TUESDAY 29 APRIL 2003
Donald Anderson, in the Chair
RT HON JACK STRAW, a Member of the House, Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, MR PETER RICKETTS CMG, Director General, Political, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, MR EDWARD OAKDEN CMG, Director, International Security, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, examined.
(Mr Straw) Yes, it was. It is regrettable, but it is a simple fact that whenever a regime has collapsed and that has been followed by a vacuum then almost always that has been accompanied by disorder and looting. I think it is hard to think of an occasion where there has been such a complete collapse of any kind of government when such looting and disorder has not followed.
(Mr Straw) Yes, it was anticipated. The thing that happened more quickly than was anticipated was the collapse of the regime. The working assumption had been that the Iraqi Government, particularly their regular forces, the revolutionary guard and the special revolutionary guard, would be better organised, have better command and control and put up much more of a fight than they did. During the period after 18 March until the collapse of Baghdad three weeks ago tomorrow in the daily briefings and War Cabinets we had many serious discussions about what had happened to the revolutionary guards and the special revolutionary guards and when they were going to counter-attack and, as it happened, they did not in any great number, so the collapse happened more quickly than anticipated.
(Mr Straw) No one is at fault, it is just an inevitable consequence of that kind of warfare. It is greatly to be regretted that there was disorder and looting on that scale. If anybody is at fault, it was the fault of the Saddam regime for there being so little consent and natural law and order in the country. You smile at this but it happens to be true because the reason we are, as were other Western democracies, able to police ourselves with such a light touch is because people on the whole police themselves. That is why police officers are not routinely armed, because there is a natural consent for order and a readiness by the populace itself to support the police. What was extraordinary was the extent to which what order was there in Iraq was there imposed only through terror and not through any consent. If you took the terror away you then got a collapse. If you compare this degree of disorder and looting with other similar collapses then it was relatively small and it was got under control relatively quickly. It does not excuse it, but it was one of the realities of that collapse.
(Mr Straw) If it is the press conference I am thinking about I would not share the description that you give of Mr Rumsfeld's view about this. I just repeat my point that what order was in Iraq was imposed by terror. People had no history of consent and it took some time to establish a new order. We were in Basra and the south-east sector rather earlier than the American troops were in Baghdad. There was looting and disorder initially at the British sector but it was quickly got under control and we then managed to get the police on side, but as I told the House yesterday, quite quickly the US were able to build up a relationship with the ordinary Baghdad policemen and 2,000 are now undertaking joint patrols and you will have seen far fewer pictures and stories of looting and disorder.
(Mr Straw) Sorry, whose scepticism are we talking about?
(Mr Straw) Let us be clear, there are a number of people who thought that the military action would take a very long time, there would be very large numbers of casualties and so on, some people here thought that and they are entitled to their view, but that has not happened and they will have to re-examine their own judgments and in the course of re-examining the judgments, which may just turn out to be inaccurate, they are bound to alight on the next thing that they think is going to fail and we are seeing that process take place now. In all the discussions I have had with American interlocutors I have never heard the phrase Western style democracy being used. There is sometimes an assumption, although not from you, that the Americans have no sense of how the world operates outside its own shores, but that is simply not the case. They have got a very sophisticated international relations establishment, sophisticated diplomats and they fully understand that the kind of democracy you can have operating inside Iraq will not be just a replication of the kind of democracy we have in Western Europe or they have in the United States, but the principles of democracy are not western, eastern, northern or southern, they are universal and it is having those principles applied within Iraq which is crucial, but they must be applied in such a way that takes account of Iraq's own tradition, culture and, above all, religion just as in Europe our own democracy also takes account of our culture, tradition and religion.
(Mr Straw) Bear in mind, first of all, that mosques differ in their denominations and persuasions, that is point one. Point two, there is quite a secular tradition in Iraq and that well pre-dates Saddam Hussein. It is a relatively advanced country with a large urban and middle class and yes, what we are seeing now, as we saw yesterday in the meeting in Baghdad, the so-called Nasiriyah II meeting, is the beginning of the development of political parties, some which will be based on religious groups, others not. It is also just worth bearing in mind before we, if I may say so, Chairman, adopt a superior attitude to the relationship between religion and politics in this country that around Europe there are a large number of parties which have an explicit association with a particular church, they are called Christian Democrat parties. They are there and they have had a long tradition to that effect. There are some countries in Europe which until very recently had the most explicit association with a particular church written into their constitution. So this is not something which is unknown to us. In Europe we have been able to develop principles of democracy alongside respect for our own religious traditions and in some cases giving particular authority to particular church establishments in doing so and yet these democracies have developed and I anticipate that if we get things right in Iraq we can get a similar development.
(Mr Straw) I am not making any necessary assumptions there. I was about to use the adjective naive but I withdraw that. I think it is an error to assume that because people are Shia they are therefore of one view or because they are Sunni they are therefore of one view. Bear in mind that the Kurds are Sunni, but amongst the Kurds they have had a couple of political parties and they were fighting each other until a few years ago and they are relatively united now. The Baath Party was Sunni but they were not exactly an alliance.
