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House of Commons debates last night

Debates took place in parliament yesterday evening and afternoon about
Iraq, covering sanctions, the MI6/UNSCOM allegations, military action in
the Gulf.

Full text below, but here what I think are important points:

Tam Dalyell quoted Archbishop Edwin O'Brien, the archbishop of the
archdiocese for the United States military services as calling the bombing
of Iraq a "violation of the moral law", and quoted at length from a speech
Denis Halliday gave in Harvard.

George Galloway and Mr. Tony Lloyd (Minister of State) both spoke of the
Arab Foreign Minister's meeting in Cairo, the former explaining how they
opposed further bombing of Iraq and favoured the early lifting of
sanctions, and the latter quoting them calling for "diplomatic solution in
implementing all relevant Security Council resolutions" and urging the
Iraqi govt. to cooperate with the Sec. Council.

In his answers, Mr Lloyd spoke of the human rights situation in Iraq,
citing the report by Max van der Stoel, the UN rapporteur on Iraq [I
haven't had time to check, but the report of his I've read is quite old
now.  ...SW].  Mr Lloyd complained about "Iraq's restrictions on UN
observers of the Iraqi distribution programme, to the extent that areas
designated as sensitive areas by the Iraqi Government are rarely, if ever,
visited." [A claim I've never heard any of the UN monitors make
themselves ...SW]. 

Mr Lloyd also said "Let us look at the way in which Iraq tries to
prioritise spending of oil for food money. The Iraqi distribution plan for
the present six-month phase in the programme allocates less food than it
did when the programme was worth only $2 billion; it is now worth some
$5.3 billion. It reduces the daily food ration from 2,200 calories to
2,050, and reduces spending on medicine." 
[anyone know if his facts are correct and the reasons?]

Full (long!) text below (from, where all house of
commons debates (Hansard) are published): 

25 Jan 1999 : Column 115


10.15 pm

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow) rose--

Mr. Dalyell: I would not have raised in the House the first aspect of
sanctions against Iraq--the subject of the Adjournment debate--had it not
appeared in the front of a national newspaper this morning. I refer to the
relationship between UNSCOM and those who are responsible for UNSCOM. It
was asserted that there were working for UNSCOM those who reported to
American intelligence and to British intelligence.

At first hand, some seven weeks ago, I went along with Mr. Bill Griffin and
the former Irish Taoiseach, Albert Reynolds, and persuaded them to go to
UNSCOM when we were in Baghdad. I can only report to the House what
happened. I asked whether it was true that Mr. Scott Ritter was, as an
ex-Marine, reporting information from a United Nations organisation to the
United States. The answer was that he was, and that other members of UNSCOM
were ashamed of him. Then I heard Albert Reynolds ask some very strong
questions about the relationship between UNSCOM inspectors and their own
nation states, and the long and the short of it was that, going out of the
room, one of the non-American, non-British officials turned round to me and
said, "You British cannot be quite so relaxed about this."

On further inquiry, the clear implication was that British officials were
indeed reporting to the British Government or--as the press would have
it--MI6. If that is so, it is a major undermining of the United Nations. I
have given notice of the question. I did not want to make it a matter of
public record because it is a delicate and embarrassing subject, but now
that it has appeared on the front pages of the press I invite the
Government to make some comment on the matter.

Secondly, I shall refer briefly to the statement of Archbishop Edwin
O'Brien, the archbishop of the archdiocese for the United States military
services, who said that US bombing of Iraq is morally questionable and that
US military personnel should question their actions if ordered to take an
action that is a clear

     "violation of the moral law."

Archbishop O'Brien is quoted as having said to the Catholic chaplains
serving in the US armed forces throughout the world that soldiers, airmen,
seamen and Marines

     "are not exempt from making conscientious decisions"

when confronted with immoral orders. He said:

     "I join the bishops of our country as well as the concerned voices of
     the Holy See and other hierarchies in calling on our president and his
     advisers to initiate no further military action in the Middle East".

