Iraq Inquiry: First Day of Public Hearings with Ricketts, Patey and Webb, 24th November 2009

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    3oth November, 2009

    Iraq Inquiry: 1st day of public hearings with Ricketts, Patey and Webb

    By Julie

    This post comes with my grateful thanks to Julie here

    Also see Iraq Inquiry timetable of hearings, who and when

    These are the most significant quotes from the first session of the Iraq Inquiry


    1st day of public hearings

    24th November 2009: Sir John Chilcot Opening Statement

    “As I have said before, we are not a court of law, nor are we an inquest, or, indeed, a statutory inquiry and our processes reflect that. No one is on trial here. We cannot determine guilt or innocence, only a court can do that.”


    24th November 2009: Morning session: Evidence by

    • Sir Peter Ricketts (Director General Political in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 2001)

    • Sir William Patey (head of the Foreign Office’s Middle East Department)

    • Simon Webb (Policy Director in the Ministry of Defence)


    “Iraq had been a major foreign and defence policy issue for the UK throughout the 1990s ever since the Gulf War”

    “I think the simple summary of our view at that time was that we had been pursuing a policy of containment, containment, most important, of Saddam Hussein’s ambitions to redevelop weapons of mass destruction but also containment of the threat which Iraq had posed to the region, but, by 2001, that containment policy was failing and the rate of failure was accelerating. There were three standards, I would say, to the containment policy.

    One was sanctions, of which perhaps the most effective was an arms embargo, but there were also sanctions on Iraqi oil exports and revenues from them, handled through this complex machinery of the Oil For Food programme the UN ran.

    The second strand was an incentive strand. Resolution 1284 of the Security Council passed in 1999, had offered the Iraqis a deal, the incentive of suspension of sanctions 120 days after the Iraqis had accepted to return the weapons inspectors to Iraq.

    The third strand was a deterrent strand; it was the No Fly Zones in the north and in the south. Now, our review at the beginning of 2001 has suggested that each of those strands of policy were in trouble.

    The sanctions strand was subject to increasing smuggling of oil through a new pipeline in Syria and then leakages of oil round the region, of abuse of the Oil For Food programme providing substantial revenues to Saddam Hussein and the regime, and, as I say, the arms embargo perhaps the most effective part of it, but also with problems.

    The incentive strand had not been implemented because Saddam Hussein had not accepted the return of the weapons inspectors to Iraq, so that was on hold, and the No Fly Zone strand was thought to be risky, for reasons which we will come on to explore, but also very unpopular. We were very aware, in 2001 that international support for this structure of sanctions and deterrents was eroding, both in the region and in the Security Council.

    The net effect of that was that Saddam Hussein in Iraq was feeling pretty comfortable. He had substantial legal revenues from which he could pursue patronage inside Iraq and continue the efforts to procure materials for his weapons of mass destruction programme.”

    I don’t think it led to an immediate shift in American policy because I remember, as 9/11 happened, we and the Americans were still working on further pushes with the Russians to see whether we could get a goods review list resolution through in the autumn”

    (Period before 9/11)“I was certainly never aware of anyone in the British Government at that point promoting or supporting active measures to achieve regime change

    In the year 2001 we saw an acceleration of work on missile programme and I think our reports were specific that there was an acceleration there. We saw increased Iraqi efforts to procure material for nuclear programme, we saw continuing interest in CW research and development and I think we suspected that the increased availability of money from the increasing revenues diverted from smuggling and OFF were allowing that acceleration of work, certainly in the missiles and the nuclear area.”

    “The other person who was reasonably comfortable under the sanctions regime was Saddam Hussein, because it wasn’t actually doing him any harm at all. So I mean there are many dilemmas in international policy when it comes to sanctions

    (On 9/11)” What it did, first and foremost, and obviously, is push counter-terrorism right to the top of the agenda, and that was true from the moment it happened, but it also was the starkest indication we had had that this new breed of terrorists were intent on mass casualties, but they were innovative in finding unconventional ways of achieving that, that they didn’t mind at all dying in the process and that this was all a new dimension, really, of the terrorist threat.”

    (In late 2001)“It may have been that there were some in Washington who felt that the Afghanistan mission had gone extremely well, relatively few US casualties, and, you know, that therefore other military operations would be the same. I don’t recall that as a feeling around in London at the time.”

    I don’t remember “War on Terrorism” ever being our phrase. Indeed, I remember British Ministers being fairly — you know, not very impressed with it as a phrase.”



