Sunday, May 20, 2007

An Iraq Inquiry?

Inquiry into Iraq conflict is likely, says Johnson

By Colin Brown, Deputy Political Editor

Published: 18 May 2007

An inquiry into the war in Iraq could take place in a Gordon Brown government, Alan Johnson - the front-runner for the deputy leadership - has told supporters.

The Education Secretary told a hustings meeting that an Iraq inquiry which has been resisted by Tony Blair was likely to happen when the Prime Minister stands down. His allies said he believes it could help to draw a line under the mistakes of the Blair years.

"Alan thinks there probably will be an inquiry," said one of Mr Johnson's friends. "He thinks there is a mood out there for one, whatever you think about the rights or wrongs of having an inquiry. He didn't say it would come to any definite conclusion but he thinks there will be an inquiry. We need to draw a line under Iraq."


Saturday, May 19, 2007

Bush on Blair

Bush: Blair exit may be my fault

US President George Bush has said he "could be" partly to blame for UK Prime Minister Tony Blair's departure from Downing Street.

Appearing at a joint press conference at the White House, Mr Bush was asked if he was responsible for the end of Mr Blair's premiership.

He said: "I could be", before saying he would work with his successor Gordon Brown, adding he was a "good fella".


At their last joint press conference in Washington on Thursday, the two leaders heaped praise on each other and re-affirmed their relationship.

Mr Blair said he admired Mr Bush "as a president and I regard him as a friend" and said he was proud of the relationship between their countries.

"I've taken a view that Britain should stand shoulder to shoulder with America after September the 11th. I have never deviated from that view, I do not regret that view," he said.


Asked whether he was "partly to blame" for Mr Blair's departure, Mr Bush joked: "I haven't polled the Labour conference, but, could be."

He added: "The question is, am I to blame for his leaving? I don't know".

And he rounded on British journalists asking about Mr Blair's retirement, accusing them of trying to "tap dance on the prime minister's grave".


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Another dossier non-answer

Prime Minister

Iraq: Weapons

(From Written Answers, Hansard for the House of Commons,
14 May 2007)

Mr. Baron: To ask the Prime Minister pursuant to his Oral Answer of 2 May 2007, Official Report, column 1505, on engagements, what the basis was of his claim on 24 September 2002 that, if he were able to purchase fissile material illegally, it would be only a year or two before Saddam Hussein acquired a usable nuclear weapon. [136508]

14 May 2007 : Column 470W

The Prime Minister: These matters have been examined during the course of the Butler Review and other inquiries, and covered during debates and statements on Iraq and in briefings by my Official Spokesman. All relevant information has been placed in the public domain in as far as that could be done without prejudicing national security.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Sir John Scarlett accused

Spin doctor 'helped Scarlett on dodgy dossier'

The Mail on Sunday

May 6, 2007

By Simon Walters


The head of MI6, Sir John Scarlett, was accused of not telling the truth over the Iraq conflict yesterday.

He came under fire after Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett lost a two-year battle by the Government to prevent publication of key papers in a controversial dossier that claimed Saddam Hussein could launch weapons of mass destruction in 45 minutes.

Information Commissioner Richard Thomas overruled Mrs Beckett's claim that a document on Iraq’s weapons by a Foreign Office spin doctor must remain secret.

Mr Thomas said the document was written by a spin doctor on Sir John's orders. That flies in the face of Sir John’s claim that he was solely responsible for the dossier.

Opposition MPs claimed last night that the wrangle is further evidence that the Government misled Lord Hutton’s inquiry into whether it 'sexed up' intelligence about Iraq's weapons stockpile.

Yesterdays ruling under Freedom of Information laws centres on the role of Mr Blair's two senior spin doctors at the time of the war, Downing Street head of communications Alastair Campbell and Foreign Office counterpart John Williams.

Mr Campbell backed Sir John, who insisted he wrote the 45-minute dossier as Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee.

They dismissed a document written by Mr Williams before Sir John's first draft as 'irrelevant'.

Sir John said Mr Williams was working 'independently...on his own initiative'.