Mr. George Galloway (Glasgow, Kelvin): On the subject of the mounting
international opposition to British and American policy, has my hon. Friend
had the chance,
as I have this evening, to hear the reports coming from Cairo, where the
Arab Foreign Ministers are meeting, where, this very afternoon, the
Egyptian--friendly Egypt--Foreign Minister, Amr Moussa, had a meeting,
indeed an altercation, with the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth
Office, my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Fatchett),
in which he warned him not to take comfort from Iraq's leaving of the
Foreign Ministers' summit because, he said, the Arab Foreign Ministers are
unequivocally against any further bombing of Iraq and unequivocally in
favour of an early lifting of sanctions?

Mr. Dalyell: There we have the chaplain general of United States forces and
the Foreign Minister of friendly Egypt coming to parallel
conclusions--chiming with each other. We ought surely to take notice.

Finally, I refer to the statement given at Harvard in November by Denis
Halliday, who resigned on principle from his post as UN assistant
Secretary-General and chief UN relief co-ordinator for Iraq in protest at
the sanctions. The Foreign Office has had an opportunity to study his
statement. Thanks to my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Kelvin (Mr.
Galloway) and others, Mr. Halliday will be in the House tomorrow. We shall
be extremely interested to hear the Government's reply to his points.

Mr. Halliday says in his statement:

     "I see the present sanctions regime representing a certain bankruptcy
     of ideas, simplistic, unsuccessful, without the desired results."

He continues:

     "By denying access to oil sales funds necessary to invest in adequate
     food intake, a balanced diet, in health care, particularly preventive
     health care, the provision of electric power, and in the availability
     of potable water, the absence of which kills Iraqi children in large

Mr. Halliday asserts that

     "the monthly death rate of children under five attributable to
     sanctions ranges from six to seven thousand per month".

I repeat, 6,000 to 7,000 infants per month.

I am grateful to the Under-Secretary at the Department for International
Development for being present. I have a high regard for that Department and
what it has done, but the entire Government and all of us should reflect on
what those figures mean. Sanctions are responsible for the deaths of 6,000
to 7,000 Iraqi children a month, in the view of the former UN co-ordinator.

Mr. Halliday goes on to say:

     "Continuing sanctions are biting into the fabric of Iraqi society and
     family behaviour."

Another phenomenon is the growth of corruption, which was largely unknown
in Iraq in better times. Those phenomena are concerns of the Iraqi
Government today, and already are concerns for Iraqi sociologists of the
future. In such circumstances, how can Iraq return to the high moral
standards that existed before the disruptions caused by the impact of

Mr. Halliday refers to the many advances that women in Iraq had made in
recent decades, which have been set back. In many individual cases,
opportunities have been lost for ever. When I visited Iraq in 1994 and
subsequently in November, it was clear that it was an entirely different
Arab state from many. Anyone who saw
the powerful film the other night, "Murder in Purdah", about what happens
in Pakistan may care to draw a contrast.

Sanctions, according to Denis Halliday, have largely prevented the
reconstruction and rehabilitation of war damage and, he goes on,

     "today the people of Iraq continue to suffer greatly from the lack of
     adequate electric power now running at less than 40 per cent. of what
     it was in 1990."

Mr. Halliday concludes by stating that

     "sanctions continue to kill children and sustain high levels of
     malnutrition. Sanctions are undermining cultural and educational
     recovery. Sanctions will not change governance to democracy. Sanctions
     encourage isolation, alienation, and possibly fanaticism. Sanctions
     may create a danger to peace in the region and in the world. Sanctions
     destroy Islamic and Iraqi family values. Sanctions have undermined the
     advancement of women and have encouraged a massive brain drain.

