http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-1622378,00.html The Sunday Times - Britain
May 22, 2005
Blair faces US probe over secret Iraq invasion planSENIOR American congressmen are considering sending a delegation to London to investigate Britain’s role in preparations for the war in Iraq.
Democratic opponents of President George W Bush have seized on a leaked Downing Street memo, first published three weeks ago by The Sunday Times, as evidence that American lawmakers were misled about Bush’s intentions in Iraq.
A group of 89 Democrats from the House of Representatives has written to Bush to ask whether the memo is accurate.
It recounts a discussion between Tony Blair and his military and intelligence advisers about the Bush administration’s views in July 2002, three months before Congress authorised the White House to go to war with Iraq.
The Democrat letter, drafted by Congressman John Conyers of Michigan, said that the memo raised “troubling new questions regarding the legal justifications for the war as well as the integrity of your own administration”.
US administration officials tried to shrug off the letter last week. Scott McClellan, Bush’s spokesman, said the White House saw “no need” to respond to an affair that one newspaper dubbed “memogate”. Yet Democratic opponents of the war appear determined not to let the matter drop. “They (the Republicans) are trying desperately to wait it out and hope that nobody will bring this up,” Conyers said. “But this thing will not be snuffed out. ”
The memo was written by Matthew Rycroft, a foreign policy aide to Blair. It described a meeting on July 23, 2002 where Sir Richard Dearlove, head of MI6 who had recently returned from meeting CIA officials in Washington, was quoted as saying that Bush wanted “to remove Saddam (Hussein) through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD (weapons of mass destruction)”.
Dearlove also noted that “the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy”.
Jack Straw, the foreign secretary, was quoted as describing the case against Saddam as “thin”. At the time Bush was still publicly insisting that no decision had been made to go to war and that he was committed to a diplomatic solution.
Conyers said the memo raised “very serious questions about an abuse of power , . . it is a very serious constitutional matter”. Under the US constitution, only Congress has the power to declare war, and it was not until mid-October 2002 that Bush obtained the necessary authorisation to begin military preparations.
“There are members saying that if they knew then what they know now they wouldn’t have given him those powers (to wage war),” Conyers said.
By sending investigators to London, Conyers hopes to stir the US media into re-examining a story largely ignored in America since Bush’s re-election victory in November.
“I deplore the fact that our media have been so reticent on the question of whether there was a secret planning of a war for which neither the Congress nor the American people had given permission,” Conyers said.
“We have The Sunday Times to thank for this very important activity. It reminds me of Watergate, which started off as a tiny little incident reported in The Washington Post. I think that the interest of many citizens is picking up.”
Another Democrat who signed the letter said that the affair could have repercussions on mid-term elections next year. “People are beginning to understand that those crying in the wilderness (opposing the war in Iraq) were not without rationale,” said Congressman Danny Davis of Illinois.
“If we had a plan which people believed was going to take us out (of Iraq) they would feel much better. But the fact is there has not been a real strategy to get us out.”
May 01, 2005
The secret Downing Street memo
SECRET AND STRICTLY PERSONAL
UK EYES ONLY
From: Matthew Rycroft
Date: 23 July 2002
S 195 /02
cc: Defence Secretary, Foreign Secretary, Attorney-General, Sir Richard Wilson, John Scarlett, Francis Richards, CDS, C, Jonathan Powell, Sally Morgan, Alastair Campbell
IRAQ: PRIME MINISTER'S MEETING, 23 JULY
Copy addressees and you met the Prime Minister on 23 July to discuss Iraq.
This record is extremely sensitive. No further copies should be made. It should be shown only to those with a genuine need to know its contents.
John Scarlett summarised the intelligence and latest JIC assessment. Saddam's regime was tough and based on extreme fear. The only way to overthrow it was likely to be by massive military action. Saddam was worried and expected an attack, probably by air and land, but he was not convinced that it would be immediate or overwhelming. His regime expected their neighbours to line up with the US. Saddam knew that regular army morale was poor. Real support for Saddam among the public was probably narrowly based.
