Members present:

Donald Anderson, in the Chair
Mr David Chidgey
Mr Fabian Hamilton
Mr Eric Illsley
Andrew Mackinlay
Mr John Maples
Mr Bill Olner
Mr Greg Pope
Sir John Stanley


RT HON JACK STRAW, a Member of the House, Secretary of State, MR EDWARD CHAPLIN, Director, Middle East/North Africa, MR WILLIAM EHRMAN, Director, International Security, and DR DAVID KELLY, Adviser to Non-Proliferation Department, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, examined.


  1. Foreign Secretary, may I welcome you again on behalf of the Committee. This is part of our continuing inquiry into the War Against Terrorism. Indeed we are going to give, the Committee has just decided, a new focus obviously on Iraq and the regional implications under the umbrella of this continuing inquiry. Would you firstly please introduce your colleagues before we start?
  2. (Mr Straw) William Ehrman, who is the Director of the International Security Department at the Foreign Office, Edward Chaplin, who is Director of the Middle East/North Africa Department, and Dr David Kelly, who is an adviser to the Foreign Office now, which is why he is on the team, but he is a microbiologist and he spent seven years, 37 inspections as one of the UNSCOM inspectors in Iraq.

    Mr Chidgley

  3. Foreign Secretary, on behalf of the Committee, can I just say we are very grateful that you have found the time to see us today to discuss an issue of very great importance not just to this Committee, but to Parliament and people as a whole. Clearly it is an area which is going to unfold. We do not know how quickly and we do not know in which direction, but clearly it is a key issue in foreign policy at the moment. In that light, Foreign Secretary, we would be very grateful if you could tell us how you see you in your role keeping Parliament informed as the crisis with Iraq unfolds and, in particular, how you will be able to respond to the voice of Parliament. What channels will you be making available for the voice of Parliament to be heard? In short, what does the expression used by the Prime Minister yesterday, "keeping in touch", mean to you?
  4. (Mr Straw) Well, it has a very wide meaning indeed. It is for Ministers to propose and for Parliament to dispose and Ministers have powers under our Constitution and some of those powers are derived from the Royal Prerogative. That is the nature of our Constitution, that executive powers in other systems apply not least to decisions about putting our military into action, but none of these decisions can continue to be made without the consent of Parliament, and we are aware of that, so let's be quite clear about that. I do not think there has been certainly in the last 100 years any Prime Minister who has been rash enough to put troops in the field without being clear that he or she has the consent ----

  5. But what specific ----
  6. (Mr Straw) Well, that is the first one. I just want to make this clear.

  7. So you do not see the Royal Prerogative being used to put British troops in?
  8. (Mr Straw) I do not want to go into a long exegesis about the derivation of powers under the Crown, but if there is a power which preceded the Bill of Rights in 1688, it derives from a prerogative and obviously a key power before that was not centred around civil service departments which did not exist, which are statutory, but was that of war and peace and disposition of the military, so that does derive from that and that is our Constitution. It may change, but that is where it is at the moment. However, do our decisions have to be the subject of consent by Parliament, by the House of Commons particularly? Of course and the Prime Minister is fully seized of that and he supports it, but even if he did not, that is the nature of our Constitution. How do we keep in touch, to answer your direct question? By evidence like this and if, as I hope it does not, but if military action were to proceed, I know that you would wish to see me frequently and no doubt the Defence Select Committee would wish to see the Defence Secretary. Secondly, by statements in Parliament to keep Parliament, both Houses, up to date as quickly as possible about changing events and circumstances. Thirdly, by debates and if you want me to deal with the issue of substantive motions, I am very happy to.

  9. I think we would like to hear that.
  10. (Mr Straw) Fine. Well, the background to this is that practice in terms of substantive motions has varied. In the Second World War, substantive motions were rarely used and never used on key events. The motion which despatched Chamberlain and installed Churchill in 1940 was won on adjournment, so they can actually have a very important effect. That said, during the 1990s there were two occasions when we were engaged in military action, one at the beginning of 1990 in the Gulf War, then in 1998 for Operation Desert Fox. There were substantive motions in respect of both of those. In 1991 the substantive motion was taken and debated in the Commons four days after military action began and Gerald Kaufman yesterday gave an explanation of the debates on the adjournment which had preceded that. In 1998 there was a substantive motion which was debated and agreed by the House ten months before military action took place. That was in February and the military action was in the December. We, in government, have no difficulty at all about the idea of a substantive motion at the appropriate time, I make that clear, with one condition about the exact timing and that is that we, and no one would expect us to, we cannot undertake to put down a motion immediately, shortly before military action commenced if the effect of that would be to give the enemy advance notice of our military activities and that was why in 1991 the motion was taken four days after. If it is possible to have a motion significantly in advance, and those questions do not arise, then that is fine.