Sir Patrick Cormack
(Mr Straw) It is a matter of very great regret both by the American commanders and by ourselves that this happened, but I am afraid it was a casualty of warfare. The problem that the United States forces faced in Baghdad, albeit that the regime collapsed more quickly than anticipated - and to some extent because the regime collapsed more quickly than anticipated they then had to move into a vacuum which was left by the departure, disappearance, evaporation of the Iraqi troops - was that the American commanders then had to be satisfied that the environment on the streets was a sufficiently safe one for their own soldiers to get out of their armoured personnel carriers and tanks and onto the streets. If they declared a particular sector of Baghdad safe, their soldiers got out on the streets and the soldiers got shot dead then that obviously meant that they resorted to safer tactics until they were sure that the area was secure. Obviously the first priority was for them to secure the hospitals and other essential services. You may recall, Sir Patrick, that there was one occasion where the American troops did indeed get out of their APCs and tanks in order to provide paramilitary policing of a hospital and at least one of these soldiers who was simply on patrol trying to safeguard the hospital was shot dead as he stood there. In those situations commanders are going to order their troops to get back into their APCs. That is part of what happened. For more detail you would have to ask the American commanders.
(Mr Straw) Sure.
(Mr Straw) I do not have those specific lists to hand, but I am happy to provide a supplementary memorandum, Chairman, to the Committee. What I can say is that I know this is a matter of great concern to the American administration at every level, they regret it and aside from anything else, it has not been a good story, of course not. Since Mesopotamia was the source of much of our civilisation, it was also the source of much American civilisation as well, so there are the same linkages. As I told the Commons yesterday, Tessa Jowell, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and her Department are taking a lead in this. They are concerned to provide as much support as they can to the relevant authorities in Bagdad. There was a meeting in our British Museum yesterday or today which is looking at further ways in which the salvaging of what is left and the rebuilding of the museum could be taken forward.
(Mr Straw) You have my assurance about the priority we attach to it. On the issue of resources, we will do everything we can. I cannot make decisions on behalf of other ministers here before this Committee.
(Mr Straw) Yes.
(Mr Straw) That is something which is obviously extremely important and should emerge from the process of the formation of an interim administration and then a government which began nationally at Nasiriyah some two weeks ago and had its second stage yesterday in Baghdad. Again, it is worth my reemphasising a point which I made in the Commons yesterday, which is that it is now only 20 days since Bagdad fell and in that period we got through very quickly the period of, yes, highly regrettable looting and disorder. A degree of policing has been established which in some areas is very effective and in other areas less effective, but it has been established. Schools are reopening, hospitals are restarting and now being pretty adequately supplied. You have got field hospitals supplied by Saudi Arabia and Jordan which have been established. When I was in Riyadh two weeks ago I talked to Crown Prince Abdullah and to Prince Saud, the Foreign Minister, about what they were doing to support humanitarian relief in their neighbour country, Iraq, a country with whom at long last they are looking forward to establishing good relations. You have got this process of building governance. Given the international community's imperative to maintain and respect the territorial integrity of Iraq and given within the Iraqi borders you have such disparate communities which are from different denominations and traditions within Islam and then you have Jewish and Christian traditions well represented as well, we are clear that it will be imperative that in the formation of government and democracy there has to be proper freedom of religion and worship allowed, but I think there will be.
(Mr Straw) Yes.
(Mr Straw) About 250 delegates attended, which is four times the number who attended the original meeting in Nasiriyah. They were generally regarded as second tier representatives because a deliberate decision was made by the US-UK to try and not have the conference dominated by "names", which could have led to separate stories and I think that was a wise move. It brought together a broader range of Iraqi participants including opposition exile groups and those who were newly liberated. It did not set up - there was suggestions that it might do but we certainly thought this would have been premature - an interim Iraqi authority, but it is part of a consultation process which will eventually lead to a Baghdad conference for the establishment of an IIA about which I spoke in a major speech I gave a few weeks ago. That is where we are there. It was pretty broadly representative and there will be further meetings both at a national level but also at a local level. One of the things I am proud of is that it was the British forces in the Basra sector who got going the model of local consultations in Basra itself and townships which is a model which has been rolled out across the country.
(Mr Straw) There has not been that I have been aware of, no.
(Mr Straw) Yes, of course. First of all, the United Nations is playing a central role in humanitarian relief and, as I told the House yesterday, their own office is about to declare the whole of Iraq south of Baghdad as permissive and that is the stage before they declare it completely safe as an area in which the United Nations, its agencies and NGOs can operate, but it is pretty safe now. The United Nations and the International Commission for the Red Cross and other organisations are very active in providing humanitarian assistance. The Oil for Food programme resolutions have been rolled over on two occasions now, what was Resolution 1472 and then last week 1476, so there has been a good process of consultation inside the Security Council and 1476 will expire on 3 June, so there will be discussions in the last couple of weeks of next month with a view to deciding what further regime there is for Oil for Food in the weeks and months after that. That is one area where the UN is already very actively involved. The Secretary General, Kofi Annan, has appointed a special adviser to him on Iraq and at the summit in Athens just under two weeks ago Kofi Annan had discussions with a number of Heads of Government including the British Prime Minister and with a group of five Foreign Ministers from the Security Council, Spain, Germany, France, UK, Bulgaria and, as it happened, Igor Ivanov from Russia, who was there for the consultation, about the future role of the UN. Other areas where the UN should be able to play an important role include support for the new governance of Iraq, working with the coalition in support of the Iraqi people. There are the issues I spelt out yesterday about the future of the sanctions policy which we will have to sort out and associated with that is Title II oil revenues, the recognition and protection of Iraq's territorial integrity and the role of the international financial institutions. So there is a wide range of subjects for the UN to be involved in. Precisely how the role develops does not just depend, however, on the view of the United States and the United Kingdom but on the other 13 members present in the Security Council and critically on the other three permanent members. If we are able to secure a co-operative and constructive environment within the Security Council then there will be one hopefully benign conclusion from the discussions. On the other hand, if we cannot then there will be another, but we hope very much for the former.
