July 18, 2005
STORY has acquired a copy of the Mar. 18,
2002 letter dispatched from then-British ambassador
to the United States Sir Christopher Meyer to Tony
Blair's chief foreign policy advisor, David Manning.
The release comes on the heels of the third anniversary
of the Downing
Street minutes. The minutes documented a high-level
meeting between the Blair and Bush governments, at
which the director of British intelligence declared
'the facts were being fixed around the policy' before
either nation sought approval for war.
The copy, obtained through British channels, provides
further indication of the veracity of the documents
and offers striking visual evidence that the communications
were made at the highest levels of the Blair government.
Meyer drafted the letter on British Embassy stationery.
In the letter from Meyer, he indicates that the British
had a "need to wrongfoot Saddam on the inspectors
and the UN" Security Council Resolutions, possibly
suggesting that the British and the United States
were coordinating to 'trick' Saddam into starting
Meyer's letter is the third image of the documents
to be released. The British Telegraph printed
copies of a letter from British Foreign Secretary
Jack Straw and another by Manning last fall.
His full letter can be read in PDF
format here. This copy has been truncated to hide
markings that might indicate their source.
The original documents, obtained by Sunday Times
reporter Michael Smith, have been destroyed.
CONFIDENTIAL AND PERSONAL
British Embassy Washington
From the Ambassador Christopher Meyer KOMG
18 March 2002
Sir David Manning KOMG No 10 Downing Street
IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN: CONVERSATION WITH WOLFOWITZ
- Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Secretary of Defense,
came to the Sunday lunch on 17 March.
- On Iraq I opened by sticking very closely to
the script that you used with Condi Rice last week.
We backed regime change, but the plan had to be
clever and failure was not an option. It would be
a tough sell for us domestically, and probably tougher
elsewhere in Europe. The US could go it alone if
it wanted to. But if it wanted to act with partners,
there had to be a strategy for building support
for military action against Saddam. I then went
through the need to wrongfoot Saddam on the inspectors
and the UN SORs and the critical importance of the
MEPP as an integral part of the anti-Saddam strategy.
If all this could be accomplished skilfully, [sic]
we were fairly confident that a number of countries
would come on board.
- I said that the UK was giving serious thought
to publishing a paper that would make the case against
Saddam. If the UK were to join with the US in any
operation against Saddam, we would have to be able
to take a critical mass of the parliamentary and
public opinion with us. It was extraordinary how
people had forgetten [sic] how bad he was.
- Wolfowitz said that he fully agreed. He took
a slightly different position from others in the
Administration, who were forcussed [sic] on Saddam’s
capacity to develop weapons of mass destruction.
The WMD danger was of course crucial to the public
case against Saddam, particularly the potential
linkage to terrorism. But Wolfowitz thought it indispensable
to spell out in detail Saddam’s barbarism.
This was well documented from what he had done during
the occupation of Kuwait, the incursion into Kurdish
territory, the assault on the Marsh Arabs, and to
hiw [sic] own people. A lot of work had been done
on this towards the end of the first Bush administration.
Wolfowitz thought that this would go a long way
to destroying any notion of moral equivalence between
Iraq and Israel. I said that I had been forcefully
struck, when addressing university audiences in
the US, how ready students were to glow over Saddam’s
crimes and to blame the US and the UK for the suffering
of the Iraqi people.
- Wolfowitz said that it was absurd to deny the
link between terrorism and Saddam. There might be
doubt about the alleged meeting in Prague between
Mohammed Atta, the lead hijacker on 9/11, and Iraqi
intelligence (did we, he asked, know anything more
about this meeting?). But there were other substantiated
cases of Saddam giving comfort to terrorists, including
someone involved in the first attack on the World
Trade Center (the latest New Yorker apparently has
a story about links between Saddam and Al Qaeda
operating in Kurdistan).
- I asked for Wolfowitz’s take on the struggle
inside the Administration between the pro- and anti-
INC lobbies (well documented in Sy Hersh’s
recent New Yorker piece, which I gave you). He said
that he found himself between the two sides (but
as the conversation developed, it became clear that
Wolfowitz is far more pro-INC than not). He said
that he was strongly opposed to what some were advocating:
a coalition including all outside factions except
the INC (INA, KDP, PUK, SCIRI). This would not work.
Hostility towards the INC was in reality hostility
towards Chalabi. It was true that Chalabi was not
the easiest person to work with. Bute had a good
record in bringing high-grade defectors out of Iraq.
The CIA stubbornly refused to recognize this. They
unreasonably denigrated the INC because of their
fixation with Chalabi. When I mentioned that the
INC was penetraded by Iraqi intelligence, Wolfowitz
commented that this was probably the case with all
the opposition groups: it was something we would
have to live with. As to the Kurds, it was true
that they were living well (another point to be
made in any public dossier on Saddam) and that they
feared provoking an incursion by Baghdad. But there
were good people among the Kurds, including in particular
Salih (?) of the PUK. Wolfowitz brushed over my
reference to the absence of Sunni in the INC: there
was a big difference between Iraq and Iranian Shia.
The former just wanted to be rid of Saddam.
- Wolfowitz was pretty dismissive of the desirability
of a military coup and of the defector generals
in the wings. The latter had blood on their hands.
The important thing was to try to have Saddam replaced
by something like a functioning democracy. Though
imperfect, the Kurdish model was not bad. How to
achieve this, I asked? Only through a coalition
of all the parties was the answer (we did not get
into military planning).
The other images, printed in the Telegraph
Sept. 18, 2004, follow.