    “The policy was designed to prevent him from developing his weapons of mass destruction, designed to get rid of whatever weapons of mass destruction he had and prevent him from threatening his neighbours. Those policy aims looked increasingly vulnerable

    (On why Russia blocked smart sanctions) “I think the Russian foreign minister had run out of arguments and said, “Yes, I accept all of that, but actually we have got a lot of commercial interests at stake and it is very difficult domestically”. The Russians had $8 billion of debt owed to them by the Iraqis, which they were hopeful of getting repaid”

    “It was a dilemma for us. It was our way of saying, “We are not going to do anything to deliver regime change, but actually our point of view is it would be very good for Iraq.“ So it was a way of signalling to the Iraqi people that because we don’t have a policy of regime change, it doesn’t mean to say we’re happy with Saddam Hussein, and there is a life after Saddam with Iraq being reintegrated into the international community.”

    “I was certainly not aware, right up to March 2002, when I left, of any increased appetite by UK Ministers for military action in Iraq.”



    (About beginning of 2001): “I think the important point was to say that — the question of regime overthrow was, I recall, mentioned but it was quite clear that there was no proposition being put in our direction on that, and, indeed, we got propositions — and we can talk about the detail of those — on the No Fly Zones, but we did not get the proposition about regime change.”

    (On US Foreign and Security Policy after 9/11) “So it shifted from something which is, in a way, often part of the American feeling that, “We are a big country who have everything within our boundaries and we will wait for things to happen”, into a much more proactive sense that they needed to deal with security threats before they arrived.”


    Important exchanges:

    (On the American containment approach in 2001)

    LYNE: Did you feel that that view was shared by the dominant force in American policy-making at the time?

    RICKETTS: Yes, as I said, Colin Powell explicitly did support the approach of a strengthened, narrowed, focused sanctions regime.

    LYNE: When Mr Webb went to talk to his opposite numbers in the Pentagon, did you get the same sense that this was American policy?

    WEBB: I did. I did. Yes.

    LYNE: As I understand it, broadly speaking, the assessment that Saddam was trying to do this, that he had certain capabilities, which he was trying to develop further, was not disputed by other countries, by other members, permanent members of the Security Council, broadly shared by countries in the region. So there wasn’t a major difference of opinion — correct me if I am wrong — between us and France, or Germany, or Russia, on this basic assumption. But at the same time the United Kingdom and the United States, working off this database, saw Iraq clearly as a major threat that had to be contained or more serious, and all of these other countries came to a very different conclusion. Now, why did they look at the same information but not regard it as threatening, whereas we did?

    RICKETTS: Well, first of all, I don’t think there was any disagreement, as you say, that Iraq had had weapons of mass destruction. After all, they had used them. IAEA inspectors had found and largely dismantled a nuclear programme after the Gulf War. So the fact that the country had capabilities and had shown they were willing to use them was not disputed.”


    24th November 2009: Afternoon session: Evidence by

    • Sir Peter Ricketts (Director General Political in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 2001)

    • Sir William Patey (head of the Foreign Office’s Middle East Department)

    • Simon Webb (Policy Director in the Ministry of Defence)

    • Sir Michael Wood (legal adviser to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office from 1999 to 2006)


    “I think it is very important at the outset to make it clear that there is a distinct legal basis,a separate legal basis for the No Fly Zones. The legal basis for the No Fly Zones has nothing whatsoever to do with the legal basis for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The legal basis for the No Fly Zones was based upon an exceptional right to take action to avert an overwhelming humanitarian catastrophe, whereas the legal basis for the invasion of Iraq was Security Council authorisation.

    Perhaps it would help if very briefly I just set out the law, the international law on the use of force. It consists firstly of a prohibition of the use of force in international relations, set out in Article 2(4) of the charter. The charter then has two express exceptions. The first of these is self-defence, recognised in Article 51 of the charter, and the second of these is authorisation by the Security Council acting under chapter 7. Now, in the case of extreme humanitarian catastrophe, the need to advert an extreme humanitarian catastrophe, this is not referred to in the charter. It is regarded by the British Government as being derived from customary international law, and the essence of it, I think, is that if something like the Holocaust were happening today, if the Security Council were blocked, you couldn’t get an authorisation from it, then it simply cannot be the law that states cannot take action to intervene in that kind of a situation, an emergency of that scale.”


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