(Mr Straw) First of all, may I say that I am trying to find out what happened to prevent the attendance of this particular woman delegate. That point was raised with me in a phone call this morning by Patricia Hewitt, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry who also has responsibility for women's policies. Secondly, we had Security Council Resolution 13 to 25 passed not so long ago which is a clear injunction on all Member States to ensure the full participation of women at all levels of government inside our own countries. That is an imperative for Iraqi people for the interim authority when it is formed as well as for the United States and United Kingdom. We are doing everything we can to work this in and will continue to do so. Even in this country some organisations are more successful than others in ensuring the proper representation of women within their organisations and even an organisation that I can think of which has been successful has only got 25 per cent representation in Parliament, not the 50 per cent we are looking for.
(Mr Straw) Sure.
(Mr Straw) I did not hear the interview. I am hardly slow in coming forward to do radio interviews.
Sir Patrick Cormack
(Mr Straw) I cannot answer. Although I am busy, let me just say that I regard ensuring that there is a decent representation from women within any future government arrangements in Iraq as almost as important as the need to ensure a good balance between the different communities.
Mr Hamilton: Thank you, that answers my question.
(Mr Straw) Yes, Mr Maples, but what I say is that these things were anticipated, for sure, but it is the nature of armed conflict that what happens does not follow a neat sequence and war is a disorderly process. That is just true and the only certainty about warfare is that the unexpected happens, and within a huge city like Baghdad, it is not possible to anticipate with precision where the problems will come from. Indeed the whole point about warfare is to be as unexpected as you can to the enemy, so it makes for difficulties for all sides.
(Mr Straw) Yes, there was a plan and of course it was anticipated that we would need to get water and electricity running again. I may say that huge efforts were made by the coalition to avoid damage to these essential facilities and to the extent that they were taken out, I think future analysis will show that it was much more likely due to action by the Saddam regime than it was by the coalition. Because of the improvements in technology of aerial warfare, the targeting this time was much more accurate than it was in 1991 and in the targeting discussions in which I was involved over many months before the military action actually took place, we were down to the detail of, "Did you take out this particular electricity sub-station and what was attached to it?" and so on and very great care associated with that not only to minimise civilian deaths and casualties, but also to minimise the disruption to civilian life which would be caused by breaking up water or electricity supplies. In Basra which (a) is a smaller city than Baghdad and (b) we got to more quickly than the Americans got to Baghdad because it is closer to Kuwait, good progress has been made on the restoration of services, very good progress, and that is best illustrated by the fact that you are not seeing any stories on the television now suggesting the opposite. In addition to that, as I told the House yesterday, in some respects the position in that region is better than it was before the military action started. The waterway into Umm Qasr port is now being dredged to take larger-tonnage vessels than before and British military engineers have reopened the railway between Umm Qasr and Basra which had been lying unused for some time, indeed some years before the Saddam regime and they are intending to open the line from Basra to Baghdad.
(Mr Straw) I think I have answered the question about the immediate problem of disorder and looting. It is a matter of regret. In a more perfect world there would have been a benign environment more quickly, but that was not the reality. There was simply a reality on the ground which had to be dealt with. It was not in anybody's interest, least of all the coalition forces', that there should have been that disorder, or that the museum should have been looted, that hospitals should have been attacked or that ministries should be left unguarded, but commanders on the ground had to make the decisions which they felt it necessary to make, both to secure, first of all, the safety of their own troops and then to ensure military success before they could then move on to do other, as it were, semi-civilian duties. As far as General Garner is concerned, I saw him in Kuwait two weeks ago yesterday. When I saw him it had been only five days after the fall of Baghdad the previous Wednesday. Actually that meeting I had with him had to be re-arranged and foreshortened because he was about to go to Nasiriyah where we had the first meeting, so he was already into Iraq, but he could not go as a civilian into Baghdad until he was confident that the premises they were going to open up in Baghdad were going to be safe, and not just safe from formal military action by the remnants of Iraqi forces, but also safe from guerilla warfare and so on, but he went as quickly as possible. In terms of other collapses of other regimes, I think the coalition has acted pretty speedily and I think in retrospect so it will be seen.
Sir John Stanley
(Mr Straw) There is a very wide difference between a state which calls itself Islamic and a dictatorship, so our position is that we do not wish to see another dictatorship established for sure. The democratic state we do wish to see established because we believe, and I believe very strongly, that the idea of democracy is in the hearts, minds and souls of men and women of every religion across the world, that kind of state will certainly be one which has respect for its majority religion which is Islam. There are other countries around the world which call themselves Islamic, but where there are peaceful changes of government and democratic elections and we are seeing the emergence and development of such states as well. Sometimes it is a painful process, but you do see this and it is something that we have to encourage.
(Mr Straw) No, I do not and I think that the diversity of Iraq is such that that will be avoided. It is a diverse country. It is ethnically and religiously diverse and what we have to do is to nurture the development of a pluralist democracy, but one which, as I say, takes account of Iraq's own traditions and has respect for Iraq's dominant religion as well as allowing for religious worship by the minorities.