     Sanctions destroy the lives of children, their expectations and those
     of young adults. Sanctions breach the Charter of the United Nations,
     the Conventions of Human Rights, and the Rights of the Child.
     Sanctions are counterproductive, and have no positive impact on the
     leadership and sanctions lead to unacceptable human suffering, often
     of the young and innocent. As I have said already, I can find no
     legitimate justification for sustaining economic sanctions under these
     circumstances. To do so in my view is to disregard the high principles
     of the United Nations' Charter, the Convention of Human Rights, the
     very moral leadership and the credibility of the United Nations

Those words were spoken by a man who has given his working life to the
United Nations. He went on:

     "Continuation also undermines the global role of the United States."

I should like to hear the Government's response to that distinguished
Irishman, who will be here tomorrow.

10.26 pm

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Tony Lloyd): My
hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) has raised a number of
issues, which I shall attempt to cover. I, too, shall begin by quoting Mr.
Halliday, who said in a speech that he gave at Harvard university last

     "I am assuming that you consider it appropriate, like I do, for the
     United Nations to have the power and capacity to attempt to bring into
     line certain leadership, certain Governments, that are acting outside
     the bounds of behaviour acceptable to the other Member States."

If that is common ground among those in this House, we must examine
precisely what mechanisms are available to the United Nations and to us as
part of the international community.

Sanctions were imposed following Iraq's brutal and unprovoked attack on
Kuwait in 1990. At the end of the Gulf war in 1991, Iraq accepted the terms
of the United Nations Security Council resolution 687, which brought about
the ceasefire. That resolution and others implementing it laid down
obligations on Iraq on a number of matters, including the destruction of
Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. It also made it clear that the Security
Council would lift the sanctions imposed on Iraq as and when Iraq complied
with its obligations under those resolutions.

I take the strictures from my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Kelvin
(Mr. Galloway) about the meeting that is taking place in Cairo, but it is
only right to remind the House that, in their final statement, the Arab
Foreign Ministers called for a

25 Jan 1999 : Column 118

     "diplomatic solution in implementing all relevant Security Council

and urged

     "the Iraqi Government to co-operate with the Security Council in
     implementing them."

They also urge the Security Council to restore the relationship between the
UN and the Iraqi Government in a way that guarantees implementation of the
Security Council resolutions properly and objectively.

Thus, there can be no doubt that the resolutions, and the sanctions package
that is part of those resolutions, have much wider support than simply that
of this House.

Mr. Galloway: It is important that no one is inadvertently misled. The
statement by Arab Foreign Ministers said that they have grave concerns
about the bombing of Iraq in December and called for no further bombing. It
set up a deputation to go to New York to assist the French initiative to
lift the economic sanctions. The Foreign Ministers are for the lifting of
economic sanctions.

Mr. Lloyd: Nevertheless, the Foreign Ministers are also strongly of the
view that Iraq needs to conform to the UN resolutions. That is important in
itself, because those resolutions commit Iraq to destroying its programme
of weapons of mass destruction.

Iraq formally accepted its obligations under that and other resolutions,
but its persistent failure to comply with its undertakings has prolonged
the sanctions regime, which my hon. Friends urged the Government to examine
in the way that they have. I must remind the House that the sanctions
regime was originally envisaged as lasting only for months, not for eight

I must give examples of how poor Iraq's record on compliance is. Iraq did
not accept the UN demarcation of the border with Kuwait until 1994. Earlier
this month, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz questioned that border
and referred to parts of Kuwait as Iraqi territory. More than 600 Kuwaitis
detained by Iraq during the Gulf war are still unaccounted for.
Proportionately, that would be equivalent to 50,000 British citizens.

Overwhelmingly, the Kuwaiti missing are not combatants, but civilians; some
are women and some are elderly. To date, Iraq has provided sufficient
information to close only three of those cases. Meanwhile, the families of
the those who remain unaccounted for continue to live with their
uncertainty over the fate of their family members.

