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[casi] Don't Nuke Iraq

Don't Nuke Iraq
ARROW Anti-War Briefing 18 (22 June 2002)

British and US ministers and officials have issued veiled nuclear threats
against Iraq, despite the fact that there is no solid evidence that Iraq
possesses weapons of mass destruction, raising the prospect, as
threatened in the 1991 war against Iraq, of nuclear weapons being
used in a conflict with a non-nuclear nation.

Just before he left on a 'peace mission' to India and Pakistan, Jack
Straw was asked on Radio 4's Today programme why the two
countries should pay any attention to a country which had never itself
renounced the first use of nuclear weapons. The Foreign Secretary
'said everyone knew the prospect of Britain (and the US and France)
using nuclear weapons was "so distant as not to be worth discussing".'
Guardian columnist Hugo Young commented that Straw's response
was 'about as misleading an answer as can be found in the entire
record of Britain's conduct as a nuclear power.' The journalist then
referred to the repeated nuclear threats made by Jack Straw's
Cabinet colleague Geoff Hoon this Spring. ('Hoon's talk of pre-
emptive strikes could be catastrophic', Guardian, 6 June 2002)

1) On 20 March 2002, British Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon told the
House of Commons Select Committee on Defence that states like
Iraq 'can be absolutely confident that in the right conditions we would
be willing to use our nuclear weapons.'

2) Then, on 24 March, Geoff Hoon appeared on ITV's Jonathan
Dimbleby show and 'insisted that the government "reserved the right"
to use nuclear weapons if Britain or British troops were threatened
by chemical or biological weapons.' (Richard Norton-Taylor, 'Bush's
nuke bandwagon', Guardian, 27 Mar. 2002)

3) Finally, Hoon was asked about his threats in the House of
Commons in a debate on 29 April Hoon said, 'ultimately and in
conditions of extreme self-defence, nuclear weapons would have to
be used.'

In the House of Commons debate, Diane Abbott MP pressed the
Defence Secretary for an explanation of what these 'conditions of
extreme self-defence' might be. Hoon refused to be specific. The
Defence Secretary confined himself to saying that it was 'important to
point out that the Government have nuclear weapons available to
them, and that - in certain specified conditions to which I have
referred - we would be prepared to use them.' This deliberate
ambiguity is thought by the Government to be a useful form of
MPs have expressed concern as to whether Hoon's threats might be
in contravention of international commitments given by the UK. In
1978, the five declared nuclear powers promised that they would
avoid firing nuclear weapons at non-nuclear-weapon states. The US
and British promises - or 'negative security assurances' (NSAs) - were
full of exceptions and loopholes.
Restated in 1995, the British NSA said, 'The United Kingdom will not
use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon States Parties to the
Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons except in the
case of an invasion or any other attack on the United Kingdom, its
dependent territories, its armed forces or other troops, its allies or
on a State towards which it has a security commitment, carried out or
sustained by such a non-nuclear weapon State in association or
alliance with a nuclear-weapon State.' (This was looser wording than
given in 1978.)s
        In contrast, the 1995 NSA from China said, 'China undertakes
not to be the first to use nuclear weapons at any time or under any
circumstances. China undertakes not to use or threaten to use
nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon States or nuclear-
weapon-free zones at any time or under any circumstances.'
        In 1989, Nigeria proposed an international treaty banning the
use of nuclear weapons against any non-nuclear-weapon State which
had signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty, unless that State had nuclear
weapons stationed on their territory. Britain and the other nuclear
powers have resisted such proposals.

Iraq is a member of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. There is no
evidence that Iraq possesses functioning nuclear weapons. Iraq is not
allied with any nuclear weapon state. Therefore, unless the British
Government claims that Iraqi military action against British and US
troops in any coming war is 'in association' with China or Russia, the
1995 Negative Security Assurance ought to rule out the possibility
that Iraq could be attacked by British nuclear missiles.
Hence the question by Malcolm Savidge MP to Mr Hoon on 29 April:
'Do the Secretary of State's recent comments concerning the possible
use of nuclear weapons against Iraq signal a change of Government
policy, whereby Britain is reneging on assurances given to non-nuclear
weapons states under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty? Indeed,
are the Government abandoning the policy of successive British
Governments of regarding nuclear weapons as a deterrent of last
Hoon said that nuclear weapons were still a 'deterrent of last resort',
but did not respond to the question about Britain's NSA.
        The promise not to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-
weapon States is fundamental to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. A
French diplomat was asked about Hoon's comments, 'Don't you think
that all this might encourage small countries that are still developing
nuclear arms to acquire atomic bombs themselves and therefore ruin
all the efforts so far to elminate nuclear weapons of mass destruction?'
The representative of the French Mission to the UN replied, 'The
danger you point out is real. We've drawn the attention of our
partners and allies to this difficulty many times.'

