Supplementary evidence submitted by Mr
Carne Ross, Director, Independent Diplomat
I am in the Senior Management Structure of the
FCO, currently seconded to the UN in Kosovo. I was First Secretary
in the UK Mission to the United Nations in New York from December
1997 until June 2002. I was responsible for Iraq policy in the
mission, including policy on sanctions, weapons inspections and
liaison with UNSCOM and later UNMOVIC.
During that time, I helped negotiate several
UN Security Council resolutions on Iraq, including resolution
1284 which, inter alia, established UNMOVIC (an acronym I coined
late one New York night during the year-long negotiation). I took
part in policy debates within HMG and in particular with the US
government. I attended many policy discussions on Iraq with the
US State Department in Washington, New York and London.
My concerns about the policy on Iraq divide
1. The Alleged Threat
I read the available UK and US intelligence
on Iraq every working day for the four and a half years of my
posting. This daily briefing would often comprise a thick folder
of material, both humint and sigint. I also talked often and at
length about Iraq's WMD to the international experts who comprised
the inspectors of UNSCOM/UNMOVIC, whose views I would report to
London. In addition, I was on many occasions asked to offer views
in contribution to Cabinet Office assessments, including the famous
WMD dossier (whose preparation began some time before my departure
in June 2002).
During my posting, at no time did HMG assess
that Iraq's WMD (or any other capability) posed a threat to the
UK or its interests. On the contrary, it was the commonly-held
view among the officials dealing with Iraq that any threat had
been effectively contained. I remember on several occasions the
UK team stating this view in terms during our discussions with
the US (who agreed). (At the same time, we would frequently argue,
when the US raised the subject, that "régime change"
was inadvisable, primarily on the grounds that Iraq would collapse
Any assessment of threat has to include both
capabilities and intent. Iraq's capabilities in WMD were moot:
many of the UN's weapons inspectors (who, contrary to popular
depiction, were impressive and professional) would tell me that
they believed Iraq had no significant mate"riel. With the
exception of some unaccounted-for Scud missiles, there was no
intelligence evidence of significant holdings of CW, BW or nuclear
material. Aerial or satellite surveillance was unable to get under
the roofs of Iraqi facilities. We therefore had to rely on inherently
unreliable human sources (who, for obvious reasons, were prone
Without substantial evidence of current holdings
of WMD, the key concern we pursued was that Iraq had not provided
any convincing or coherent account of its past holdings.
When I was briefed in London at the end of 1997 in preparation
for my posting, I was told that we did not believe that Iraq had
any significant WMD. The key argument therefore to maintain sanctions
was that Iraq had failed to provide convincing evidence of destruction
of its past stocks.
Iraq's ability to launch a WMD or any form of
attack was very limited. There were approx 12 or so unaccounted-for
Scud missiles; Iraq's airforce was depleted to the point of total
ineffectiveness; its army was but a pale shadow of its earlier
might; there was no evidence of any connection between Iraq and
any terrorist organisation that might have planned an attack using
Iraqi WMD (I do not recall any occasion when the question of a
terrorist connection was even raised in UK/US discussions or UK
There was moreover no intelligence or assessment
during my time in the job that Iraq had any intention to launch
an attack against its neighbours or the UK or US. I had many conversations
with diplomats representing Iraq's neighbours. With the exception
of the Israelis, none expressed any concern that they might be
attacked. Instead, their concern was that sanctions, which they
and we viewed as an effective means to contain Iraq, were being
delegitimised by evidence of their damaging humanitarian effect.
I quizzed my colleagues in the FCO and MOD working
on Iraq on several occasions about the threat assessment in the
run-up to the war. None told me that any new evidence had emerged
to change our assessment; what had changed was the government's
determination to present available evidence in a different light.
I discussed this at some length with David Kelly in late 2002,
who agreed that the Number 10 WMD dossier was overstated.
The legality of the war is framed by the relevant
Security Council resolutions, the negotiation and drafting of
which was usually led by the UK.
During the negotiation of resolution 1284 (which
we drafted), which established UNMOVIC, the question was discussed
among the key Security Council members in great detail how long
the inspectors would need in Iraq in order to form a judgement
of Iraq's capabilities.
The UK and US pushed for the longest period
we could get, on the grounds that the inspectors would need an
extensive period in order to visit, inspect and establish monitoring
at the many hundreds of possible WMD-related sites. The French
and Russians wanted the shortest duration. After long negotiation,
we agreed the periods specified in 1284. These require some explanation.
The resolution states that the head of UNMOVIC should report on
Iraq's performance 120 days once the full system of ongoing monitoring
and verification had been established (OMV, in the jargon). OMV
amounts to the "baseline" of knowledge of Iraq's capabilities
and sites; we expected OMV to take up to six months to establish.
In other words, inspectors would have to be on the ground for
approximately ten months before offering an assessment. (Resolution
1441, though it requested Blix to "update" the Council
60 days after beginning inspections, did not alter the inspection
periods established in 1284.) As is well-known, the inspectors
were allowed to operate in Iraq for a much shorter period before
the US and UK declared that Iraq's cooperation was insufficient.
Resolution 1441 did not alter the basic framework
for inspections established by 1284. In particular, it did not
amend the crucial premise of 1284 that any judgement of cooperation
or non-cooperation by Iraq with the inspectors was to be made
by the Council not UNMOVIC. Blix at no time stated unequivocally
that Iraq was not cooperating with the inspectors. The Council
reached no such judgement either.
