rose to move, That this House takes note of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1441 on Iraq.
My Lords, on 7th November, I repeated a Statement made by my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary about the negotiations on a new United Nations Security Council resolution. I said then that I hoped that a large majority of the Security Council would vote in favour of the resolution. As your Lordships know, the following day, on 8th November, Security Council Resolution 1441 was adopted unanimously.
The resolution was supported by all five permanent members of the Security Council, and by countries as diverse as Mexico, Cameroon, Ireland and Syria. Resolution 1441 represents the considered and unanimous view of the international community that Iraq must end its defiance of the United Nations and comply with its obligations.
Negotiations on Resolution 1441 were long and intensive. It took eight weeks of unrelenting high-level diplomatic contacts. Its unanimous adoption is a tribute to the efforts of my right honourable friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary. It is also a tribute to the expertise and professionalism of many British diplomats and officials in New York, London and around the world. Noble Lords have recognised that in previous deliberations on this topic in the past few weeks; and I reiterate that commendation now.
Resolution 1441 gives the Iraqi regime a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations. When we discussed that on 7th November, some noble Lords were concerned that the resolution was not one with which Iraq could comply. I assure your Lordships that it is not designed to trick or trap the Iraqi regime. It is designed to achieve the peaceful disarmament and destruction of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction through an effective inspection regime. It sets out a path to achieve that peacefully if the Iraqis choose to follow it.
We should be under no illusion about Saddam Hussein's ability to obfuscate and evade. He has been doing just that for a decade. Dr Blix and Dr El Baradei have a difficult and sensitive job ahead of them. They must be allowed to do the work that the United Nations has mandated them to do, and we wish them well. In passing, let me add that we reject recent ill-founded criticisms of the inspectors' records. The Iraqis were able to exploit loopholes in the previous inspection regimes in order to confound the inspectors; it is not correct to blame Dr Blix and Dr El Baradei for those deficiencies. One of the new resolution's merits is that it has significantly strengthened the hand of the inspectors. So Dr Blix and Dr El Baradei have the complete support and confidence of Her Majesty's Government and the international community. It is now up to the Iraqi regime to recognise its responsibilities and give its full co-operation to UNMOVIC and the teams in Iraq.
We have heard only this morning of allegations that the Iraqi regime is bugging the weapons inspectors' accommodation. Any interference with the inspectors would be a serious matter but it would hardly be a surprise, given Saddam's record of dishonest dealings with the international community.
I know that noble Lords have questions about how Resolution 1441 will be implemented. Your Lordships have asked about what would constitute a material breach, about who will decide if a material breach has taken place and about the possibility of a second Security Council resolution. Questions have also been raised about the process of continued consultation of noble Lords and those in another place. I want to take this opportunity today to set out the Government's view on those questions. But I should also make it clear at the outset that I agree with the points already forcefully made by some noble Lords. I do not believe that it is sensible to speculate on all the circumstances that might arise and how the Government might react to all Iraqi actions. Surprise may be a key advantage to us.
Resolution 1441 makes it clear that Iraq,
"has been and remains in material breach of its obligations", under existing Security Council resolutions, in particular through its,
"failure to co-operate with United Nations inspectors and the International Atomic Energy Agency".
The resolution sets out the demand that Iraq confirms within seven days of the resolution being passed its intention to comply fully with it. Iraq has now sent two letters in response. Both letters have been grudging in tone and long on denial of the legitimacy and legality of UNSCR 1441. However, we are treating them as positive responses to the demand of the Security Council.
The next deadline is 8th December. By that time, under operative paragraph 3, Iraq must have provided to UNMOVIC, the IAEA and the Security Council an,
"accurate, full and complete declaration of all aspects of its programmes to develop chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles and other delivery systems".
Dr Blix and Dr El Baradei have already given clear advice to the Iraqi regime on what is expected of it. The Government of Iraq must account for large stocks of WMD, which the previous UNSCOM reports, the last of which was prepared in January 1999, recorded as unaccounted for. That material included up to 3,000 tonnes of precursor chemicals; up to 360 tonnes of bulk CW agents, including 1.5 tonnes of VX nerve agent; more than 30,000 special munitions for delivery of chemical and biological agents; and large quantities of growth media acquired for the use of the production of biological weapons—enough to produce more than three times the amount of anthrax that Iraq admits to having manufactured.
Inspections by UNMOVIC and the IAEA resumed in Iraq yesterday, four weeks ahead of the Security Council deadline. The inspectors will be required to update the Security Council on progress by 25th January.
Operative paragraph 4 of the resolution says that a further material breach arises where there are,
"false statements or omissions in the declarations submitted by Iraq . . . and failure by Iraq at any time to comply with, and co-operate fully in the implementation of, this Resolution".
That defines in general terms what a further material breach will consist of. As I have already said, it is never possible to give an exhaustive list of all the conceivable behaviours that would be covered. That judgment must be made against real circumstances as and when they arise. Those circumstances are by their nature unpredictable and it would be wrong to second guess or hypothesise. But I can assure noble Lords that a material breach does not mean something trivial. It means something significant: some behaviour or pattern of behaviour that is serious; deliberate and concerted attempts to obstruct or impede the inspectors or to intimidate witnesses; behaviour or patterns of behaviour that show Iraq's intention to defy the stated will of the international community in the shape of Resolution 1441.
Some noble Lords have been concerned about who decides what constitutes a material breach. The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, raised her concerns about that point. If there is evidence of attempts to mislead the inspectors, to conceal information, or failure to comply with a resolution or to co-operate with the inspection teams, that can be reported to the Security Council either by a Security Council member or by the inspectors themselves. Under the resolution the inspectors are required to report to the Security Council any Iraqi interference or failure to comply with its disarmament obligations, and the resolution makes it clear that these include all the other relevant UNSC resolutions as well as 1441. But whoever reports a material breach, it is inconceivable that the Council would act on such a report without seeking the opinion of the inspectors.
If we reach such a situation—I hope that we do not—an immediate meeting of the Security Council would be called to consider the situation. Operative paragraph 12 requires the Security Council to convene,
"immediately upon receipt of a report under paragraphs 4 and 11 to consider the situation and the need for full compliance with all of the relevant Council Resolutions in order to secure international peace and security".
At that point there would be a discussion about the most suitable response by the international community. Those deliberations would precede any remedial action, including military action, to enforce the Security Council's will.
Let me at this point move on to the question of a second resolution. As I made clear to your Lordships on Monday, the preference of the British Government in the event of a material breach is that there should be a second Security Council resolution authorising military action. The issue of whether Resolution 1441 should stipulate that there should be a second resolution to authorise such action was discussed among the members of the Security Council but a proposal to that effect was never tabled. Resolution 1441, which was adopted by unanimity, does not say that there must be a second resolution to authorise military action in the event of a further material breach by Iraq.
We place our faith in the United Nations to shoulder its responsibilities should a material breach be reported to it. The Security Council's record to date has potently demonstrated the international community's collective will on this issue. Kofi Annan has said:
"If Iraq's defiance continues, the Security Council must face its responsibilities".
But, as my right honourable friend said in another place on Monday, we must reserve our position on whether or not to have a second resolution in the event that the Security Council does not do so. As Resolution 1441 states, the
"Council has repeatedly warned Iraq that it will face serious consequences as a result of its continued violations of its obligations".
Saddam Hussein should be in no doubt of that. The Government stand foursquare behind Security Council Resolution 1441. We do not believe that it should have conditions imposed upon it by insisting on a second resolution before military action can be authorised. That is not what the resolution says and we are sticking with the resolution.
Let me go forward on the question of military action. No decision on military action has yet been taken by Her Majesty's Government. There is no inevitability about military action. We are not seeking a confrontation with Iraq, although we shall not shirk it. The resolution provides a peaceful pathway for the disarmament of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Saddam has it in his power to avoid military action and to start his county back on the road to a normal position in the international community. But we must remember that we have got this far in terms of Saddam's compliance only because our active diplomacy has been backed by the credible threat of the use of force. For that threat to remain credible, it is crucial that we make proper preparations.
Your Lordships would be right to criticise the Government if, at the same time as vigorously pursuing peaceful disarmament through the United Nations, we did not look at our preparedness for military action in the event that that process fails. So it is right that the Ministry of Defence should make prudent preparations to ensure that we have servicemen and servicewomen available in the right numbers and with the right skills and equipment. The more prepared we are, the greater the likelihood of full compliance by Saddam Hussein without the use of force. I am aware that these exceptional times put our Armed Forces under great pressures. But, as the Chief of the Defence Staff, Admiral Sir Michael Boyce, said on 20th November:
"We will maintain a capability to respond to any future requirements falling on the armed forces".
Any decision by Her Majesty's Government to take military action will be put before Parliament as soon as is practicable. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has said that he hopes that that would be before any military engagement—if it should come to that. But, as your Lordships will acknowledge, any decision must be taken with the safety of our Armed Forces uppermost in our minds.
In short, the choice is Saddam Hussein's. He can take the pathway to peace set out in the resolution or, by defying the international community's will, he can provoke military action. If he chooses the path of full co-operation, the way lies open to the suspension and the lifting of sanctions and the readmittance of Iraq to the family of nations. That is what he and his people have to gain through the Security Council resolution, and it is an enormous prize. But, if he chooses to frustrate the will of the international community, he will expose his people to the serious consequences cited in Resolution 1441. This position is backed by the European Union, by NATO and by the Arab League. All have made clear statements that Iraq must work with the international inspectors.
Some of your Lordships may be concerned about regime change. Her Majesty's Government's policy is to change the regime's behaviour with respect to weapons of mass destruction. If we can achieve that without using military force to bring about a change of regime, so much the better. But should the regime go as a result of action to remove Iraq's illegal weapons, the United Kingdom will be at the forefront of international efforts to provide a stable future for Iraq.
When we have discussed Iraq before, many of your Lordships have asked why we should seek to ensure compliance of UN resolutions in Iraq's case when resolutions in respect of other countries remain outstanding. As I have said before, we seek the implementation of all UNSCRs. We are working with other countries subject to SCRs to that end, particularly with respect to the dreadful and distressing conflict in the Middle East. Our sympathy goes out to all those caught up in yet another appalling tragedy in Kenya this morning.
Progress towards resolving that conflict and assuring the only workable solution—the creation of a viable Palestinian state, co-existing with an Israel confident of her security within her borders and within the region—is depressingly slow. But there are some positive developments. We now have full international support for the "two states" solution. The process of negotiation has been established under the quartet of the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and the Russian Federation. Let no one pretend that solutions will be quick or easy—but we are determined to continue to pursue them.