(Mr Straw) What we have to do is to work on processes and institution-building which provide the circumstances in which democracy could operate. As I said earlier in answer to the Chairman, Iraqis are sophisticated people and they have quite an extensive middle class, a relatively good education system, a lot of very, very bright Iraqis outside Iraq who I think will go back to Iraq. For sure, there will be serious challenges ahead and it will be some time before you have a perfectly functioning democracy, just as it has been some time in other countries without Iraq's bloody history, but I am absolutely convinced that the future for Iraq and the Iraqis will be infinitely better than its recent past and also that if we in the international community work effectively hard and stay with the Iraqis, they will be able to rebuild institutions there and build new institutions as well.
(Mr Straw) No, I think it is actually very sensible that in the immediate period post the military action, we should have had a senior serving military officer in that post. Why? Because what we are dealing with in the immediate period is the transition between the military environment and a civilian one and I happen to believe that the British military are very well equipped and experienced to deal with that kind of transition and to deal with a shift from high-intensity to low-intensity warfare and then to a paramilitary policing environment. Tim Cross, as I say, is experienced. I had very good conversations with him when I was in Kuwait a couple of weeks ago. I think he will do a very good job and he is supported by number of civilians, quite a number from my Department, from DFID and from other departments as well. In the UK Government, we are able to work pretty seamlessly. I chair a Cabinet committee on Iraq looking at a wide range of issues and bringing government departments together. May I also, however, Mr Chairman, just say that we have had plans in hand to establish a British office, which will be the precursor to a British embassy in Baghdad. We have got the physical elements of that office in transportable form in Kuwait and we have got staff identified, so when we judge the security situation to be acceptable, this British office will move up to Baghdad and we will have obviously a larger and more substantial presence in Baghdad.
(Mr Straw) No. I think, with a bit of luck, Mr Chaplin is in the office.
(Mr Straw) He was present at the Nasiriyah meeting two weeks ago. At yesterday's meeting there was Mike O'Brien, our parliamentary colleague, one of the Foreign Office ministers, and Dominic Chilcot, who has been running the Iraq planning unit as well as Mr Chaplin.
(Mr Straw) We are working very collaboratively with our US friends and we have been right from the start of this. We have a number of Foreign Office, DFID and other British Government department staff working inside ORHA itself, the organisation headed up by Jay Garner. Some of those are now in Baghdad in the ORHA office. I met most of the British contingent when I was in Kuwait two weeks ago, so they are there anyway. Then separately there are advanced plans for us to establish a British office to represent the United Kingdom and the British Government in Baghdad as a nucleus of a British embassy once there is an Iraqi Government to which this embassy could be accredited.
(Mr Straw) We do have senior people in Iraq now.
(Mr Straw) As I say, Dominic Chilcot is there. We have got people who are ready to go to form the nucleus of a British office. If you are asking me whether I am satisfied with the degree of representation of the United Kingdom in Iraq as well as in Qatar and Kuwait, the answer to that is yes.
Sir Patrick Cormack
(Mr Straw) One of the consequences, Sir Patrick, of your suggestion, which did not fall on deaf ears, was that Mike O'Brien attended yesterday's meeting in Baghdad rather than simply a senior official. That is in no sense, let me say, any criticism of the officials, but in recognition by us and by the officials that ministers can play a role which officials cannot necessarily play. You are right about the fact that there need to be resident ministers. I think there was a resident minister in Cairo in the War, but these circumstances are a bit different from that. Also it is easier for people to go back and forth these days than it was during the War, so I think to have a resident British minister in Baghdad would look as though we were a government in occupation of Iraq, which we are not. Will there be effective, hands-on representation at a ministerial as well as official level of the British Government in the reconstruction, rebuilding and new governance of Iraq? Yes.
(Mr Straw) Yes.
(Mr Straw) As far as that is concerned, when these demonstrations first started to take place, I said "Good". This is called democracy. There are plenty of people here, at least on this side of the table ----
(Mr Straw) I have been on more recent demonstrations, Mr Mackinlay! In fact I remember one in the rain straight outside this building about something dastardly the previous Conservative Government had done!
(Mr Straw) No, we were not demonstrating for that, I do remember that! We were demonstrating against what we felt was Sharia law by the previous Conservative Government! Anyway, that is another story. So far as these demonstrations are concerned, free demonstrations, provided they are non-violent, they are a good indication of a country's freedom and it is good that people feel, after all these years of tyranny when if those Shiites had sought to protest their religion and their particular traditions, they would have been tortured, jailed or killed, it is very good that this has happened. Now, on the issue of Sharia law, again what I would say is that it is very, very important that we should not make generalisations about Islam or Sharia law and there are some Islamic countries in the world which are developing democracies which of course take account of the religious influence in their law, but which are functioning democracies. There are other Islamic countries in the world which have judicial practices which we do not find acceptable, but we should not judge peoples or traditions by labels. We should also bear in mind that our own legal system within Europe owes far more to Judaeo-Christian traditions than it does to any secular philosophers or jurisprudential traditions, so we need to recognise how strongly our society has been influenced by religion. Let us just bear in mind that every day in Parliament there are prayers for the Parliament by the chaplain to the House of Commons who is there to represent the Church by law established. Bear in mind too that one of my solemn duties as Home Secretary was to go to Buckingham Palace about once a month to officiate at the oath of homage which new Anglican bishops had to make to Her Majesty on an oath written by Henry VIII, so we are not a completely secular state and we have a history too.