Mr Campbell said he rejected Mr Williams' offer of help.

But yesterday, Mr Thomas said the Foreign Office had told him that Mr Williams' draft document 'was requested by the chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee'.

Writer Chris Ames, who has spent three years campaigning to have the documents released said: 'The Government's claims that spin doctors had nothing to do with the "45 minute from doom dossier" are unravelling.'

Tory MP John Baron added: 'There is now no doubt that we went to war on a false premise and spin doctors played a big part in making the case.'

But Mr Williams, who now runs a public relations company, said: 'I volunteered to write the document but was told a decision had been taken not to accept my offer.'

A Foreign Office spokesman said: 'We have received the Information Commissioner's report and will consider it carefully.'

(Content not online - transcribed from:

Sunday, May 06, 2007

What is the Government hiding?

John Scarlett's 'mea culpa'

The following letter (extracted) was sent by JIC chairman John Scarlett to Prime Minister Tony Blair on 4 June 2003. It was submitted to the Hutton Inquiry as part of the documentation supplied by the Cabinet Office. Lord Hutton paid scant regard to it, referring to it whilst taking evidence from John Scarlett in regard to the 45 minute claim only.





1. I have decided to write to explain the process by which the document, published on 24 September 2002 as "Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction - The Assessment of the British Government", was compiled. This letter has been seen by my colleagues on the JIC.


6. The drafting of the revised document was co-ordinated by Julian Miller working with representatives of Departments, including DIS, SIS, GCHQ, and FCO. There were two meetings of two to three hours each, numerous exchanges of drafts and constant consultations between the experts concerned. With the agreement of the Agencies, representatives from the No 10 (Danny Pruce) and FCO Press Offices (John Williams, Paul Hamill and James Paver) were involved. The aim was to ensure that the public assessment deployed the intelligence effectively, taking account of the reliability of the information and the demands of source protection. As is natural in the JIC drafting process, there was debate about a number of the issues in the dossier, but agreement was reached on the final text, including the use of the intelligence about the deployability of CBW within 45 minutes. This intelligence came from a line of reporting judged to be reliable and was consistent with standing JIC judgements. It was included by the drafters and approved by the JIC. It's inclusion was not suggested by No 10. The report was highlighted in the same terms in a JIC Assessment of 9 September. This 9 September Assessment also reflected other recently received intelligence which was recorded in the dossier under that heading, "Recent Intelligence".


10. The JIC agreed that all intelligence-based sections in the document would be submitted to it before they were finalised. The draft assessment was discussed at the JIC on 11 and 18 September. The final draft was circulated to JIC members on 19 September and subsequently agreed by them. It was sent by me to Alastair Campbell on 20 September (Flag C). I regarded this as the formal moment at which I was taking responsibility for the contents. I noted to Alastair that the draft Conclusion (Flag D), which had been drafted by me and formed part of earlier versions of the document, had been dropped. I regarded it as superfluous.




4 June 2003


Saturday, May 05, 2007

A "preliminary document" is not a draft

The John Williams "draft"

The Information Commissioner yesterday issued his decision that the 9th September draft of the 24th September 2002 Dossier on Iraq's WMD as written by John Williams of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) must be released by the Foreign Office. They have 35 days to do so, and right of appeal also, but failure to comply appropriately is threatened by High Court action.

The 12 page judgement (5.06 Mb pdf download) by the IC includes this snippet:

The document at issue here is described by the FCO as a preliminary document used in the production of a draft dossier concerning Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. It was requested by the Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee to provide an expert’s view of how the information in the draft might be presented in a published document. However, as it was designed to give a communication professional's perspective on the matter, the FCO argue that it was not an intergral part of the iterative drafting process. The FCO further stated that the document was before the Hutton Inquiry, but that the Inquiry did not see fit to discuss it or include it in the annex of his report.

See also:

(Hutton Inquiry transcript: 19 August 2003, section 10, line 21 - section 12, line 01)

James Dingemans (Inquiry QC): And what did you record at the time that you needed to show in relation to the dossier?