Just as it is high time that the Iraqi regime complied with its obligations concerning the safety and security of its region, it is high time too that it realised its responsibilities to its own people. Their suffering has been immense under a regime which murders, tortures and rapes political opponents, which has used poisonous gas to kill thousands of its own people, and which ignores the plight of its own sick and hungry.
Saddam Hussein accuses the international community of depriving his people of food and vital resources that they need to assure adequate medical treatment. But the truth is very different. The Oil for Food programme has been a lifeline for the Iraqi people, allowing not just food, but billions of pounds worth of goods, including hi-tech medical equipment, to be shipped to Iraq. Saddam's policy has been to frustrate this programme in an attempt to gain ill-deserved sympathy for his regime. The sad truth is that programmes such as the OFF programme would not be necessary at all if Saddam Hussein would only take the path mapped out for him towards lifting sanctions. The choice in this respect too is his.
Iraq's is, sadly, not the only bad regime in the world. But it is unique in combining so many seriously reprehensible qualities. For more than 10 years Iraq has defied the expressed will of the United Nations Security Council. Contrary to its international obligations, Iraq has been amassing weapons of mass destruction. Saddam Hussein has shown that he is, indeed, prepared to use those weapons against his neighbours and against his own people. Iraq has destabilised its region and, throughout, Saddam Hussein's regime has shown a despicable contempt for human rights.
Resolution 1441 gives Iraq one last chance to rehabilitate itself and to comply with its international obligations. The choice is Saddam Hussein's. He must take it or he must face the consequences. I beg to move.
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Baroness, as I am sure are all your Lordships, for setting out with her usual clarity the scene in relation to the UN resolution and the Iraqi crisis. December 8th, the date of the crucial test of whether Saddam Hussein does, indeed, understand that this is, in the noble Baroness's words, his "final opportunity", is very near.
We have no substantive Motion before us, as there was in the other place on Monday, but the noble Baroness has again raised a number of vitally important questions. I believe that some aspects remain to be clarified. Noble Lords, with an accumulated experience in many of the areas we are discussing, can bring that experience to bear and help to improve the public debate and the public analysis.
I believe that, by now, most people agree that Saddam Hussein is an unprecedented danger—a uniquely dangerous threat both to Europe and the United States. Indeed, he is a global threat. I read a comment this morning from what was called a "Whitehall source"—I fear that it may have been the Foreign and Commonwealth Office—that Iraq is not a global threat but simply a regional threat. I believe that to be entirely wrong. It betrays a state of mind and a perspective which could be very misleading.
The reality is that we are now facing a globalised phenomenon of which the horrors in Kenya this morning are one more example. It is bad enough that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction, which we hope will be identified shortly. But the point not always grasped is that when hostile states which dabble in terror conspire with non-state agents—terrorist networks linked to no particular state—the threat is increased not only marginally but exponentially. We are indeed dealing with a global problem: I believe that that Whitehall source is wrong.
I have been surprised all along by the lack of linkage between weapons of mass destruction and the global terrorist threat. In the United States, the State Department has no doubts at all about that. It believes, and I understand has evidence, that Iraq shelters several terrorist groups, including the Mujaheddin e Khalq and several Palestine-sponsored groups. As we know, Saddam finances the families of suicide martyrs, and it is the suicide bombing which most damages the fine and upright Palestinian cause. There is also evidence of extensive terrorist training at the Salman Pak facility.
Therefore, from the US perspective, Iraq and terrorism are the same issue and the moral case is the same—that against unspeakable evil. It is desirable that we emphasise that because it is important. War is dreadful. It is important that, in sending our citizens to war, we back them with a moral case or cause.
As we have previously said on this side of the House, Resolution 1441 is welcome. The work done by our team at the UN and, indeed, by our Ministers was excellent and achieved a remarkable result. But then we come to the question addressed by the Foreign Secretary on Monday and again by the noble Baroness today concerning what is a material breach and who decides whether a material breach has occurred. Someone suggested to me that it was a little like an elephant—it is very difficult to describe in the abstract but easy to recognise when one sees it. Perhaps that is so.
Paragraph 4 of the resolution sets out a list of items, including false statements, omissions and failure to comply. Then there are other items which have already been debated, such as firing missiles at allied aeroplanes in the no-fly zone. Does that take effect as from last week? Does such an act constitute an attack on signatories to the resolution? It does, but is it serious? The noble Baroness mentioned talk of bugging the inspectors so that, when they turn up at the gate of a plant or chemical works, it appears that everyone knows they are coming. Again, as the noble Baroness said, Saddam Hussein is already in breach of a whole string of earlier UN resolutions.
Therefore, considering that this is the point which could trigger warfare, deaths and danger on a massive scale, we are still left with the question of how material is material. On Monday, the Foreign Secretary said that,
"the actions as a whole add up to something deliberate and more significant: something that shows Iraq's intention not to comply".—[Official Report, Commons, 25/11/02; col. 52.]
As the noble Baroness said, it is very hard to pin that down in advance. Yet, as parliamentarians and as those who will at least approve, if not authorise, a major policy decision, we must be as clear as we can be about that matter. I believe that even more clarity is needed. I know that some of your Lordships will bring great wisdom to bear on that precise issue. Perhaps we can do better than "something deliberate" and "significant".
I was very glad to hear—as I was hoping to hear, having not seen evidence of it previously—the Government's strong endorsement, in the words of the noble Baroness, of the inspectors and of Dr Blix. He and his record have been subjected to much criticism. But our hopes rest heavily on his abilities and energies and on those of his team. Therefore, I believe that the endorsement was needed and was perhaps overdue. It was right that it came this morning.
Next, we have the question of whether the second resolution is necessary or simply desirable. Our view is similar to that of the Government—that it is not necessary or stipulated but that it probably is desirable if such a thing can be secured. The difficulty is that China and Russia have made explicit their insistence on a second resolution. Perhaps, in that situation, we do not have much of a choice. I believe we must face the fact that there is a possible clash ahead between those who will insist on a second resolution if there is non-compliance and if force is to be used and those who simply want to get on with it and who argue that, under existing resolutions, they have international legal authority to do so.
Either way, I hope that Parliament will have another say—I was glad to hear that confirmed by the noble Baroness—although not, of course, to give prior authority or to tick the box and authorise a decision to launch ourselves into an expeditionary operation. I do not believe that any government could be bound in that way. It would be absurd to try to lay that down as a precise rule. But both Houses of Parliament certainly have an important role. I believe that the Prime Minister has been unfairly criticised for not paying much attention to Parliament these days. That cannot be right because I read somewhere that the Spectator made him "Parliamentarian of the Year". The Spectator cannot be wrong, can it? I shall leave those questions for your Lordships to tackle in due course, as I know the House will.
I want to talk about two aspects of the situation. The first, as mentioned by the noble Baroness, concerns our own preparedness as part of the vital credibility of the threat. Keeping credibility is the key to the whole matter. Secondly, I shall refer to the international response—that is, what NATO is doing and what help we are receiving from our European neighbours. If I have time, I also want to discuss how Turkey fits into the jigsaw. I consider that to be an immensely important part, if not the key.
The noble Baroness said that we must have—I use her words—"proper preparations". At the end of the debate my noble friend Lord Attlee will raise a number of points about equipment, readiness, preparation and the lessons which we did or did not learn from the big operation, Saif Sareea, in Oman. All those matters were raised in debate the other night. Certainly, answers will be needed, including the position as regards the Challenger 2 tanks and whether they are ready to go. There seems to be confusion as to whether the filter weaknesses discovered in Saif Sareea have been remedied, are about to be remedied or are in the process of being remedied.
Our troops are without equal. What they have accomplished even in the past stormy year is fantastic. We should not forget for a moment the role they have played and that of their families, the wives and children who support them. They have done marvellously. Can the Government reassure the House that they will release the funds necessary to see that our superb Armed Forces are properly equipped? Will they refute the worrying stories about the Treasury denying funds; about false economies; and about soldiers having their pay delayed, drawing income support and paying high-rate tax on their modest income? Those stories are not good and need to be put down if there is any untruth in them or examined if they contain truth.
Yesterday the Chancellor's Statement mentioned £1 billion to help international security, if needed. It will be needed. This is an expensive business, particularly maintaining the credibility of a threat. I should like to hear, as would my noble friend, exactly how that £1 billion fits into the pattern. I assume that it is not just to correct the £1 billion underspend of last year; I believe that that has been corrected. But more will be needed. When we consider the extra sums discussed in the Senate and Congress for just this operation, we realise how even £1 billion, which sounds colossal, is a tiny sum compared to what is contemplated the other side of the water.
I turn to the role of NATO. The Prague meeting, which was very successful, produced a little noticed but milestone declaration. It read as follows:
"The NATO allies stand united in their commitment to take effective action to assist and support the efforts of the UN to ensure full and immediate compliance by Iraq".
That is an important statement. We are entitled to ask how that will be delivered. It has profound implications. First, starting at the less profound end, it presumably means that our neighbour and friend, Germany, is again on board. Germany stated recently that it wanted nothing to do with the Iraq expedition. Is that right? Are the German Government again refusing to help in Kuwait? I believe they have opened their airspace to the Americans, but that is the least they can do. It is hard to see how that fits in with all the NATO allies performing this high-sounding role.
Secondly, if that is now the role of NATO, it is a large transformation. Someone referred to the meeting in Prague as the transformation meeting. That puts NATO on a completely new path and one which we should certainly debate and analyse. I strongly welcome that. Thirdly, the statement that NATO will throw its weight into the Iraq situation, as it has strongly into the Afghan situation, reminds us that NATO must prepare for this kind of role in a more effective way. That is why we should examine positively the NATO response force, which I understand is to be a smaller, more powerful and much more effective way of shouldering Europe's share of the defence burden than previous initiatives. If the Iraq crisis is in any way to be prolonged I would hope that the proposal, which is very strong, has a part to play and enables NATO to fulfil its commitment.
The proposal is for a fully integrated force totalling around 20,000 but with a core of 5,000 soldiers and 50 bombers, with infantry, air power and naval strength all fused together and backed by the highest and latest American technology with no argument about whether or not it is NATO property. It seems to me that that is far the best way to forge a modernised, military, transatlantic security link, which responds in an era of terrorism. I think it was General Ralston who said the other day that,
"the key metric of war is no longer space; it is time".
That could apply at any moment in the Iraq case. We need small forces moving with lightning speed. That is the new necessity. That is what the NATO response force provides. It is odd that somehow we have hardly debated that matter in this House. Here is the real way to see burden-sharing working and NATO contributing to the Iraq crisis in a manner that some of the statements of individual NATO allies have not indicated. It is a pity that that kind of thinking and this kind of scheme were not in place earlier and that so much time has been lost.
