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[casi] "Iraq briefing" now on-line

On 12 March, the UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw passed an 8-page
"briefing paper" to Labour backbenchers, which warned of the dangers of Iraq's
non-conventional weapons (among other things). Reports in The Times and
Independent on Straw's presentation of this briefing paper are archived

The briefing is meant only for Labour MPs. But CASI's copy is at:

It's not clear to me how this is related to the "dossier" on Iraq's
WMDs that No.10 declared they would produce, and then delayed. The
section on WMDs is short and unsubstantiated. Indeed, there's more on
sanctions issues than WMDs. Some press reports have indicated that the
Iraq briefing would form the core of the "dossier", but I don't know how
reliable these reports are. The briefing contains guidelines for Labour
MPs on how to answer questions ("Are you preparing for military action
against Iraq?" etc) - which could hardly go into a public briefing. In any
case, No.10 has a track record of releasing insubstantial claims and
calling them "compelling evidence" for joining the "war on terror".

Some provisional comments on the "briefing":

The section entitled "Saddam's Weapons" focuses on the potential
development by Iraq of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. It does
not provide any commentary at all on purported Iraqi intentions to use
such weapons. By focusing solely on alleged capabilities, the briefing
fails to make out that there is an actual threat from these weapons, as a
threat could only exist if there was an intent to use (including by
threatening with) these weapons. It also does not explain why an intent
might arise, ie US/UK bombardment, threatened invasion.

Secondly, there is no evidence presented for Iraq's retention or
development of NBC weapons. It mentions that "Iraq has admitted hiding"
these weapons - in other words, it has complied with the obligation to
disclose (albeit only under pressure).

The briefing also records that UN weapons inspectors have been "unable to
account" for quantities of chemical weapons, taking figures from the
final substantive reports delivered by UNSCOM on 25 January 1999.
However, inability to account for precursor chemicals produced
prior to Apr 1991 is a very long way away from confirming their continued
existence. In particular, Iraq refused to provide UNSCOM with details of
its past use of CWs against Iran due to the political ramifications of
releasing this information. As a result, a large quantity of the CWs
produced by Iraq in the 1980s and unaccounted for by UNSCOM would have
been used against Iranian civilians and armed forces. Even if some of
these items were retained by Iraq, they could no longer be used by Iraq as
the chemical agents would have long deteriorated (this was the point
recorded in the UNSCOM internal papers of January 1998 cited by Ritter in
his Arms Control Today article, at n.5).

For more on this, you may be interested in a 4-page briefing I produced a
few days ago on Iraq's WMD capabilities. A copy is available at:
Comments and corrections very welcome.

The claims in the briefing about the sanctions regime are more or less
standard. The suffering in Iraq is attributed to Iraq's insufficient
ordering of goods, and the diversion of funds to "grandiose projects". The
misleading nature or marginal nature of these explanations has been
reviewed often on this list.

Perhaps the most misleading claim on sanctions is that "For the first time
SCR1284 establishes a clear route to the lifting of UN controls." - !

If you remember, all SCR1284 has to say about the lifting of controls is
in para.38:
"Reaffirms its intention to act in accordance with the relevant provisions
of resolution 687 (1991) on the termination of prohibitions referred to in
that resolution".

SCR1284 does have a route to the temporary suspension of sanctions. But
in contains a (deliberate) two-fold uncertainty: Iraq must co-operate, in
a poorly defined sense, in order to achieve an undefined suspension of
sanctions. Even that fails remarkably to meet the briefing's claim about a
"clear route".

The briefing also makes the misleading claim that "the percentage of
contracts on holds continues to fall" (section 8). This is a fairly
meaningless claim, given that it does not account for the actual value of
the contracts that are placed on hold. In fact, the value of the goods on
holds continues to rise; see the OIP chart at:
And the letter from the executive director of the OIP at:

Finally, the briefing contains simple, striking factual errors. It gets
the 1991 ceasefire resolution number wrong, the years of the Iran-Iraq war
are wrong, it misreads the obligations of SCR949 and it gets the date (and
nature) of SCR1051 completely wrong. Would that Foreign Office "Special
Advisor" Michael Williams (the briefing's co-author) used the Casi website
more often.

Best regards

PS: if anyone would be able to scan & OCR the briefing paper with better
machines than those at my current disposal, please drop me a line. Casi's
techie person is currently on holiday, and this means that the image
quality is poor, though legible.

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