  11. Foreign Secretary, yesterday when you spoke to the House you mentioned that there were ongoing discussions in the Security Council relating to a new resolution. Would you please update us on that?
  12. (Mr Straw) Yes, the ongoing discussions, the most intensive discussions at the moment are between ourselves and the United States Administration and where we hope to be at at an appropriate moment will be that there will be a sharing of private, but formal texts with the other members of the Permanent 5.

  13. When would that come?
  14. (Mr Straw) Well, shortly, but because of the nature of negotiations, you cannot give exact time lines until they are completed. Obviously there has been a great deal of informal discussion by our Ambassador, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, in New York and interlocutors there. I have just come away from speaking to him a moment ago and I will be talking to him again later this afternoon. Then there has also been a good deal of discussion between the British Government and the United States Government in Washington.

  15. So far as the representatives of the other three are concerned, France, Russia and China, do they, each one, accept the need for a new resolution?
  16. (Mr Straw) I believe so, is the answer. What I, with respect, cannot do or certainly it would be unwise for me to do is to lift the veil at this stage on the negotiations because these negotiations are ones which have to be conducted in private if they are to have any chance of public success. We are not at the moment of having these discussions taking place in the plenary of the Security Council. They are private discussions at the moment. I think if you looked at the reactions to President Bush's speech, you will see that each Foreign Minister certainly from the P5 acknowledged the strength of the argument that President Bush had made to the General Assembly on the 12th September and acknowledged very powerfully the need for inspectors to go back into Iraq. There is an issue about the exact circumstances and remit for the inspectors.

    Andrew Mackinlay: Can I just say for myself that I think that many of us, certainly myself, think the British Government have pursued this matter with some skill and courage and bearing in mind there were a lot of people who reminded me of Bottom yesterday, neither one thing nor the other, I thought it was probably a good idea if I and I imagine this Committee, who have been live to the threats of terrorism generally for some time, would like to flag it up formally. I think I speak for everybody here and we did draw attention to this in our own report and some people would not see it if it was painted on their eyelids, so we are a bit frustrated. I wanted to make that clear.


  17. You do not disagree with that?
  18. (Mr Straw) I agree with it 100 per cent. It is delightful to agree with my good friend Andrew Mackinlay.

    Andrew Mackinlay

  19. I noticed that both yourself and the Prime Minister yesterday stressed, "We will always act in accordance with international law". The Prime Minister also made that point in column 34. It was put to me yesterday that somebody thought there was a sort of nuance of difference between yourself and the Prime Minister or No 10. I do not think there is, but you might want to reaffirm the position if it is not painted on people's eyelids. That was A. B was the question where you made the point about the UN resolution which we are seeking, but will that resolution or resolutions include the method of enforcement because surely that is the nub of it, is it not? You get resolutions passed, but there does not seem to be a specific mandate as to if there is non-compliance, how, by whom and when they should be enforced and I wonder if you have some aspirations to pin the UN down on that because it does relate to international law. The final point was, yes, you made the distinction where you emphasised Chapter 7 resolutions and it does seem to me that this was something where if I was handling the Foreign Office's publicity, I would have emphasised much more that it is mandatory, and I just wondered if you wanted to amplify on that.
  20. (Mr Straw) There is no difference between the Prime Minister and myself. Have I stopped beating my wife? No. It may come as no particular surprise to discover that I looked at the Prime Minister's statement in draft and he looked at my speech in draft because it is rather important that we are in the same place and it is rather important that we say the same things on international law, but I cannot for the life of me imagine that anybody could have thought that we were in different places on the issue. On B, on resolution enforcement, first of all, methods of enforcement are these: one, by the powers given to the inspectors and one of the reasons why we think there should be a new resolution is because we do not think that the powers provided under 1284 and other resolutions are sufficient. For example, they do not cover so-called presidential palaces. That is direct enforcement. The second is by the threat of military action, and I know you share this view, Mr Mackinlay. Let's be absolutely clear about this, that we have only got to the stage we have with the Iraqi Government where they are saying that they will allow inspectors in, query whether they will, but we have only got to that point because there is a clear threat of force and that is the reality. One of the points I keep making is that there is a powerful paradox here which is that the very best chance of peace and a peaceful resolution to the disarmament of Iraq is by preparing for war and making it clear that you are willing to go for military action if Iraq does not accept a peaceful resolution of this issue.

