Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 280-298)



Mr Olner

  280. Given that you have spoken at length and frankly about Iraq in the last few minutes, do you think in retrospect that President Bush was wrong, given the advances that have been made by the liberal movement in Iran, to class Iran within the axis of evil?
  (Mr Bradshaw) We made quite clear at the time of that speech that we did not share American analysis of the best way forward with Iran. The British policy and the European Union policy is one of critical engagement. We have a different analysis of how we encourage change for the good in Iran and, as on a number of other areas, where we disagree with our American friends we are not reluctant to say so.

  281. I am extremely pleased to hear the Minister say that but perhaps, however, we should be saying it a lot more loudly because I am sure some of our friends in the Middle East would appreciate that a great deal.
  (Mr Bradshaw) Mr Olner, I have said it very loudly in every single interview I have given on the subject since that speech, not least on numerous Arab and Muslim tv stations and newspaper interviews.

  282. So would you write it into the record from your evidence today that we do not share at all the American view on Iran?
  (Mr Bradshaw) What we do share is the serious concerns that the Americans have on Iranian support for rejectionist groups in the Middle East and for the Iranian programme of weapons of mass destruction. Those are areas where we share American concerns, we just come to a different view as to how best to move Iran in the right direction.

Sir John Stanley

  283. On this key question of the legality of any future military action against Iraq, we will await with great interest your memorandum coming to us tomorrow[7]. The question I would like to ask you is this: has your memorandum been shown to the US Government? If not, can you tell us if it was shown to the US Government would the US Government agree with it or do they take a different view?

  (Mr Bradshaw) It has not been shown to the US Government, Chairman, and I would not want to pre-empt any reaction that the US might have if we were to show it to them.

  284. The second part of my question is the really important one. We know because we have been in the United States recently and we have discussed this issue at considerable length and our post at the United Nations is very, very fully conversant with this issue, so there is a steady ongoing dialogue between the British and American Governments on this key question, which I want to put to you again. Do you believe that the US and UK Governments see the legal position in terms of the legality of what would be required from the United Nations to provide legal cover for further military action against Iraq as the same or do they take a different view?
  (Mr Bradshaw) I am afraid I cannot speak on behalf of the American Government. All I would say, Chairman, is that in all of the recent instances that we have referred to in our session today, whether Afghanistan or Kosovo or, indeed, the Gulf War, America has taken military action in accordance with international law.

  285. Of course we understand that you cannot speak for the American Government but there is sustained dialogue that has been taking place between the British and American Governments on this key issue for several weeks, if not months, now. Surely you can answer the Committee, is this an issue on which there is legal agreement between the British and American Governments or is it one on which, perfectly reasonably—it is not a point of criticism—there is a difference of legal view?
  (Mr Bradshaw) There has not been a sustained dialogue on what would be a hypothetical situation.

Andrew Mackinlay

  286. Just a machinery point. Who is your main, I think the word is, interlocutor in the United States' State Department? Who is your opposite number? Are you in regular contact, perhaps not daily contact face to face? How does this all work and operate? What is your level of government? Where do you connect in? Do you know him or her and do you speak to them regularly as distinct from your officials?
  (Mr Bradshaw) As is often the case with different countries there are not exact replicas of how we do things in this country but I guess that my opposite number would be Bill Burns, who is a Deputy to Colin Powell, who is also responsible for the Middle East who happens to be there at the moment. Yes, we do talk regularly. He passes through London on a regular basis and he always drops into the office and we try to catch up on things. We also speak on the telephone.


  287. Minister, you will be aware of the considerable anxiety in this country about the possibility of additional pressure on Iraq, yet there may be available to Government sufficient evidence in relation to the threat posed by their armoury of weapons of mass destruction that could have quite a substantial effect on public opinion. What is the view of the Government about publishing a dossier of the threat?
  (Mr Bradshaw) Chairman, I get rather puzzled when I am asked this question about evidence. I did have a great big mountain of it here just a second ago but it was the same pile that the Foreign Secretary waved around in the debate last week.

  288. It is not a matter of waving it around, it is the fact that it should be available in the public domain.
  (Mr Bradshaw) It is, it is actually in the library of the House.

  Andrew Mackinlay: I remember I spoke sotto voce to the Foreign Secretary when he was in the Chamber—

  Sir Patrick Cormack: That is impossible!

Andrew Mackinlay

  289. I think you and he got a bit irritated because you snapped back "it is on the Internet". The Chairman, myself and others really think there should be a hard copy in a Command Paper—is that the phrase—published. One is bewildered as to why there is a reluctance, with all the trumpeting which does come from some key Government departments, to have a hard copy printed document published and up-to-date with all the spin, as it were, because we have a right to know and I would have thought it would have been in the best interests of the United Kingdom foreign policy to have done so rather than say "it is on the Internet", which you did say to me the other week.
  (Mr Bradshaw) It is on the Internet and it is also in the library of the House. I have got a selection of it here with me, Chairman, which I will happily leave with Mr Mackinlay if he would like to take it home and pore over it himself this evening.

