Hit By New Leak
Of Secret War Plan
document from the heart of government reveals today that Tony
Blair privately committed Britain to war with Iraq and then
set out to lure Saddam Hussein into providing the legal justification.
Street minutes, headed "Secret and strictly personal -
UK eyes only", detail one of the most important meetings
ahead of the invasion.
chaired by the prime minister and attended by his inner circle.
The document reveals Blair backed "regime change"
by force from the outset, despite warnings from Lord Goldsmith,
the attorney-general, that such action could be illegal.
published by The Sunday Times today, begins with the warning:
"This record is extremely sensitive. No further copies
should be made. The paper should be shown only to those with
a genuine need to know." It records a meeting in July 2002,
attended by military and intelligence chiefs, at which Blair
discussed military options having already committed himself
to supporting President George Bush's plans for ousting Saddam.
the political context were right, people would support regime
change," said Blair. He added that the key issues were
"whether the military plan worked and whether we had the
political strategy to give the military plan space to work".
strategy proved to be arguing Iraq's weapons of mass destruction
(WMD) posed such a threat that military action had to be taken.
However, at the July meeting Jack Straw, the foreign secretary,
said the case for war was "thin" as "Saddam was
not threatening his neighbours and his WMD capability was less
than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran".
suggested they should "work up" an ultimatum about
weapons inspectors that would "help with the legal justification".
Blair is recorded as saying that "it would make a big difference
politically and legally if Saddam refused to allow in the UN
secret briefing for the meeting said Britain and America had
to "create" conditions to justify a war.
the second sensitive leak close to the election, appear to be
an attempt by disaffected Whitehall insiders to attack Blair's
integrity. They are likely to fuel claims he misled the country
for the secrecy is that the minutes record discussion of US
plans for invasion; another is that at the time Blair had given
no indication that plans were so advanced.
not revealed to MPs or the public that in April 2002 he had
told Bush "the UK would support US military action to bring
about regime change", as recorded in the Foreign Office
briefing paper. Both before and after the July meeting Blair
insisted in public no decision had been made.
meeting was later mentioned by Lord Butler in his report on
the use of intelligence on WMD as a "key stage" in
the road to war; but its details have never been revealed until
show Goldsmith warned Blair eight months before war started
on March 19, 2003 that finding legal justification would be
"difficult". The attorney-general only ruled unambiguously
war was lawful a few days before the war started after Admiral
Sir Michael Boyce, chief of the defence staff, demanded unequivocal
was never shown Goldsmith's more equivocal advice to Blair of
March 7, 2003, and says today ministers failed to give him protection
from prosecution at the International Criminal Court. "I
have always been troubled by the ICC," he says, adding
that if British servicemen are put on trial, ministers should
be "brought into the frame as well". Asked if that
should include Blair and Goldsmith, he tells The Observer: "Too
Campbell, Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, said the
leaked minute showed Blair had "agreed to an illegal regime
change with the Bush administration. It set out to create the
justification for going to war. It was to be war by any means."
Street claimed the document contained "nothing new".