  21. But UN resolutions specify that there can be enforcement by military action by whom?
  22. (Mr Straw) That is obviously the subject of negotiation at the moment. Now, on Chapter 7, I am glad you mentioned this if just to let you know that we are not all ventriloquist dummies in the Foreign Office. This was a point that I thought was a powerful one about Chapter 5 and Chapter 6 and one that, I agree with you, has not been brought out sufficiently in the past. There is, as I made clear in answer to Mr Galloway, those resolutions on the Middle East. Yes, they ought to be implemented and we have a special responsibility about the implementation of every Security Council resolution because, by definition, we have at least not vetoed any Security Council resolution, we are permanent members of the Security Council, so we have consented to those, but those were made under Chapter 6 which is about the passive resolution of disputes. Normally they lack authority, but it means that the United Nations have recognised that force by the international community would not then be a method of solving the dispute, and typically they are bilateral or trilateral disputes between states. There is a difference between that and Chapter 7 which is actually, with respect, the threats-to-peace question which is the chapter dealing with the use of force, but is directly authorised by the Security Council or provided otherwise by international law and that is laid down, as it happens, under Article 51. That is a big, big distinction. When people come out with this nonsense, "Well, you can't enforce the resolutions against Iraq until you have enforced the resolutions against everybody else", which is the -----


  23. Not to mention Israel.
  24. (Mr Straw) Yes. It is the excuse of criminals down the ages, and I am sure it has happened to you, Mr Anderson, where your client, who was palpably guilty, complained that he had been badly treated because his colleague, who was equally guilty, had not been caught. It is no answer at all. These are mandatory obligations. They are clear and they are unique and they have got to abide by them.

    Sir John Stanley

  25. Foreign Secretary, in the House on 12th March, column 744, you said, "It is more important than ever that inspectors from the United Nations Monitoring and Verification Inspection Commission and the International Atomic Energy Agency be given access to all relevant sites and be allowed to inspect freely wherever they want to and at whatever time they wish to". Can you assure the Committee that the British Government will only support any Security Council resolution that clearly incorporates the principle of UN weapons inspectors being able to inspect on an any-place-at-any-time basis?
  26. (Mr Straw) That is our very clear intention, Sir John. We have stated it often enough, so has the Prime Minister. Can I give you details of the final text of the resolution which was agreed before the Security Council? No, and I apologise for that, I am not going to do that, but that is our very, very clear intention.

  27. Would you not agree that if you fail to get a resolution based on inspections anywhere at any time, then almost certainly the inspection regime which starts is not going to be able to establish whether or not weapons of mass destruction exist, their whereabouts and how they can swiftly be disarmed?
  28. (Mr Straw) That would be a very unsatisfactory position of course, but, as I say, I do not want to go there. What we are aiming for is what I described on the 12th March and it is what I am happy to repeat now.

  29. So it is simply your intention?
  30. (Mr Straw) I am sorry, I am not, with respect, going to get into a position here of saying what our tactics are going to be on the Security Council. I cannot and you would not if you were in my position, but I said that on the 12th March and the Prime Minister, for example, repeated it in bolder terms still on the 6th April at the press conference he did with President Bush at Crawford where he said that inspectors had to be back any time, any place with no conditions, or words to that effect, and we have repeated it since and that is what we seek.

  31. Is it also your intention that in the same resolution there will be incorporated a clear time limit within which Saddam Hussein has to deliver on an any-place-any-time basis?
  32. (Mr Straw) Again what we are seeking from the resolution is a tough resolution. There are some fine issues about how far you lay down particular time lines in the resolution and how far you give wider powers to the inspectors. They are important details, but they are details. Are we seeking a resolution by which Iraq either has to comply or face the consequences? Yes.

  33. With a time limit?
  34. (Mr Straw) Obviously, by definition, that means that they cannot string it out for ever or for a long time. They have got to act quickly. They have got to act within a reasonable time. Now, that is absolutely clear. Are we seeking a resolution which stops Saddam playing games and he either complies or he is in clear breach? Yes, too.

  35. From what you have said, is the Committee right to conclude that the wording of the resolution, as far as you are wishing to achieve, will be such that when the end of the time limit is reached, there will be in place UN resolution cover for military action if the Government so decides?
  36. (Mr Straw) You ask me to anticipate the outcome of the negotiations and that is never possible, but I have already made it clear before in evidence to this Committee that what we seek is a clear, tough resolution.

  37. Given the history of previous weapons inspectors inside Iraq and the obstruction and intimidation of those inspectors, have you received any requests from either UNSCOM or from the IAEA that on this occasion the inspectors should be accompanied by armed force to enable them to ensure that they can achieve their any-place-any-time inspections?
  38. (Mr Straw) I have not because it would not be appropriate for Hans Blix and his colleagues to start negotiating those issues with one member of the P5. I am aware of there being discussions between him and Kofi Annan, the United Nations Secretary General, and the issue of the precise protection to be provided to the inspectors is obviously one that is exercising him considerably and on which there are a number of different views. Your other point, Sir John, was about the way in which the inspectors were messed around in the 1990s. What I think is interesting about the way the environment and the inspectors work, and if I am wrong, I invite Dr Kelly to correct me because he was there and I was not, but what I am told by other people who were inspectors at the time was that when the international community were clear and resolute, the environment for the inspectors was a very different one from the moment it became fairly obvious that it was possible for Saddam to play one member of the international community off against another.

    (Dr Kelly) You are absolutely right in that analysis.

