Downing Street - New memos released

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In summary: We agreed that the Administration could go it alone if it chose, but if it wanted coalition support it had to take account of the concerns of its potential partners.3...We also discussed the Middle East Peace Process. I argued that unless we did something about Israel/Palestine, we could find ourselves bombing Iraq and losing the Gulf. He seemed sympathetic, and said he would bring it up with the President.4 The main topic of our discussion, however, was Afghanistan. I outlined the UK's position: we would support military action to expel the Taliban, but only if it was part of a wider strategy that also addressed the issues of governance and the refugee crisis. I said that we were prepared to help with financial and logistical
  • #1






I had dinner with Condi on Tuesday; and talks and lunch with her and an NSC team on Wednesday (to which Christopher Meyer also came). These were good exchanges, and particularly frank when we were one-on-one at dinner. I attach the records in case you want to glance.


We spent a long time at dinner on IRAQ. It is clear that Bush is grateful for your support and has registered that you are getting flak. I said that you would not budge in your support for regime change but you had to manage a press, a Parliament and a public opinion that was very different than anything in the States. And you would not budge either in your insistence that, if we need pursued regime change, it must be very carefully done and produce the right result. Failure was not an option.

Condi’s enthusiasm for regime change is undimmed. But there were some signs, since we last spoke, of greater awareness of the practical difficulties and political risks. (See the attached piece by Seymour Hersh which Christopher Meyer says gives a pretty accurate picture of the uncertain state of the debate in Washington.)

From what she said, Bush has yet to find the answers to the big questions:

how to persuade international opinion that military action against Iraq is necessary and justified;

what value to put on the exiled Iraqi opposition;

how to coordinate a US/allied military campaign with internal opposition (assuming there is any);

what happens on the morning after?

Bush will want to pick your brains. He will also want to hear whether he can expect coalition support. I told Condi that we realized [sic] that the Administration could go it alone if it chose. But if it wanted company, it would have to take account of the concerns of its potential coalition partners. In particular:

the Un dimension. The issue of the weapons inspectors must be handled in a way that would persuade European and wider opinion that the US was conscious of the international framework, and the insistence of many countries on the need for a legal base. Renwed refused [sic] by Saddam to accept unfettered inspections would be a powerful argument;

the paramount importance of tackling Israel/Palestine. Unless we did, we could find ourselves bombing Iraq and losing the Gulf.


No doubt we need to keep a sense of perspective. ut my talks with Condi convinced me that Bush wants to hear you [sic] views on Iraq before taking decisions. [sic] He also wants your support. He is still smarting from the comments by other European leaders on his Iraq policy.

This gives you real influence: on the public relations strategy; on the UN and weapons inspections; and on US planning for any military campaign. This could be critically important. I think there is a real risk that the Administration underestimates the difficulties. They may agree that failure isn’t an option, but this really does not mean that they will avoid it.

Will the Sunni majority really respond to an uprising led by Kurds and Shias? Will Americans really put in enough ground troops to do the job if the Kurdish/Shi’ite stratagem fails? Even if they do will they be willing to take the sort of casualties that the Republican Guard may inflict on them if it turns out to be an urban war, and Iraqi troops don’t conveniently collapse in a heap as Richard Perle and others confidently predict? They need to answer these and other tough questions, in a more convincing way than they have so far before concluding that they can do the business.

The talks at the ranch will also give you the chance to push Bush on the Middle East. The Iraq factor means that there may never be a better opportunityto [sic] get this Administration to give sustained attention to reviving the MEPP.



'The need to wrongfoot Saddam on the inspectors'

The following was written by Christopher Meyer, British ambassador to the US from 1997 through February 2003, dated Mar. 18, 2002. Strikingly, the document speaks of a "need to wrongfoot Saddam on the inspectors" and suggests British intelligence and diplomacy draws a great deal on articles written by the New Yorker's Seymour Hersh. It describes a meeting with then-Deputy Secretary of Defense, Paul Wolfowitz.


British Embassy Washington

From the Ambassador Christopher Meyer KCMG

18 March 2002

Sir David Manning KCMG No 10 Downing Street


1 Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, came to Sunday lunch on 17 March.

2 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 SCRs 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.

3 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.

4 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.

5 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).

6 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 [sic] 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 [sic] 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.

7 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).

Read the full PDF here.

In this document, KCMG refers to Knight Commander (i.e., "Sir"). UN SCRs refer to United Nations Security Council Resolutions. Among the Iraqi groups: INC refers to the Iraqi National Congress; PUK to the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan; KDP to the Kurdistan Democratic Party; SCIRI to the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq; and INA to the Iraqi National Accord.

