Chirac changed mind on Iraq
Good letter from Denis MacShane, who was in 2003 a Foreign Office minister, in The Independent today:
Nicholas Wood is being economical with history when he describes ex-President Chirac’s famous March 2003 interview in which he announced France would veto a second UN resolution on Iraq (letter, 27 January). Chirac made his statement not once but twice in the interview because he wanted to underline his decision. In December 2002, Chirac said Saddam had WMD, because all western governments, not just Britain, were advised by intelligence agencies that Saddam had WMD capability or intentions. At the January 2003 UK-France summit, French officials told their British counterparts (of whom I was one as Europe minister) that France would “not leave Britain alone” in tackling Saddam. The mood changed in February 2003 as 250,000 troops waited on Iraq’s borders to know if they would move with or without the support of the rulers of China and Russia who, as veto-wielding powers at the UN, decide what UN “law” is.
I respect President Chirac’s right to announce his veto though it did not affect the decision of the Commons to vote to use force. I wish he had made clear in 2002 that he did not believe the advice he was getting on WMD and that France would not vote for a UN resolution to use force. Had Chirac adopted that position, shared by many in Europe and Britain, the politics of the decision by the Commons to support force would have been very different.
It remains a puzzle why the Chilcot inquiry is interviewing only retired mandarins, generals and former government ministers. Since the Commons took the decision, surely the view of the then opposition leadership is relevant. And since our fellow UN permanent Security Council ally France gave no indication up to January 2003 that a veto on a second resolution would be imposed, surely Chilcot has some duty to examine the European and wider Nato context of the decision by the Commons to authorise military action.
Tagged in: chilcot, iraq, iraq inquiry, jacques chirace
Denis MacShane MP, House of Commons
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