  39. What are your grounds for optimism that on this occasion the Saddam Hussein regime is going to allow any-place-any-time inspections whereas hitherto they have set their faces totally against it?
  40. (Mr Straw) I am not optimistic or pessimistic here; I am realistic. What I know is that the tougher the international community is and the more resolute it is, the more probable it is that the Saddam Hussein regime will recognise that the game is up and they have got to let the inspectors back and they have got to be able to do their job, and the consequence of that job has to be the disarmament of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. So that is the realistic view I take and obviously where we are is that we wish to see other members of the international community accept our analysis which, as far as I am concerned, is very obvious.

    Mr Maples

  41. Foreign Secretary, I think I am broadly supportive of what the Government is doing, but I just want to explore with you a couple of questions about the legal basis. If you do not get the United Nations Security Council resolution, is it the Foreign Office's view that the existing resolutions provide a sufficient legal basis for military intervention?
  42. (Mr Straw) Well, the first point is that I spelled this out in some detail in my speech yesterday, that any decisions we make will be fully consistent with our obligations in international law. It is one of those things which although it goes without saying, is also worth restating where I spelled out yesterday our view of international law and the value of international law in enforcement. It has never been the case that the only basis of international law is an immediate extant resolution. Sometimes some people think it is and it is actually clear from within the United Nations Charter itself that that is not the case.

  43. Yes, I understand that.
  44. (Mr Straw) But I just want to explain this, that there are various points in the Charter, which is one of the key bases of international law, where the Charter itself refers to the inherent right of individual members. So as far as this is concerned, the direct answer to your question is no, we do not regard it as absolutely essential that there should be another Security Council resolution. We do regard it as desirable. As to what legal advice we receive if there is not a Security Council resolution, that frankly depends on the circumstances at the time and neither I nor our legal advisers could speculate on that.

  45. You have not quite answered my question which is: do you regard the existing United Nations Security Council resolution as an adequate legal basis for military action?
  46. (Mr Straw) That will ----

  47. You must have a view.
  48. (Mr Straw) I think I have made it clear that we do not regard it as an inadequate basis. We think it is desirable not least politically to have a clear, new resolution, but if you go through the existing resolutions, there is ample power there and also ample evidence of a material breach, but if you are asking me to give the legal advice which we received, I am not going to, with great respect, and if you ask me to go more into the realms of speculation about "What is this?" and "What is that?", again, with respect, I would not go there.

  49. I am not asking you to speculate. I take it, as you say, that you would regard the existing resolutions as being grounds for military action ----
  50. (Mr Straw) They might be. The answer is that we do not regard a new resolution as absolutely critical to any circumstances in which military action could take place. We do consider that any decisions which are made have to be fully consistent with international law and there is no question about that. Have we received legal advice on this scenario or that scenario? No, because when the Prime Minister says that we have not got to the point of making decisions about military action, that happens to be the case.

  51. I am thinking of the other grounds which might justify military action, the concept of preemptive self-defence. Do you think that might exist and, if so, how strong do you think the threat has to be?
  52. (Mr Straw) Well, I was discussing this with the Foreign Office lawyers this morning and here is a note which I have not yet had a chance to read, but it all goes back to the Caroline dispute which contained a classic description of the right to self-defence in international law, and the dispute concerned action taken in 1837 by British forces in Canada against a United States merchant vessel bordering on the Great Lakes which had been used by Canadian rebels as a basis for attack. British forces attacked the Caroline in US waters. One of the British officers was arrested in the United States and threatened with prosecution, but released after United Kingdom representations. A letter by Daniel Webster, the US Secretary of State, to the UK Minister during the negotiations is still referred to today. In that letter, Webster referred to the need in the UK to show that it was in self-defence, instant, overwhelming leaving no choice and no moment for deliberation. So this says no question arises that action may be taken not only when there is an actual attack, but also when an attack is imminent and the United Kingdom relied upon this doctrine as a basis for its military operations in Afghanistan post-11th September. Of course since then, since action can be much more instantaneous than it was in 1837, the doctrine has been developed. I actually had part of the national security strategy read out to me yesterday and I in turn read out some extracts which put it in what I thought was a more balanced context, the fact that the President was eschewing any idea of acting for unilateral interests in the United States and there is a very strong commitment to international organisations, above all, the United Nations. What September 11th has done has made us much more alive to possibilities of attacks against the civilised world coming from surprising sources in a surprising way and it raises the determination, above all, from the United States because they were the direct victim of the 11th September, to think about where these surprises may come from and to preempt them. I think that is eminently rational and again I refer colleagues here to what the Prime Minister said to the TUC a couple of weeks ago, that if he had made the speech which he made on September 11th 2001 on September 10th, he would not believe it, but preemption against the al-Qaeda would have been a very successful thing.

