Iraq Inquiry: Fourth Day of Public Hearings, with Greenstock, 27th November 2009

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    3oth November, 2009

    Iraq Inquiry: 4th day of public hearings with Greenstock

    By Julie

    This post, like the 1st Day and the 2nd Day and the 3rd Day 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 fourth session of the Iraq Inquiry

    You can read the full transcript of the morning session here


    4th day of public hearings

    27th November 2009: Morning session: Evidence by

    • Sir Jeremy Greenstock (from 1998 until July 2003)


    “By the beginning of 2001, which, of course, was also the moment when the new American administration came on the scene, the containment of Iraq was flawed and was regarded by everybody as flawed, by those who thought the sanctions regime should be maintained and by those who thought that the sanctions regime should not be maintained.”

    “I don’t think there was a single member of the Security Council who believed that Iraq was trying honestly and honourably to meet Security Council conditions. I don’t think there was a single member of Security Council, throughout my period there, who supported Saddam Hussein or Iraq. I don’t think there was a single member of the Security Council who believed that Iraq was innocent, was not plotting to develop military capability, was not defying United Nations, was not cheating on sanctions.”

    “The United Kingdom had a different approach from the United States, to the extent that we believed that action on or against Iraq should be unequivocally collective, that it had to be based on Security Council Resolutions, that it had, if at all possible, to avoid the use of force, but also that it had to be effective, that it had to remove nationally any threat which Saddam Hussein and his regime might pose to the vital interests of the United Kingdom, and collectively would remove the defiance by Iraq of the United Nations Resolutions.”

    “It wasn’t until the Crawford meeting in April 2002 that I realised that the United Kingdom was being drawn into quite a different sort of discussion”

    “The Secretary General, Kofi Annan, took it upon himself to have his own bilateral discussions with the Iraqis, which happened, I think, first of all in March and extended through to about July, because, as I understand it, he, himself, was worried that unless the UN effort on maintaining the sanctions regime and the other UN measures on Iraq was more successful, the United States might have a valid reason, in politics at least, if not in Security Council Resolution terms, to take another route, and so he took his own initiative as a mission of good offices, which the Secretary General can perform, to see whether there was more room to persuade the Iraqis that the inspectors should return. So he went through those discussions, which the US looked upon as a side issue, not likely to produce any good results, up until July, when I think Secretary General Annan decided not least on the basis of his past experience in dealing with the Iraqis, that he was being led down a track and he gave up those discussions in July.”

    “After the resolution was adopted, things began to drift in two directions; that the US and the UK took the terms of 1441 absolutely literally, which is the fair and just thing to do with a resolution that takes on the force of a legal declaration, whereas the French and others interpreted the resolution as meaning that there was scope for the Security Council to meet, and, if the Security Council met, under normal Security Council practice, since the Security Council was responsible for international peace and security, only the Security Council should take a decision on whether or not force should be used.”

    “It was the point of view of the United Kingdom that the use of force could not be justified unless every other avenue had been tried to bring Iraq into compliance.”

    “There was, as part of the lead up to the negotiation of 1441, the idea that there should be a pair of resolutions, not a single one in 1441 that should have the inspectors’ conditions in one part and in the second resolution the consequences for Iraq on what would happen if they didn’t comply with the first one. There was the possibility of passing those resolutions either together and simultaneously or sequentially in time. As it happened, in 1441 we built those two elements into a single text and it was successfully negotiated and passed unanimously on 8 November as a single text.”

    “We felt that with 1441 that was sufficient legal cover so long as it was made clear that Saddam Hussein was not cooperating under the operative paragraph number 2 of 1441 that give him a final chance to show that he was cooperating. That was our criterion.”

    “It was actually quite surprising to me that only the Mexican delegation said unequivocally that they expected that, if it came to the use of force, it would be solely the Security Council that had the authority to take that decision.”

    “President Chirac said at some point, I think in the summer of 2002 to President Bush, as I saw in other papers, that France believed that Saddam Hussein was developing biological and chemical materials.”

    (Referring to WMDs) “I don’t believe that even Moscow could say, “We are sure there are none.”

    (On whether there is a smoking gun or not) “That wasn’t where I came from. I thought there was something there. I actually still believe there is something there, but it is a question of what that something is now.”

    “Before the war actually started, the Iraqi Air Force buried a number of Russian jets in the sand, which overhead telemetry didn’t notice them doing. It was only when the wind blew the sand away from those jets that the tails stuck out of the sand and we discovered that they had buried some aircraft. If they can get away with burying aircraft in the sand, they are going to be quite good at burying much smaller things in the sand.”

    (On national interests) “I do not have firsthand evidence of that, but I was very well aware of, from reading other people’s reports, that this might well be a factor because the Russian and French debt from Iraq, the Iraqi debt to those two nations, was in many billions of dollars resulting from the Iran/Iraq war purchases and they wanted sanctions to be lifted so they could get some of their money back.”

