A former diplomat has revealed that the British mission to the United Nations opposed the policy of regime change in Iraq but was ordered by London to change its position in the lead-up to war.
Carne Ross, a member of the mission who resigned in protest at the Iraq war, told the Foreign Affairs Committee that the US government was repeatedly warned by British diplomats that Iraq would fall apart if Saddam Hussein was toppled. But shortly before the Iraq war they were told to change that view by Blair's government to fall in line with the Bush administration's plans.
Mr Ross stated to the Foreign Affairs Committee:
Mr Ross went on to state that he gave evidence to Lord Butler of Brockwell's inquiry into the Iraq war but that his evidence has been marked secret.
"I took part in the bilateral discussion between the State Department and the Foreign Office for four years. One of the items repeatedly on the agenda was regime change. Whenever that item came up, the leader of our delegation would say, with emphasis: 'We do not believe regime change is a good idea in Iraq. The reason we do not believe that is because we believe Iraq will break up and there will be chaos if you do that'.
That view will have been recorded in the telegrams that have remained secret, and will do for years. That was emphatically the unified view of the Foreign Office.
"That view changed in mid-2002. There was no basis for changing the view from what was going on inside Iraq. What changed was our view of what the future policy would be."
He said he was speaking knowing that what he said might result in him being prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act, but that it had "been on his conscience" for two years that his evidence had been withheld from the public. He offered to hand his evidence over to the Committee.
This is further evidence, not only that Blair was intending to go into Iraq far sooner than he publicly admitted, but of the lengths Blair was prepared to go to in order to ensure that the invasion took place.
As we look at Iraq today, it makes me shudder to think that Bush and Blair were warned about all this but ploughed ahead anyway, demanding that the British mission to the United Nations change their view to suit Blair's political purposes.
And, again, I notice the tendency of Blair to mark things secret when what he is guarding against is not matters regarding national security, but possible political embarrassment.
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tag: Iraq war, UK, warnings, British mission to the United Nations