  53. But what happened in Afghanistan, one could argue after the event, after the act of aggression had taken place on September 11th, was a reaction to that. If we were to use the doctrine of pre-emptive self-defence or Article 51 of the Charter to justify military action in Iraq, it would be clear that so far no action actually has taken place, and it is that ----
  54. (Mr Straw) I am not going down that track, with great respect, back to where you would like to take me and I am reluctantly declining, which is to discuss a range of scenarios and legal advice. I am not going there. Let me just repeat the point that September 11th changed people's consciousness about the nature of threats and, therefore, any need for preemption. Should we have taken action against al-Qaeda if on September 10th we had discovered that there was even a 1 per cent chance of them doing that? Yes, for sure, and it would have been irresponsible of any government not to do so. Now, of course at the moment you do go for preemptive action, then people say there is only a zero per cent chance. You try not to latch on to zero chances, but I think that document needs to be read carefully and needs to be seen in the world of post-September 11th.

    Mr Olner

  55. Foreign Secretary, last December you told us that you had seen no evidence to link the Iraqi regime with Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda or the Taliban. The Dossier which was published yesterday and debated in Parliament is really silent on this point. Is there any linkage, do you think, between the War Against Terrorism and action against Iraq?
  56. (Mr Straw) Well, as I said this morning on the radio and I have not changed my mind since, no one has ever suggested that Saddam Hussein is directly behind the al-Qaeda organisation and I have never seen that suggested. Now, others may have seen that suggested, but I have not. I would then go on to say that given the fact that Saddam Hussein's regime has unquestionably been supportive of terrorist organisations in the Middle East, which it has, and given his hatred for the United States, which is visceral, it is reasonable to see that he has some sympathy with the al-Qaeda regime and, therefore, for us to look for evidence. Then I made other points about post-September 11th and then I say that nothing at least we have seen so far suggests that Iraq was involved in the September attacks, but we are investigating all reports of links and there may be some evidence which we are still investigating about whether there were post-September 11th.

  57. Given, as I say, that the situation then is not as clear-cut as we would like it, is there a danger that the West is really going to lose focus on the War Against Terrorism. Al-Qaeda is still out there, still putting out the threat and yet ----
  58. (Mr Straw) I do not see, Mr Olner, the War Against Terrorism and a war against rogue states like Iraq as alternatives, I see them as part of an overall strategy to remove or reduce threats that are posed. Be aware that although Iraq in some respects is the opposite of a failing state like Afghanistan because it has a very strong self-reliant authority structure, it also displays many of the characteristics common with failing states and one of those characteristics is its support for terrorism if it thinks it is in its interests. As I think colleagues here will know, Iraq is up to its neck in supporting terrorism against Israel without any question at all. Given the nature of the regime, if it ever saw opportunities to develop other terrorist networks on which it could rely it would do that and it would then be used against the West and for certain it would do so. I would have thought that was very straightforward and obvious. Dealing with the flagrant breach of international law by Iraq and then dealing with an equally flagrant breach of international law endorsed by terrorist organisations are part of a total comprehensive approach to ensuring that we live by international law.

    Sir John Stanley

  59. Foreign Secretary, you will have heard in the House yesterday my request to the Prime Minister for his assurance that the Government is continuing to give utmost priority to the detection and elimination of al-Qaeda and the Prime Minister replied "Yes indeed, we do". Can you give this Committee the opportunity here today to update us on what the British Government is doing, particularly from the Foreign Office standpoint, in the continuing efforts to detect and demolish the al-Qaeda organisation? We, of course, have seen the press reports of the elite United Nations document indicating that a substantial amount of the al-Qaeda fund raising network is still in tact. We are aware, again from press reports, of the number of leading al-Qaeda figures reported still at large and reports to indicate that outside Afghanistan the al-Qaeda network is still very much in being. Against that background it would be helpful, and obviously this is a public session at the moment, if you can in public terms update us on what you are doing to assist on the war against al-Qaeda.
  60. (Mr Straw) A great deal. I am going to ask Mr Ehrman to come in in a moment. Just to say that another way in which the international environment against terrorism has changed is by the passage of Security Council Resolution 13/73 and the establishment by that of the Committee Against Terrorism which is chaired by Sir Jeremy Greenstock, the United Kingdom's Ambassador to the United Nations. The Greenstock Committee has done a huge amount of very effective work in going through every Member State of the United Nations to check and cross-check on whether they have taken the action required of them under UNSCR 13/73 to counter terrorism. There is a range of actions which are laid down and this includes dealing with their funds. There is obviously continuing very active intra-intelligence agency, security agency co-operation. I will ask Mr Ehrman to come in.

    (Mr Ehrman) Thank you very much. There is continuing work obviously on the police side and the intelligence side and you will have seen reports recently of a number of arrests in Pakistan, in the United States, elsewhere, in Sweden, so there are continuing arrests, including of some important al-Qaeda members. The one in Pakistan recently was an important one. There is a lot of work going on on the cutting off of funds and within the EU we have been regularly meeting to put on a list those organisations which are banned, adding to it, adding individuals, so that all of the EU act against those organisations and individuals. There is also, as the Foreign Secretary has mentioned, flowing from the work in the United Nations a lot of work going on to assist states that need assisting to prevent terrorism, whether it be through aviation security, whether it be helping them with their financial controls, with their export controls, with their border controls. There is a lot of work going on and the United Kingdom is putting a lot of money into it to increase the safety of nuclear material around the world, particularly in Russia and the former Soviet Union states. It was announced at Kananaskis that up to 20 billion over ten years would be contributed to that and we announced that we will contribute $750 million over the ten years, so in all of these areas a great deal of work is going on.

