Christopher Meyer letter 2002

“We backed regime change, but the plan had to be clever…”

The letter from Christopher Meyer, UK ambassador to Washington, to David Manning, Tony Blair’s chief foreign policy adviser, is dated 18 March 2002. It details his discussions at lunch the previous day with Paul Wolfowitz, the US deputy secretary of defense.

The clever plan

Meyer’s letter states more explicitly than Manning’s memo that the British government’s plan involved deception. He told Manning: “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.” He referred to “the need to wrongfoot Saddam on the inspectors and the UN SCRs”.

Like Manning, Meyer recognised that “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.”

Making the case

Meyer’s letter represents the first references to what became the September 2002 dossier on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. He told Wolfowitz “that the UK was giving serious thought to publishing a paper that would make the case against Saddam”. He also referred to a “public dossier on Saddam”.

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