I planned to say a word on Turkey, but I must be brief with so many noble Lords wishing to speak. I welcome the new regime in Turkey, the Justice and Development Party. That provides a great opportunity for a country which neighbours Iraq, with a powerful army, to be embraced in every possible way and certainly not frozen out from the EU as some of its leaders have suggested.
People ask for a post-Saddam vision concerning what will happen, what is the exit strategy, and so forth. Here is one I offer: an enlightened Turkey, as we see under an Islamist but not Jihadist government; a pluralist Iraq, if we can get there, perhaps not fully democratic in the western sense, but pluralist and no longer tyrannised; and perhaps a reforming Syria, which voted the right way in the UN, but that may be wishful thinking. If those countries begin to turn, I can think of no better context in which to make progress with the Israeli-Palestine settlement—the sore at the heart of the matter—and finally give back the Palestinians their land. I can think of no better way to help the quartet process and turn the spotlight on compliance with UN resolutions by both Israel and Palestine which, as the noble Baroness and many others have said, is the next priority.
That is my answer to those who ask, understandably, "Why don't we put the Israeli-Palestine problem first?" Dealing with an ugly and destabilising Iraq could also mean dealing with a whole culture of terror, which has gripped the Arab world and poisoned the Israeli-Palestine progress. Saddam's state terror interweaves inextricably with non-state terrorism. In the words of the US Under-Secretary of State last weekend, they are two faces of the same evil. No one wants war. In the words of Erasmus:
"Sweet is war to those who do not know it".
That is why I hope that in the coming weeks Saddam's twisted dream of Middle East domination and anti-free world terrorism will be utterly dismantled and that we will be utterly resolute in going about that task.
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, perhaps I may take up one point he made. He referred to American evidence of links between Saddam Hussein and international terrorism. Certainly, I would not want to be thought to be defending the despicable behaviour of Saddam Hussein or his regime. However, I remember making a point in the debate which immediately followed the publication of the Government's dossier that there was no evidence in that dossier of Saddam Hussein's links with Al'Qaeda or any other form of international terrorism. Therefore, unless the noble Lord wants to take up the point, I hope that the Minister will tell the House what further evidence the Government have following the publication of their dossier.
My Lords, I am sure that the Minister will set out the view as understood by the Government. However, my understanding is that while the dossier said nothing about terrorism or 9/11, the State Department is firmly convinced that there is evidence of perhaps Al'Qaeda but certainly terrorist training and other groups which I mentioned on Iraqi soil. Those people are all in the terrorism business together.
My Lords, I very much welcome this debate. It is particularly gratifying that so many Cross-Benchers have put down their names to speak because that will bring to bear a great deal of expertise from which we benefit greatly in this House and from which I think the country as a whole benefits.
The Minister said some extremely interesting things in the course of her remarks. I am sure that she will bear with me when I try to explore some of them in somewhat greater detail. The inspectors' first reports—I think the noble Baroness will agree—have been encouraging. Up to now they have been greeted politely and we understand that they have been given unrestricted access to the things that they want to see.
Reference was made earlier to the inspectors being bugged. My own hearing of "Today" suggested not that, but rather that the accommodation they were using had not yet been swept for bugs. It may be that the Minister can enlighten us later on that obviously important issue.
These are very early days. Resolution 1441 has laid down extremely detailed conditions. The first part of what I want to say relates to the difficulty of meeting those conditions, even if we can assume on both sides an honest intention to try to make the resolution work.
I begin by expressing my concern that arose from a remark made yesterday in a long interview on the "Today" programme with Jacques Baute, who is the head of the Iraq Action Team of the IAEA. I had the interview played back to me several times in order to ensure that I got it absolutely right. He said this about the resolution:
"There are timeframes which are incomprehensible . . . If everything goes well, if Iraq co-operates . . . a year should be a good timeframe".
He went on to say of laboratory analysis of any materials that might be discovered and that might be suspect,
"you don't do it in an hour".
He indicated that laboratory analysis by itself could take up to a month or more. So the timetable in the resolution is extremely difficult. Can the Minister tell us how far that practical and logistical difficulty was taken into account in the setting of these extremely tight timetables.
It is right that Resolution 1441 should be couched as it is in precise and uncompromising terms. That must be correct in a situation where peace and war are at stake. In that context, I praise the Prime Minister, Sir Jeremy Greenstock and his United Nations team, the French negotiators and, not least, the American Secretary of State Colin Powell for the huge amount of work that was put in to getting that resolution through the Security Council with the unanimous support of its members. That was a remarkable achievement and praise should be given for it.
It is also important that the American President, who is so often the recipient of rather stupid abuse in this country and elsewhere, made it clear that he would listen to differing opinions—and there are plenty of those in his administration, to which I shall return—but that the final decision was made by and rested with him. He gets great credit for framing a resolution and taking a channel, which was essentially that of the United Nations.
It is right and proper, too, to claim that this team of people—American, British, French and other, and including nations such as Syria which also contributed to the resolution and to its negotiation—have helped to recover the authority of the United Nations. That is a substantial achievement. But some parts of what I must say today relate to whether the United Nations can now hold on to the authority it has reacquired. That depends greatly on the inspectors being seen to undertake their work honestly and in a trustworthy way, and, frankly, without unacceptable interventions from any quarter with regard to that work.
It is not doubtful either that the threat of the use of force, sustained now over months, has been critical in getting Iraq to agree to the resolution. It is also absolutely right that Iraq must comply with its terms if it can. I believe that "if it can" is the absolutely crucial phrase.
The Minister encouraged noble Lords on these Benches by her remark that mild, minor or unintended omissions would not be regarded as a failure to comply. But I believe that it is very important to recognise what we are asking for. Resolution 1441 states that by 8th December, Iraq has to make,
"a currently accurate, full and complete declaration of all aspects of its programmes to develop chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles and other delivery systems".
Reports from Iraq suggest that Iraqi officials are stupefied by the list of sites expected to be put forward and publicised by them, which includes factories making mattresses, factories making slippers and many other such things. It is right and proper that Iraq should be asked to open these sites to inspection, but to do that by 8th December, which is almost upon us, raises large questions of how its response is to be interpreted.
One of the real concerns is to consider how the inspectors will report back on the failure or success of Iraq in that respect. A huge amount turns on those interpretations and indeed one could say that the fate of the region depends on the way in which that is dealt with.
There is a certain catch 22 implicit in this part of the resolution. If Iraq declares illegal sites, as all of us hope it will, that itself constitutes a new breach of Iraq's commitment to get rid of weapons of mass destruction. If, on the other hand, it does not declare them, then the assumption may well be that it has not declared them because it is trying to conceal them. It is very difficult to see how one can guarantee that nothing has been concealed if the inspectors themselves say that it will take up to a year to complete a full inspection of Iraq.
I must ask the Minister a further question. If the inspectors look at a sample of sites and are satisfied, will that constitute sufficient guarantee that Iraq is trying to comply with the terms of the resolution? The trustworthiness and honesty of the inspectors is absolutely vital in this context. I quote a remark made yesterday by the Syrian information Minister on behalf of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad. He said:
"Syria hopes that the resolution will be observed honestly, and that . . . aggression be averted".
A country such as Syria will depend entirely on whether it believes that the interpretation of a resolution is honest and fair. That is as important as the attitude of the western countries to whether it is thorough and complete. Both criteria must be met. They are by no means easy to meet.
It would be less than honest if we did not indicate that one of the reasons for concern about the whole process of the resolution and the upholding of the resolution flows from what was raised in another place earlier this week—the real concatenation of voices out of Washington which do not say the same thing. One has to say that the existence of very different voices in Washington is one reason for the real apprehension about whether the resolution will be able to succeed. I shall quote one or two of those different voices. In a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars last August the vice-president Dick Cheney said:
"A return of inspectors would provide no assurance whatsoever of his compliance with UN resolutions. On the contrary, there is a great danger that it would provide false comfort that Saddam was somehow 'back in his box'".
A further example comes from the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld. In answer to a caller on a recent phone-in programme in the United States, who asked what would happen if no weapons of mass destruction were found by United Nations weapons inspectors inside Iraq, Mr Rumsfeld said:
"What it would prove would be that the inspection process had been successfully defeated by the Iraqis".
In other words, in the eyes of the Secretary of Defense, it is impossible to prove one's compliance.
I have said before that one great strength of the American position is that, at the end of the day, the President makes the decisions, and he has shown a refreshing willingness to listen to a whole range of opinion. But we cannot simply slide over the fact that many members of the United Nations Security Council, many of our allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, many members of the Arab League and many countries in Europe have heard those discordant voices and are open to questioning the precise motivation of the United States.
Only yesterday, Richard Perle stated:
"I am very troubled at the idea that the United Nations is the sole legitimising institution when it comes to the use of force . . . Why is the United Nations a greater source of legitimacy than NATO?"
The answer is clear: NATO is an important alliance, but it does not represent the opinion of huge areas of the world. For all its weaknesses, the United Nations is the one and only body that has the right to speak for world as a whole.
It is important to say that those discordant voices have sown great concern and worry among many people in this House, in another place and much more widely among America's allies. We must recognise that there is a strong opinion that does not allow for the possibility of a peaceful outcome in Iraq.
What has happened so far has helped to restore the authority of the United Nations. It is crucial that the organisation and the Security Council are firm about Iraq—I entirely agree with the Minister on that—but they must also be seen to be absolutely fair and objective in how they define how far Resolution 1441 has been carried out by Iraq. That is crucial to maintain the support of moderate Arab nations, countries such as Jordan, Egypt and the Gulf states, for a moderate Arab attitude towards terrorism and what is happening in the world.
Finally, I turn to a question that profoundly troubles me: what is sometimes called the aftermath. Many of us passionately want the resolution to succeed because we recognise how high would be the cost of war. According to the International Institute of Strategic Affairs in an article published this month in its journal, Survival, the most moderate estimate of casualties is about 10,000 Iraqi military, 10,000 Iraqi civilians, with possible casualties far beyond that. Caritas, the international Christian aid organisation, puts the estimated figure much higher, pointing out that 14 million Iraqis are today dependent on food aid—two-thirds of the country's population—and that a major disruption of supplies, which will inevitably follow from a war sustained for more than a week or so, will put all those lives at risk.
The price is terribly high, but does not end there, because we all know that there may be repercussions on the whole of the Middle East and on the attitudes of moderate Arab nations and their populations. There is always the danger that, far from suppressing terrorism, we will encourage a new wave of terrorism, unless—I repeat—our actions are seen to be absolutely fair.
