Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Questions from the Committee to the US Embassy on US policy with respect to the war against terrorism


  1.  Does the United States claim what Richard Haass described recently[4] as "a right of preventative self-defence" against states which harbour and arm terrorists? If it is contended that the US has a right in international law to preventive self-defence, please set out in extenso the legal bases for the exercise of such a right. What limitations, in the Administration's judgement, are to be set on its exercise?

  2.  Some analysts have suggested that US commercial interests and private citizens overseas may become targets of action by Al Qaida. What can the United States do to protect these interests and individuals from attacks by terrorists? To what extent would the US be prepared to extend such protection to the commercial and private interests of its coalition partners if they too were threatened?


  3.  Do the existing Security Council resolutions authorise military action against Iraq if Saddam refuses to allow weapons inspectors to return unimpeded?

  If the US were to use existing Security Council resolutions to provide legal cover for military action against Iraq, which specific resolutions would apply?

  If it were contended that existing UN Security Council resolutions do not provide sufficient legal authority for military action against Iraq, would the US seek an additional resolution before taking such military action?

  4.  What must Saddam Hussein do to avoid US military action against his regime? Do the US and the UN share an understanding of acceptable terms for the return of UN weapons inspectors to Iraq? If the Iraqi regime and the UN were to reach an agreement over the return of weapons inspectors, would that satisfy the objectives of the US Administration with respect to Iraq?

  5.  Does the United States have compelling evidence linking the Iraqi regime with Al Qaida? If so, what is the nature of that evidence?


  6.  What, in the US Administration's understanding, is the definition in international law of "unlawful combatant"? Does the Administration distinguish between fighters for Al Qaida and fighters for the Taliban, and accord different status to each?

  7.  The Committee has heard assertions that every person who has joined Al Qaida is criminal, because Al Qaida's purpose is to commit "war crimes." However, it appears that, given Al Qaida's loose, informal structure, it is difficult to prove that detainees are "members" of the organisation and therefore to prosecute them. How does the United States expect to prove that the "unlawful combatants" currently being held at Guanta«namo Bay are criminals?

  8.  For how long will "unlawful combatants" be detained at Guanta«namo Bay? Under what circumstances might they be released or returned to their home countries? What assurances would be sought from the combatants' home countries as to their treatment before their repatriation?

  9.  When, and under what circumstances, will the US return the five British citizens currently being detained at Guanta«namo Bay?


  10.  Under what circumstances would the US Government support the dispatch of international observers or a military operation for peace enforcement to Israel and the Palestinian Territories? Would the US be prepared to commit military and/or civilian personnel for such operations? What other kinds of support would the US Administration be prepared to provide?

  11.  Has the use of force by the Israeli government against the Palestinians in Jenin and elsewhere been necessary and proportionate to the threat they face.

  12.  Are you convinced that Yassir Arafat is in control of the Palestinian Territories, and can limit the violence being perpetrated by Palestinian militants? If he is no longer in control, can negotiations to end the violence take place?

  13.  To what extent has the escalation of violence in the Middle East increased anti-US sentiment in the Arab world?

  14.  The United States has invested heavily in ensuring Israel's security: in 2001 alone, the United States provided almost US$2 billion in military grants to Israel. Given this relationship, what is the nature of America's leverage—financial and military—over the Israeli government? What lessons does the US Administration draw from Ariel Sharon's refusal to withdraw the IDF from West Bank towns, despite President Bush's request that he do so?

  15.  To what extent has the escalation of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict weakened the international coalition against terrorism?


  16.  The United States Ambassador to Afghanistan said on 10 April 2002 that "nothing that the Interim Authority and international community are trying to do in Afghanistan will work without stability and security." Are you confident that this stability and security can be established without the extension of the International Security Assistance Force beyond Kabul? Are there any circumstances under which the US would commit troops to ISAF? If the US is not prepared to commit its own troops, it is prepared to commit to funding troops for the force from poor countries?

  17.  To what extent has the United States already accomplished its objective of ending the use of Afghanistan as a base for the training of terrorists?


  18.  By including Iran in the "axis of evil," the United States has ruled out the prospect of negotiation with the government of Iran. In the absence of such negotiation, how does the US expect to end the threat from Iran, and to obtain assistance from Iran in the war against terrorism?