A month after the 'axis of evil:' British foreign secretary Straw says case for Iraq is weak

The following was penned by the British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw--the U.S. equivalent of Secretary of State--on Mar. 25, 2002 concerning a looming war in Iraq. Straw indicates the case for war is weak; that the Iraq situation has remained unchanged; and that the United States would not have gone to war without the events of September 11. PDF file at end of text.

This document is reproduced exactly from the PDF copies released by the British press.



1 The rewards from your visit to Crawford will be few. The risks are high, both for you and for the Government. I judge that there is at present no majority inside the PLP for any military action against Iraq, (alongside a greater readiness in the PLP to surface their concerns). Colleagues know that Saddam and the Iraqi regime are bad. Making that case is easy. But we have a long way to go to convince them as to:

(a) the scale of the threat from Iraq and why this has got worse recently;

(b) what distinguishes the Iraqi threat from that eg Iran and North Korea so as to justify military action;

(c) the justification for any military action in terms of international law; and

(d) whether the consequence of military action really would be a compliant, law abiding replacement government.

2 The whole exercise is made much more difficult to handle as long as conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is so acute.


3 The Iraqi regime plainly poses a most serious threat to its neighbours, and therefore to international security. However, in the documents so far presented it has been hard to glean whether the threat from Iraq is so significantly


(Page Two)


different from that of Iran and North Korea as to justify military action (see below).


4 If 11 September had not happened, it is doubtful that the US would now be considering military action against Iraq. In addition, there has been no credible evidence to link Iraq with UBL and Al Qaida. Objectively, the threat from Iraq has not worsened as a result of 11 September. What has however changed is the tolerance of the international community (especially that of the US), the world having witnesses on September 11 just what determined evil people can these days perpetuate.


5 By linking these countries together in this “axis of evil” speech, President Bush implied an identity between them not only in terms of their threat, but also in terms of the action necessary to deal with the threat. A lot of work will now need to be done to delink the three, and to show why military action against Iraq is so much more justified than against Iran and North Korea. The heart of this case — that Iraq poses a unique and present danger — rests on the fact that it:

invaded a neighbour;
has used WMD, and would use them again;

is in breach of nine UNSCRS.


6 That Iraq is in flagrant breach of international legal obligations imposed on it by the UNSC provides us with the core of a strategy, and one which is based on international law. Indeed if the argument is to be won, the whol [sic] case


(Page Three)


against Iraq and in favour (if necessary) of military action, needs to be narrated with reference to the international rule of law.

7 We also have better to sequence the explanation of what we are doing and why. Specifically, we need to concentrate in the early stages on:

making operational the sanctions regime foreshadowed by UNSCR 1382;

demanding the readmission of weapons inspectors, but this time to operate in a free and unfettered way (a similar formula to that which Cheney used at your joint press conference, as I recall).

8 I know there are those who say that an attack on Iraq would be justified whether or not weapons inspectors were readmitted. But I believe that a demand for the unfettered readmission of weapons inspectors is essential, in terms of public explanation, and in terms of legal sanction for any subsequent military action.

9 Legally there are two potential elephant traps:

(i) regime change per se is no justification for military action; it could form part of the method of any strategy, but not a goal. Of course, we may want credibly to assert that regime change is an essential part of the strategy by which we have to achieve our ends - that of the elimination of Iraq’s WMD capacity: but the latter has to be the goal;

(ii) on whether any military action would require a fresh UNSC mandate (Desert Fox did not). The US are likely to oppose any idea of a fresh mandate. On the other side, the weight of legal advice here is that a fresh mandate


(Page Four)


may well be required. There is no doubt that a new UNSCR would transform the climate in the PLP. Whilst that (a new mandate) is very unlikely, given the US’s position, a draft resolution against military action with 13 in favour (or handsitting) and two vetoes against could play very badly here.


10 A legal justification is a necessary but far from sufficient precondition for military action. We have also to answer the big question - what will this action achieve? There seems to be a larger hole in this than in anything. Most of the assessments from the US have assumed regime change as a means of eliminating Iraq’s WMD threat. But none has satisfactorily answered how that regime change is to be secured, and how there can be any certainty that the replacement regime will be better.

11 Iraq has NO history of democracy so no-one has this habit or experience.


Foreign and Commonwealth Office 25 March 2002
Last edited:
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  • #2
There’s much of interest in this extract, Rabid. Firstly, on the 18 March 2002 memo extract:
From Ambassador Christopher Meyer KCMG 18 March 2002 memo:
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.
Well, university students study such issues, and they would have known the content of the 1999 UNICEF Report on the effects of sanctions on Iraqi civilians…
Wednesday, 12 August 1999: The first surveys since 1991 of child and maternal mortality in Iraq reveal that in the heavily-populated southern and central parts of the country, children under five are dying at more than twice the rate they were ten years ago. UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy said the findings reveal an ongoing humanitarian emergency….