    “In my personal contact with my colleagues at the United Nations, I understood that the UK had been given a good deal of credit for trying diplomacy up to the last minute, in spite of the noises off, and there is something bigger than all of that: in the fact that the United Kingdom was part of this military operation, that the United States was not completely alone, we ensured whether it was intentional or not, but this was the effect that the international community, the Security Council, the members of the United Nations, remained able to talk to each other after this had all blown up in our faces, when, if the United States had gone about this operation unilaterally, solely, there would have been a huge division between the United States and the rest of the international community.”

    “It was certainly my view at the time, whether it remains my view now, that the containment of Iraq through United Nations’ measures would progressively have continued to erode and the smuggling capabilities and the smuggling results in terms of Iraq’s wish to increase its military and economic capacity, would have been disadvantageous for UK national interests in the Middle East and internationally.”

    The United Nations is a forum of its member states, it is not a separate agency to deal with something, and there is no doubt that the United Nations, over 12 years, failed to deal with the fact that they were being defied by Saddam Hussein. That aspect of the formation of UK policy, I think, has to be remembered, that we were trying to defend the United Nations from being eroded by successful noncompliance by a member state just as much as we were trying to deal with the threat posed by the Iraqi possession of dangerous weapons, and that is a consideration that should come into your discussions.”

    Important exchanges:

    PRASHAR: “You referred earlier the use of the word “legitimate”, can you unpack that for me a little as to what you mean by the word “legitimate” in terms of justifying war? It is really that I would like some explanation of that. “

    GREENSTOCK: In international law there is no Supreme Court. It is up to a nation state to make its own national decision as to whether to adhere to the judgments of the International Court of Justice or not. Iraq was not a treaty based member of the International Court of Justice, so that didn’t come into it, probably, in our consideration of what we were doing with Iraq. But short of that, it is possible to have a firm legal opinion on the legality of action under the UN charter for a particular operation. But it is also possible for there to be many different legal opinions as to what is actually legal without having an apex arbiter of what is legal or what is not. So we are still in the position, even now in 2009, of having legal opinions out there that say that what we did in March 2003 was legal and what we did in March 2003 was illegal, and except as a matter of opinion, you can’t establish in law which of those two opinions are right finally and conclusively. When you get to legitimacy, it is a very fair way of describing that if you have got broad opinion behind you, broad, reasonable opinion behind you, you are doing something that is defensible in a democratic environment. To some extent, the United Nations is a democratic environment. It is a forum of equal states equally signed up by treaty to the United Nations Charter, and each of those states have an opinion. If you do something internationally that the majority of UN member states think is wrong or illegitimate or politically unjustifiable, you are taking a risk in my view, and increasingly and I think one of the lessons you may want to look at as an Inquiry is on the importance of legitimacy in geopolitical affairs nowadays. I regarded our invasion of Iraq our participation in the military action against Iraq in March 2003 as legal but of questionable legitimacy, in that it didn’t have the democratically observable backing of a great majority of member states or even perhaps of a majority of people inside the United Kingdom. So there was a failure to establish legitimacy, although I think we successfully established legality in the Security Council in the United Nations for both our actions in December 1998 and our actions in March 2003 to the degree at least that we were never challenged in the Security Council or in the International Court of Justice, for those actions.”

    PRASHAR: “Just one question before we break up, on the weapons of mass destruction and the question of disarmament, were there differing views within the Security Council? I mean, did anybody challenge the fact that the Saddam had weapons of mass destruction during this period that we have been discussing?”

    GREENSTOCK: “No colleague on the Security Council ever came up to me at any point and said, “You are barking up the wrong tree. You are hopelessly on the wrong track here, because we know that Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction”. No member of the Security Council, not Hans Blix, not Mohammed ElBaradei, nobody, said to the United Kingdom, and I don’t believe they said to the United States, “We know that the Iraqi Government has no weapons of mass destruction.”

    GREENSTOCK: “Actually, if you look at the wording of 1441, it comes very close to being a report of a material breach.”

    CHAIRMAN: “Both before and after the “and”.

    GREENSTOCK: “Because the declaration was clearly inadequate. Even with hindsight, that declaration is inadequate, and they were not cooperating fully, completely, finally: material breach.”

    ADDENDUM, 5th December 2009:

    In the light of the Blix comments the Daily Mail Maul, I thought it might be worth adding this:

    A VERY INTERESTING quote re Hans Blix’s work from the Iraq Inquiry:

    GREENSTOCK: But I don’t think that Hans Blix was clear in his own mind and he makes this very plain in his book that the Iraqis either had weapons of mass destruction or did not have weapons of mass destruction and, therefore, he was wavering on quite a broad spectrum, whereas the United States was wavering on a much narrower spectrum because they were of a mind to think that, if the WMD was not appearing, it was because it had been hidden, not because it was not there.

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