to fail to adoption another resolution authorising military action.

     An example of an incorrect interpretation of the UK government's postion occurred in a Financial Times story, by James Blitz, given below. The text below, highlighted in red, is not compatible with the text in the full interview with Tony Blair, given above.


Dangerous distraction courtesy of Cherie
Financial Times story, by James Blitz, 12 December 2002

The pantomime is over. Or at least, let's hope it is. For the past 10 days the British press has been fixated by Cherie Blair and those Bristol flats. But ultimately it has served as a distraction from the issues that test the Labour government - the likelihood of war on Iraq within weeks, the row within the Labour party over the reform of public services, and the growing tension in government over the euro.

     In one area, the "Cheriegate" row is significant. Downing Street's appalling handling of the affair has recreated the bad feeling between Number 10 and the media that dominated the prime minister's first term.

     This will have a knock-on effect. On the war on terror, for example, Tony Blair and Jack Straw, the foreign secretary, have argued that the government must act responsibly when it receives intelligence information about possible terrorist attacks.

     But in the thick of the Cheriegate saga, ministers are thinking differently. "We might as well cover our backs, take no risks," says one minister closely involved with security issues. "If we're caught underplaying any piece of intelligence information, there will be no mercy from the tabloids."

     But on most other matters, the Cheriegate row has been a diversion. The government must publish three politically controversial documents in the next few weeks -apensions green paper, a prospectus on foundation hospitals and a white paper on university funding. The debate in all these areas has been neutralised in recent days.

     And while the prime minister may not have a grip on every aspect of his domestic life, he has cunningly pressed ahead with the strategy of gradually building public consensus for a military attack on Iraq.

     One of his biggest challenges has been when and how to disclose that Britain and the US will not be going back to the United Nations for a second UN resolution if Saddam Hussein breaches his obligations on weapons of mass destruction. In his interview with the Financial Times this week, the prime minister got that message into the public domain - in the knowledge that this was a safe moment to do so.

     The questions about Mrs Blair and the fraudster Peter Foster are certainly legitimate. There has been a bad lapse of judgment on her part. Trust in the Number 10 press office has been undermined. The weakness of Downing Street's arrangements for judging when a minister has breached codes of conduct has been exposed.

     But Europeans never cease to be amazed at how the British press wields a mighty sledgehammer in order to crack what seem peanut-sized cases of political wrongdoing. At today's European Union summit in Copenhagen, Mr Blair could be forgiven for casting an envious glance across the table at his French and Italian counterparts.



Copyright Peter Willetts, 2002.

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Page created on 12 December 2002.
Last updated on 12 December 2002.