Chairman: We need a Pope at this stage!
(Mr Straw) Mr Pope, I think it is to be expected that the search for these weapons and for further evidence is not going to be something which is going to happen quickly. Let's be clear about this, that the evidence of the threat and the scale of Iraq's chemical and biological weapons programmes was overwhelming and it was so strong that the world community themselves entirely voluntarily passed Resolution 1441 on the 8th November and that resolution begins with the statement that, "The Security Council recognises the threat that Iraq's non-compliance with Council resolutions and its proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles poses to international peace and security". There was sufficient evidence to satisfy the Security Council of that as of the 8th November of last year. It is extremely important that we do not just go into some kind of collective amnesia here. The evidence about these programmes, as I say, is overwhelming. It is charted in the 173 pages of the unanswered disarmament questions, unresolved disarmament issues, Iraq's proscribed weapons programmes which UNMOVIC laid before the Security Council late on Friday 7th March, so it is all there. Along with this evidence, there is all sorts of additional circumstantial evidence. There was in addition during the military action the discovery of the chemical protection suits and the antidote, atropine, which was found in possession of the Iraqis. They would not have had either of those if they had not been anticipating their use of chemical and biological weapons because the one thing they knew for certain was that none of the coalition was going to use them. That is the current position. A lot of effort is going into finding further evidence, but this is not about finding evidence as opposed to there not being any evidence. The evidence was and remains overwhelming and we are looking for further evidence.
(Mr Straw) It is actually UNMOVIC, Hans Blix who has recognised that the current environment in Iraq is not one in which UNMOVIC inspectors can themselves operate. As I spelled out to the House yesterday, the head of UNMOVIC, Hans Blix, in a statement to the Security Council last week, said, "In a situation that is still insecure, civilian international inspection can hardly operate". He went on, "Some of the premises on which the Security Council established UNMOVIC and gave it far-reaching powers have changed", so for sure that was the case. On the issue of verification and a role for UNMOVIC, that is obviously one of the subjects we are discussing with all of our partners in the Security Council, including the United States. What role is established for UNMOVIC will depend on the outcome of discussions in the Security Council and that in turn depends on whether there is a constructive environment for those discussions or whether we end up by getting bogged down week after week after week in pretty unconstructive discussions without producing a resolution. I cannot say that I am looking forward to an environment like that. I was backwards and forwards to New York in the early part of this year and that process did not do the United Nations any good, but it does depend, as I say, on what role is finally pinned down for the United Nations and its agencies. It does not just depend on the sentiment of the US and the UK, but it depends on the willingness of other parties to reach a constructive agreement. I am quite clear that President Bush and our own Prime Minister Blair meant what they said when they said at Hillsborough that they wanted a vital role for the UN. Now, on the issue of verification, I would just make these observations. First of all, in practice, regardless of where UNMOVIC are sited, the initial finds of any WMD, either direct evidence of chemical biological weapons or materials or evidence of documentation or interviews, will come from the coalition forces, and that is the environment in which they are working, so a lot of that is being made to ensure the integrity of their work and that will continue. Secondly, UNMOVIC itself, as I understand it, did not have laboratories itself to provide for verification, so whether a particular substance was a sarin or was a pesticide, they used a number of independent laboratories and it is highly probable that those independent, third-country laboratories would be used in any event. So I understand the case, of course I do, for having UNMOVIC involved. Of course I understand it, but it is as much a question of how this appears as it is a matter of the realities of the inspection and verification process.
(Mr Straw) Discussions with the United States and other colleagues continue. I would also say that it is extremely important that it is not implied that we are in a situation where there was no evidence of the WMD Programme. The evidence is here of the intent of the Iraqi regime before this military action was taken, I put it before the House of Commons. There is also evidence there from the conduct of the Iraqi regime, why did they kick out the weapons inspectors at the end of 1988 if they had nothing to hide? Why did they refuse to cooperate with the Security Council after the passage of the Security Council resolution 1284, establishing UNMOVIC, and continue to refuse to cooperate? We got 1441 through with greater powers and backed that with the threat of military force. Even when the inspectors went in they continued to refuse to cooperate. For example, in respect of a crucial source of evidence, interviews with scientists, they locked up some of the scientists and when UNMOVIC first sought interviews with named scientists the Iraqi Government insisted that five Iraqi Government minders should come along with those scientists. In the end after negotiating, which Blix was involved in, they got that down to one, but there still should not have been anybody there. Despite the clear powers of the inspectors throughout that period, from the passage of 1444 on 8 November until military action was taken on 18 March, they refused real cooperation with the interviews of the scientists and not a single scientist was interviewed in a complete, free environment outside Iraq because of the Iraqi Government's intimidation of those scientists and their families. If they had nothing to hide why on earth were they going for that kind of behaviour? The evidence against them was overwhelming. I hope we will find further evidence, but there is no need to look at the crystal because people can see it in the book.
(Mr Straw) I am afraid that is one of the many reasons why it is regrettable that disorder had broken out because such things are possible. It is the nature of chemical and biological weapons programmes that they are pretty easy to conceal. The Iraqis found it far more difficult to conceal their missile programme, which is why they had to confess, only under pressure, to holding a number of missiles. Let us also make it clear it came out as a result of UNMOVIC's own enquiries that these missiles were being used for greater than the range which is allowed and they had testing facilities. If I can give one example, if you read the UNMOVIC document - which I am sure you have, Mr Pope, because I put it before the House on 10 March - in the section relating to anthrax you will see on page 98 they said: "Based on all of the available evidence the strong presumption is that about 10,000 litres of anthrax was not destroyed and may still exist". That is a very strong presumption. 10,000 litres is a very large amount of anthrax and would be deadly for millions and millions of people. Just to give you an idea of the size of 10,000 litres, a normal petrol tanker can hold 30,000 litres, so what we are talking about here is about one third of a petrol tanker hidden in a country twice the size of France.
