View Full Version : Iraq Inquiry: British Officials Heard "Drum Beats" Of War From U.S. Before 9/11

11-24-2009, 09:22 AM
Iraq inquiry: British officials heard 'drum beats' of war from US before 9/11
British officials heard the "drum beats" of war with Iraq emanating from the US government more than two years before the 2003 invasion and several months before the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Sir John Chilcot's Iraq inquiry has heard.


By James Kirkup and Gordon Rayner
Published: 12:36PM GMT 24 Nov 2009

But the UK in 2001 refused to back a policy of regime change because the British view was that toppling Saddam Hussein would have been illegal.

The first session of Sir John's public inquiry into the events before, during and after the war is hearing evidence from senior civil servants about British policy and plans for Iraq in 2001.

The British policy on Iraq was put under formal review at the start of 2001, when George W Bush arrived in the White House as US president.

Sir William Patey, then head of Middle East policy at Foreign Office said that in February 2001, the UK knew that some in the new US administration wanted to topple Saddam

He said: "We were aware of the drum beats from Washington.”

However, he said that Britain was not then willing to engage in regime change in Baghdad. “Our policy was to stay away from that."

Sir Peter Ricketts, then the political director at the FCO, recalled that in the summer of 2000, Condoleeza Rice, Mr Bush’s national security adviser, had written an academic article suggesting Saddam should be removed.

But the inquiry heard that in 2001, the settled view of the UK government was that attacking Iraq would have been illegal under international law.

Sir Peter said: "We quite clearly distanced our self from regime change. It was clear that was something there would not be any legal base for."

In 2001, Britain and the US were committed to a policy of containing Saddam, through economic sanctions, restricting his oil sales through the oil-for-food programme, and the imposition of no-fly zones in southern and northern Iraq.

The two diplomats told the inquiry that the containment policy was failing in 2001, but that it could have been been viable if the United Nations had agreed a new "smart sanctions" regime in July 2001.

The new sanctions regime would also have thwarted those in the US who were arguing for a more confrontational policy towards Iraq.

The new sanctions regime “would have certainly satisfied us”, Sir William said. “It would have been arguable even against the hawks in Washington.”

But Russia refused to back the new sanctions, because of its commercial interests in Iraq. “The Russians were being given lots of contracts. It was virtually impossible to change the Russian view,” Sir William said.

Sir Peter also revealed that there was a disagreement between Britain and the US about whether it was worth trying to get UN weapons inspectors back into Iraq.

“There was a dominant feeling in the US that a weapons inspection regime was risky,” he said. Some Americans felt Saddam would “pull the wool over the inspectors eyes” about his military programmes.

Sir Peter said: “We had more confidence in the weapons inspectors. It was an area where we probably disagreed with many on the American side.”

11-24-2009, 10:52 AM
US discussed Iraq regime change a month after Bush took office, senior British officials say


By John Byrne
Tuesday, November 24th, 2009 -- 9:13 am

The chairman of the British Joint Intelligence Committee in 2001 told investigators Monday that elements of the Bush Administration were pushing for regime change in Iraq in early 2001, months before the 9/11 attacks and two years before President George W. Bush formally announced the Iraq war.

Sir Peter Ricketts, now-Secretary at the Foreign Office, said that US and British officials believed at the time that measures against Iraq were failing: "sanctions, an incentive to lift sanctions if Saddam allowed the United Weapons inspectors to return, and the 'no fly' zones over the north and south of the country."

Ricketts also said that US officials had raised the prospect of regime change in Iraq, asserting that the British weren't supportive of the idea at the time.

"We were conscious that there were other voices in Washington, some of whom were talking about regime change," Ricketts said.

The head of the British Foreign Office's Middle East department, Sir William Patey, told the inquiry that his office was aware of regime change talk from some parts of the Bush Administration shortly after they took office in 2001.

"In February 2001 we were aware of these drum beats from Washington and internally we discussed it," Patey said. "Our policy was to stay away from that."

