Memorandum from the Foreign and Commonwealth
By letter dated 16 April 2002, the Clerk of
the Foreign Affairs Committee sought a memorandum "setting
out the Government's interpretation of the circumstances in which
further military action against Iraqunrelated to ongoing
reinforcement of the no-fly zoneswould be covered by existing
UNSC Resolutions, if so, by which Resolutions such action would
be covered; and if not, on what legal basis such action might
be carried out".
We should first of all emphasise that the Government
has not decided to take fresh military action against Iraq, and
military action is not imminent. As we have made clear, we intend
to consider the way forward in a calm, measured and sensible but
The Committee will appreciate that it is difficult
to answer a hypothetical question precisely. In general terms
we would regard the use of force against Iraq, or indeed any State,
as lawful if it had been authorised by the United Nations Security
Council, or were in exercise of the inherent right of individual
or collective self-defence, or, exceptionally, were carried out
to avert an overwhelming humanitarian catastrophe.
As to the relevant resolutions, following Iraq's
invasion and annexation of Kuwait, the Security Council authorised
the use of force in resolution 678 (1990). This resolution authorised
coalition forces to use all necessary means to force Iraq to withdraw,
and to restore international peace and security in the area. It
provided a legal basis in addition to the right of collective
self-defence for operation Desert Storm, which was brought to
an end by the cease-fire set out by the Council in resolution
687 (1991). The conditions for the cease-fire in that resolution
(and subsequent resolutions) imposed obligations on Iraq with
regard to the elimination of WMD and monitoring of its obligations.
Resolution 687 (1991) suspended but did not terminate the authority
to use force in resolution 678 (1990).
A violation of Iraq's obligations which undermines
the basis of the cease-fire in resolution 687 (1991) can revive
the authorisation to use force in resolution 678 (1990). Most
recently, in resolution 1205 (1998) the council condemned Iraq's
decision to cease co-operation with UNSCOM as a flagrant violation
of resolution 687 (1991). This had the effect of reviving the
authorisation to use force in resolution 678 (1990), which provided
the legal basis for our participation in operation Desert Fox.
(It was, incidentally, this action to which the Defence Secretary
was referring in his evidence to the Defence Select Committee
rather than the Gulf War, which was launched in response to Iraq's
invasion of Kuwait not its pursuit of WMD).
We do not rule out the need to take further
military action in future. Whether further action by the Security
Council was needed, would depend on the circumstances at the time.
But as we have always made clear, any military action the UK undertakes
anywhere in the world will be carried out in accordance with international
Foreign and Commonwealth Office