Mr Pope: I was saying that had been quoted in the American press, it had been quoted by the American Government. Douglas J Feith, the Under Secretary of State for Defence was saying there were concerns that some of the weapons of mass destruction ---
(Mr Straw) Yes, in certain cases. There is a difference between the humanitarian organisation that is operating on roads and in what are plainly civilian areas and people having to look for WMD material in military facilities, areas that could be land-mined, and so on. There are very big differences.
Sir John Stanley
(Mr Straw) I do not have that anxiety at all, it was not fought on a false prospectus full stop. I have already answered that, Sir John, by saying that one does not have to look into the crystal we can read the evidence in the book. It is here. What the Prime Minister said on 18 March was absolutely accurate. That statement about all of the unaccounted for material and programmes derived from UNSCON's last report made to the Security Council at the end of January 1999, it was then explained to the Security Council why they had a continuing need to remain as inspectors because of all of the unanswered questions still before the Iraqis. You know what the story was. Those inspectors' lives were made so difficult they had to leave. That is what happened. All of these issues, and many more were unaccounted for. It was that report, plus other evidence which the new inspectors built up on, what they had discovered had happened from 1999, that led to this 173 page report.
(Mr Straw) What you are asking me to make a judgment about there is what the Saddam regime has been doing in respect of this material since last summer, and particularly since the military action commenced. I hope very much that the results of the most intensive enquiries that we are making with an awful lot of expert people is to pin down what has happened to them. Has it existed? Yes, without any question. Do we know where it is at the moment? No, because otherwise we would have gone and found it. Sir John, you were a Northern Ireland minister, you talk about this quantity of material, you will know from your experience that the provisional IRA had very extensive material armaments available to them and these are still in dumps, the whereabouts of which we do not know despite the fact there have been thousands and thousands of UK security personnel and police combing a country which is tiny compared to Iraq, with a tiny population compared to Iraq. We have had very good intelligence cover of this country with a lot of agents and despite all of that we still do not know where those weapons are hidden, however we do know that the weapons exist.
(Mr Straw) That is not a matter on which I can speculate. The answer to your question varies from different materials, some are extremely easy to conceal and some are less easy to conceal.
(Mr Straw) Ditto in terms of destroy as well. That is one of the questions which is being looked at at the moment. I cannot speculate on that, sorry.
(Mr Straw) Yes.
(Mr Straw) There have been some suggestions in some of the intelligence, but no more than that.
Sir Patrick Cormack
(Mr Straw) I think, Sir Patrick, I am going to have to write to the Committee on that. I would like to say something about that but I am not as informed as I should be.
(Mr Oakden) I have seen the press reports to which you refer on Iraq and al-Qaeda and I do not think they are anything like as definite as some of the press reporting has suggested. Obviously we are looking at that.
(Mr Straw) Just to come back to your question, you asked me about the effect of the military action in Iraq against the Saddam regime and its effects more generally on the war against terrorism. I think the effects are completely benign. There were people who said that, amongst other arguments, military action against Iraq should not be taken because it would be a diversion from the war against terror. I have never understood that argument, that you should not do one thing that was right because this could somehow stop you doing another thing that was also right. It was logically and strategically inconsistent. One of the things that we know now without any doubt whatsoever about the Saddam regime is it was actively funding, supplying and supporting terrorist organisations operating within Israel and the occupied territories and paying, for example, the families of suicide bombers, and so on. Removing the regime has already helped to improve the overall security environment within Israel and the occupied territories. It has also enabled us to begin a more vigorous discussion about the support for such terrorist organisations by other countries in the region.
(Mr Straw) I cannot say whether it is already discernible, but plainly since the regime that has been supporting a large part of the terrorism has been removed it is bound to have a good rather than a less good effect.
(Mr Straw) I will write to the Committee in any case.
(Mr Straw) I do not think the 30 year rule appears to be operating very successfully within the Baghdad ministry at the moment.
(Mr Straw) May I first say that I have seen no such evidence myself, let me make that quite clear. Secondly, I am in favour of disclosure and openness, as you will know, Mr Mackinlay, and of publishing White Papers. It is a serious point. I am always happy to consider the publication of White Papers. Let me make it quite clear, you make suggestions about other EU countries, I see no evidence at all of the kind of evidence you suggest of any other EU country.
(Mr Straw) You touch on a really important point, it was not the reason for taking the military action but it is an important consequence. Mr Anderson, this is an issue that we need to elaborate in a further session rather than the last six minutes of this session. Events since September 11 in respect of Afghanistan, terrorism, rogue states and Iraq raise very large questions about the underlying assumptions of international relations and on which international relations have been based historically since the Peace of Westphalia in the middle of the 17th century. Essentially those assumptions were that the best guarantor of peace and security was to respect the territorial integrity of sovereign states, what the states did within their territory was a matter for them however terrible it was, however what they did with other international states was a matter for the international community. Those principles are strongly stated in the United Nations Charter. It is my belief we have to begin a discussion about how those principles are revisited in the modern environment because of threats posed other than by normally functioning sovereign states, posed by rouge states, posed by international terrorism, posed by others who are acting in an extremely oppressive way. I do not give the answers. Any changes will have to have international consent but we have to recognise the fact that the world has changed and your point about how we prevent future Saddams is a really important one. One way we prevent them is by example.