    Mr Pope

  61. Can I first of all ask a quick question which follows on from the point that Mr Maples made about pre-emptive strikes. I am happy to accept the point that you made about the legality of such a situation, I have no problem with that, but it strikes me though if we and the US took pre-emptive action against Iraq on the ground that we felt our interests were threatened, that may be legal but would it not leave the credibility of the United Nations in tatters? Would that not be an extraordinary situation for the US and UK, founding forces behind the UN, to be in because essentially then we would have just ignored the international community?
  62. (Mr Straw) Can I say I was a bit bemused by the question from Mr Maples. I thought Mr Maples' question was prompted by the National Security Strategy published last week. The issue of pre or post-emption in respect of Iraq, I do not quite see the relevance. The issue is that here you have a regime which is in clear breach of an endless number of Security Council Resolutions requiring them to do certain things under Chapter 7, the mandatory chapter of the United Nations Charter, so it is not, it seems to me, in the categories of which you speak. The case for the world community saying "you are in material breach", which they are, and then saying "if you do not repair these material breaches military action will have to be taken in order to enforce the law of the international community" seems to be an overwhelming one and the question of pre-emption does not arise. I do not understand the nub of it.

  63. My point was I got the view from the American administration that if they felt that they were threatened they would act with or without the consent of the United Nations. The danger is that we would follow in behind that and that would in itself leave the authority of the United Nations damaged beyond repair and that would not be in our interests.
  64. (Mr Straw) If any nation feels that it is threatened in a direct way then under Article 51 it has an inherent right to take action pre-emptively. The United States has always acted in a manner which is consistent with international law, it just has. I just repeat the point that I made yesterday about President Bush's speech. I was there, I heard it. It was very warmly received by a very broad cross-section of the international community represented in the General Assembly and it was a very pro United Nations speech. Amongst other things the President announced that the United States would rejoin UNESCO. That has not received a great deal of coverage in this country but it is a very welcome move and quite unexpected. I think he was very positive about the United Nations but making the point that the United Nations has responsibilities and he wanted to see them take those responsibilities. I think that is a reasonable position to take.

  65. If I can just move on to talk about the nature of the threat that is posed by Iraq. In the Dossier that was published yesterday there is a helpful map showing the ranges of Iraq's current missile capability on page 31 and also its planned or potential missile capability. I noticed that with its al-Hussein missiles, of which it probably still has around 20, they are capable of reaching our Sovereign Military Bases in Cyprus.
  66. (Mr Straw) Yes.

  67. I thought that was a very interesting piece of evidence. What the Dossier does not show though is any intent to use those missiles. I just wondered what assessment you had made of Iraqi intent. Is it in your opinion specific to just, say, Israel, which I think is widely accepted, or is there a wider threat to British interests, including possibly our Sovereign Bases on Cyprus?
  68. (Mr Straw) The basic evidence of intent is what is in the book and it is that Iraq has not only attacked Israel in the past but it has used missiles against four other of its neighbours. Saudi Arabia, Iran, Kuwait and Turkey have all had missile attacks. This is not in the distant past but in the last two decades. Iraq has invaded two of its neighbours, Kuwait and Iran, in the last 20 years. This is why one can use the word "unique" advisedly, because no other country in the world has acted in this way. It is by the same very bad man at the head of this regime. As I said to one of my colleagues behind yesterday, one has no need to look in the crystal, it is there in the book. I will give a wider hearing to this excellent note. Saddam attacked our own forces in 1991. I think you have to work on the reasonable basis, which is our basis, that he has this material and indeed this is made clear in the course of the Dossier and all the intelligence underlines this, that he sees his arsenal and his military capability overall not just as for use in extremis as serving some deterrent capability in a passive way but they are much more actively to be used as part of his overall strategy for dominance in the region. That is why over 20 years he has acted so aggressively. Just look at the history of the Iran-Iraq war, why they ended up in that way. Look at what happened over Kuwait. The short story, and again it is brought out in the Dossier, is that he was tied up with the Shah, there was then the rebellion in Iran and, whatever one's views about it, a certainly more representative government was established in Tehran and he then realised he had backed the wrong horse and acted extremely aggressively towards them and then invaded their territory. There was this long, drawn out war in which over one million people died. He got nowhere except he had spent an awful lot of money and then he was concerned about the oil price and his own economy so then decided to invade Kuwait inventing some entirely spurious arguments about ancient maps showing Kuwait as part of Iraq. It is clear that this man is very aggressive, very evil and will not subscribe to the norms of behaviour nor the boundaries of how normal civilised states behave.