C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.
CDS said that military planners would brief CENTCOM on 1-2 August, Rumsfeld on 3 August and Bush on 4 August.
The two broad US options were:
(a) Generated Start. A slow build-up of 250,000 US troops, a short (72 hour) air campaign, then a move up to Baghdad from the south. Lead time of 90 days (30 days preparation plus 60 days deployment to Kuwait).
(b) Running Start. Use forces already in theatre (3 x 6,000), continuous air campaign, initiated by an Iraqi casus belli. Total lead time of 60 days with the air campaign beginning even earlier. A hazardous option.
The US saw the UK (and Kuwait) as essential, with basing in Diego Garcia and Cyprus critical for either option. Turkey and other Gulf states were also important, but less vital. The three main options for UK involvement were:
(i) Basing in Diego Garcia and Cyprus, plus three SF squadrons.
(ii) As above, with maritime and air assets in addition.
(iii) As above, plus a land contribution of up to 40,000, perhaps with a discrete role in Northern Iraq entering from Turkey, tying down two Iraqi divisions.
The Defence Secretary said that the US had already begun "spikes of activity" to put pressure on the regime. No decisions had been taken, but he thought the most likely timing in US minds for military action to begin was January, with the timeline beginning 30 days before the US Congressional elections.
The Foreign Secretary said he would discuss this with Colin Powell this week. It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran. We should work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN weapons inspectors. This would also help with the legal justification for the use of force.
The Attorney-General said that the desire for regime change was not a legal base for military action. There were three possible legal bases: self-defence, humanitarian intervention, or UNSC authorisation. The first and second could not be the base in this case. Relying on UNSCR 1205 of three years ago would be difficult. The situation might of course change.
The Prime Minister said that it would make a big difference politically and legally if Saddam refused to allow in the UN inspectors. Regime change and WMD were linked in the sense that it was the regime that was producing the WMD. There were different strategies for dealing with Libya and Iran. If the political context were right, people would support regime change. The two key issues were whether the military plan worked and whether we had the political strategy to give the military plan the space to work.
On the first, CDS said that we did not know yet if the US battleplan was workable. The military were continuing to ask lots of questions.
For instance, what were the consequences, if Saddam used WMD on day one, or if Baghdad did not collapse and urban warfighting began? You said that Saddam could also use his WMD on Kuwait. Or on Israel, added the Defence Secretary.
The Foreign Secretary thought the US would not go ahead with a military plan unless convinced that it was a winning strategy. On this, US and UK interests converged. But on the political strategy, there could be US/UK differences. Despite US resistance, we should explore discreetly the ultimatum. Saddam would continue to play hard-ball with the UN.
John Scarlett assessed that Saddam would allow the inspectors back in only when he thought the threat of military action was real.
The Defence Secretary said that if the Prime Minister wanted UK military involvement, he would need to decide this early. He cautioned that many in the US did not think it worth going down the ultimatum route. It would be important for the Prime Minister to set out the political context to Bush.
(a) We should work on the assumption that the UK would take part in any military action. But we needed a fuller picture of US planning before we could take any firm decisions. CDS should tell the US military that we were considering a range of options.
(b) The Prime Minister would revert on the question of whether funds could be spent in preparation for this operation.
(c) CDS would send the Prime Minister full details of the proposed military campaign and possible UK contributions by the end of the week.
(d) The Foreign Secretary would send the Prime Minister the background on the UN inspectors, and discreetly work up the ultimatum to Saddam.
He would also send the Prime Minister advice on the positions of countries in the region especially Turkey, and of the key EU member states.
(e) John Scarlett would send the Prime Minister a full intelligence update.
(f) We must not ignore the legal issues: the Attorney-General would consider legal advice with FCO/MOD legal advisers.
(I have written separately to commission this follow-up work.)
(Rycroft was a Downing Street foreign policy aide)