Andrew Mackinlay: As time is limited can I go on to talk a little bit about Russia.
(Mr Straw) My diary said very specifically 4.30.
(Mr Straw) I just have. Normally these arrangements are very clear on both sides.
(Mr Straw) My diary was implicit it was 4.30. Can we say I will finish at 4.45 and if necessary we will come back. Sorry about that, that was the clear understanding that I had.
(Mr Ricketts) Mr Mackinlay, as you recall in Kananaskis last year there was a big commitment undertaken by the G8 heads of Government for 10 billion from the United States and 10 billion from the other members of the G8 over 10 years to go exactly towards making safe nuclear material and chemical weapons material and other threatening WMD in Russia. There have been hold ups in finalising arrangements to get that money underway. I think we are now very close and I think before the next G8 heads of government meeting in early June we will sign a multi-lateral agreement with the Russians to get that programme moving.
(Mr Ricketts) That is more a collective matter of which we would be part.
(Mr Ricketts) The tool box idea was the idea of using all of the various instruments that were available to try and control proliferation, from export licensing arrangements through multi-lateral instruments such as the additional protocols and the additional safeguards in the IAA provisions through to national pressure on individual countries. I think the idea of looking again at the UN arrangements for counter-proliferation is one that certainly does deserve further study in the light of events of recent months rather by analogy of what we have managed to do in the counter-terrorism field following 11 September to look to see whether there is a new UN practice that we can put in place and if it is worth further study.
Chairman: I would like to initially cover the Security Council, the events leading up to the outbreak of war and then the Security Council looking forward and then obviously the Middle East because of the importance of that.
(Mr Straw) The discussions that took place in late September, the whole of October and early November between ourselves and other key members of the Security Council took place in a very constructive environment and one of the issues was whether or not a second resolution would be required before military action could take place in respect of a failure by Iraq to meet its obligation. As I think is now very well known the Russians and the French proposed, although they did not move, that there should be a lock-in in what became 1441 preventing military action unless there was a second resolution. There was then negotiation between ourselves, the US, France, Russia and China. The long and the short of that negotiation was that France and Russia accepted that a second resolution was not needed and instead they settled for the procedure that was laid down by operational paragraphs 4, 11, 12 and 13. Paragraph 4 of the resolution sets out what would be a further material breach by Iraq. Paragraph 1 having already said they are in further material breach, paragraph 4 sets out what would amount to a future material breach; 11 talked about a report from the inspectors; 12 that there would then be a further consideration by the Security Council and 13 asserted that if Iraq failed to meet its obligations serious consequences would follow. You cannot read that resolution nor know its negotiating history without knowing that it was accepted on all sides that a further resolution would not necessarily be needed. It was equally accepted by us that there was no "automaticity" in 1441. In other words there had to be a process leading towards any military action in the event of non-compliance by Iraq, which process we followed through. That is the background there. You then asked why we moved a second resolution, notwithstanding the fact that it looked as though there were going to be difficulties. Mr Olner, you may think there are going to be difficulties in a forum, it must be your experience as it is ours, until you put people to the test you do not know that for certain. There were plenty of difficulties anticipated with 1441 which did not arise. That was in late February. I then moved a variation of that at the meeting of the Security Council on 7 March, a few days after I last gave evidence here, that was a Friday, and it was not until the following Monday that President Chirac gave his televised interview, in which he said whatever the circumstances France would vote no. It was not until that point we had confirmation by the Head of State of Government in France that we knew that the second resolution was not going to be possible to get passed.
(Mr Straw) My comment on that is it depends how you do the arithmetic. We were confident that there would have been nine or ten members of the Security Council supporting the propositions we were coming forward with until first of all there were strong rumours that France was going to veto come what may and then finally confirmation by that. Once those strong rumours had started gaining traction with the elected members of the Security Council it became difficult and there came a point where it was impossible because their argument was, why should they put their head above the parapet when they knew that the resolution was going to be vetoed. If the climate of opinion amongst the Permanent Five had been different there would easily have been at least ten. Everyone knew what 1441 meant and said. It was very clear. If you go through all the telegrams and records, if I just consult my memory of the negotiating history, part of the issue between us in the lengthy and intensive discussions in those seven weeks leading up to 1441 was about the circumstances in which military action would be necessary. That is just the situation. There was not any dubiety about this, we were not concealing our intentions, it was at the heart of some of the arguments.
(Mr Ricketts) I wanted to add one sentence, even two or three days before the passage of 1441 we would not have known it was going to be a unanimous resolution, you cannot tell until the moment comes to vote what the voting figures are going to be like and that second resolution did give the Security Council the opportunity to unite round an important proposition if they choose to do so.
(Mr Ricketts) We had not come to the point where the votes were really to be counted and it was impossible to know until President Chirac spoke.
Sir John Stanley
(Mr Straw) We are involved in detailed discussions at the moment with the United States and other Security Council partners - I am sorry but I am not going to go public about the nature of those discussions - we hope that those discussions can take place in a constructive atmosphere. Plainly the key reason for having sanctions, which was to put pressure on the Saddam regime, has now fallen away, so what we are talking about is a transitional situation. That then runs into the future of the Oil for Food Programme and title to Iraq's oil, these are the issues that we are currently discussing.