The noble Lord, Lord Howell, referred to Turkey and its support for the coalition. I agree that Turkey's new Government are in many ways encouraging, but she has let it be known that if there is a war on Iraq, she would expect to move quickly into northern Iraq—the so-called no-fly zone—to ensure that there can be no question of Kurds from that area entering Turkey in an attempt to establish a separate Kurdish state. The break-up of Iraq is a real concern.
There is little evidence of co-operation between the United States and this country about what may happen to a future Iraqi government following a war. The United States has tended to keep everyone else at arms' length. I cannot easily accept assurances on that point because, like some of my colleagues, I have attended several recent seminars with senior American officials at which it was made plain that they have a policy for the new administration in Iraq that is not multilateral. Perhaps that does not matter, but if we consider the sad story of Afghanistan, which was to be the model for the creation of new democracies and orderly states, we can only conclude that there is a long way to go, because so far, it is a story of reversion to warlords, violence and disorder outside Kabul, with little sign that the international community is sufficiently concerned to provide the necessary money and forces to ensure order in that country.
I end with a reference to Israel. The Israeli-Palestinian position simply lumbers from one act of retaliation and revenge to the next. Both sides are deeply convinced of the morality of their position, but that does not help to bring about any kind of peace. There are many illusions that a war in Iraq will somehow suddenly solve the Middle Eastern problem. I cannot agree with the noble Lord, Lord Howell, on that point. That is a dangerous illusion held in Washington for which there is little evidence, and to which I am glad to say that even the US Secretary of State and his department give no credence.
My Lords, I hope that you will forgive me if I croak a little at you this morning, because I am recovering from a heavy cold.
When I was Leader of the Opposition in your Lordships' House, I learnt early on that one should never rely on reports either of a resolution or a council meeting, one should read the documents. In this case it is particularly important, when we are considering the effect and implications of a Security Council resolution, that we read what it says.
I echo the tributes paid to the diplomatic effort that went into the framing of the resolution. I am deeply grateful that it was passed by unanimity in the Security Council. It is worth recording which countries voted for it. Apart from the Permanent Five, they included Syria, Mexico, Ireland, Bulgaria, Norway, Singapore, Colombia, Cameroon, Guinea and Mauritius. Whatever one thinks of the resolution, a fair spread of world opinion was mobilised behind it in the Security Council.
I shall not read the whole resolution because the document is available, but I shall draw the House's attention to certain parts of it. The preamble is as strong a preamble as I have ever seen in a United Nations resolution. Paragraph after paragraph is condemnatory of the behaviour of the Iraqi Government. The resolution firmly states that the UN is acting under chapter 7 of the charter, which means that it is one of the most important steps that the Security Council can take. The decisions that it makes are extremely important, and it is appropriate that we should be clear about what the Security Council decided.
First, the Security Council decided that,
"Iraq has been and remains, in material breach of its obligations under the relevant resolutions".
They are decisions, not requests. Secondly, the council decided:
"while acknowledging paragraph 1 above, to afford Iraq, by this resolution, a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations".
It decided to set up,
"an enhanced inspection regime".
Then, there are details of the regime. The resolution says that the Security Council has decided that,
"false statements or omissions in the declarations . . . shall constitute a further material breach of Iraq's obligations and"— your Lordships should note the following words—
"will be reported to the Council for assessment in accordance with paragraphs 11 or 12 below".
"immediate, unimpeded, unconditional and unrestricted access".
The central part of the resolution is about what will happen, if there are material breaches. Paragraph 11 directs,
Paragraph 12 states that the Security Council has decided to convene immediately,
"upon receipt of a report in accordance with paragraphs 4 or 11 above, in order to consider the situation and the need for full compliance with all of the relevant Council resolutions in order to secure international peace and security".
Finally, paragraph 13 recalls:
"in that context, that the Council has repeatedly warned Iraq that it will face serious consequences as a result of its continued violations of its obligations".
That is the international framework, if I can call it that, within which all the events relating to Iraq must be judged and must take place. Now that we have the resolution, the argument is about what it means. It is important to consider what individual countries seemed to think that it meant. Mr John Negroponte, the United States' ambassador to the United Nations said that the resolution contained no "hidden triggers" and no "automaticity" with the use of force. He said that the procedure to be followed was laid out in the resolution and that, one way or another, Iraq would be disarmed, if the Security Council failed to act decisively in the event of further Iraqi violation.
He also said that the resolution did not constrain any member state from acting to defend itself—I note the word "itself"—against the threat posed by that country. I totally accept that; it is within the terms of the charter. However, he went on to say that the resolution did not constrain any member state from acting to enforce relevant United Nations resolutions and protect world peace and security. Is it seriously being suggested that a country can do that when the rest of the Security Council does not want it? In other words, is it seriously being suggested that one country, however large or powerful—indeed, perhaps, however well intentioned—can take upon itself the obligation to enforce Security Council resolutions for the enforcement of which the rest of the Security Council does not, at that stage, see any necessity?
I am happy to say that Sir Jeremy Greenstock, the UK ambassador, avoided that morass and said that there was no automaticity in the resolution. He said that, if there were a further Iraqi breach of its disarmament obligations, the matter would return to the council for discussion. He expected the council then to meet its responsibilities.
The French ambassador said that if the inspection authorities reported to the council that Iraq had not complied with its obligations, the council would meet immediately and decide on a course of action. France welcomed the lack of automaticity in the final resolution. The same thing was said by other countries. The Mexican ambassador said that those who advocated the automatic recourse to the use of force had agreed to offer Iraq a final chance and that Iraq was now obliged to fully comply with its international obligations. He said that the resolution had eliminated automaticity in the use of force as a result of a material breach, and he welcomed the acceptance of the two-stage approach. The Irish ambassador said that the resolution provided for a clear, sequential process for Iraq's compliance. The Russian ambassador emphasised that the resolution did not contain any provision for the automatic use of force. The Bulgarian ambassador said much the same.
The most extraordinary vote on the council, in some ways, was that cast by Syria. I did not think that the Syrian Government would be prepared to support the resolution, and it is important that we look to see why they did. The Syrian ambassador said that Syria had voted for the resolution in order to achieve unanimity in the council and because of its commitment to the UN charter and international law, be it in the case of Iraq or of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the Palestinian cause. His country voted in favour after having received from the United States and the United Kingdom, as well as France and the Russian Federation, reassurances that the resolution would not be used as a pretext to strike Iraq and did not constitute a basis for automaticity. I do not need to refer to the views of the rest of the Security Council; they expressed themselves in like terms.
The difficulty is that we must now construe the resolution in circumstances that are, as yet, unknown and, perhaps, unknowable. The resolution and the terms of its acceptance would make it difficult to argue that there was no need for a second resolution. The tenor of the resolution and the debate on it pointed in the direction of having a second decision by the Security Council before force was used. The firm way in which automaticity was excluded means that we go back to the provisions of the charter. We must examine the charter and decide whether, in the circumstances, chapter 7 of the charter should be used. I can think of no case in which there was unilateral action by a country to enforce a chapter 7 determination without, at least, the acquiescence of the Security Council.
I understand that governments like to preserve their freedom of action, but it would be difficult to justify unilateral action with regard to law or political reality. Will the United States really go it alone, not just without Security Council approval but, possibly, in the face of Security Council opposition? Once it has met to consider a report from the inspectors of what is alleged to be a material breach, the council is bound to express an opinion. I have no doubt that that opinion will, at some stage, emerge in the form of a proposed resolution. I suppose that, in those circumstances, the United States would be prepared to use the veto. If the United States does so, must we follow it? We would be in an almost impossible situation, caught between a rock and a hard place. We could have to veto a resolution. More importantly, we would be supporting action that, prima facie, at any rate, was legally doubtful.
If there is urgency such that it is essential that military intervention take place, where is the evidence? I have not seen it. I understand the restraints imposed by the delicacy of the process of gathering intelligence, but we cannot go to war on the basis of a nod and a wink. The United States and the United Kingdom were two of the nations that were most active in promoting the United Nations after the Second World War. To put it mildly, it would be sad, if we were to be party to undermining the United Nations to the point that its continued effectiveness was put in doubt.
I am an unashamed multilateralist, as I have been all my life. Even allowing for all the problems, it is messier, it is more difficult to control, there are more countries to take on board and so on. But the outcome, if successful, will be infinitely greater than a unilateral approach. If nations act in concert rather than individually, the chances of resolving those problems will be increased, not diminished. It is that doctrine that I am afraid will perhaps be put in doubt if a certain interpretation of this resolution is adopted.
My Lords, I join the noble Lord, Lord Richard, in a bipartisan policy on croaking. I apologise to your Lordships if I am not entirely audible.
The noble Lord referred to the United Nations Resolution 1441 and, with his considerable experience of the United Nations, said that it was as condemnatory as any resolution that he could recall. As we all know, the explanation for that lies in the first paragraph of the resolution, which sets out all the United Nations previous resolutions that have been studiously ignored over all these years. I was somewhat involved in the very first, 687, which set out the absolute conditions of the ceasefire when the real threat of military force and the continuance of military force threatened Saddam Hussein, which he then accepted and, of course, has failed to comply with, and the succession of resolutions listed thereafter.
I therefore recognise and welcome the achievement of the Government; and I refer to the Government in totality because it is an example of British diplomatic capability, led by the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary playing a very significant role in the achievement of this remarkable outcome, with, to the surprise of many, as the noble Lord, Lord Richard, said, the inclusion of Syria and all the other countries of the United Nations representing their various areas of the world. It was also good to see the subsequent support of the Arab League for the need for action by Iraq.
I do not believe that anyone would suggest that the situation has now become any easier or that the world has become a safer place since the failure to achieve those earlier resolutions. We awoke this morning to the announcement of further terrorist outrages in Kenya—I apologise for the old-fashioned pronunciation—where I once served. With the terrorist attack in Bali, the fragility of the situation in Afghanistan, the obvious determination of Al'Qaeda to pursue its activities wherever it may, the recent warnings of threats to our own country and the possible arrest of those alleged to be involved in serious terrorist attacks in this country, we know that we face a serious terrorist threat.
I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Wright that, whether or not there is the closest evidence of total identification, we should not leave one country, as unattractive in its approach to other countries and other peoples as Iraq, in some sense impregnable, which could then subsequently become a base. The world is a more dangerous place. I have had some involvement myself in trying to combat terrorism in its various forms, but I have never had to combat the kind of terrorism that involves suicide bombers or organisations that care not how many people they kill and whose objective is that the greater the outrage, the more effective and successful they will regard their activity.