Persistent evasion, obstruction and, indeed, mendacity on the part of Iraq
has meant that the obligations under resolution 687 relating to Iraq's
weapons of mass destruction--which could have been fulfilled in a few
months, if Iraq had co-operated fully with the weapons inspectors--have
still not been met. Until they are, Iraq will remain a threat to regional
peace and stability. Saddam Hussein has used weapons of mass destruction
before, with devastating results. In the Kurdish town of Halabja, Saddam
ordered the use of chemical weapons, including nerve agents. They killed
between 4,000 and 5,000 civilians and injured perhaps 10,000 more.

Saddam used chemical weapons against Iran during the Iran-Iraq war. Nothing
we have seen or heard from his regime over the past seven years gives us
any reason to believe that he would not use them again, if he were given
the opportunity.

A look at the human rights situation reminds us what sort of regime we are
dealing with. The catalogue of repression and human rights violations over
the years still shocks. It includes persistent torture of vocal opponents,
routine use of the death penalty to deter opposition, mass executions as
punishment and deterrent, relentless persecution of religious leaders whose
very existence highlights alternatives to Saddam's regime and genocide
against minorities.

Resolution 688 demands that Iraq put an end to repression and ensure
respect for the political and human rights of all Iraqi citizens. Our
insistence that Iraq comply with its obligations does not mean that we
ignore or attempt to deny the suffering of the Iraqi people--that was an
important part of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for
Linlithgow--but we reject the view that lays the blame for their suffering
at the door of the international community rather than where it properly
belongs--at the door of Saddam Hussein and his regime.

Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield): Allowing for everything that the Minister has
said, what was achieved by the bombing? Are we at war with Iraq? Is it the
Government's view that Israel, Turkey or any other country in the world
could use the same resolution to attack Iraq? What is the basis of
Government policy, other than the fact that they follow Washington and do
everything that it tells them to do?

Mr. Lloyd: My right hon. Friend would not expect me to agree with him. This
is a well-travelled road and he has been along it on a number of occasions
with the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and others. He well knows
that the Government entered into the recent actions against Iraq, first, to
deter Iraq, but also to degrade its weapons capacity. That is exactly what
was achieved.

I return to sanctions, which my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow was
particularly keen to discuss. Max van der Stoel, the UN rapporteur on Iraq,
talked about the horrendous human rights situation in that country and
recorded a catalogue of detail about continued repression and humanitarian
abuse in Iraq. He talked about primary responsibility for the precarious
food and health situation laying with Iraq and the report gives the reasons
for that judgment: Iraq refused to take advantage of the oil for food
programme for five years while failing to bring about the lifting of
sanctions by refusing to fulfil its obligations.

The report also discusses Iraq's prevarication in negotiations, which
caused regular interruption of oil sales, which in turn interrupted the
flow of humanitarian supplies. It mentions Iraq's discrimination against
those living outside Baghdad in terms of access to medical supplies, and
Iraq's restrictions on UN observers of the Iraqi distribution programme, to
the extent that areas designated as sensitive areas by the Iraqi Government
are rarely, if ever, visited.

While Saddam's regime has allowed the Iraqi people to suffer, the
international community, aware of the requirement to find effective ways to
meet the needs of the Iraqi people, has sought to protect them from the
effects of the embargo, and from the cynical policies of the regime. The
sanctions resolutions never prohibited the import of food, medicines and
other essential
humanitarian supplies. The Security Council is now considering ways of
further improving the oil for food programme to offset the effects on the
programme of the drop in oil prices, and other ways in which more revenue
can be made available for essential humanitarian supplies. Britain has
contributed a number of proposals, including a proposal for the removal of
the ceiling on the amount of oil that can be sold, and the speeding of
approvals through the sanctions committee. We are also suggesting that the
European Union should re-examine ways in which it might complement the UN

While we and the rest of the international community strive to help the
Iraqi people, however, Saddam has shown over the years that his only
interest in the Iraqi people is as a tool of propaganda. His priorities
remain to keep the regime in power, and to sustain his armed forces for
continued internal repression in preparation for new foreign adventures.