Giving testimony to the Defence Select Committee in March, Hoon
cast some doubts on whether British nuclear threats might work in
relation to 'a country like Iraq that, for example, places the lives of its
own citizens at little value and might be prepared to contemplate
taking on a nuclear power like the United Kingdom and accept the
consequences.' Iraq doesn't have any nuclear weapons, so far as we
know, and the International Atomic Energy Agency continues to
inspect Iraqi nuclear sites.
        What Hoon is afraid of is the possibility that Iraq may have
some chemical or biological weapons which it succeeded in keeping
Former UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) weapons inspector
Scott Ritter says that's not possible: stocks of chemical and biological
weapons 'would no longer be viable': 'Weapons built before the Gulf
war that slipped through the UNSCOM net would by now have
passed their sell-by date.' (Guardian, 5 Mar. 2002, p. 16) 'Contrary to
popular belief, BW [biological weapons] cannot simply be cooked up
in the basement; it requires a large and sophisticated infrastructure,
especially if the agent is to be filled into munitions. As with CW
[chemical weapons], the CIA has not detected any such activity
concerning BW since UNSCOM inspectors left Iraq.' (Ritter, Arms
Control Today, June 2000)
        But the fear in the Pentagon and the Ministry of Defence is that
if, somehow, Iraq does have chemical or biological weapons, there
would be no reason for Saddam Hussein to hold back from using
them against British and US troops (and perhaps Israel) if Washington
and London launched a war aimed at deposing and killing him. Hence
the attempt to 'deter' him from using his weapons of mass
destruction by threatening to use British and US weapons of mass
destruction in retaliation.

A leaked US policy document - the 'Nuclear Posture Review' - 'is
understood to identify three circumstances in which nuclear weapons
could be used: against targets able to withstand non-nuclear attack; in
retaliation for the use of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons; and
"in the event of surprising military developments".' (Sunday Telegraph,
10 Mar. 2002, p. 1) Iraq is mentioned as a possible target.

Tory Defence Secretary Malcolm Rifkind said in November 1993 that
because the threat of an all-out nuclear assault might not be 'credible'
against certain enemies, it was important for Britain to be able to
'undertake a more limited nuclear strike' to deliver 'an unmistakable
message of our willingness to defend our vital interests to the utmost.'
This limited strike would be carried out by a single nuclear warhead,
fired from a Trident submarine, on a 'Tactical Trident' missile, possibly
carrying a 5-20 kiloton nuclear warhead. Hiroshima was destroyed by
a 15kiloton bomb.

The policy of using nuclear weapons to defend 'vital interests' was
confirmed by New Labour's 'Strategic Defence Review', which
concluded in July 1998 that Britain's nuclear arsenal should be the
minimum needed to 'deter any threat to our vital interests'. (Chapter
4, para. 61) The Review explained that 'our vital interests are not
confined to Europe. Our economy is founded on international trade...
We invest more of our income abroad that any other major
economy... We depend on foreign countries for supplies of raw
materials, above all oil.' (Ch. 2, para. 19) So, 'vital interests' include
economic and financial interests abroad as well as national survival.

According to the respected military journal International Defense
Review (Sept. 1994) Tactical Trident has four possible roles: 'At what
might be termed the "upper end" of the usage spectrum, they could
be used in a conflict involving large-scale forces (including British
ground and air forces, such as the 1990-91 Gulf War) to reply to
enemy nuclear strikes.
'Secondly, they could be used in a similar setting, but to reply to
enemy use of weapons of mass destruction, such as bacteriological or
chemical weapons, for which the British possess no like-for-like
retaliatory capability.
        'Thirdly, they could be used in a demonstrative role, ie aimed at
a non-critical, possibly [!] uninhabited area, with the message that if
they country concerned pursued its present course of action, nuclear
weapons will be aimed at a high-priority target. Finally, there is the
punitive role, were a country has committed an act, despite specific
warning that to do so would incur a nuclear strike.'
        Only one of these scenarios involves an enemy with nuclear

1) Geoff Hoon should be forced to make an explicit statement that
British nuclear weapons will not be used in any war on Iraq that may
take place.
2) The Defence Secretary should withdraw from any planning for
such a war, and the Government should state that Britain will not
participate in a war on Iraq.
3) The Government should make a clear, unambiguous and legally-
binding Negative Security Assurance that it will never, at any time or
under any circumstances, use nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear-
weapons State which has signed up to the Non-Proliferation Treaty,
and which has no nuclear weapons on its territory.
4) The Government should publicly abandon the idea of 'defending'
financial and economic 'vital interests' overseas with British nuclear

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BOOK This is a shortened chapter from an ARROW book WAR
PLAN IRAQ by Milan Rai, to be out in September.


Select Committee on Defence, 20 Mar. 2002

Malcolm Savidge and Diane Abbott, oral questions to Geoff Hoon, 29
Apr. 2002

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