It is a new threat. My noble friend Lord Howell made that point very clearly. The allying of that threat and the completely different mind set that now exists in the world of terrorism, with the capability to ally it to weapons of mass destruction that are not necessarily secure, with no obvious linkage to the source from which they came but for which they may be made available, poses a challenge to the civilised world on a scale that we have not so far had to face and which, I accept, underpins much of the resolution of the United States and of Her Majesty's Government at present to try to make people realise that we face a quite different scale of threat.
So we face this resolution, and I have no hesitation in picking up the words that have been quoted: "This is the final opportunity". Those are the words of the resolution. There must be an absolute insistence on total compliance. There must be absolute certainty that Saddam Hussein is under no illusion whatever that a failure to observe that total compliance will lead to military action. Anyone who says, "We shall have to think about it" or "I am not quite sure" or "We shall have to deliberate on it later" will encourage Saddam Hussein to believe that he may be able to get off the hook. It will be a very serious decision. It has not yet been taken. I accept the Government's position on that, and we shall need to think about it, but to suggest at this stage that we are not sure what to do would be the biggest failure at the present time.
We are debating a resolution that is already in operation. Noble Lords will have read the reports of the first day of the inspectors' work. Anyone who has had a chance to speak to the inspectors, as I have previously in Kuwait at one of their bases in the early days, will know the difficulties that they face. The noble Baroness, Lady Symons, suggested, I think with tongue in cheek, that someone may be bugging the inspectors. To anyone who would care to have a bet with me on that, I would say that it is the easiest money you could possibly make. The Iraqis bug everyone. I was in Baghdad on an innocent trade mission. It is in the nature of the Iraqi government and the secret police to operate in that way. The difficulty for the inspectors is that one of the requirements contained in Mr Blix's letter is that the Iraqis are responsible for the security of the inspectors as they travel around. It therefore comes as no surprise that six United Nations cars were followed by 15 Iraqi police cars and other government officials roaring around the streets of Baghdad, all part of the same convoy. The difficulties of their role cannot be underestimated.
The noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, discussed all the problems and asked, "How can we be sure?" The reality is that we cannot be sure about this inspection. Whether it takes a month, six months or a year, the best that we can hope for is that they find no evidence. They cannot possibly say more. The Iraqis are masters of deception and concealment. All that they can possibly return with is a statement that they have found no evidence.
The first crunch will come much sooner than a year from now. The first crunch will come on 8th December, the date by which Iraq has to make a full and complete declaration of all aspects of its programmes of weapons of mass destruction. I do not know what the Iraqis will say. Will they say, "We have none"? Of course, everyone knows that that is completely untrue. They certainly had them, as evidenced by the 20,000 dead bodies that lay in the Fao Peninsula. The use of chemical weapons was a crucial element in the defence strategy of Saddam Hussein in relation to Halabja. When the offensive was launched on the Fao Peninsula, the Iraqis resisted the numerical superiority of the Iranians by the use of nerve agents and mustard gas, and 20,000 Iranians paid the price of that.
The Iraqis said that it was not an accident but a vital element in the protection of Iraq and its survival in the Iran-Iraq war. I do not intend to develop this point, but I have seen it reported and widely quoted by Iraqis that they positively believe that the reason why in the Gulf War we did not continue from the liberation of Kuwait to advance on Baghdad was that we knew that they would then use the chemical weapons that they had and they believed that their possession of chemical weapons saved them on that occasion. This is not some imaginary existence or a fantasy of some maverick intelligence organisation. The existence was real.
On 8th December, therefore, in accordance with the resolution, they will have to say what the programme was, whether it has stopped and what has happened to all the materials. We did not find them all in the previous inspections. We found some, but we certainly did not discover them all.
The current position is that out of that is highly likely to come a material breach. What happens then? There is to be a United Nations Security Council discussion. I do not believe that anyone will carry much credence if more sanctions are suggested. The no-fly zone, which I helped to institute in 1991, has reached the end of its life. It certainly provided protection to the Kurds and to an extent the Marsh Arabs, but it has provided no greater sanction than that. It is clear that there must be resolute action.
My position is that it would be better if that were done with the full support of the United Nations. However, if the United Nations continues to be paralysed, as it has been for the past 11 years, if it fails to implement the resolutions it has imposed, and facing the scale of threat that the world and particularly this country now faces, it may be necessary to act outside the agreement of the United Nations but with the maximum support we can obtain.
In that context, the United States has enormous power, but it would be disastrous if the Americans were to act on their own. While I worry considerably about our current capability and the quality of some of our equipment—I shall not raise that at this moment—we none the less have a real contribution to make with our background and experience particularly in that part of the world in which the UK has been involved for so many decades. I therefore hope that we will be prepared to play our part and I support the Government's approach to the parliamentary process.
Finally, in the case of the Gulf War a succession of Motions supported the deployment of our forces and the giving of the sternest possible warning to Saddam Hussein to evacuate Kuwait and to cease his aggression, warning him of the consequences. When subsequently it was necessary to take action, we came to the House of Commons and to this House as soon as possible in order to obtain a substantive Motion. I believe that that is the right action to take.
My Lords, a hundred years ago in Chicago, Theodore Roosevelt repeated the, even then, old adage, "Speak softly and carry a big stick". Today's President of the United States is well equipped to follow that advice.
Sound advice it is, too, if one is seeking to influence the thoughts and reactions of a potential opponent. Surely he will measure the strength of your resolve by the size of your stick rather than the volume of your rhetoric. Words will not faze him; actions will.
The spoken volumes of threats, often at high decibel levels, have nevertheless been the more dominant features of recent weeks, even months, as the Iraqi crisis has unfolded. They started with assertions of the need for regime change, of the determination to ensure disarmament and the removal of all weapons of mass destruction. I doubt that much of all this verbiage has had Saddam quaking in his shoes.
What will have influenced him—at least, assuming that he thinks rationally and I think that we must—is the scale and achievement of those western forces that he has seen in operation elsewhere in the world. After a hesitant start, the efforts in the Balkans proved a success. Those in Afghanistan demonstrated the global reach that can now be achieved by air and naval forces in relatively short time frames.
He will be aware of the importance of mounting bases for offensive action, and knows that there are a number of neighbours and near-neighbours to Iraq who are prepared to co-operate, or positively consider co-operation, with his enemy. He will recall the overwhelming military nature of Desert Storm, though he may console himself that it took several months of logistic and other efforts to bring ground forces to bear.
But that was a decade ago. What we hear little about, but he will be very familiar with it, is the constant patrolling of the northern and southern no-fly zones over Iraq. The efforts of the RAF and other air forces involved in this so-called humanitarian task have varied over the years since they started soon after the end of the Gulf conflict. A few general figures will nevertheless give a measure of this protracted commitment for the RAF. Its extent may come as a surprise.
Flying from bases in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain in the south and from Turkey in the north, over 24,000 RAF missions have been mounted since these operations started a decade ago. The RAF's weapons and defensive aids have greatly improved since Desert Storm. ASRAAMS on the Tornado F3s are now the best air-to-air missile in the world. Air-to-ground weapons, like the enhanced Paveway, have reliability and accuracy of a far greater degree than ever before.
The aircrew who fly these missions are not out on some training exercise. Often Iraqi air defences will catch them with their radar and try to shoot them down. Coalition aircraft were fired on 120 times recently in one month alone. In my maiden speech in your Lordships' House in 1991, following the end of the Gulf conflict, I drew attention to the courage and determination that aircrews showed then when they flew into danger. I also referred to the bravery of our special forces and those in minesweepers. I said then that I counted it a privilege,
"to have been associated with the activity of such brave people who display that very special kind of individual courage: to outface danger and conquer fear on their own".—[Official Report, 4/11/91; col. 36.]
It requires a special form of bravery and grit to fly today's missions not once or twice but many, many times. More than 30 RAF crews patrolling Iraqi no-fly zones have done it over 100 times; the highest scorer's next mission will be his 160th.
Not all of those now involved are seasoned campaigners with years of squadron experience under their belt and many hours in their logbooks. First tourists are fully committed too. Any one of them may have to fire their weapons in self-defence against the Iraqis. We can all be thankful that, thus far, no fatality or shooting down of one of our aircraft has occurred. But each day that goes by shortens the odds.
I have no doubt that these young men, and now women, deserve to be rewarded for their bravery and determination in the face of imminent danger. There seems to be some reluctance to recognise, with anything more than the General Service Medal, these young people who risk their lives to uphold the policies of Her Majesty's Government and the good name of the Royal Air Force. I hope that we shall hear that many of them are to be honoured. It would do much for morale, even perhaps as good a retention measure as a bounty cheque in the bank. Such bravery and determination deserve recognition.
If the present rules for awards do not cover such courage and commitment, then the rules are wrong. They need to be changed to reflect that these flights are missions into real danger. I recall from my discussions with Sir Arthur Harris his disgust and dismay that there was no special campaign medal for those who flew bombing missions in World War II.
I hope that we do not repeat this short-sighted and niggardly approach. We should not have to wait for one of our aircraft to be shot down to recognise that there is real danger in every mission. I hope that the Minister, whom I have alerted to my concerns, will be able to say that many such honours will be forthcoming. They are certainly well deserved.
Meanwhile, Saddam, in spite of Resolution 1441, has not stopped attempts to shoot down those who patrol these no-fly zones. But I take some comfort from the fact that Saddam must realise that his military potential to deal with even greater air operations in his airspace will not be good. In 10 years he has not had one success. All credit to our crews for that Iraqi duck. But he cannot expect that his forces will greatly interfere with air attacks on key targets in Iraq, let alone stop them being damaged and destroyed.
He is in a good position to appreciate that, for all the western rhetoric—which he might be tempted to ignore or dismiss—the big stick is for real. He will not want to give the West the excuse, that some in Washington would like, to wage air war upon his country. So I hope that we shall continue to demonstrate that there is the real potential to destroy him and that it is not left only to the megaphone pronouncements of governments, repeated by the world's media, to tell him so. The rest of the world will be listening too and can be scared by what it hears. More so than Saddam, who will only be likely to co-operate if the will to use the stick is quietly made known to him by both word and deed.
The crews who fly over Iraq deserve our fullest support and admiration. It is they as much as anyone who are helping to get the right messages to Baghdad. If this is achieved, a successful outcome, without major conflict, could still be within our grasp and that of the United Nations and Resolution 1441.
We must be prepared not only for conflict but be clear about the post-hostilities situation. I hope that the Minister can give assurance that this aspect of planning is not being neglected.
My Lords, it is good that your Lordships' House has the opportunity of debating the situation in Iraq at this significant stage in developments.