Mr. Galloway: If the international community is trying so hard to shield
the civilian population from the effects of the embargo, why does the
Minister think that, on the reckoning of Dennis Halliday--a man living and
working there--between 6,000 and 7,000 Iraqi children under five, or 250 or
more every single day, are dying as a direct result of the sanctions?

Mr. Lloyd: I shall come to that precise point. For a start, the Iraqi
Government have chosen, as I said, to ignore the opportunities presented by
the oil for food programme. For example, they refuse--despite constant
encouragement from the United Nations--to make any effort to prioritise
properly what is purchased for the humanitarian programme, or to target the
programme on the most vulnerable. They have, for instance, persistently
refused to implement targeted feeding programmes for infants, despite
evidence of infant malnutrition; nor do they make any attempt to improve
the distribution system for humanitarian goods inside Baghdad-controlled

It is noticeable that oil for food has had a substantially greater impact
on the humanitarian situation in northern Iraq, where the programme is
outside the control of Baghdad. We know that the Iraqi Government smuggle
large quantities of oil products out of the country for illegal sale. The
proceeds of that go to Saddam and his regime, rather than benefiting his
long-suffering people.

Let us look at the way in which Iraq tries to prioritise spending of oil
for food money. The Iraqi distribution plan for the present six-month phase
in the programme allocates less food than it did when the programme was
worth only $2 billion; it is now worth some $5.3 billion. It reduces the
daily food ration from 2,200 calories to 2,050, and reduces spending on

The answer to my hon. Friend's question is that this is political choice
made by Saddam Hussein against his own people. That is an undeniable
consequence of the way in which he manipulates those programmes.

Let me say a word about the United Kingdom's response. We have taken the
lead at the UN in piloting and developing the oil for food arrangements,
and seeking to ensure that the revenue is put to proper use. UK direct aid
to Iraq continues. Since 1991, Britain has given more than £73 million in
aid to Iraq. Our share of European Union spending over the same period
amounts to some £23 million. That makes us one of the largest contributors
of aid to Iraq. In March last year, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of
State for International Development announced a new £7 million programme
for humanitarian assistance to the people of Baghdad-controlled Iraq. That
is in addition to programmes amounting to some£3 million a year,
concentrating on northern Iraq, and focusing on the vulnerable and on
assistance to mine-affected communities.

Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton and Wanstead): If my hon. Friend's argument is that
Saddam Hussein is so hostile to his own people that he wants to see them
die, why are our western Governments helping him to achieve that aim?

Mr. Lloyd: The aim of the west is to help the Iraqi people through the oil
for food programme. That programme is there if Saddam chooses to use it. We
know that Saddam prostitutes that programme. We know, for example, that he
sought to buy equipment that is totally irrelevant; indeed, it has been
blocked by the sanctions committee of the UN because it is irrelevant to
the needs of his people. He does not choose to prioritise the poor, or the
malnourished children, whose plight my hon. Friend the Member for
Linlithgow has rightly raised, and whom the oil for food programme aims to

It is certainly true that Britain has led consideration of the debate--a
debate that still continues--as to how we make the programme more
effective, but the choices that lie behind the programme are the choices
made by Saddam Hussein--choices where he chooses to punish his own people,
not to give and offer them the assistance that is available under the

Mr. Robert Marshall-Andrews (Medway): I do not know who wrote the
Minister's brief, but will he not answer the main thrust of the point that
is made: sanctions are a political weapon? They are not designed to hurt,
or to destroy the people in a country. They are designed to destabilise the
Government against whom they are made. There is no evidence whatever to
suggest that sanctions have done that in the case of Iraq--quite the
reverse. Sanctions are being relentlessly used as an alibi for Saddam
Hussein's regime.