  19.  What effect did the inclusion of Iran in the "axis of evil" have on the domestic political balance of that country?


  20.  To what extent has the inclusion of North Korea in the "axis of evil" jeopardised South Korean policies towards reconciliation with the North?


  21.  From which sources are terrorists most likely to obtain weapons of mass destruction? Are you satisfied that countries which might be a source of weapons of mass destruction to terrorists are co-operating adequately with the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee?

  22.  Are you satisfied that Russia is doing all it can to counter terrorism, and in particular to prevent the exodus of scientists trained in the development of weapons of mass destruction?


  23.  Commentators have described to us some of the "root causes," which make terrorism against the United States appealing to many young people in the Arabian peninsular. These include high and rising unemployment, poor and inadequate public education, repression and corruption perpetrated by governments in the region, and the absence of unifying visions of Islam other than that put forward by Osama bin Laden. Commentators have also noted the growth of pan-Arabian media, which often link the suffering of the Iraqi people and their "Arab brothers," the Palestinians, to US policies in the region. Can the US do anything to address these "root causes"? Can we win the war against terrorism without addressing these causes?


  24.  Does the recently leaked Nuclear Posture Review statement include any significant changes to US policy?

  25.  In what circumstances does the US regard it as legitimate to make first use of nuclear weapons, as postulated in the latest Nuclear Posture Review statement?

  26.  Is it correct, as reported in the UK press, [5]that the US has started work on a nuclear "bunker buster" bomb?

Foreign Affairs Committee

17th April 2002

Reply from the US Embassy to the Committee's questions

  1.  Thank you for your recent letter and the questions it conveyed from members of the Foreign Affairs Committee. I understand the recent visit by several Committee members to the United States was productive and useful. We in the Embassy were happy to assist you in arranging that visit and stand ready to facilitate further visits and consultations with US officials. And, we would like to take this opportunity to renew our standing offer to continue our close consultative exchanges with you and the Committee on an informal basis.

  2.  I should point out to you that, as a matter of policy and practice, US officials abroad do not participate in formal question-and-answer exchanges for a formal legislative record. In light of the exceptionally close US-UK relationship, however, we have sought to provide herewith responses to your letter to the extent we are able, drawing on public policy statements. They are grouped in the main as were your questions.


  3.  In the 21st century, the principal aim of American foreign policy is to integrate other countries and organisations into arrangements that will sustain a world consistent with US interests and values, and thereby promote peace, prosperity, and justice as widely as possible. The integration of new partners into our efforts will help us deal with traditional challenges of maintaining peace in divided regions as well as with transnational threats such as international terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. It will also help bring into the globalised world those who have previously been left out. In this era, our fate is intertwined with the fate of others, so our success must be shared success.

  4.  We are doing this by persuading more and more governments and, at a deeper level, people to sign on to certain key ideas as to how the world should operate for our mutual benefit. Integration is about bringing nations together and then building frameworks of cooperation and, where feasible, institutions that reinforce and sustain them even more.

  5.  It is important to point out that these ideas—what President Bush has termed "the non-negotiable demands of human dignity: rule of law, limits on the power of the state, respect for women, private property, equal justice, religious tolerance"—are not narrow American values that benefit Americans only. To the contrary, they are universal values that people everywhere would benefit from. Nor is integration merely a defensive response to the world we live in. Integration is, in fact, a profoundly optimistic approach to international relations. As Secretary of State Colin Powell likes to point out, we live in a time of historic opportunity. With war between great powers almost unthinkable, we can turn our efforts from containment and deterrence to consultation and cooperation. We can move from a balance of power to a pooling of power.

  6.  Establishing new norms for this new era will be equally important to success. The right to self-defense is an international norm that none deny. But over the past decade, we have seen an evolution in how the international community views sovereignty. Simply put, sovereignty does not grant governments a blank checque to do whatever they like within their own borders. Instead, the principle that sovereignty carries responsibilities is gaining ground.

  7.  We saw this in the humanitarian interventions of the past decade, such as in Kosovo. When governments violate the rights of their people on a large scale—be it as an act of conscious policy or the byproduct of a loss of control—the international community has the right, and sometimes even the obligation, to act. Since 11 September, behind President Bush's leadership, we have seen similar changes in how the international community views states' responsibilities vis-a"-vis terrorism. Countries affected by states that abet, support, or harbour international terrorists, or are incapable of controlling terrorists operating from their territory, have the right to take action to protect their citizens.