The General Synod of the Church of England was meeting at much the same time as the Security Council of the United Nations was formulating Resolution 1441. There was general recognition during the Synod's debate that the Government were to be congratulated on playing such a significant part in ensuring that the United Nations was the body driving the negotiations seeking to disarm Iraq of any weapons of mass destruction. In particular, it was recognised that the Prime Minister had been very instrumental in persuading the United States, at least at this stage, to work with and through the UN rather than taking unilateral action.
The Synod endorsed the House of Bishops' submission that the crucial first step in disarming Iraq was to obtain the unfettered and unhindered access of UN weapons inspectors to facilitate the identification and destruction of any of these terror weapons. Yesterday in Iraq the weapon inspectors began their work.
The equivalent debate in the other place took place on Monday, before it was known what reception the inspectors would receive. Speakers there reflected upon what would happen if the Iraqi Government did not co-operate in the process of inspection; who would report this back to the Security Council and how it would be done; and what steps the Security Council might then take to ensure compliance with Resolution 1441.
Yesterday, both teams of inspectors reported every co-operation from the Iraqis as they began their work. My concern today is not the unco-operation of the Iraqi regime with the UN inspectors but its super co-operation and what may lie behind it.
It could be that the Iraqi Government have nothing to hide; that the dossier of information which Her Majesty's Government placed before your Lordships' House during an earlier debate was misplaced or mistaken; that there are no weapons of mass destruction hidden in Iraq. That would be a marvellous outcome to the inspection process for the world would then be a much safer place.
But a second reason for yesterday's super co-operation of the Iraqi regime could be that the weapons of mass destruction are so carefully squirreled away that the Iraqis are confident that they will remain hidden from the prying eyes of the UN inspectors, particularly if those eyes can be directed in a different direction.
When the noble Lord, Lord Steel, and I paid a humanitarian fact-finding visit to Baghdad following the Gulf War, we were met with just such super co-operation. Every day and every evening our minder took us wherever we wanted to go. Our visits were always well expected and well prepared for. It was all very frustrating. It was only when we noted that our minder assumed that we and he would take a rest every afternoon that we began to make any progress, by slipping out of our hotel rooms during our minder's siesta and visiting independent agencies and contacts, where we saw a very different picture and heard very different voices describing life in that unhappy country. Somehow the UN inspectors must develop similar plans, away from prying eyes and ears and super co-operative minders.
But there could be a third reason for the super co-operation with the inspectors. We might find a clue to this in the Bible in St Paul's letter to the Romans, chapter 12, which states:
"If your enemy hungers, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. For by so doing you will heap burning coals upon their heads".
Or, in this case, if the UN inspectors want to go somewhere, take them everywhere they want to go and more. Exhaust them and their limited resources with super co-operation. Take them to every corner of the country until they are overwhelmed with activity.
This Pauline doctrine of super co-operation might then be taken a stage further. Resolution 1441, as we have heard, places upon the Iraqi Government the necessity of making a full and complete declaration of their entire weapons of mass destruction programme within 30 days—8th December. Questions were asked of the Government in the other place on Monday as to what would happen if the Iraqi regime failed to do this or simply replied that it had no such weapons. Would this be regarded as non-compliance with Resolution 1441? If so, what then? The noble Lord, Lord King, addressed this question earlier.
I should like to ask the Minister a rather different question. What will the UN do if there is super compliance and the Iraqis make a super declaration on day 30, saying something like this: "We do not have any weapons of mass destruction or ways of producing them. But we want to be co-operative and so we have listed every biological, chemical and mechanical facility we have, every research, development and production unit. The list for these is very long for there are thousands of such items, but we want to be co-operative"?
Of course, hidden away in such a list may well be items of real concern which might indeed be weapons of mass destruction, in embryo at least, but it could be extremely difficult to find them among the rest; it would be like looking for 10 needles in 1,000 haystacks. Can the Minister indicate whether that kind of super co-operation would be regarded as non-compliance with Resolution 1441 and, if so, how the members of the Security Council who are less suspicious of the Iraqi regime than Her Majesty's Government might be persuaded of this?
I freely admit that this Pauline doctrine of super co-operation is pure speculation, but we are dealing with an intelligent, powerful and cunning regime which has survived and prospered thus far by being able to turn even adverse situations to its own advantage. If the UN inspectors can be encouraged to engage in a frantic round of activity until the summer months, when military operations in the desert become more difficult, then the threat of military sanctions becomes less formidable. The frustrations and divisions of the UN Security Council could become immense, with the consequent danger of the United States, and possibly Britain, taking unilateral action, with very serious consequences for us internationally and possibly within Britain.
In Dukas's Sorcerer's Apprentice, a magician's young apprentice tries to lighten his workload by experimenting with magic spells that he has seen his master use. When the boy is alone, he commands a broom to go to the well to fetch water for the house. The broom obliges all too well, and the apprentice finds that he does not know how to command the broom to stop when the basin begins to overflow, soon filling the room with water, and before long the boy is near to drowning.
Resolution 1441 requires the UN inspectors to up-date the Security Council within 60 days of resuming inspections and, thereafter, every 60 days. In my scenario of super co-operation, where the inspectors risk drowning in activity and information, I should like to ask the Minister whether there is an end point to the flood; or do successive 60 days stretch out long into the future?
I have concentrated very much on the short-term here and now situation, but I should also like to place on record that in the General Synod's debate we were also very conscious of the difficult issues underlying the present tensions in Iraq and elsewhere, particularly the Israeli/Palestinian convulsions. This is even more relevant following this morning's disturbing news from Kenya of the attempted missile attack on an airliner carrying Israeli passengers. The Synod resolution supported and encouraged the Prime Minister in his efforts to press for a new international conference to revitalise the Middle East peace process based on the twin principles of a secure Israel and a viable Palestinian state. This might not be in the forefront of our minds today as the UN inspectors go about their work in Iraq, but there will be no abiding peace until that issue too has been tackled and solved.
My Lords, I join with other noble Lords in saying that the fact that UN Security Council Resolution 1441 was carried unanimously is an amazing achievement for the British and American diplomats and politicians involved, who certainly deserve our congratulations.
It is an excellent resolution which confronts and deals with two problems. First, how to pin down the Saddam regime to co-operate with the UN inspectors in such a detailed way as would prevent the squirming manoeuvres which this regime had used to evade detection by previous UN inspection teams. Some have queried the specifics into which paragraph 5 goes, but the detailed points in paragraph 5 are all necessary. As one reads it, one recognises again and again precise incidents and tactics which occurred in the past and which are being specifically blocked in the wording of this resolution.
In particular, some have questioned the provision that,
"Unmovic and IAEA may at their discretion conduct interviews inside or outside of Iraq, may facilitate the travel of those interviewed and family members outside of Iraq, and at the sole discretion of Unmovic and IAEA such interviews may occur without the presence of observers from the Iraqi Government".
It is difficult to over-estimate the chilling efficiency and scope of the terror machine which keeps the Saddam regime in power. It is well documented that whole families are wiped out if a member is suspected of disaffection for the regime. Some of your Lordships will have seen the powerful "Dispatches" programme on Channel 4 on 17th November which investigated reports of public beheadings of women by men with faces and bodies swathed in black known as Uday's Fedayeen (controlled by Saddam's son, Uday). Officially any such executions are denied, but ordinary people, unaware of the official denial, confirmed the executions on camera, explaining rather disingenuously that these women were executed only because they were prostitutes and it was part of a campaign supposed to reinforce the principles of Islam.
In fact, there is evidence that among the women executed were a doctor, a teacher and an ordinary mother, who had all fallen foul of the regime for real or imagined dissidence. No one who saw this programme will easily forget the eyewitness descriptions of some of the ghastly details of these executions—all carried out at carefully chosen times and places for maximum public effect. As the courageous investigative reporter said about one such event, it was the equivalent of choosing a busy time in Oxford Street. Carefully planned actions like that ensure maximum terror effect and surely justify the provisions in paragraph 5.
The second problem for the UN resolution was how to make the language so clear and unequivocal that even Saddam would recognise that this time the penalty for not co-operating with the UN inspectors will have serious consequences up to and including military action against him, and that he could not just play for time as he had done so often before. That is why it is right that a strict timetable is laid out in this resolution.
The 8th December is now a crucial date—as my noble friend Lady Symons made clear in her opening statement—by which, as laid down in paragraph 3, Iraq has to make a,
"currently accurate, full and complete declaration of all aspects of its programmes to develop chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles".
And paragraph 3 adds,
"as well as all other chemical, biological and nuclear programmes including any which it claims are for purposes not related to weapons production or material".
Paragraph 4 states—as my noble friend Lord Richard quoted—that false statements or omissions in the declarations shall constitute a material breach of Iraq's obligation and will be reported to the Council.
It has been claimed that this is a resolution for war but, as I have said before, it is only that if Saddam makes it so. Saddam has agreed to go along with Resolution 1441 so there should be no way out of full compliance.
I should like to be optimistic about Iraq complying, but to be honest, that would be a triumph of hope over experience. The former UN inspector, Richard Butler, said a fortnight ago:
"I will predict Iraq will not simply comply, they will give a version of compliance".
I fear that he may well be correct. And he went on to say what I hope will not prove true, that when there is obfuscation or deviation from the requirements of the resolution, there would be disagreement in the Security Council on whether or not Iraq was in material breach.
I agree with what the noble Lord, Lord King, said about this. It is essential that Saddam is not allowed even to start to play that game, let alone win it. It is vital that this time the will of the UN to disarm this dreadful regime of its weapons of mass destruction prevails, and Resolution 1441 provides the necessary tool to achieve this.
My Lords, as a result of UN Security Council Resolution 1441 the sand in the hour-glass of Saddam Hussein's defiance has almost trickled out. As we have heard, he has been presented with a stark choice: to give up his weapons of mass destruction voluntarily, for which he has made the Iraqi people pay so dearly in sanctions since 1991, or face the near certainty of military force and his political, if not physical demise. This is Iraq's final opportunity—and "final" must mean final. It is a case of disarm or face the consequences.
There is widespread consensus today that the subtler points of diplomatic nuances are wasted on Saddam Hussein. I echo what the noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay, said in this House two weeks ago; namely, that there was no point in trying to be "diplomatically subtle" with the Iraqi regime. As Kofi Annan has said,
"We have learned that sensitive diplomacy must be backed by the threat of military force if it is to succeed".
A strategy of diplomacy must be backed by the credible threat of the use of force. Without that credible threat, I doubt that we would have seen UN inspectors back in Iraq today.
