Jack Straw memo to Tony Blair March 2002

On 25 March 2002, Jack Straw sent Tony Blair a memo in advance of Blair’s visit to George Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas. Peter Ricketts’ earlier letter to Straw described it as a “personal note to the Prime Minister covering the official advice”, suggesting that the Foreign Office also sent Blair a more formal paper.

This memo has now been published by the Inquiry.

What is the objective?

Like other documents, the subject of Straw’s memo is military action rather than action to disarm Saddam. It begins with the comment that: “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.” This implies that the outcome of Blair’s visit is expected to be a commitment to take military action.

The majority of the memo is a discussion of what needs to be done “to convince [colleagues]”. In this context, Straw told Blair: “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.” This appears to refer to way that the objective of the policy is defined publicly, rather than a genuine attempt to define its objective. In either case, the policy is one of invading Iraq.

Making the case

Straw’s set out both the issues on which Labour Party “colleagues” needed to be convinced and the means by which a “case” could be made. He had an answer on most points, based on the existing strategy of using wmd as a pretext. But he argued that the largest “hole” is to be found on the question of what military action will achieve.

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