Iraq Inquiry: Sixth Day of Public Hearings, with Ricketts & Chaplin, 1st December 2009

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    Comment at end

    3rd December, 2009

    Iraq Inquiry: 6th day of public hearings with Ricketts and Chaplin

    By Julie

    This post, like the 1st Day and the 2nd Day and the 3rd Day and the 4th Day and the 5th Day comes with my grateful thanks to Julie here

    Also see Iraq Inquiry timetable of hearings, who and when

    You can read the full transcript of the session here, and you can watch the video here.

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


    6th day of public hearings

    Subject: UK policy towards Iraq 2001 – 2003

    1st December 2009: Morning session: Evidence by

    • Sir Peter Ricketts (Foreign Office’s Political Director ,from September 2001 until July 2003)
    • Edward Chaplin (Ambassador of the UK in Jordan, from May 2000 until April 2002; Director for the Middle East and North Africa from April 2002 until September 2003)

    Sir John Chilcot Opening Statement:

    “Can I say, I, for my part, and I know my colleagues are satisfied that the government is honouring its promise to provide us full and complete access and there isn’t any holding back. If there were, we should kick up a stink about it, but there isn’t, as things go on.”



    “I don’t feel that there was a particular point, certainly any time between 9/11 and, say, Crawford, where it was unmistakably clear that there had been a change of US policy.”

    “We now look at Crawford as a key event in the Iraq saga, but for those of us preparing at the time for the Prime Minister’s visit, the Arab/Israel issue was at least as major a concern. It was a time when the Israelis were occupying the West Bank and there was military pressure on Jenin. The briefing for the Prime Minister was at least as concerned with Arab/Israel and I think his discussions with the President were as much concerned with that as with Iraq. It was an issue which he was passionately concerned about and very, very active in pressing the President on.”

    “From the records that I saw, the Prime Minister and David Manning and the Foreign Secretary could not have been clearer with the United States, throughout the period from Crawford onwards, that if the UK were to be part of some eventual military operation, not at that time decided, then it would be essential that we exhausted every option short of that, most particularly through the UN. That could not have been clearer.”

    “Well, in January we found that the US tempo was accelerating again towards military action and we made a major effort from the Prime Minister downwards, but including myself and others, and frequent visits to and discussions with Washington, to make the case again for more time.”

    (On Crawford talks 6th and 7th April 2002) “So it wasn’t a decision-making point and, as I have said in earlier evidence, actually the most operational issue on the agenda at Crawford was the crisis between Israel and Palestine.”

    Just to leave it on the record, my own perception was that the Prime Minister did not go to Crawford with any new policy decision to put to President Bush. I think President Bush’s confirmation that he had asked for some planning to be done in CentCom moved us on to a new phase, because it then became necessary for the British Government to decide how to engage with that planning and how to take that forward, but I don’t feel I know that Sir Christopher has talked about having new instructions. I think he was referring to the approach that Sir David Manning took in his meeting with Condoleezza Rice just before Crawford, where he had begun to set out the position that, if the Americans wanted to establish a coalition, then they would need to meet the conditions laid down by their coalition, but it felt to me at the time like this was not a new departure in British policy, but following the confirmation in Crawford, we were in a new phase of planning. Decisions really only came much later.”

    “But then it became clear that this ORHA organisation would move in from Kuwait and would take over civilian responsibilities. But there we come to an area where there was a disagreement between London and Washington and that was on the legal powers that an occupying power has in a country under occupation.”

    “It goes back to an agreement which Mr Blair and President Bush struck at the Belfast summit shortly after the fighting in which it was agreed that the UN would have a vital role. The Americans accepted that. That was then translated into 1483, but it was a very important text for giving British officials and workers the authority we felt we needed.”

    The UK was certainly, very early on, drafting, thinking about, elements for a post conflict resolution, partly driven, as I said earlier, by our acute sense that the responsibilities and the authorities of an occupying power are very limited, and we knew, therefore, that we needed very rapidly to move on to updating that authority. Not least, we needed to amend the Oil For Food resolution to take account of the new circumstances, we needed to amend the sanctions regime to take account of the new circumstances, we needed to regulate the Iraqi oil revenues and make sure that they were directed for the wellbeing of the Iraqi people. A whole series of complex, urgent, difficult issues, and I think it is not boastful to say that the UK was at the forefront of work in the Security Council, led by Sir Jeremy Greenstock, to get that going again.”