We all want to avoid war. As the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, emphasised, if the UN weapons inspectors are given time to do their jobs, we may yet succeed in doing so. But in the brief time available, I intend to focus on what has been called the aftermath.
We know that Saddam Hussein did not use his chemical and biological weapons during the Gulf War because he was striving to ensure the survival of his regime. In the event that war is waged to terminate Saddam Hussein's regime, if his removal is our ultimate war aim, there is less to stop him from pressing the WMD button. He will have little to lose, and the assumption must be that he may be prepared to use his weapons of mass destruction, and, if he can, to light the touch paper for a full Middle Eastern conflagration. This is only one of the reasons why war against Iraq must be the very last resort, when all else—diplomatic and political initiatives—has failed.
However, if the threat of the use of force that underlies Resolution 1441 is to be credible—and as my noble friend Lord King said, it must be credible—it is right to consider the possibility, and the aims and goals, of military action. The UN resolution may not contain any hidden triggers, but, in its threat of serious consequences in the event of a material breach, it does contain a casus belli. Any war against Iraq must be a means to an end. It cannot be an end in itself. If Saddam Hussein is toppled, that is not an end in itself. If military action results in regime change, we cannot then pat ourselves on the back and say, "job done, pack up and go home". It is only the beginning.
On Monday, I asked the Minister whether she agreed that we must have full contingency plans, in the event that the use of force becomes necessary, and plans for the outcome and aftermath of any military action. I asked her whether she agreed that any decision to use force against Iraq must include a strategy for the long-term, post-war stability of Iraq and the region as a whole. I asked for assurances that Britain would not enter a conflict against Iraq without a clear, effective and pre-planned exit strategy.
I am troubled by the uncharacteristic lack of clarity in the Minister's answer. I wonder whether we have learned the lesson that we cannot have a strategy to enter a war—which may happen very soon—unless we have a strategy to exit one. The lack of an effective, pre-planned exit strategy risks a long military campaign followed by continued political and military entanglement. If this should prove to be the case, the eddying politics of the Middle East may make a military campaign only the start of our problems. Saddam Hussein cannot be toppled without a replacement in view; otherwise there will be a dangerous power vacuum. But a government in Iraq that is perceived as the West's puppet, any kind of client regime or an American protectorate will do nothing to bring stability to an already politically highly volatile region. To quote the noble Baroness:
"These will not be actions seen to be absolutely fair".
It would be highly vulnerable to terrorist attacks, as would we, because it would risk presenting terrorist organisations with a gift—the proof of their claim that the US is illegitimately controlling their part of the world. It is just that propaganda that a terrorist organisation such as Al'Qaeda requires.
How do we address this? It is not just a question of the United Kingdom standing shoulder to shoulder with America. The involvement of Arab countries is essential as it was in the Gulf War coalition. If we take military action, it must be with the backing of the people who live in the region and whose governments support our aims and objectives. So I ask the Minister what implications he believes military action against Iraq would have for the stability of the Middle Eastern region as a whole, in the event that the use of force is triggered as a result of non-compliance by Iraq with Resolution 1441.
There is no doubt that many Arab countries see the problem of Israel and Palestine as inextricably linked to that of Saddam Hussein. There must be progress on one if there is to be progress on the other.
I hope that the Minister will give an assurance that in the event of military action the Government will set out their plans for a post-Saddam Iraq. Our goal should be a unified, single country at peace with itself and with its neighbours. As your Lordships are all too well aware, the internal opposition to Saddam Hussein is weak, ineffective and hopelessly divided. If Saddam Hussein lost power, it is possible that Iraq would fragment into entities controlled by the Kurds in the north, the Shia Muslims in the south and the Sunni Muslims in the centre. To many, the creation of a southern Iraqi state run by Iraq's majority Shia community would represent a victory for the influence of radical Iran. Turkey, Syria and Iran would also fear the rise of Kurdish nationalist and separatist movements. There are other reasons why Iraq as a country should not be allowed to fragment.
The American press has reported that the US Administration are considering a plan to occupy Iraq and install a US-led military government as a way of avoiding the country's chaotic disintegration. Yet there is little indication of the existence of a sensible, workable, long-term strategy for a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq
The international community has a responsibility to assist the people of Iraq with economic aid and humanitarian assistance. This is vital if the Iraqi people are to rebuild successfully the internal infrastructure and the economy of their country. We will need to help to rebuild Iraq's economy and infrastructure after the ravages of more than a decade of sanctions and the "wasting of the treasures of Iraq in the hands of its leaders". This is a responsibility for the whole international community.
We have developed the dangerous habit of partitioning our roles, sometimes in the name of burden-sharing, sometimes in the name of expediency. There has been a tendency to say that the US has all the military might so it should shoulder the burden of the military campaign while Britain, the European Union and whoever else is prepared to do so are better suited to sweeping up the broken glass afterwards and handling the post-war reconstruction. This will not work in the case of Iraq. In this situation, we must work together at every step, be it during a military campaign or in a post-war humanitarian and reconstruction scenario.
I have said before in this House that winning the peace is as important as winning the war. This applies equally to Afghanistan, and, if circumstances were to lead there, it also applies to Iraq. Yet, time and again, we fail to devote the same resources to resolution of the underlying causes of conflict as we do to diplomatic and military requirements. Beyond the CNN headline-making effect of waging and winning wars, the making and keeping of a permanent peace through the long, slow process of restoration of a country or a region, of the reconstruction of its towns, villages, businesses and communities, and of the revival of its spirit and its people is too often neglected.
As we tour the world and focus on Iraq, it is still a lesson I am not convinced we have learned, even in the wake of September 11th.
My Lords, I begin by apologising to your Lordships, as I already have to the Minister, that, because of a long-standing engagement overseas late tonight, I shall probably not be present for the closing speeches.
Like others speaking in this debate, I welcome Security Council Resolution 1441. It helpfully tightens the screw on Saddam Hussein to compel him to disarm. Like other noble Lords, I also hope that Saddam will give a full accounting of his weapons of mass destruction, as well as the materials and facilities for manufacturing them, so the inspectors can find and destroy them and we will not have to go to war on Iraq.
But, my Lords, I am not holding my breath. Experience suggests that such hopes are likely to be vain. Saddam Hussein will hang on to his weapons of mass destruction so long as he believes he can deceive us and so long as he thinks he can rely on some UN members continuing to want to stave off military action at all costs. It also seems all to likely, I fear, that he will be able to outsmart the inspectors on the ground.
The lessons about this that I draw from my personal experience of the Gulf War are that with hindsight we made a mistake by not insisting on Saddam's personal surrender and subsequent removal in 1991; that Iraq will never renounce weapons of mass destruction permanently, so long as Saddam and his associates remain in power—to believe otherwise is wishful thinking—and that half measures will never solve the problem; at best they will only defer it.
So I have very little doubt that force will have to be used, and probably sooner rather than later. That is the prospect to which I shall address my remarks. I shall make four points.
First, we should not be floppy about identifying what constitutes a material breach of the UN resolution. An untrue declaration by Saddam would be a material breach, to add to many earlier ones. It may be that we shall want to wait for an even more concrete breach before initiating military action, but let us call a spade a spade from the beginning.
Secondly, once a clear material breach is detected and exposed, there will be a great outcry demanding another Security Council resolution before force is used. Indeed, we have heard it already. However, as others have said, there is no legal requirement for that and there is no commitment to it in the earlier resolution; only to further discussion. President Bush has said clearly that such discussion cannot and must not jeopardise America's freedom of action. I hope Britain will stand with him on this rather than make a misguided attempt to appease opinion by actively canvassing and expressing a preference for a second resolution. That will only encourage Saddam to believe that he still has a chance of escaping the serious consequences that the Security Council resolution threatened. You cannot make and then remake decisions without losing credibility.
Of course, in an ideal world it would be desirable to have every member of the Security Council signed up to military action, but in the real world the chances are very slim. It is easy enough to predict here and now the course that a further Security Council discussion will take. After all, plainly several UN Security Council members voted for Resolution 1441 precisely because it did not threaten the use of force. Those countries that for years have been trying to help Saddam Hussein get off the hook of sanctions will temporise and argue for more time, for more evidence, for one more chance. To quote a renowned speech in another place, "No, no, no"—no more time; no more breaches; no more chances; and no vetoes.
Thirdly, what about the reaction of Muslim countries and their governments to the use of force to disarm Saddam Hussein? There is a certain amount of hyperventilation on the subject, including in this House. The fact is that Saddam Hussein represents even more of a threat to his neighbours than to us. He invaded Kuwait. There was little doubt then that his ambition extended beyond that to the Saudi oil fields and even to those of the lower Gulf. The Saudi Government certainly thought so at the time. Saddam also holds the unchallenged world record for slaughtering his fellow Muslims—over 1 million in the Iran-Iraq war. Whatever Arab governments feel it necessary to say publicly now, I cannot believe that most of them will not be mightily relieved to see him go, provided military action is swift and successful and does not involve Israel. That will do far more for their own security than appeasing the anger of the so-called Arab street—a threat that is often wheeled out, but which has constantly proved exaggerated.
The attitude of the Muslim world would certainly be improved if the United States would galvanise itself to rekindle negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. All that needs to be said was said in President Bush's excellent speech last June, spelling out the elements of a settlement. Of course a full-blown solution cannot be delivered just like that, but a start needs to be made and made now. It is worth recalling that in the previous Gulf War, President Bush 41 promised a peace conference as soon as the task of ejecting Iraq from Kuwait was completed.
Lastly, as we reflect on the further steps at the United Nations, let us remember that disarming Iraq will not be the end of the story. Beyond that there is the emerging risk of a nuclear-capable and terrorist-supporting Iran and there is North Korea's cynical admission after years of blatant lies that it is developing nuclear weapons—and, indeed, probably has them. There is no single strategy that can disarm North Korea and deter other rogue states that may be trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction. In the case of North Korea, there will need to be intense and co-ordinated pressure on the regime, not just from the United States, but from China, Japan, Russia and South Korea.
One thing is surely indisputable: swift, resolute and successful action to disarm Saddam Hussein will send an unmistakable signal to others with similar ambitions that their game is up.
My Lords, I am delighted to follow the noble Lord, Lord Powell. Slightly to my surprise, I agreed with almost everything he said.
There are two issues. The first, which the noble Lord dealt with, is whether a war can or should be avoided. The second, not yet mentioned, is the overflow from the Iraq situation, actual and potential, into community relations in this country.