  69. Just one final follow-on question if I may. You mentioned the unique nature of the threat posed by Iraq and I just wonder how unique it is and whether it is unique at all. President Bush in the past has referred to an axis of evil. There are other countries in the world which have weapons of mass destruction and are developing missile capabilities, who do repress their own populations and are a threat to regional and possibly global stability. Do we intend to take action against those other countries in the axis of evil or are we just dealing with an isolated case of Iraq?
  70. (Mr Straw) I tried to deal with this yesterday in my speech but it necessarily had to be fairly brief. There are other countries which are proliferators mainly of nuclear weapons but some of chemical and biological weapons. What I said in the House was that our approach to Iraq is no different from our approach to them, our overall strategy, which is to wish to see them brought within the international pail where they sign up to treaties but we do not think they are enforcing them, to get them to enforce them in practice as well as just by the letter. How do you do that? Well, you start off by the diplomatic process and with every other country that is exactly where we are. We do have discussions, most active discussions, with India and Pakistan about the nature of their nuclear capability and the need for it to be safely held while it is passive and what could happen if it were used. As it were part of that discussion became public at the end of May when the United States and we were involved in very active diplomacy to assist both parties there to scale down the confrontation across the line of control and thankfully, touch wood, with some degree of success, I hope not temporarily. If you take the case of North Korea, North Korea is a proliferator, it is a manufacturer of ballistic missile systems that it will pass to anybody who is available with their ready cash, we wish to see their role as a proliferator ended. What is happening with North Korea is that there is a dialogue in place and other things happening as well. The Japanese Prime Minister has played a very important role in that dialogue, has been very courageous, a point that I was making to Mrs Yoriko Kawaguchi, the Foreign Minister of Japan, in a telephone conversation I had with her this morning. We have backed the role of the Japanese Prime Minister. I have agreed to upgrade our diplomatic representation in the North Korean capital, we have got a new ambassador who will be there next month, and we hope that this will lead to a change in the attitude of North Korea. People sometimes mention Iran. I am someone who has taken active steps to strengthen our diplomatic relations with Iran. Twice in the last year I have visited Iran. I had a very good meeting with my opposite number, Kamal Kharrazi, at the United Nations General Assembly. These are issues that are discussed with them. As long as you make progress through diplomatic channels, even slow progress, you should go down that route. The difficulty, indeed the impossibility with Iraq is that they refuse to do that.

    Mr Hamilton

  71. My concern is this, Foreign Secretary, that in order to back up any resolutions on Iraq to try and get rid of their weapons of mass destruction we have to have an international coalition and the Prime Minister and yourself yesterday in the House made that absolutely clear. My first question is what are we doing actively to get other countries on board for this international coalition because it looks to many people as if it is just the United States and the United Kingdom?
  72. (Mr Straw) Let me assure you that it is not. What are we doing? We are occasioning extremely active debates with other colleagues in the P5. The Prime Minister has spoken very recently to President Putin, to President Chirac and I have spoken at very considerable length to Igor Ivanov, to Dominique de Villepin and to Mr Tang, who are respectively the Russian, French and Chinese Foreign Ministers, and this dialogue continues as well as very active dialogue with other members of the Security Council. For example, I gave a lunch last Friday to the Mexican Foreign Minister - Mexico is a member of the Security Council - and a large part of that discussion was to do with Iraq and the position that the Mexican Government would take on various propositions before the Security Council. I saw the Australian Prime Minister, Mr John Howard, at lunch today and again Australia has an almost identical approach to this issue as us and, as you know, Australia, the United States and ourselves are intelligence partners as well. We do discuss this and we are discussing it all the time with every possible interlocutor.

  73. Can I have a follow-on, Chairman? We have discussed the possibilities, the basis for pre-emptive action and you have answered that very clearly but what if the United States decides that diplomacy is not working fast enough, that the coalition is not building quickly enough and that it feels it needs to take unilateral action? Would the United Kingdom support the US in that unilateral action?
  74. (Mr Straw) I am not going to get into that realm of speculation. Why not? Because President Bush made it crystal clear to the United Nations that he wants this issue dealt with by the United Nations Security Council, the principal organ of the United Nations. That is where it is at the moment. Everybody in the international community, I think, recognises that that is the best place for it. Let us hope that we can achieve an effective Security Council Resolution from it.

  75. I know you do not want to speculate but do you believe - you may not want to answer this - if the United States is not satisfied that the UN is going to back up its Resolution with a coalition of potential military force that it would go it alone?
  76. (Mr Straw) That is a question you have to put to the President of the United States rather than the Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom. What I know for certain is that the United States Government wishes to see this resolved by peaceful means. Alongside that of the United Kingdom and every other government in the world it wants to see the disarmament of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. I said yesterday, and I am happy to repeat it again, this is the position of the United Kingdom Government and it is also the position of the United States Administration. To repeat the point I made earlier, we are also of the view that the best way and most certain way of achieving that disarmament of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction by peaceful means is by preparing to use military action and if necessary using it. I think it is very important that Iraq gets that message, that that is what will happen if it does not comply with the will of the United Nations, the already stated will in all those Resolutions which have already been passed.