    “Of course, the double standards to which he referred were very much in people’s minds and something that would haunt us right through into military action in Iraq. We can come back to that later, if you like, but I think it is fair to say the Prime Minister was extremely seized of this and I think made repeated efforts to persuade President Bush and the US administration that this really had to be taken seriously. As you say, it was one of the always one of the elements that came up in the discussion of, “If we had to take military action, what are the circumstances that we should seek to contrive at the time?” and one of those was always very strongly in the Prime Minister’s mind, a serious effort on the Middle East process to show that we were giving as much attention to that as we were to Iraq.”

    “But my observation really is to underline, I mean, why the political track ran out at this stage. Why wasn’t there scope to extend it further? I think there was and this was very clear, I think a fundamental lack of trust at the heart of the Security Council amongst the Permanent 5, and in particular between the United States and France, and I think it boiled down to the fact that the United States could not did not believe that there were any circumstances in which the French would join military action, whatever happened, however much time we gave the inspectors, whatever Saddam Hussein did.”

    “I mean, there were many repeated attempts to find a peaceful way, there were many attempts to try and make containment work and we have been into that attempts to refresh the containment mechanism.”

    Important exchanges

    GILBERT: “I understand that the UN avenue was very much a caveat. Nevertheless, those that were involved in the military plan, those in the Foreign Office who were involved with it, was there not somewhere a presumption that, in due course, there would have to be a military operation, that with all the UN route and the sanctions and the inspectors and Saddam, that the presumption was actually, “We are going to go to war”?

    RICKETTS: “That was not my presumption, no. My presumption was that we were now in a phase of diplomacy backed by the threat of force. It had been containment up to 9/11. By the summer of 2002, it was diplomacy backed by the threat of force and the threat of force became more and more obvious as the autumn went on. But I was conscious of two things.

    First of all, I was absolutely sure that it would not be possible for British forces to join military operations without the agreement of the law officers, the CDS would require the Attorney General to make clear that he was giving a lawful order in ordering our troops into military operations. So that was an absolute requirement, and, also, that the UN route offered Saddam Hussein the opportunity to comply. All along, right through to the eve of the second resolution, I thought it was possible, perhaps not likely, but possible, that Saddam Hussein would choose, rather than face overwhelming military force, to cooperate and comply. So it was never for sure that the UK would be part of military operations or even really that military operations were inevitable. I always thought there was another option.”

    CHAPLIN: “Could I just add to that from my perspective? On your first point, I think at every level, including mine, the point was always on the line to the Americans that although we might be talking about contingency planning, which was an essential thing to do, no decision had been taken and no decision would be taken until much later, and that, as Sir Peter ha pointed out, there were various conditions for our participation in military action, should it come to that. Secondly, I think it is fair to say that there was a surge of hope after 1441. 1441 was quite a remarkable achievement and if the Security Council could once more come together, as had before, and we could see a track record going way back into the 90s, that, when the Security Council were united, Saddam Hussein took notice, as indeed he did on this occasion by letting the inspectors back in, that there might, after all, be a route to resolving this problem through the inspection route and without military action.”

    GILBERT: “Thank you very much. Sir Peter, I want to move on to, if you like, the final steps towards the military conflict, and I wondered, first of all, how important were the apparent weaknesses in Iraq’s 12,000 page declaration of December 7th in creating a sense that Iraq was already in breach of Resolution 1441 and that the inspectors were unlikely to be satisfied with their ongoing quest that had only just begun? I see a lot of discussion about this, particularly between Britain and the United States, and I wondered what your reflections were on that.”

    RICKETTS: “I think the impact in Washington of the incomplete declaration was very strong because it tended to confirm the sceptics who thought that Iraq Saddam was most unlikely to comply with the resolution. Our response in London to that was to say, “Hold on, operational paragraph 4 of the 1441 provided that a further material breach was both an inadequate declaration and a failure to comply”, and we absolutely did not give up hope that, despite an inadequate declaration, we could, by effective inspection and good intelligence to the inspectors, perseverance, show progress in the inspection.

