“Had it been a case of us supporting regime change, rather than the enforcement of UN resolutions, we would not have gone back to the UN.”
Tony Blair, 13 October 2004
“…that makes it sound as if the United Nations was a way station along the route to regime change.”
Sir Roderick Lyne, at the Inquiry talking about the July 2002 Cabinet Office briefing paper
There is significant evidence to support the former government’s claims that it persuaded the Bush administration to take the issue of Iraq’s wmd through UN processes, namely the pursuit of one or more Security Council resolutions and the readmission of UN weapons inspectors. But both the contemporaneous evidence and Tony Blair’s testimony to the Inquiry suggest that it was intended that this would secure a peaceful solution to the issue or – as has been alleged – provide a political and legal justification for a war that both the US and UK were determined to bring about.
A number of leaked documents suggest that ministers and officials saw the UN as the only way to secure a legal justification for war. In addition, the fact that the invasion took place at a time when UN weapons inspectors were still seeking evidence that Iraq had wmd suggests that the US and UK had a different agenda.
It has been alleged that in early 2003 the UK government conspired with the US to spy on other countries that were members of the UN Security Council and pressure them to support a new resolution.
Did the government seek to use the UN process to avoid war or to provide cover for the invasion?
The issue of whether the government used the UN to avoid war or to justify it is closely connected to the question of whether it was primarily concerned with the issue of Iraq’s wmd or, for example, seeking regime change. But it is arguable that having made a commitment to support regime change if that remained the US policy it sought to use the UN to remove the perceived need for such an outcome. Read more
Why did the government argue for and proceed to war before the UN inspectors had established whether Iraq had wmd?
UN inspectors returned to Iraq in November 2002, shortly after the passage of UNSCR 1441. They did not find significant evidence of weapons of mass destruction (wmd) and were not seriously obstructed. In spite of this, the UK government began to argue that Iraq was in breach of its obligations and sought a new resolution that would explicitly authorise military action. No such resolution was obtained but an invasion was nevertheless launched in March 2003. Read more
Did the government seek to subvert the UN process by spying on Security Council members?
In February 2003, the Observer newspaper reported that the US National Security Agency was seeking information about other current members of the UN Security Council. A week later, the UN launched an investigation into the issues and an employee of the UK government’s communication headquarters (GCHQ) was arrested. Charges against Katherine Gun were later dropped. It is not clear to what extent the British government complied with the US request.