  8.  The US has demonstrated that it can and will act alone when necessary. By the same token, we do not take lightly the costs to ourselves and to others when we forego participation in some multilateral initiative. We will give consultations every reasonable chance to produce an acceptable outcome. But if we conclude that agreement is beyond reach, we will explain why and do our best to put forth alternatives. We have shown this commitment in policies ranging from developing a new strategic framework to protecting the environment. And we will continue to do so.

  9.  As for possible additional al-Qaida targets, the US is committed to the protection and welfare of its citizens overseas and the safe and secure operations of US commercial interests abroad. The US cooperates with like-minded states in combating terrorism in all its forms and in protecting citizens and commercial interests. It will not come as a surprise that primary responsibility for these matters rests with host governments. There is a wide variety of programmes in place to do that.


  10.  We continue to work toward advancing the comprehensive strategy the "Quartet" reaffirm following its recent meeting: (1) security and freedom from terror and violence for both Israelis and Palestinians; (2) serious and accelerated negotiations to revive hope and lead to a political settlement; and (3) economic and humanitarian assistance to address the increasingly desperate conditions faced by the Palestinian people. This strategy has broad support both in the region and in the international community.

  11.  We remain closely engaged with the parties and all regional leaders to advance this strategy. We are working with Russia, the EU and the UN on the possibility of convening an international meeting to continue the work that began with President Bush's 4 April speech.

  12.  We are also working with the EU, Russia, and the UN on ways to advance the international community's security, humanitarian, and economic reconstruction efforts and to reconstitute the Palestinian Authority in a non-corrupt, more democratic, and more transparent manner. We have not yet decided on specific timing or venue for an international conference, but we believe that an international meeting at the ministerial level can be convened in the early summer.

  13.  On a third-party monitoring mechanism, we have always maintained that it could be useful if both sides agree to such a function, and Secretary Powell has reiterated that once security meetings and political discussions begin, monitors could be useful as part of a confidence-building effort. The Mitchell Committee recommendations also outline a possible role for monitors.

  14.  On Jenin, the Secretary has expressed our serious concerns about the humanitarian situation of the Palestinian people, and we have called upon Israel to respect humanitarian principles and to facilitate access by humanitarian organisations and service. It was this concern for the situation in the territories that led the Secretary to announce last month an additional $30 million US contribution to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), and $62 million in accelerated assistance for health care, water system repairs and emergency food aid.

  15.  On leadership, we believe it serves our interests, Israeli interests, and the interests of the Palestinian people and the other nations in the region if we continue to work with all the Palestinian leaders and to recognize who the Palestinian people look to as their leader.

  16.  We are not unmindful of the problems that exist within Chairman Arafat's leadership or the problems that exist within the Palestinian Authority. Our objective as we move forward will be to make the point to the Palestinian Authority that, as they reconstruct themselves, they must do it in a way that is transparent, non-corrupt, and does not tolerate violence or support terrorism. This is the time for Chairman Arafat, all Palestinian leaders, and the Palestinian people to make a judgement to move in a new direction.

  17.  Chairman Arafat must also exert maximum efforts to confront terror and violence. He and the Palestinian Authority should also work with the international community to rebuild strong, accountable, democratic, and market-oriented institutions for the Palestinian people.

  18.  Chairman Arafat must show leadership and move in a new direction to denounce terrorism and violence, and do everything in his power to stop terrorist activities and to stop the incitement that breeds such activities.

  19.  US policy is clear: we support a Palestinian state; we support Israel with secure borders; we support each at peace with the other. Whatever the criticisms or anti-American sentiment in the region or farther afield, we shall persevere in encouraging peaceful resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict while also pursuing the war on terrorism to a successful conclusion.


  20.  Let me first underscore that the important issue is what Iraq must do to bring itself into compliance with UN Security Council Resolutions and established international norms.

  21.  Saddam Hussein's regime remains a threat to the Iraqi people, to Iraq's neighbours, and to international peace and stability. As the President and Secretary of State Powell have many times underscored, Iraq is a country that not only pursues weapons of mass destruction (WMD), but has shown no reluctance to use them—even against its own people.