    We worked on that through December and January and February. As others have said, of course, good detective work was not enough. I mean, the test in the resolution was full cooperation and we were looking for signs of full cooperation, and, as January/February wore on, it became increasingly clear we were not getting that, but I think the impact of the incomplete declaration was greater in Washington than it was in London.”

    PRASHAR: “What advice were you giving to the Ministers at Number 10 at this stage and up to the aftermath?”

    RICKETTS: “First of all, that it had to be taken extremely seriously; secondly, that we were very doubtful indeed about the neo-con assumption that international forces would be welcomed as liberators and, as Mr Chaplin was saying, that somehow very quickly Iraqi political life would resume and the occupying forces would not carry these responsibilities. We were very doubtful about that. We warned Ministers that this would be a long period of post conflict work for the international community, which is why we then said that we thought it was important that, if possible, the UN should take on the lead.”

    PRASHAR: “Was this advice being listened to?”

    RICKETTS: “Absolutely, and Mr Blair and the Foreign Secretary, in their many conversations, always made a point, I think, of stressing to the US that they must take planning for post conflict Iraq just as seriously as planning for any military operation.”

    PRASHAR: “Did we make a very strenuous effort to influence them? Because the picture one is getting is that communication was taking place between Number 10, the Prime Minister, the President, Condoleezza Rice and Sir David Manning, and the conversations taking place between yourselves and the Foreign Secretary and Colin Powell. But was this part of the problem, that there was not across the board communications, or were we actually talking to the wrong people?”

    CHAPLIN: “I think these points were made at all levels up to and including the Prime Minister talking to President Bush.”

    PRASHAR: “What was the response?”

    CHAPLIN: “The response was usually, “Yes, we hear what you are saying, and you may have a point there”, and so on, but it just never translated further down into a change of direction by ORHA.”

    RICKETTS: “I think to make just one point, I think the decision that Secretary Rumsfeld and the ORHA organisation should be given the lead was an internal organisational decision that we didn’t have much visibility of or traction on in the end, and I think it reflected the fact that, at that point, with a war impending, the Pentagon was the dominant policy player in Washington, and that is something that, in the end, we were not able to have very much traction on.”

    PRASHAR: “Did we actually at any stage rethink our objectives or try to change policy in response to what we found on the ground?”

    RICKETTS: “We certainly did. I think Ministers became aware very quickly that things were not going well on the ground. Jack Straw was certainly aware of that from mid April, and he was working in Whitehall to gear up the UK contribution. Perhaps most strikingly, the Prime Minister, when he visited in early June, came back with a very forceful sense that ORHA was a shambles and that we needed to move on very rapidly to a much better, tighter organisation.”

    PRASHAR: “Would you say that in the run-up to the invasion too much effort was put into diplomacy and not much attention was paid to the aftermath?”

    RICKETTS: “No, I wouldn’t accept that. I think it is always possible to say we should have paid more attention to the aftermath. I believe that the intense efforts that were put into diplomacy from September 2002 to March 2003, in which I was involved every single day, I think, of that period, were worth it because I think there was all along a chance that it would have given Saddam Hussein the opportunity to comply and therefore to have avoided war, and I think the consequences of war, as we are talking about now, are so serious that it is right to break every sinew in trying to avoid war. That said, we did put a lot of effort into planning the aftermath alongside the feverish work on diplomacy to avoid war. No doubt we could have done even more.”

    PRASHAR: “No, my question was of course, the right effort had to be put into diplomacy but was there not much effort put into scenario planning, because there could have been different scenarios and were different scenarios looked at and were they probably considered, discussed?”

    RICKETTS:I think there was a lot of effort put into post conflict planning. Could we have done more on individual scenarios? It is always possible to say that one could do more. I think we needed a plan that was sufficiently flexible to respond to any scenario that arose after the conflict. As I said earlier, when you cross the Rubicon into military conflict, you then really don’t know how it is going to end, how quickly it is going to end and what situation you inherit, and therefore the planning, I think, has to be pretty flexible.”

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    One Response to “Iraq Inquiry: Sixth Day of Public Hearings, with Ricketts & Chaplin, 1st December 2009”

    1. All PRO Iraq war summaries of the Iraq Inquiry « Julie's think tank Says:

      […] 6th Day: Ricketts & Chaplin […]

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