"We didn't think Saddam was a good thing, and it would be great if he went, but we didn't have an explicit policy for trying to get rid of him," he added.

A third official, who was policy director for the British Defense Ministry at the time, said the discussions between the US and Britain "weren't serious."

"The question of regime overthrow was, I recall, mentioned but it was quite clear that there was no proposition being put in our direction on that," he quipped.

News of the British officials comments were first reported Tuesday in the UK Independent.

Interestingly, the head of Britain's Intelligence Committee told investigators that then-Secretary of State Colin Powell appeared to be in charge of US policy on Iraq until the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

"Up till then we felt that dealing with the State Department, we were dealing with the people who were forming the policy," Ricketts said.

British investigators are probing how Britain got into the Iraq war and if officials misled the public. Already, a leaked report has shown that then-Prime Minister Tony Blair covered up British military plans for a full Iraq invasion throughout 2002, claiming at the time that Britain's objective was "disarmament, not regime change."

According to Britain's Sunday Telegraph, the leaked report condemns the almost complete absence of contingency planning as a potential breach of Geneva Convention obligations to safeguard civilians. Coalition forces were “ill-prepared and equipped to deal with the problems in the first 100 days” of the occupation.

Blair's lies to Parliament and the public, widespread problems with the Army's supply chain and radio systems, and poor planning for "once Baghdad had fallen" are now confirmed in the public eye.

Particularly egregious are statements Blair made to Parliament in the build up to the invasion. On Sept 24, 2002, Mr. Blair told members of the British Parliament, “In respect of any military options, we are not at the stage of deciding those options but, of course, it is important — should we get to that point — that we have the fullest possible discussion of those options.”

11-24-2009, 11:06 AM
US planned Iraq invasion in 2001



AMERICA was planning to topple Saddam Hussein two years before the start of the 2003 Iraq war.

The official inquiry into the war was today told that elements of George Bush's administration were discussing "regime change" because containment wasn't working.

Sir Peter Ricketts, who was chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee in 2001, said a review of the Iraq policy was already under way in Whitehall in anticipation of the arrival of the new Bush administration.

But he said some officials in Washington were already thinking further ahead and cited an article written by National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice which warned "nothing will change" in Iraq until Saddam was gone.

Opening the hearing, chairman Sir John Chilcot said it would be "thorough, impartial, objective and fair".

Giving evidence, Sir Peter said: "In February 2001 we were aware of these drum beats from Washington and internally we discussed it. Our policy was to stay away from that."

He explained Foreign Office policy at the time, saying: "We didn't think Saddam was a good thing, and it would be great if he went, but we didn't have an explicit policy for trying to get rid of him."

Other witnesses told the inquiry they believed the UN Security Council would eventually have agreed to revised sanctions on Iraq had it not been for the 9/11 attacks.

Inquiry panel member Professor Sir Lawrence Freedman asked: "If 9/11 hadn't happened, do you think the policy that you had developed to this point could have been sustained?"

Sir Peter replied: "I'm pretty sure we would have stuck to our guns on the policy we had."

He added that the 9/11 attacks in the US led to heightened concern in Whitehall that terrorists like al-Qaeda could obtain weapons of mass destruction.

He said: "I think it gives the whole issue greater political salience and prominence. Not to say that we had any evidence that Iraq was a direct link. Indeed, we did not have any such evidence."

In the US, however, he revealed the change in thinking was even more marked.

He said: "The tone of voice was more if there turns out to be any link between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden that is going to have major implications for Iraq and Saddam Hussein."

The inquiry heard that the mood towards Iraq in Washington appeared to change two months after 9/11, following the invasion of Afghanistan.

But Sir Peter insisted that British focus remained on a strengthened sanctions regime rather than forcing Saddam out of power.

As the inquiry began a spokesman for Gordon Brown confirmed he would attend and give evidence if asked.

11-24-2009, 02:31 PM