  22.  Because of the vigilance of the international community, this regime is no longer the conventional threat that it was 10 years ago. That said, we remain concerned about Iraq's efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction, and we continue to work closely with our allies and the international community to secure Iraq's compliance with its UN Security Council Resolution obligations to declare and destroy fully its WMD.

  23.  We are not able to discuss what we know from sensitive intelligence. We note, however, that Iraq has long been on our State Sponsors of Terrorism List, and we continue to be focused on Iraq's support for international terrorism.

  24.  As the President and Secretary have also said, we continue to have all our options available regarding Iraq—and we will not wait on events, while dangers gather. We maintain a credible force in the region and always have the ability to use force if that is the right thing to do. There is no question that the overwhelming majority of the Iraqi people, as well as international and regional peace and security, would be substantially better off without Saddam's regime.


  25.  The United States is treating and will continue to treat all of the individuals detained humanely and, to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity, in a manner consistent with the principles of the Third Geneva Convention of 1949.

  26.  Many detainees at Guanta«namo pose a severe security risk to those responsible for guarding them and to each other. Some of these individuals demonstrated how dangerous they are in uprisings at Mazar-e-Sharif and in Pakistan.

  27.  These aggressors initiated a war that, under law, they had no legal right to wage. The right to conduct armed conflict and lawful belligerency is reserved only to states and recognized armed forces or groups under responsible command. Private persons lacking the basic indicia of organization or the ability or willingness to conduct operations in accordance with the laws of armed conflict have no legal right to wage warfare against a state.

  28.  The members of al-Qaida fail to meet the criteria to be lawful combatants under the law of war. If they choose to violate these laws and customs of war and engage in hostilities, they are unlawful combatants. And their conduct, in intentionally targeting and killing civilians in a time of international armed conflict, constitutes war crimes.

  29.  The President has determined that the Genva Convention applies to the Taliban detainees, but not to the al-Qaida detainees. Al-Qaida is not a state party to the Geneva Convention; it is a foreign terrorist group. As such its members are not entitled to POW status. Under the terms of the Geneva Convention, however, the Taliban detainees do not qualify as POWs. Therefore, neither the Taliban nor al-Qaida detainees are entitled to POW status. Even though the detainees are not entitled to POW privileges, they are being provided many POW privileges as a matter of policy. Of course, the detainees will not be subject to physical or mental abuse or cruel treatment.

  30.  We are pleased to see that the European Parliament stated that it "agrees that the prisoners currently held in the US base in Guanta«namo do not fall precisely within the definitions of the Geneva Convention."

  31.  As we have repeatedly stated, these were no ordinary domestic crimes, and the perpetrators cannot and should not be deemed to be common criminals. And in bringing these abusers to justice, the United States will continue to honour and uphold the rule of law and work within the norms of the global community in answering the challenge that faces us all. In doing so, we will continue to uphold relevant legal standards of treatment with respect to the detainees in our custody.

  32.  No decisions have been made on the disposition of the detainees currently being held. The fate of the detainees will be determined on a case-by-case basis. We will investigate, we will determine which cases are the most important to prosecute, and will bring those who bear responsibility to justice.


  33.  The (International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has been key to providing the stability and security necessary for the rebuilding of Afghanistan. It has made possible the rebirth of civil society, and it has allowed the Interim Authority to organize the upcoming Loya Jirga that will allow the Afghan people to determine their future government institutions.

  34.  The US strongly supports ISAF, which complements the efforts of coalition forces to eliminate the last vestiges of Taliban and al-Qaida from Afghanistan. The US also supports the Turkish decision to take over leadership of ISAF and is seeking Congressional approval of funding to help provide logistical support, strategic lift, and communications equipment. The US is working to ensure Turkish needs are met, and ISAF and the US Central Command regularly work out mutually satisfactory arrangements on military issues.

  35.  A key to eventually making ISAF unnecessary is the formation of a capable, multi-ethnic Afghan National Army that the US and other states—particilary ISAF contributing nations—will train and support as appropriate. Coalition forces have made tremendous progress in denying terrorists the use of Afghanistan as a base and source of support, succor, and financing, but the fight is not over in eradicating all the terrorist cells.