The surveys reveal that in the south and center of Iraq -- home to 85 per cent of the country's population -- under-5 mortality more than doubled from 56 deaths per 1000 live births (1984-1989) to 131 deaths per 1000 live births (1994-1999). Likewise infant mortality -- defined as the death of children in their first year -- increased from 47 per 1000 live births to 108 per 1000 live births within the same time frame. The surveys indicate a maternal mortality ratio in the south and center of 294 deaths per 100,000 live births over the ten-year period 1989 to 1999….

UNICEF, as a member of the UN family, recognizes that economic sanctions are an instrument intended by the international community to promote peace and security, Ms. Bellamy added. "But our concern is that whenever sanctions are imposed they should be designed and implemented in such a way as to avoid a negative impact on children," she said. "Surveys on the situation of children and women are essential to the ongoing monitoring of the humanitarian situation there."

And more info:
Interesting bit about the weapons inspections:
From Ambassador Christopher Meyer KCMG, 18 March 2002
I then went through the need to wrongfoot Saddam on the inspectors and the UN SCRs 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.
Saddam wasn’t ‘wrongfooted’ – he allowed the inspections. But, as we all know, the problem was solved another way: by pulling out the UN weapons inspectors:
The United States and Britain have barred U.N. inspectors from returning to Iraq. Instead, Washington and London have deployed their own teams, and [the UN’s chief weapons inspector Hans] Blix said they have not requested any information or assistance from U.N. inspectors.

In the report to the Security Council, Blix said U.N. inspectors "did not find evidence of the continuation or resumption of programs of weapons of mass destruction or significant quantities of proscribed items."
  • #3
The Downing Street Memo, and perhaps more importantly the accompanying briefing papers, originally made public by the Sunday Times (,,2087-1593607,00.html) concluded:

For the secret documents — seen by The Sunday Times — reveal that on that Tuesday in 2002:

· Blair was right from the outset committed to supporting US plans for “regime change” in Iraq.

· War was already “seen as inevitable”.

· The attorney-general was already warning of grave doubts about its legality.

Straw even said the case for war was “thin”. So Blair and his inner circle set about devising a plan to justify invasion.

“If the political context were right,” said Blair, “people would support regime change.” Straightforward regime change, though, was illegal. They needed another reason.
For more:,,2087-1592724,00.html

Tonight MSNBC Hardball did a special report with updates on the memos/briefings (as well as references to books written by former members of the Bush administration) – transcripts not yet available.

Though proof of “fixing” intelligence about a “smoking gun” (mushroom cloud), for example, have yet to be specified, the memos leaked to date show that the decision to go to war was made BEFORE there was a case made for going to war. Aside from this “chicken and egg” question, the behind the scenes timeline does not match up properly to events.

In the meantime, other more general reports on the war…
June 20: President Bush reacted to both the recent upsurge in violence in Iraq and his falling approval rating on the war. NBC's David Gregory reports.
Bush must candidly address public on Iraq
War - has GOP incumbents facing ouster in marginal districts

MSNBC: ...polls are showing the American public growing more and more disenchanted with what is going on in Iraq – now a majority of Americans think the United States should no longer be there. President George W. Bush’s domestic and foreign policy numbers have been on a downward movement. It appears members of congress - up for mid-term elections - are seizing on that and taking on the issue of setting a timetable for getting out of Iraq.
June 20, 2005 | 7:22 p.m. ET
The White House spin cycle (David Shuster)
I don't know if things are getting better or worse in Iraq. But I do know the Bush administration is now in total panic mode over the erosion of public support for the occupation. How else could one explain the President's bizarre radio address this past Saturday or the even more surreal comments recently from other administration officials?

First, the president's radio address: On Saturday President Bush defended the war in Iraq saying, "We went to war because we were attacked." Huh?
For more:

Related to Downing Street - New memos released

1. What are the new memos released about Downing Street?

The new memos released about Downing Street pertain to the UK Government's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. They reveal discussions and decisions made by officials and advisors in regards to lockdown measures, procurement of PPE, and the economic impact of the pandemic.

2. Who released these new memos about Downing Street?

The new memos were released by the UK government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), a group of experts who provide scientific advice to the government during emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

3. Why are these new memos about Downing Street important?

These new memos are important because they provide insight into the decision-making process of the UK government during the COVID-19 pandemic. They also shed light on potential issues and concerns that were raised by officials and advisors, and how they were addressed.

4. How were these new memos about Downing Street obtained?

The new memos were obtained through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request made by various media outlets, including the BBC and The Guardian. The request was made in order to increase transparency and accountability regarding the government's handling of the pandemic.

5. What impact could these new memos about Downing Street have?

The impact of these new memos is yet to be determined, but they could potentially lead to further scrutiny and criticism of the UK government's response to the pandemic. They could also inform future decision-making processes and policies in regards to public health emergencies.

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