A secret document drawn up by British Prime Minister Tony Blair, apparently presenting evidence that Iraq is developing weapons of mass destruction, will be presented to Members of Parliament today. They will have three hours to digest its contents before an emergency debate on action to be taken against Iraq.
Tony Blair revealed the document to his Cabinet on Monday, at a meeting which lasted around one hour and forty-five minutes. After the meeting, Overseas Development Secretary Claire Short declared that “We had a good discussion and we are all agreed”, which is particularly important since she, and former Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, are the British Cabinet Ministers most opposed to military action against Iraq.
The document is believed to contain photographic evidence that Saddam Hussein’s regime has been actively pursuing a policy of developing chemical, biological and nuclear weapons since UN inspectors ceased their activities in Iraq in 1998. It is also thought to contain information of human rights abuses by the Ba’ath regime against the Iraqi people.
It is said that at the Cabinet meeting, it was decided to open up a second option scenario should the UNMOVIC mission to Iraq fail. This option is believed to be a military operation together with the United States.
Given that the last UN inspection team left Iraq four years ago, it is questionable as to how reliable so-called evidence is against Iraq, especially since on numerous occasions, facilities ear-marked by the United States as being production plants for WMD have turned out to be food stores or factories of food products, such as baby milk.
The decision to allow MPs only three hours to read the highly sensitive document before the House of Commons debate begins is also open to question. If the British political class is to form a well-founded opinion and make a decision which could involve a future military attack on Iraq, which in turn could have serious consequences for the international community, a three-hour squint at the so-called evidence seems pitifully scant.