  77. Do you believe that preparedness for war in order to achieve peace is going to be effective in this case?
  78. (Mr Straw) You have to make no predictions about the behaviour of a dictator like Saddam Hussein. As somebody in the Chamber was pointing out yesterday, dictators are not always as rational as others but Saddam does seem to have quite an acute instinct for his own survival and that is why ----

  79. Why he is still there.
  80. (Mr Straw) I was going to say why he goes in for pre-emptory execution of political and personal rivals, sometimes doing it himself. The evidence up to now, and it was also the evidence in the early 1990s, is when he knows what the alternative is and clearly he has to stop playing games, he stops playing games. The early evidence from this process with his statement saying, and I do not believe but I quote, that he was ready to have the inspectors back unconditionally indicates that he has started to get worried. I think we may need to worry him quite a lot more. We want it resolved peacefully. I have made clear how I think we will get there, by clear resolution of the international community and by then presenting Saddam with a choice, a very clear choice, one he has to make.


  81. Foreign Secretary, in 1981 you will recall Israel bombed a nuclear reactor in Iraq. In the light of the development of the doctrine of pre-emptive self-defence would we still be joining in the chorus of disapproval of Israel?
  82. (Mr Straw) I am afraid I am not sufficiently familiar with the history of that. If you want me to offer you a definitive view I will write to you.

    Mr Maples

  83. I just wanted to explore with you in the three minutes we have got a little bit further the context in which this Iraq action has taken place because I am sure you will agree it is not the only security issue the West faces in the Gulf or the Middle East for that matter, particularly in the context of al-Qaeda and terrorism which seems to be at least financed and has grown largely out of Saudi Arabia and you yourself have talked about what you are doing with Iran on the other side of the Gulf. What I am interested in is very briefly - we have not got long to explore this - what Britain is doing in other countries in the Gulf to make sure that the action we might or might not take in Iraq ----
  84. (Mr Straw) Other countries in?

  85. In the Gulf.
  86. (Mr Straw) We are working actively with the other countries in that region. I may ask Mr Chaplin to come in on this. There is a profound difference between the other countries in the Middle East and Iraq which is that it is possible to have proper diplomatic relations. I do not just mean by having ambassadors there but by having intensive diplomatic dialogue. Mr Chaplin?

    (Mr Chaplin) I think all the countries in the Gulf do regard Saddam Hussein, given the history of 1991, as a threat. Of course they may differ in how they think we should deal with it. Whenever you talk to them about it they will also remind us that there is another dispute going on in the Middle East which they think should receive equal attention and I think the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary dealt with those points yesterday in the debate. Yes, there is an ongoing dialogue and always has been, for example, about sanctions enforcement in all the countries surrounding Iraq to try to make sure that the sanctions regime is as effective as possible.

    Chairman: We have one minute, Foreign Secretary. Mr Mackinlay is going to ask one very crisp question.

    Andrew Mackinlay

  87. It seems to me listening to the replies to myself, John Maples and Greg that Iraq is definitely in breach of international law and in breach of these Chapter 7 Resolutions. It seems to me the wider point is with your colleagues around the world big players now both in respect of this and other potential areas where there might be Chapter 7 Resolutions as well as agreeing the wording about what must be done in a Chapter 7 Resolution are you saying that we need to have the extra bit giving constabulary powers, if you like, to whoever? It seems that is the void. The danger is that over the past 50 years people have passed Chapter 7 Resolutions without going to the next bit saying how we are going to enforce. That is the nub now. We are all satisfied that he is in breach of international law but what we are dancing on is how, whom and when is there a specific mandate to come along as the sheriff, the marshal or the police officer?
  88. (Mr Straw) It is quite a long question and I will make the answer very short. It is an important point to come back to. There have not been that many Chapter 7 Resolutions because we would not have had consensus within the Security Council for them. Of course there is an issue about enforcement which comes because the enforcement of the will of the international community depends by definition, given the current structure of the international community, on the armed forces of individual nation states working either individually or in a coalition. That is the conundrum. As long as the international community is not made up of one government but a series of sovereign states (for euro-sceptics around, long may that continue) that is a circle we are going to have to square. Producing a greater degree of authority into the international system and ensuring, if you like, there is more effective what you call constabulary powers and that consequences flow more quickly is a very important challenge for the international community.


  89. Foreign Secretary, the Prime Minister talked of keeping in touch and as a Committee we aim to keep in touch. There may be one or two questions arising from this that we will put by way of letter to you. May I, on behalf of the Committee, thank you and your colleagues for coming today.

(Mr Straw) Thank you very much. Anyway, it is your call as to whether I come but it goes without saying that I am always very happy to come back as often as you wish.

Chairman: We will call often. Thank you.