We who support the moves need no lectures on the iniquity of that
regime--quite the reverse. We are the first people to condemn it, but will
my hon. Friend not understand the point and thrust of the argument? The
resolutions have manifestly not only failed to work--that is not a
problem--but sustained the very regime that they are designed to bring
down. That is the point that we ask him to address: not the iniquity of the
regime, not the fact that Saddam is using sanctions as an alibi, but how we
in the west are supposed to stop him from doing so.

Mr. Lloyd: I simply reject what my hon. Friend has said. The same argument
was used about sanctions against
South Africa. It has been used consistently where sanctions have been
applied against a regime, but, of course, the sanctions on Iraq are
designed to prevent the build-up of weapons of mass destruction, and to
prevent the functioning of that military regime.

It is precisely because there is within the sanctions regime an oil for
food programme, which allows food and medicines to be purchased by Iraq,
that Saddam chooses not to purchase those. It is Saddam himself who
prostitutes the regime to penalise his people and to maintain political
pressure on his own people. That is where the fault and injustice lie.

I am conscious that I must deal with an issue of particular importance
which my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow has raised: the newspaper
allegation, printed, I think, in The Independent this morning. He would not
expect me to comment on stories about the intelligence services. That
policy has been adopted by British Governments over a long period, but I
can say--it will deal with the point that he raises and the substance of
the newspaper article--that UNSCOM is entitled to seek information and
advice from all possible sources in pursuit of its mandate to destroy
Iraq's weapons of mass destruction capability. However, UNSCOM executive
chairman Richard Butler has made it clear that he has always insisted on
all UNSCOM activity being carried out strictly in pursuit of its
disarmament mandate, not to benefit any individual member state.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, my right hon.
Friend the Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Fatchett), has stated clearly:

     "The UK Government has made clear that all information exchanges
     between the UK and UNSCOM have been strictly in pursuit of UNSCOM's
     mandate to dismantle Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction capability."

There is no truth in the allegation that British people seconded to UNSCOM
were there for the purpose of spying. I hope that that is the reassurance
that my hon. Friend wants. It is clear and unequivocal.

Mr. Dalyell: Will my hon. Friend find out about the role of the name that I
have given him?

Mr. Lloyd: The name that my hon. Friend has given me is of one of the
people seconded to UNSCOM, but what I have said generally about British
secondees to UNSCOM applies equally to that individual.

We are working with partners in the Security Council to establish a new
consensus on the way forward. That must address the continuing need for
Iraq to fulfil its obligations on weapons of mass destruction. We are also
looking at how to encourage humanitarian assistance--

The motion having been made after Ten o'clock, and the debate having
continued for half an hour, Madam Speaker adjourned the House without
Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

               Adjourned at fifteen minutes to Eleven o'clock.


Monday 25th Jan, 2:30pm:

1. Mr. Andrew Dismore (Hendon): If he will make a statement on the security
situation in the Gulf. [65523]

The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. George Robertson): Saddam Hussein's
war machine has been seriously weakened by Operation Desert Fox. We
estimate that 87 per cent. of targets were either destroyed or damaged--a
very impressive performance. Saddam's ability to make or use chemical and
biological weapons or otherwise threaten his neighbours has been set back
significantly. He, however, remains the greatest threat to security in the
Gulf, and we are now acting to contain him in the future.

Mr. Dismore: Does my right hon. Friend agree that we must continue to
patrol the no-fly zones to protect the Kurds and Marsh Arabs from further
atrocities at the hands of Saddam Hussein, whose complete and flagrant

25 Jan 1999 : Column 2

disregard for United Nations resolutions and human rights is plain for all
to see? Does my right hon. Friend also agree that attempted comparisons
between Saddam Hussein's brutal dictatorship and the democracy of the state
of Israel are wholly fallacious and misplaced?

Mr. Robertson: My hon. Friend is right about the no-fly zones. They were
established for good and humanitarian purposes, inasmuch as Saddam Hussein
had at various times threatened and attacked the Shia Muslims in the south
of his country and the Kurds in the north. We shall continue to patrol the
zones, although this isolated and increasingly desperate dictator is
clearly using them, and the violations of them, to heighten the
temperature. He has violated the zones well over 50 times, and his missiles
have repeatedly tracked and threatened our aircraft.

