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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 www.parliament.uk, where all house of commons debates (Hansard) are published): 25 Jan 1999 : Column 115 Iraq 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 numbers." 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 sanctions? 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 itself." 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 November: "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 resolutions", 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 years. 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 programme. 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 Iraq. 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 medicine. 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 help. 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 programme. 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.  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 protected. 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 commitment? 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. -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To be removed/added, email email@example.com, NOT the whole list. Archived at http://linux.clare.cam.ac.uk/~saw27/casi/discuss.html