SECRET AND STRICTLY
PERSONAL - UK EYES ONLY DAVID MANNING From: Matthew Rycroft Date: 23
July 2002 S 195 /02 cc: Defence Secretary, Foreign Secretary,
Attorney-General, Sir Richard Wilson, John Scarlett, Francis Richards, CDS, C,
Jonathan Powell, Sally Morgan, Alastair Campbell IRAQ: PRIME MINISTER'S
MEETING, 23 JULY
Copy addressees and you met the Prime Minister on 23
July to discuss Iraq.
This record is extremely sensitive. No further
copies should be made. It should be shown only to those with a genuine need to
know its contents.
John Scarlett summarised the intelligence and latest JIC
assessment. Saddam's regime was tough and based on extreme fear. The only way to
overthrow it was likely to be by massive military action. Saddam was worried and
expected an attack, probably by air and land, but he was not convinced that it
would be immediate or overwhelming. His regime expected their neighbours to line
up with the US. Saddam knew that regular army morale was poor. Real support for
Saddam among the public was probably narrowly based.
C reported on his
recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military
action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through
military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the
intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no
patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the
Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the
aftermath after military action. CDS said that military planners would brief
CENTCOM on 1-2 August, Rumsfeld on 3 August and Bush on 4 August. The two broad
US options were:
(a) Generated Start. A slow build-up of 250,000 US
troops, a short (72 hour) air campaign, then a move up to Baghdad from the
south. Lead time of 90 days (30 days preparation plus 60 days deployment to
(b) Running Start. Use forces already in theatre (3 x 6,000),
continuous air campaign, initiated by an Iraqi casus belli. Total lead time of
60 days with the air campaign beginning even earlier. A hazardous
The US saw the UK (and Kuwait) as essential, with basing in Diego
Garcia and Cyprus critical for either option. Turkey and other Gulf states were
also important, but less vital. The three main options for UK involvement
(i) Basing in Diego Garcia and Cyprus, plus three SF
(ii) As above, with maritime and air assets in
(iii) As above, plus a land contribution of up to 40,000,
perhaps with a discrete role in Northern Iraq entering from Turkey, tying down
two Iraqi divisions.
The Defence Secretary said that the US had already
begun "spikes of activity" to put pressure on the regime. No decisions had been
taken, but he thought the most likely timing in US minds for military action to
begin was January, with the timeline beginning 30 days before the US
The Foreign Secretary said he would discuss
this with Colin Powell this week. It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind
to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case
was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD
capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran. We should work
up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN weapons inspectors.
This would also help with the legal justification for the use of force.
The Attorney-General said that the desire for regime change was not a
legal base for military action. There were three possible legal bases:
self-defence, humanitarian intervention, or UNSC authorisation. The first and
second could not be the base in this case. Relying on UNSCR 1205 of three years
ago would be difficult. The situation might of course change. The Prime Minister
said that it would make a big difference politically and legally if Saddam
refused to allow in the UN inspectors. Regime change and WMD were linked in the
sense that it was the regime that was producing the WMD. There were different
strategies for dealing with Libya and Iran. If the political context were right,
people would support regime change. The two key issues were whether the military
plan worked and whether we had the political strategy to give the military plan
the space to work.
On the first, CDS said that we did not know yet if
the US battleplan was workable. The military were continuing to ask lots of
For instance, what were the consequences, if Saddam used WMD
on day one, or if Baghdad did not collapse and urban warfighting began? You said
that Saddam could also use his WMD on Kuwait. Or on Israel, added the Defence
Secretary. The Foreign Secretary thought the US would not go ahead with a
military plan unless convinced that it was a winning strategy. On this, US and
UK interests converged. But on the political strategy, there could be US/UK
differences. Despite US resistance, we should explore discreetly the ultimatum.
Saddam would continue to play hard-ball with the UN. John Scarlett assessed that
Saddam would allow the inspectors back in only when he thought the threat of
military action was real.
The Defence Secretary said that if the Prime
Minister wanted UK military involvement, he would need to decide this early. He
cautioned that many in the US did not think it worth going down the ultimatum
route. It would be important for the Prime Minister to set out the political
context to Bush.
(a) We should work on the
assumption that the UK would take part in any military action. But we needed a
fuller picture of US planning before we could take any firm decisions. CDS
should tell the US military that we were considering a range of
(b) The Prime Minister would revert on the question of whether
funds could be spent in preparation for this operation.
(c) CDS would
send the Prime Minister full details of the proposed military campaign and
possible UK contributions by the end of the week.
(d) The Foreign
Secretary would send the Prime Minister the background on the UN inspectors, and
discreetly work up the ultimatum to Saddam.
He would also send the Prime
Minister advice on the positions of countries in the region especially Turkey,
and of the key EU member states.
(e) John Scarlett would send the Prime
Minister a full intelligence update.
(f) We must not ignore the legal
issues: the Attorney-General would consider legal advice with FCO/MOD legal
(I have written separately to commission this follow-up work.)
MATTHEW RYCROFT [Rycroft was a Downing Street foreign policy
aide] [emphasis added]