Alistair Campbell (accused of "sexing up" the dossier): That it had to be revelatory; we needed to show it was new and informative and part of a bigger case.

JD: Was anyone offering to help write it full time?

AC: John Williams offered to write it full time.

JD: Did you accept that offer?

AC: No.

JD: What was the reason for that?

AC: The decision was taken, either at that meeting or certainly by the 9th, that John Scarlett, I think if we go on to the 9th, I mean he talked about -- he used the word "ownership", that John Scarlett felt he ought to have ownership of the dossier. And I emphasised, and this was spelt out in the minute that I circulated following these meetings --

JD: Which was on the 9th?

AC: On the 9th.

JD: We will come to that.

AC: I beg your pardon.

JD: You emphasised; you can make the point, please.

AC: I emphasised that the credibility of this document depended fundamentally upon it being the work of the Joint Intelligence Committee; and that was the touchstone of our approach right through this from that moment. So John Williams was very kindly, not criticising him at all, he was saying -- he is a very experienced writer, he was offering to write it full time. I made the point and John Scarlett made the point that was not sensible, it should be written by John Scarlett.

(Hutton Inquiry transcript: 19 August 2003, section 16, lines 4-18)

JD: I am going to take you to your e-mail of 9th, it looks as though no final conclusion had been reached about whether John Williams was going to be fully involved?

AC: John Williams at some point was obviously going to be involved because he is the senior press person at the Foreign Office. This was something being coordinated across the departments. But part of our discussion was about the writing of the dossier and at one point I offered John Scarlett a member of my staff, if he wanted it to help him write it. John Williams was volunteering for the job; so was somebody else at the Foreign Office. John Scarlett was absolutely clear the word was "ownership", he wanted ownership of the dossier and the best way to have that was to write it.

(Hutton Inquiry transcript: 19 August 2003, section 25, lines 19-21)

JD: We have not been given a copy of a dossier on 9th September. Do you recall whether or not at 9th September there was a dossier?

AC: No, there was not.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Blair's Biological Claim

Prime Minister's Question Time 2 May 2007

Q2. [135076] Mr. John Baron (Billericay) (Con): On 24 September 2002, the Prime Minister told the House that if Saddam Hussein was able to purchase fissile material illegally, it would be only one to two years before he had acquired a usable nuclear weapon. Given that a recent letter that I have from the Cabinet Office can find no basis for that claim—a claim that was not attributed to the Joint Intelligence Committee and which did not reflect the standing JIC assessment, as the Prime Minister knew very well—on what basis did the Prime Minister make that claim, both in a statement to the House and in the Iraq dossier?

The Prime Minister: I do not accept what the hon. Gentleman says at all. The fact is that if Saddam Hussein had been able to acquire fissile material, it would have allowed him to develop nuclear weapons. That is correct. The one thing that we know is that he was somebody who used, not nuclear, but chemical and biological weapons against his own people. So, let me just say to the hon. Gentleman, some people may take the view that Saddam was not a threat; that is not my view. He was a threat and we dealt with him.

From the Dossier itself:


...Saddam has used chemical weapons, not only against an enemy state, but against his own people...


...Saddam has used chemical weapons, both against Iran and against his own people...



The use of chemical and biological weapons

8. Iraq had made frequent use of a variety of chemical weapons during the Iran-Iraq War. (Many of the casualties are still in Iranian hospitals suffering from the long-term effects of numerous types of cancer and lung diseases.) In 1988 Saddam also used mustard and nerve agents against Iraqi Kurds at Halabja in northern Iraq (see box). Estimates vary, but according to Human Rights Watch up to 5,000 people were killed.

9. Iraq used significant quantities of mustard, tabun and sarin during the war with Iran resulting in over 20,000 Iranian casualties. A month after the attack on Halabja, Iraqi troops used over 100 tonnes of sarin nerve agent against Iranian troops on the Al Fao peninsula. Over the next three months Iraqi troops used sarin and other nerve agents on Iranian troops causing extensive casualties.