  36.  There has been no fundamental change in US policy toward Iran. Change hinges on Iran changing policies of major concern to us.

  37.  Despite some positive Iranian actions on Afghanistan, particularly its contribution to the success of the Bonn Conference, other Iranian actions in Afghanistan and especially in the Middle East are extremely damaging.

  38.  We continue to see the Iranian presence in southern Lebanon as providing destabilizing military support to Hizballah. Iran's continuing support of deadly weapons to Hizballah, especially longer-range Katushya rockets, directly undermines US, EU and Russian efforts to reduce violence and resume negotiations in the Middle East.

  39.  We have no doubt that Iran seeks to attain nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, advanced conventional weapons, and long-range missiles. We are concerned by the apparent willingness of some to overlook or understate Iran's WMD intent and the inherent dangers that result.

  40.  We continue to seek international cooperation in our effort to address Iranian pursuit of WMD systems, in particular on enforcement of export controls, cooperation on interdiction, and in international fora.

  41.  We have delivered forceful messages to Iran on the need to stabilize Afghanistan, end support for terrorism and for groups violently opposed to the Middle East peace process, end development of WMD and ballistic missiles, and end human rights abuses.

  42.  We have also urged all concerned to insist on concrete, verifiable cessation of Iran's objectionable activities in these areas of concern as a pre-condition for increased economic and other cooperation. We believe that if Iran continues to act in damaging ways, there should be negative consequences for Iran's external and trade relations.


  43.  During his visit to Seoul February 19 to 21, the President reiterated US support for North-South dialogue, which we believe is key to reconciliation on the Korean peninsula. He also stressed that the US has no intention of invading North Korea. However, he has not denied the obvious truth as to the nature of the regime in Pyongyang.

  44.  We were pleased with the positive results of South Korean Envoy Lim Dong-won's recent visit to Pyongyang, particularly North Korea's pledges to resume family reunification meetings and high-level dialogue. It is also a positive sign that North Korea has resumed discussion with the Japanese Red Cross on abductees.

  45.  North Korea has informed the US through its UN Mission that it is prepared to begin talks with the US. We are working to determine the timing and other details. We continue to provide humanitarian food assistance to the people of North Korea, to coordinate closely with our allies, and to maintain our strong, defensive posture on the Peninsula.


  46.  It is not possible in an unclassified letter to discuss the detailed information we possess about possible connections between terrorists and WMD. We can say, however, that we are continually seeking to improve international cooperation in staunching possible proliferation and in denying terrorist access to WMD, including through the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee.

  47.  When the President spoke about the nexus between support for terrorism and WMD development, Iraq was obviously one of the countries of most concern to us. Iraq is on the US State Sponsors of Terrorism list, and we continue to be focused on Iraq's support for international terrorism. We are also very concerned about Iranian and North Korean WMD developments and support for terrorism. There are, of course, other states such as Syria, Libya, and Cuba whose potential for WMD development and proliferation is of great concern to us.

  48.  As for Russia, we continue to believe there are proliferating activities that are taking place there that are unhelpful. Specifically, anything which supports Iran's efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction is troublesome for us, and it is something we will continue to discuss with the Russians at every level.


  49.  The Nuclear Posture Review is a wide-ranging classified analysis of the requirements for deterrence in the 21st century. This review of the US nuclear posture is the latest in a long series of reviews since the development of nuclear weapons. It does not provide operational guidance on nuclear targeting or planning.

  50.  The Department of Defence continues to plan for a broad range of contingencies and unforeseen threats to the United States and its allies. We do so in order to deter such attacks in the first place.

  51.  Of particular significance in the new Nuclear Posture Review is President Bush's decision to reduce operationally deployed strategic nuclear weapons by two-thirds, a decision made possible by the new strategic relationship being developed with Russia. The US and Russia have conclude an historic treaty to the effect which will be signed later this month.

  52.  We hope that the foregoing is useful to the Committee's work. I look forward to our continued interaction in furtherance in the US-UK partnership.

Embassy of the United States of America


May 2002

4   The next world order, "Nicholas Lemann, The New Yorker, 1 April 2002 Back

5   The Independent, 19 March 2002 Back

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