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Britain at odds with US over how to deal with Iraq, and New Gulf War , inevitable, Blair and Clinton believe

2 articles from
Electronic Telegraph (

1) Britain at odds with US over how to deal with Iraq
2) New Gulf war is inevitable, Blair and Clinton believe


Friday 20 November 1998
Britain at odds with US over how to deal with Iraq
By Hugo Gurdon in Washington

THE Defence Secretary, George Robertson, flatly contradicted President
Clinton yesterday during a visit to Washington, revealing fissures in
allied thinking about how to deal with Saddam Hussein. 

Mr Robertson, who is in the American capital for talks with his Pentagon
counterpart, William Cohen, said bombing Iraq would not end the United
Nations Special Commission's weapons inspections, as Mr Clinton has

When the President called off the bombers and missile attack at the
weekend, he said: "If we take military action, we can significantly
degrade the capability of Saddam to develop weapons of mass destruction
and to deliver them, but that would also mark the end of Unscom . . . We
would then have no oversight, no insight, no involvement in what is going
on within Iraq." 

But the Defence Secretary brushed this idea aside yesterday. At the
British Embassy, Mr Robertson said: "The idea that we wallop him and then
walk away is not on. After any bombing the role of Unscom does not stop
there.  Saddam would only be able to get rid of sanctions if he allowed
Unscom inspectors in." 

The Defence Secretary thus knocked away one of the two main props of the
President's controversial decision to call off military action for the
fourth time in a year. 

Mr Clinton's other reason, which Mr Robertson agreed with, was that Saddam
had promised to do what America and Britain demanded - allow inspectors
unfettered access to suspected weapons sites - and he had as a matter of
principle to be allowed to prove it. Mr Robertson said: "Even in the Wild
West, if you pointed a gun at someone and said hands up, when they put
their hands up you did not go ahead and shoot them." He said the decision
to pull back had been the right one, and Saddam was now on notice that he
would definitely be attacked if he failed to keep his word. 

Differences in opinion between America and Britain are matched by new
details about splits in Mr Clinton's cabinet. State Department sources are
putting it about that for some reason Madeleine Albright, Secretary of
State, who was flying to Malaysia at the time, could not be put through to
the White House, where Mr Clinton was with his national security staff
deciding whether to bomb or pull back. 

Mrs Albright is said to believe that if she had been able to speak
directly to the meeting she could have made the difference and the attack
could have gone ahead. Mrs Albright, along with Mr Cohen and Gen Henry
Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, all wanted to go ahead
with the attack, but were overruled. 


Wednesday 18 November 1998

New Gulf war is inevitable, Blair and Clinton believe
By Hugo Gurdon in Washington

WAR with Iraq is inevitable because Saddam Hussein will break his promises
and block weapons inspections. This is the belief of Bill Clinton, Tony
Blair and American and British security chiefs. 

Even Baghdad's sympathisers assume the Iraqi dictator will renege within
weeks, possibly months, and they assume it will leave the Anglo-American
alliance with a choice described by one official here as a "no brainer"
between military confrontation and the demolition of Western credibility. 

American and British forces are standing ready to hit Iraq instantly. One
member of the American security establishment said: "We will shoot first
and negotiate later."

Aides say the President; Madeleine Albright, the Secretary of State; 
William Cohen, the Defence Secretary; and George Tenet, head of the CIA,
all think it "highly unlikely" that the military stand-down will prove
anything but a temporary respite. 

One official said: "It is more probable Saddam will not comply and there
will be confrontation, but under circumstances or our choosing." Even
France, Russia and other countries which have been conciliatory towards
Iraq expect Saddam shortly to provoke punitive strikes by engineering yet
another way to prevent United Nations inspectors finding his illegal cache
of chemical and biological weapons. 

It has emerged that Mr Blair was more hawkish than anyone when Mr Clinton
consulted allies last weekend after calling off the first bombing and
missile raids with 15 minutes to spare. 

The Prime Minister insisted that Saddam's second letter to Kofi Annan, the
UN Secretary-General, was unacceptable and that the Iraqi leader could get
off the hook only with a third letter explicitly renouncing his August and
October pronouncements banning spot checks and then all searches by the
inspectors. After Saddam responded to Mr Blair's demand Mr Clinton decided
he could not go to war and kill thousands. 

Sandy Berger, the National Security Adviser, first asked Mr Clinton to
abort the bombing when he learned that Iraq had responded to a letter sent
by Mr Annan begging Saddam to back down. Mr Cohen disagreed, and State
Department staff standing in for Mrs Albright, who was in Malaysia, also
wanted to press ahead with the attack. 

After Mr Clinton sided with Mr Berger, he and top aides continued until
the small hours of Sunday morning to work out their response to Saddam's
latest gambit. The split in the White House was brief. 

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