No 10 blocks envoy's book on Iraq

Martin Bright and Peter Beaumont
Sunday July 17, 2005
The Observer

A controversial fly-on-the wall account of the Iraq war by one of Britain's most senior former diplomats has been blocked by Downing Street and the Foreign Office.

Publication of The Costs of War by Sir Jeremy Greenstock, UK ambassador to the UN during the build-up to the 2003 war and the Prime Minister's special envoy to Iraq in its aftermath, has been halted. In an extract seen by The Observer, Greenstock describes the American decision to go to war as 'politically illegitimate' and says that UN negotiations 'never rose over the level of awkward diversion for the US administration'. Although he admits that 'honourable decisions' were made to remove the threat of Saddam, the opportunities of the post-conflict period were 'dissipated in poor policy analysis and narrow-minded execution'.

Regarded as a career diplomat of impeccable integrity, during his time in post-invasion Iraq, Greenstock became disillusioned with the Coalition Provisional Authority, led by Paul Bremer. Their relationship had deteriorated by the time Greenstock returned to Britain.

The decision to block the book until Greenstock removes substantial passages will be interpreted as an attempt by ministers to avoid further embarrassing disclosures over the conduct of the war and its aftermath from a highly credible source.

Officials who have seen the book are understood to have been 'deeply shocked' over the way in which Greenstock has quoted widely from 'privileged' private conversations with Tony Blair, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and from the private deliberations of the UN Security Council.

Greenstock has been asked to remove all these sections before the book can be cleared for publication. 'I think some people are really quite surprised that someone like Sir Jeremy has done this,' said one source. 'In particular the way he has quoted private conversations with the Prime Minister.' Greenstock is also thought to be scathing about Bremer and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Greenstock's British publishers, Random House, were remaining tight-lipped but it is thought that the book is almost certain not to be published in the autumn as planned. It was also to be serialised in a British newspaper.

Greenstock, now director of the foreign policy think tank, the Ditchley Foundation, was set to give a series of public appearances, including one at next month's Edinburgh Book Festival. The Foreign Office last night issued a statement: 'Civil Service regulations which apply to all members of the diplomatic service require that any retired official must obtain clearance in respect of any publication relating to their service. Sir Jeremy Greenstock's proposed book is being dealt with under this procedure.'