  290. The Minister misses the point. Indeed, I do work the Internet and I will take you up on your offer but I believe that there is a wider audience out there who have an appetite to understand. I think the Chairman and others offer this, sort of saying "We are with you on the broad brush of policy and it would be in the interests of the United Kingdom if you were to produce a document", but why will you not do that?
  (Mr Bradshaw) Chairman, if I could just reply to that. I do not know whether Mr Mackinlay is suggesting that we send all these documents to every single household.

Sir Patrick Cormack

  291. Put it in your annual report.
  (Mr Bradshaw) We will do that, certainly. We have made the documents which are available already available in the normal way. Certainly in the letters that I write to Members of Parliament who write to me on this subject, without writing reams and reams and reams and pages and pages, at least give them some of the more salient facts of the evidence. The evidence is there in all of the United Nations' inspectors' reports, as I said earlier. It is really not a mystery. Those people who keep demanding more evidence are not exactly certain what it would be to satisfy them that there is a real and verifiable threat posed by this regime.


  292. The weapons inspectors left Iraq in 1999. A period of time has elapsed. There has been an accumulation of evidence since. When, after 11 September, the US and UK Government decided that it made sense to put the nature of the terrorist threat in the public domain, it was presumably on the division of labour, it was decided that our Government should publish a document. The simple question we pose is why, following that precedent, is there not a document published now?
  (Mr Bradshaw) We have always said we will put more evidence in the public domain as we get it. There are limits, as you will understand, to some of the evidence that we can put in the public domain, not least because the bulk of the evidence that we have since the weapons inspectors left, by the very nature of their not being there, is based on intelligence, is based on defections and is based on what we know the Iraqi regime has tried to import.

Sir Patrick Cormack

  293. Why can you not just publish either in the Government's annual report or in the section dealing with the Foreign Office or in some other readily available form that the public can get hold of, why can you not publish this? There is widespread public concern, there is enormous public interest and in spite of that and everything you have said about the Internet and the rest of it, it would be helpful to have a document, or part of a Government document, devoted to this.
  (Mr Bradshaw) I think we have made clear that our view is that the bulk of the evidence is already in the public domain. We will put more evidence in the public domain and we will publish in whatever form we think is the most effective.


  294. When?
  (Mr Bradshaw) I am not prepared to say when. When we feel the time is right, Chairman.

Sir Patrick Cormack

  295. Get on with it.
  (Mr Bradshaw) If I could emphasise, simply, rather than constantly asking when a document is going to be published, there are reams of documents already published in the public domain which prove not only what Saddam Hussein was up to as long as the weapons inspectors were there—and you say, rightly, that they have not been there since 1998 I think rather than 1999 so we have had nearly four years now where there have been no weapons inspections—and all the evidence from intelligence, through defections, through what we know Saddam Hussein has tried to import and smuggle in suggests that those programmes have been intensified and accelerated.

  Chairman: May we leave you with the point. Surely if the evidence is there and compelling, everyone will understand the intelligence factors which apply with the same force to what was published after 11 September. Surely then there is a very strong case for publishing what is clearly demanded by a great swathe of the public who are currently uneasy but could change their minds if the Government was to publish.

Sir Patrick Cormack

  296. Send it to us and we will publish it.
  (Mr Bradshaw) We agree with you, Chairman, that it is important to publish everything that we can but I do not accept that the publication of some new miracle document is what needs to change people's minds. Anybody who has any doubt about Saddam Hussein and what he has been up to and what his regime is about just needs to study those documents which are already in the public domain. There is no requirement for some great new piece of evidence, it is already there. As I have already said, we will publish what we can when we can as long as it does not compromise as usual.


  297. At a time you specify.
  (Mr Bradshaw) At a time yet to be announced as long as it does not compromise our intelligence operations.

Mr Olner

  298. The point is Saddam Hussein started the war with Kuwait. As part of the finishing of that war, part of the cease-fire was you cease to make weapons of mass destruction. Now as far as I am concerned the United Nations have said that time and time again and we should give no succour at all to Saddam Hussein and his regime until he complies with that. Full stop. Finish.
  (Mr Bradshaw) If I can say one other thing, Chairman. You will recall that after we published the evidence of al-Qaeda's complicity in the events of 11 September and the previous Africa embassy bombings there were still those who said "Where is the evidence? Where is the evidence?" and in fact it is a cry I still hear when I visit some parts of the world. I am afraid there will always be people who will not be satisfied whatever the evidence.

  Sir Patrick Cormack: Let us diminish their numbers.

  Chairman: On that theme of diminishing numbers, spreading light, we thank you and we thank your colleagues. The dialogue and the process I am sure will continue.

7   See Evidence, pp Ev 98-Ev 99. Back

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