(Mr Straw) That is part of the discussion, Sir John, and I had some very constructive discussions about this with the five other members of the Security Council who happened to be in Athens, and Kofi Annan was present. I have continued those discussions in informal meetings I had with European foreign ministers, including Dominique de Villepin and Joschka Fischer, who I happened to see last week. There will be further discussions this Friday and Saturday in Greece at an informal meeting of European Union foreign ministers. These discussions continue and meanwhile I am discussing them with my United States counterpart Colin Powell and with all the other particularly Permanent Members of the Security Council.
Chairman: I would like to turn to the Middle East peace process.
(Mr Straw) If you include?
(Mr Straw) There is nothing particularly secret about the road map. As you know, Mr Maples, what it is is a distillation of a number of previous plans designed to produce progress by both or three sides leading to final status solution hopefully by 2005. How do you get there? There are a number of pre-conditions. I hope that instead of those pre-conditions, namely the approval of Abu Mazen's Cabinet will be through today or tomorrow - I am just checking on whether there has been any news whilst I am here giving evidence to the Select Committee - the road map can be delivered. How do we ensure that its steps are enforced? By a process of discussion, and, yes, if you like, pressure on different parties.
(Mr Straw) They were not at Taba?
(Mr Straw) I would not use the phrase "arm twisting", but I would use the phrase "active diplomatic intervention" by the United States.
(Mr Straw) --- And other parties. Things have changed since Taba, for the worse mainly but also out of that the situation which has got worse there is a greater realisation that people both sides have to live in peace if they are going to live at all. What has got worse since then has been the violence which has followed the intifada with getting on now for 3,000 people on both sides who have been killed and many thousands more who have been injured. Also, there has been, as you say, a shift in the politics of both sides, a coarsening of the politics. What we in the international community have had to do is to try and shift things back again. The better news is that the road map has been agreed and was agreed by the four key partners of the Quartet. We have had these significant shifts in perception by leading members of the Palestinian Authority and, with luck, by the Palestinian Authority overall. I have to say in the two sets of meetings with representatives of the Palestinian Authority which I have been involved in this year, one which I chaired on 14 January and one which I attended again in London in mid-February, there has been a very positive atmosphere by the leaders of the Palestinians and an understanding that they have got to move. Prime Minister Sharon has made some helpful remarks recently about, for example, holding meetings with Abu Mazen and so on. Above all, what I know for certain is that, along with the British Prime Minister, President Bush is very personally committed to this process. It is for historians to judge how far we are all able to deliver on this. In terms of where we are now the commitment is strong.
(Mr Straw) Yes.
(Mr Straw) I think amongst the leading Arab States there is a very clear understanding that the current situation between Israel and the Occupied Territories is terrible for the whole of the region and it helps to drag down the whole of the region. They want to see in exchange for a viable, separate, dignified state of Palestine the delivery of security to Israel, and that requires in turn that there is proper recognition by the Arab and Islamic states of the State of Israel and its right to exist. The two countries you mention have been playing a constructive role. As far as Syria is concerned, there is an important agenda with Syria. Syria is very influential on Hamas. Hamas were not constructive in the Cairo talks that took place earlier this year under the chairmanship of Omar Suleiman, head of Egyptian intelligence. I hope very much, not least through recent experiences, that there is an acceptance by Syria that they have to act in a different way and to end support for terrorism and to recognise that now they have a more benign neighbour to their east they have opportunities themselves to act more responsibly.
(Mr Straw) I hope so.
(Mr Ricketts) I think they have got to be part of an overall agreement. You could approach it in different phases but there will not be a complete peace until Syria is part of the peace as well.
(Mr Straw) I think they are coming to that realisation is the answer. There has always been a Syrian track of the peace process and I think they recognise that.
(Mr Straw) If you are going to have a secure State of Israel and a state of Palestine you have to have a normalisation of Syria and Syria with Israel.
John Maples: I suggest to you arm twisting is going to be involved even if you want to call it something else.
(Mr Straw) You get over these things by a process of discussion. Of course Israel is entitled to comment on the road map, as other parties are entitled to do, and they have a profound interest in it and the processes which could lead to the establishment of a viable Palestinian State. However, you are right to say it is a document from the Quartet, it is not a document from the two key parties. If you are asking me am I confident that if and when we get to the final status for Israel and Palestine it will be exactly on the steps set out in the road map? No, I doubt it. Will it require those steps to be made as part of the process? Yes.
(Mr Straw) No, I do not think that at all. I think inspectors have an important role to play but it is by no means an exclusive role. You need other tools. Inspectors can play a really important role where you have got consent by the governments concerned as, for example, you had most famously in South Africa, or alternatively a wide range of regimes to which we are party and other countries are party having inspection regimes is an important way of ensuring that there is compliance or establishing non-compliance. So it is an important part, to use the current phrase, of the toolbox but not the only one.
(Mr Straw) With respect, I have seen these stories but I do not recall having seen direct quotations from either Condoleezza Rice or Colin Powell to that effect, but do not let me argue with you. We want constructive relations with our partners in France and part of the way we achieve those is by overcoming some of the difficulties which have been there in terms of a difference of perspectives which has arisen in the last nine months.
(Mr Straw) Thank you very much.