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How to handle Hain?

The following contains some thoughts that I have had while thinking about
next Monday's CAABU meeting, to be addressed by Peter Hain
(  I
am somewhat concerned by their rather theoretical nature but hope that
they might be of some use to some.

[Throughout I use the rather unfortunate "us" to indicate people concerned
with Britain's sanctions policy; I say "unfortunate" as it risks dividing
"us, the concerned" from "them, the policy-makers", which may be a
dangerous barrier to place in our minds.]

The meeting seems to raise in a specific way the question that always
confronts us when we try to interact with politicians in this country:
what are we trying to do?

It seems to me that there are at least five overlapping possibilities:

1. express our anger at British policy towards Iraq;

2. express our anger at Hain;

3. try to impress Hain with our knowledge of the situation in Iraq;

4. try to begin a relationship with Hain.

5. try to obtain answers to questions from Hain;

Crudely, options 1 and 2 seem to be "stick" options, while 4 is a "carrot" 

An argument in favour of options 1 and 2 is that a decade's passage has
demonstrated that British governments do not seem greatly moved by
detailed reports of the consequences of their policies.  One could
conclude from this that the "carrot" approaches have not done well enough.

These options seem somewhat risky on their own, though, as they risk
moving us further from policy-makers.  This risks reducing, rather than
building, our influence.

Whatever the absolute merits of the "stick" approaches, it seems to me
that 1 is relatively better than 2.  While Hain has a position of some
influence, he is no higher than 4th on this totem pole, after Clinton,
Blair and Cook.  As I result, from what I understand, he does not have a
great deal of room for manoeuvre if he wishes to avoid being relegated to
the back benches.  Furthermore, I do not know enough about the pressures
that Hain faces or the strategy that he is pursuing.  This makes me very
hesitant to attack him, as I think that this issue is too sensitive to
allow us the luxury of uninformed attacks.

Option 4 is the opposite of 1 and 2.  I suppose that the relative merits
of "sticks" and "carrots" probably reflects two things:  first, the size
of our stick and, second, the extent to which we think that it is
important for us to be close to the policy-making process as it continues. 

Whatever we think of sticks and carrots, I think that they grow if we are
seen as impressive and thoughtful (option 3).  If we aren't, our questions
and anger are easily dismissed.  Our questions will bounce off the
defensive wall prepared by the government (see any FCO letter for an
example).  Anger on its own may be self-defeating: no one, even those
deeply concerned by this policy, would prefer policy to be made by
football hooligans.

If, though, we display a mastery of the issues and are able to put
questions that do not bounce off the usual defensive wall, I think that we
will be much harder to dismiss.  Policy will not change as a result of
Monday night, but we may force a small evolution to occur.

Two weeks ago, CASI prepared a briefing document for the 29 June debate on
"The Future of Sanctions" (available on our website).  We wrote it around
a series of questions that we thought (i) were important; and (ii) had not
been answered by the government.  They were not asked on the 29 June
debate either.  Those thinking about questions to ask may find these
useful to look at.  

If people were interested in discussing possible questions, I think that
that would be a very good use of this list.


Colin Rowat

Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq               fax 0870 063 5022
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Cambridge CB2 1ST             tel: +44 (0)7768 056 984
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