'What has changed is not the pace of Saddam's WMD programs'
06/13/05 - - This memorandum, said from Blair political director Peter Ricketts and dated Mar. 22, 2002, indicates the challenges that an Iraq war would face. It indicates that it would have been carbon copied to then-Secretary of State Colin Powell and President George W. Bush. "The truth is that what has changed is not the pace of Saddam Hussein’s WMD programmes," the document says.
The document is presented as transcribed by
CONFIDENTIAL AND PERSONAL
FROM: P F RICKETTS POLITICAL DIRECTOR
DATE: 22 MARCH 2002
SECRETARY OF STATE
IRAQ: ADVICE FOR THE PRIME MINISTER
You invited thoughts for your personal note to the Prime
Minister covering the official advice (we have put up a draft
minute separately). Here are mine.
By sharing Bush’s broad objective the Prime Minister can
help show it is defined, and the approach to achieving it. In
the process, he can bring home to Bush some of the realities
which will be less evident from Washington. He can help Bush
make good decisions by telling him things his own machine
By broad support for the objective brings two real problems
which need discussing.
First, the THREAT. The truth is that what has changed is
not the pace of Saddam Hussein’s WMD programmes, but our
tolerance of them post-11 September. This is not something we
need to be defensive about, but attempts to claim otherwise
publicly will increase scepticism [sic] about our case. I am
relieved that you decided to postpone publication of the
unclassified document. My meeting yesterday showed that there
is more work to do to ensuer [sic] that the figures are
accurate and consistent with those of the US. But event he
best survey of Iraq’s WMD programmes will not show much
advance in recent years ont he [sic] nuclear, missile or CW/BW
fronts: the programmes are extremely worrying but have not, as
far as we know, been stepped up.
US scrambling to establish a link between Iraq and Al Aaida
[sic] is so far frankly unconvincing. To get public and
Parliamentary support for military operations, we have to be
the threat is so serious/imminent that it is worth sending
our troops to die for;
it is qualitatively different from the threat posed by
other proliferators who are closer to achieving nuclear
capability (including Iran).
CONFIDENTIAL AND PERSONAL
We can make the case on qualitative difference (only Iraq has
attacked a neighbour used CW and fired missiles against Israel).
The overall strategy needs to include re-doubled efforts to tackle
other proliferators, including Iran, in other ways (the UK/French
ideas on greater IAEA activity are helpful here). But we are still
left with a problem of bringing public opinion to accept the
imminence of a threat from Iraq. This is something the Prime
Minister and President need to have a frank discussion about.
The second problem is the END STATE. Military operations
need clear and compelling military objectives. For Kosovo it
was: Serbs out, Kosovars back peace-keepers in. For
Afghanistan, destroying the Taleban and Al Qaida military
capability. For Iraq, “regime change” does not stack up.
IT sounds like a grudge between Bush and Saddam. Much better,
as you have suggested, to make the objective ending the threat
to the international community from Iraq WMD before Saddam
uses it or gives it to terrorists. This is at once easier to
justify in terms of international law but also more demanding.
Regime change which produced another Sunni General still in
charge of an active Iraqi WMD programme would be a bad outcome
(not least because it would be almost impossible to maintain
UN sanctions on a new leader who came in promising a fresh
start). As with the fight against UBL, Bush would do well to
de-personalise the objective- focus on elimination of WMD, and
show that he is serious about UN Inspectors as the first
choice means of achieving that (it is win/win for him: either
Saddam against all odds allows Inspectors to operate
freelyk[sic]- in which case we can further hobble his WMD
programmes, or he blocks/hinders, and we are stronger ground
for switching to other methods).
Defining the end state in this way, and working through the
UN, will of course help maintain a degree of support among the
Europeans, and therefore fits with another major message which
the Prime Minister will watn [sic] to get across: the
importance of positioning Iraq as a problem for the
international community as a whole- not just for the US.
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