War : Saudis a target?


Richard Moore


Bush to Blair: First Iraq, then Saudi 

By Marie Woolf, Political Editor 

Published: 16 October 2005 

George Bush told the Prime Minister two months before the
invasion of Iraq that Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iran and North
Korea may also be dealt with over weapons of mass destruction,
a top secret Downing Street memo shows.

The US President told Tony Blair, in a secret telephone
conversation in January 2003 that he "wanted to go beyond

He implied that the military action against Saddam Hussein was
only a first step in the battle against WMD proliferation in a
series of countries.

Mr Bush said he "wanted to go beyond Iraq in dealing with WMD
proliferation", says the letter on Downing Street paper,
marked secret and personal.

No 10 said yesterday it would "not comment on leaked
documents". But the revelation that Mr Bush was considering
tackling other countries over WMD before the Iraq war has
shocked MPs. Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have been close allies
of the US in the war against terror and have not been
considered targets in relation to WMD.

The confidential memo recording the President's explosive
remarks was written by Michael Rycroft, then the Prime
Minister's private secretary and foreign policy adviser. He
sent the two-page letter recording the conversation between
the two leaders on 30 January 2003 to Simon McDonald, who was
then private secretary to Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary.

Mr Rycroft said it "must only be shown to those with a real
need to know ".

The revelation that Mr Bush told the Prime Minister Iraq
should be seen as a first step comes in the American edition
of Lawless World, a book by the leading international lawyer
Philippe Sands QC, who is also a professor of law at
University College London and senior barrister at Matrix
chambers, which he shares with Cherie Blair.

"The conversation seems to indicate that Iraq was not seen as
an isolated issue but as a first step in relation to a broader
project," he said. "What is interesting is the mention of
Saudi Arabia, which to the best of my knowledge had not at
that time been identified particularly as a country with WMD.
An alternative view is that the mention of Saudi Arabia
indicates that the true objectives were not related
exclusively to WMD."

The inclusion of Pakistan, also a key US ally, is also
surprising, although there has in the past been concern about
nuclear proliferation in that country.

Sir Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrats' foreign affairs
spokesman, said the timing of the conversation was significant
- since it took place when Britain and the US were still
trying to get a second UN resolution to make the legal case
for the Iraq war watertight.

"If this letter accurately reflects the conversation between
the President and the Prime Minister it will cause
consternation, particularly in Saudi Arabia. American policy
in the Middle East for decades has been based on support for
Israel and an alliance with Saudi Arabia," he said. "If this
was more than loose talk and represented a genuine policy
intention it constitutes a radical change in American foreign

Elizabeth Wilmshurst, who resigned as the Foreign Office's
deputy legal adviser because she thought the invasion of Iraq
would be illegal, has questioned whether democracy and the
rule of law can prevail there. She writes inThe Independent on
Sunday, "there will be no prospect" of democracy, unless the
Iraqis can establish the rule of law and fair trials -
including for Saddam Hussein.

Ms Wilmshurst said the trial, which begins this week, will be
the first key test of whether the justice system can operate
in Iraq.

The lawyer, who is now the Senior Fellow at the think tank,
Chatham House, says: "There will be no prospect of success for
the democratic process in Iraq unless the rule of law can
prevail. The trial of Saddam Hussein due to start on
Wednesday, presents a test."

© 2005 Independent News & Media (UK) Ltd. 


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