Resolution 1441 did not authorise the use of
force in case of non-cooperation with weapons inspectors. I was
in New York, but not part of the mission, during the negotiation
of that resolution (I was on Special Unpaid Leave from the FCO).
My friends in other delegations told me that the UK sold 1441
in the Council explicitly on the grounds that it did not represent
authorisation for war and that it "gave inspections a chance".
Later, after claiming that Iraq was not cooperating,
the UK presented a draft resolution which offered the odd formulation
that Iraq had failed to seize the opportunity of 1441. In negotiation,
the UK conceded that the resolution amounted to authority to use
force (there are few public records of this, but I was told by
many former colleagues involved in the negotiation that this was
the case). The resolution failed to attract support.
The UN charter states that only the Security
Council can authorise the use of force (except in cases of self-defence).
Reviewing these points, it is clear that in terms of the resolutions
presented by the UK itself, the subsequent invasion was not authorised
by the Security Council and was thus illegal. The clearest evidence
of this is the fact that the UK sought an authorising resolution
and failed to get it.
There is another subsidiary point on the legality
question. During my spell at the UN, the UK and US would frequently
have to defend in the Security Council attacks made by our aircraft
in the No-Fly Zones (NFZs) in northern and southern Iraq. The
NFZs were never authorised by the Security Council, but we would
justify them on the grounds (as I recall it, this may be incorrect)
that we were monitoring compliance with resolution 688 which called
for the Iraqi government to respect the human rights of its people.
If our aircraft bombed Iraqi targets, we were acting in self-defence
(which was in fact the case as the Iraqis would try to shoot down
Reading the press in the months leading up to
the war, I noticed that the volume and frequency of the attacks
in the NFZs considerably increased, including during the period
when UNMOVIC was in country inspecting sites (ie before even the
UK/US declared that Iraq was not complying). I suspected at the
time that these attacks were not in self-defence but that they
were part of a planned air campaign to prepare for a ground invasion.
There were one or two questions in Parliament about this when
the Defence Secretary claimed that the NFZ attacks were, as before,
self-defence. His account was refuted at the time by quotations
by US officials in the press and by later accounts, including
Bob Woodward's "Plan of Attack", which confirmed that
the attacks did indeed comprise a softening-up campaign, of which
the UK was an active part.
3. Alternatives to war
I was responsible at the UK Mission for sanctions
policy as well as weapons inspections. I had extensive contacts
with those in the UN responsible for the oil-for-food programme,
with NGOs active in Iraq, with experts in the oil industry and
with many others who visited Iraq (I tried to visit on several
occasions but was denied a visa by the Iraqi government). I read
and analysed a great deal of material on Iraq's exports, both
legal and illegal, sanctions and related subjects, such as the
Much of my work and that of my close colleagues
was devoted to attempting to stop countries breaching Iraqi sanctions.
These breaches were many and took various forms.
The most serious was the illegal export of oil
by Iraq through Turkey, Syria and Iranian waters in the Gulf.
These exports were a substantial and crucial source of hard currency
for the Iraqi regime; without them the regime could not have sustained
itself or its key pillars, such as the Republican Guard. Estimates
of the value of these exports ranged around $2 billion a year.
In addition, there were different breaches,
such as Iraq's illegal and secret surcharge on its legal sales
of oil through the UN. Iraq would levy illegal charges on oil-for-food
contracts. The regime also had substantial financial assets held
in secret overseas accounts. The details of these breaches and
our work to combat them are complicated.
On repeated occasions, I and my colleagues at
the mission (backed by some but not all of the responsible officials
in London) attempted to get the UK and US to act more vigorously
on the breaches. We believed that determined and coordinated action,
led by us and the US, would have had a substantial effect in particular
to pressure Iraq to accept the weapons inspections and would have
helped undermine the Iraqi regime.
I proposed on several occasions the establishment
of a multinational body (a UN body, if we could get the Security
Council to agree it) to police sanctions busting. I proposed coordinated
action with Iraq's neighbours to pressure them to help, including
by controlling imports into Iraq. I held talks with a US Treasury
expert on financial sanctions, an official who had helped trace
and seize Milosevic's illegal financial assets. He assured me
that, given the green light, he could quickly set up a team to
target Saddam's illegal accounts.
These proposals went nowhere. Inertia in the
FCO and the inattention of key ministers combined to the effect
that the UK never made any coordinated and sustained attempt to
address sanctions busting. There were sporadic and half-hearted
initiatives. Bilateral embassies in Iraq's neighbours would always
find a reason to let their hosts off the hook (the most egregious
example was the Embassy in Ankara). Official visitors to the neighbours
always placed other issues higher on the agenda. The Prime Minister,
for example, visited Syria in early 2002. If I remember correctly,
the mission sent a telegram beforehand urging him to press Assad
on the illegal pipeline carrying Iraqi oil through Syria. I have
seen no evidence that the subject was mentioned. Whenever I taxed
Ministers on the issue, I would find them sympathetic but uninformed.
Coordinated, determined and sustained action
to prevent illegal exports and target Saddam's illegal monies
would have consumed a tiny proportion of the effort and resources
of the war (and fewer lives), but could have provided a real alternative.
It was never attempted.
9 June 2004