We will continue the patrols, and any attempt to interfere with or attack
coalition aircraft will be met with an appropriate and robust response.

There is no comparison between a democracy such as Israel, and a complete
and utter dictatorship such as Saddam's Iraq.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood): Will the Secretary of State
congratulate the officers and men of 12 Squadron Royal Air Force, whose
offensives from Kuwait during Operation Desert Fox were greatly admired by,
I think, the whole House and the country? Will he assure us that there will
be enough Tornado aircraft for units to be rotated through the Gulf and to
be stationed there for an appropriate length of time, in view of the
rundown of aircraft to meet the requirement for midlife updates, and the
rundown of squadrons envisaged by the strategic defence review?

Mr. Robertson: I welcome the hon. Gentleman's commendation of 12 Squadron.
I, too, commended its members when I greeted them at RAF Lossiemouth on
their return from the Gulf. I shook hands with every individual who came
off the plane. We are all very proud

25 Jan 1999 : Column 3

of what the squadron did in the name of international law and order. They
all--ground and air crew--went out to risk their lives in the interests of
the safety of the states in the Gulf region.

I assure the hon. Gentleman that there is no question of our not having the
resources to ensure that Tornado aircraft are there, as part of our
containment policy in relation to Saddam and also to police the no-fly
zones. These are important missions, and they will be well staffed.

Mr. George Galloway (Glasgow, Kelvin): My right hon. Friend's robust
defence of Mr. Netanyahu's Israel will have been widely noted by those in
Arab and Muslim circles who watch our debates. He did not, robustly or
otherwise, refer to the missiles that struck the ancient Arab port city of
Basra this morning, leading--as this afternoon's television showed us--to
the death of innocent women and children whose houses were bombed by the
Smart missiles of whose staggering accuracy we were told in December.

As my right hon. Friend's policy is now bereft of support from any country
in the world except the United States, Britain and Israel, is it not time
that this verminous desert fox was put to sleep?

Mr. Robertson: Once again, it will be noticed that my hon. Friend did not
utter a word of criticism about Saddam Hussein, what he is doing and what
he has done in the past. We shall note other comments carefully in the
light of that.

Let me point out to my hon. Friend that yesterday the Government of Iraq
stormed out of a meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Arab League, on
the basis that they were not receiving the support that they required from
the Arab countries. Nor have they and nor will they, because the Arab
countries see Saddam Hussein as the man responsible for bringing on his own
people the iniquities of which he makes so much.

The recent Operation Desert Fox took place with precision guided weapons.
The world, and, indeed, the Iraqi regime, have not been able to make
capital out of collateral damage or civilian deaths, but, in the wake of
that, Saddam has chosen to violate the no-fly zones set up in support of UN
Security Council Resolution 688. He shows no compunction in deploying
surface-to-air missiles into urban areas as well.

On our part, however, we take care during any action, whether it be
offensive, for example, Operation Desert Fox, which was directed against
his military and war machine, or whether it is in response to attacks on
the aircraft in the no-fly zones. We cannot take into account actions taken
by Saddam Hussein when he moves his missiles around. Iraqi claims of
civilian casualties today are being investigated, but it is much too early
to expect an outcome.

Mr. Menzies Campbell (North-East Fife): Is not the fragility of the
security situation in the Gulf caused by Iraq's military manoeuvres near
the Kuwaiti border; by the radar tracking of aircraft which endeavour to
enforce the no-fly zones; and by Iraq's attempted intimidation of other
Arab Governments? Does the Secretary of State recognise that the resistance
of those Governments at the weekend provides an opportunity for increased

25 Jan 1999 : Column 4

co-operation between this Government and those countries and between the
European Union and those countries, so as to maintain the political
consensus against Saddam Hussein?