On the potential war, I echo the views of the noble Lord, Lord Howell, that Saddam Hussein presents a uniquely dangerous threat and that there is a clear link between Iraq and terrorism, shown not least by his financing of the suicide bombers. The noble Lord did not mention that Saddam has also been reported many times as giving 25,000 dollars to the family of each suicide bomber. In other words, he encourages families to send their children not only to their own deaths, but to murder others. As a parent I find that difficult to understand—and even more so as a grandparent. The idea of somebody paying families to do that is revolting.
This man is a danger to us all. Clearly, none of us who has seen war or its aftermath wants it to be inflicted or imposed on anyone else. The question is what alternative there can be in this case. The alternative is for him to give up his weapons and to treat the inspectors with openness and respect. As the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, said, they must be treated honestly, in a trustworthy way and without interference. I have no belief that he will do that. Some noble Lords may have heard the broadcast yesterday morning by the former head of the CIA who said that he has no doubt that Saddam Hussein will not behave in that way.
Iraq is a country the size of France. There will be 80 inspectors on the ground with their staff. We can imagine how little would be found in this country by 80 inspectors. They will certainly not find much in Iraq, where it is reported—again without contradiction—that Saddam Hussein has had a staff of literally thousands engaged for months in hiding away his weapons of destruction. He will have had no difficulty doing that: he is the dictator of a country of mountains, deserts and caves that are ideal for hiding any of these potential weapons. They are not weapons that those of us involved in wars in the past would have known. These are new biological weapons and weapons of mass destruction.
Thinking about this debate, I remembered with happiness a 90th birthday party for a very distinguished relative of mine. He is a doctor and businessman and is physically and mentally fit. After the celebration I asked him, "How do you do it? What is your secret? I would like to be like you at 90". "Oh, it's simple," he said. "Get it before it gets you". He has health checks. He was talking about his health and about dealing with personal problems before they kill you, which all of us can understand. But I am afraid that that is my view on Iraq under the leadership of Saddam Hussein. If we do not get him, he will get us; indeed, not only us, but our way of life, our world, and those about whom we care. As the noble Lord, Lord Powell, so eloquently pointed out, he will outsmart the inspectors.
We do not want war, but we do know what will happen. I notice that the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, is sitting on the opposite side of the Chamber. He led British troops into Belsen after the war. I followed him a little while later while the war was still going on—
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord. The noble Lord knows the effect of appeasement on Europe in the past. We should all remember the dangers of allowing a vicious dictator not merely to be in power but to be in a position to impose his will, his dangers—and, indeed, death—upon others. As the noble Lord, Lord King, said, there is a new scale and a new nature to the threat. Saddam Hussein must have an absolute certainty that failure to come clean will lead to swift, effective military action.
The other side of the problem is the overflow into other worlds, not least our own. I have in mind the suicide bomber about whom we heard this morning—the man who drove his car into an Israeli-owned hotel in Kenya and blew himself up killing 10 other people in the process. There was also the threat today to an Israel aircraft in Kenya at about the same time; happily, the two missiles did not connect.
After 9/11 I remember talking to a senior security person who said that he would be very surprised if we did not have such an event in this country. Among the perfectly obvious targets is the one in which we work—the Palace of Westminster. There is an overflow and a danger to us all that we should never underestimate. However, there is also an overflow into relations between communities that live in this country.
I am a member of the Jewish community, which, I know, is very happy to work with people in the Muslim community in this country—now numbering about 2 million. It is very important that we should not allow the overflow of problems in the Middle East, from whatever part, to enter the relations between our own communities, no matter what our differences may be. Those of us who remember the successful efforts of the Nazis in Britain before the war will have felt a deep sense of shock that they would win even one council seat last week.
As a Member of Parliament for part of Leicester, where we had, and have, many mixed communities, I remember that the National Front came within 56 votes of winning two seats in a council election in my patch in the early 1980s—an area of the city that the noble Lord, Lord Bach, will remember well because he was with me at that time. We issued a pamphlet, which said:
"The National Front is a Nazi Front".
However underprivileged they may have been, it sunk into people's minds that they would not find any relief by supporting the National Front, or any other Nazi party. One of the fascists sued for libel, but subsequently dropped the suit. The message had sunk in: the National Front and the British National Party have never made any inroads in Leicester. The fascists are feeding off communal ill will. They are attacking the Muslim communities. They are very happy when the Muslim community attacks the Jewish community. There have been Muslim marches with those taking part carrying banners saying, "Death to Jews". I believe that any Jewish person who carries a banner displaying the words, "Death to Muslims"—I know of none—should be prosecuted, locked up, and kept away from society for as long as possible.
The Jewish community understands that if the far Right waxes fat on its attacks on the Muslim community, other minority communities will follow. The Muslim community must understand that if they pick successfully on the Jewish community, they will be next. We are very fortunate to live in this great, decent, and happy land, all of us together, with our agreements and disagreements. We must keep it that way; we must not allow foreign wars to turn into wars in the United Kingdom. That is as vital a message for us in the Iraqi situation today as it is in any other.
My Lords, as the noble Lord referred to a certain time in the past and mentioned my name, I should like to seize this opportunity to clarify the events in question.
The noble Lord is absolutely right. I was commanding a unit in the division that discovered the concentration camp at Belsen. It was three weeks before the end of the war, and I was wounded two weeks later. After that, I spent over a year in hospital recovering from my injuries and left in a wheelchair. That is the course of events that the noble Lord described. Those of us who found Belsen and realised what had been going on there were absolutely horrified and will always remember it.
My Lords, I believe that the debate is highlighting the difficulties of reconciling the requirements of internationalism with the existence in the world of one overwhelmingly powerful country, not only militarily but also, in the case of the United States, economically and in terms of its popular cultural influence.
We should bear in mind the fact that the American public and the American Government believe that they have sustained an act of war, and that they are at war. The President of the United States received from both Houses of the Congress far heavier majorities authorising the use of force against Iraq than his father received for authorising the Gulf War.
On 11th September of last year the President of the United States said that the US was at war and that it would consider its enemies to be all terrorists; that it would hunt down terrorists wherever they were; that it would make no distinction between terrorists and countries that supported terrorists; and that it would judge by their actions whether any country, and all countries, were friends or foes of America. I believe that all of America's allies essentially heard and agreed with that position when the President enunciated it. He has been quite faithful to that. In the subsequent weeks, I believe that some of the President's advisers made it clear that, in practice, where there is a legitimate territorial issue—such as in Israel and in Palestine—that policy can be varied somewhat, but in general the United States has continued to adhere to it.
What the Congress has voted and what has been ratified by the most successful mid-term election in 68 years was tantamount to a declaration of war; to call it otherwise is a distinction without a difference. That is the condition that the United States is in. Given the severity of the provocation, given the overwhelming evidence that Iraq is a terrorist state, given the egregious acts of terrorism with which Saddam Hussein has been complicit, the United States has in fact behaved with considerable constraint, particularly as it has more military power than all other countries in the world put together. It has a casus belli and it has a righteous cause under international law.
When the President of the United States spoke at the United Nations in September of this year, he made it clear that his objective was in fact the reinforcement of international law, to give effect to the 11 to 16 resolutions which the government of Iraq had contemptuously evaded prohibiting the development of designated weapons of mass destruction. The President said that it was his administration's goal that the United Nations should not become derisory and impotent as the League of Nations had when faced with the aggression of Germany, Italy and Japan in the 1930s. I am sure that those are objectives with which all noble Lords are in complete agreement. However, we should be under no illusion whatever that the Government of Iraq would pay any more attention to this resolution than they paid to previous ones were it not for the purposeful position adopted by the United States since September 11th 2001.
That is entirely continuous to longstanding American national security policy enunciated by President Roosevelt in 1941, when he said that America,
"must always be wary of those who with sounding brass and tinkling cymbal would preach the 'ism of appeasement'".
Later in 1941, following the attack on Pearl Harbour, he said that America would,
"make very certain that this form of treachery never again endangers us".
The United States has not been an appeasement power, and, since 1941, no one has dared attack it directly and identify itself with that attack.
I think that it is also to be borne in mind that, while he is a secular leader, Saddam Hussein has set himself at the head of the radical Islamists—of that school of thinking which holds that any form of violence is justified in pursuit of their objectives; that all of the West, not just the United States, is cowardly and decadent; and that the West reposes on no principles whatever except an over-commercialised self-indulgence.
There is no doubt that the Government of Iraq is in defiance of a great sequence of United Nations resolutions and of the terms ending the Gulf War. I must dissent somewhat from the distinction which some draw between the express desire for regime change and the desire to disarm the Government of Iraq. The fact is that we cannot have disarmament of Iraq without a Government of Iraq who wish to disarm. It is illusory to think otherwise. Many preceding speakers have put that point very well and I shall not elaborate on it. However, we should always be mindful of that fact.
The United States possesses a casus belli now. It is behaving in perfect conformity with international law now. The frequently expressed allegations against its unilateralism are in my opinion doubly false: first, it has not acted unilaterally; secondly, it has a perfect right and military capability to do so if it wishes. As has been said, the resolution which we are considering calls upon a process of discussion at the Security Council in the event of considered non-compliance and the advocacy by any of the members for recourse to force. I think that in practice, as my noble friend Lord Powell of Bayswater said—in this as in everything that he said I emphatically agree with him—it is very likely that, unfortunately, that is exactly what is going to happen barring a grace of conversion for which I think there is no precedent.
When we get to that point, what will happen is that the United States ambassador will informally discuss with the permanent Security Council members whether they are prepared to approve a further resolution. If they are not, or at least if they are not all prepared to abstain from vetoing it, I think that we will go to the use of force quite quickly. Like all noble Lords, I would regret that in the abstract. In those circumstances, however, we will have no moral or practical political choice.
I very respectfully caution anyone in need of it against conveying to the Americans the impression that they are regarded as equivalent to a great St Bernard dog which will take the risks and do the work while its ostensible allies including Europeans hold the leash and give the orders. It is not by succumbing to such a system that the United States has risen in a relatively short time to exercise greater influence in the world than any other country in the history of the world. It is obviously not a formula that is acceptable to that country. I think that we would do ourselves no favours in trying to advocate such an approach.
In the summer, a very senior member of the Government told me that if the potential action against Iraq were led by China or Russia there would be no great opposition to it in the parliamentary ranks of the governing party or elsewhere in this country or in Europe, but that people were worried by the force of the United States. I am worried by the force of envy. I think that we have nothing to fear, and nothing to do other than rejoice in the fact that the power of the United States resides with a country that broadly shares our values and generally behaves with restraint and a respect for justice in the abstract, and which is all the same not, as I said, an appeasement power. I think that that is a source of great relief to all of us. There are in your Lordships' House those who vividly remember from their own observations the consequences of the leading powers of the West not behaving in the 1930s as the United States is behaving now.