Mr. Robertson: I congratulate the right hon. and learned Gentleman on his
elevation to the Privy Council. He is absolutely right. Indeed, the recent
threats by the Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq against Kuwait showed
precisely what are still Saddam's objectives in that area. Therefore, we
will stay alert. That is why HMS Invincible is on her way and will arrive
in the Gulf region within the next few days. I am also delighted to be able
to tell the House that the invitation to tender for the initial assessment
phase of the new carrier project has been released to industry today. It is
a huge signal of our continued interest in the safety of the countries in
the Gulf that we have sent HMS Invincible, an asset of undoubted character,
quality and, indeed, intimidation to Saddam. Future generations will be
able to rely on a successor generation of aircraft carriers.

Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley): Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the only
reason why sanctions on Iraq are not lifted is Saddam Hussein's behaviour?
If he kept to the UN resolutions, the sanctions would be lifted.

What progress has been made towards extending the no-fly zones to a
no-drive zone? The Kurds in the north and the Shias in the south are
concerned that Saddam Hussein seems to be making even more nasty noises in
their direction than he has in recent months.

Mr. Robertson: My hon. Friend is absolutely right, as she has been for a
long time, in pointing out that sanctions can easily be lifted on the
decision of Saddam Hussein himself. He has that within his gift if he
simply complies with the terms of the UN Security Council resolutions to
which he adhered at the end of the Gulf war. We must therefore judge his
complaints about the nature of the impact of sanctions in the light of the
fact that it would be relatively simple for him to disclose his past
history of holding weapons of mass destruction, ensure that those weapons
were destroyed and give the assurances that are required by the
international community about his future behaviour.

We believe that the no-fly zones in northern and southern Iraq are
sufficient at the moment to contain Saddam Hussein's hostile intent against
the domestic population in those areas, but any subsequent moves that he
makes will be examined with a view to seeing what more can be done to
ensure that his population and the populations of surrounding countries are

Mr. Robert Key (Salisbury): Given that the Prime Minister has told us that
we have put Saddam back in his cage and that the Secretary of State has
confirmed that, with 87 per cent. accuracy, we have degraded Saddam's
military capability, when will the Secretary of State consider that we have
achieved our military objectives? As we dig in deeper in the region, what
are the political objectives and will they require further military

Mr. Robertson: The Prime Minister stated at the beginning of Operation
Desert Fox that the objective of the military operation was to degrade
Saddam Hussein's

25 Jan 1999 : Column 5

military capabilities and to reduce the threat that he posed to his
neighbours. It is the assessment of our Government and of the Government of
the United States--with whom we were in partnership--that we have inflicted
so much damage on Saddam's war machine that it has put his capability to
threaten his neighbours back for one year, certainly, and perhaps for up to
two years. The objective now is to produce a political track that, along
with the military track, will contain Saddam's ability to threaten his
neighbours and get us to the point at which he will comply with the
Security Council resolutions and make the Gulf and the wider middle eastern
region safer than it is today.

Mr. Dale Campbell-Savours (Workington): Did my right hon. Friend see the
very interesting article by Marie Colvin in The Sunday Times yesterday,
drawing attention to the development of an enclave in southern Iraq? That
policy is being pursued by the Americans. I have repeatedly asked for such
a policy on a Basra enclave. Could we enter into discussions with the
Americans on the development of such a policy and find ways in which we can
contribute, because some of us believe that that is the only way to sort
out the dilemma?

Mr. Robertson: As it happens, I did not manage to read that article in The
Sunday Times yesterday, but I recognise that some people hold strongly to
the view that that is a way to deal with the threat that Saddam Hussein
poses to his own population and to the rest of the region. We are
considering all such ideas, together with our discussions with the Iraqi
opposition. The main message that we have to get across to the
international community and to the people of Iraq, by whatever means
possible, is that Iraq has a proud future among the nations of the world,
but that it is unlikely to be able to play a dignified part in world
affairs as long as Saddam Hussein leads the current regime.

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