HC Deb 09 February 1998 vol 306 cc11-2
9. Ann Clwyd

What assessment he has made of the military threat posed by Iraq. [26103]

Mr. George Robertson

Under Saddam Hussein, Iraq has twice launched attacks on its neighbours. It still possesses large ground and air forces capable of operating beyond its borders. We assess that Saddam Hussein has ambitions to rebuild a weapons of mass destruction capability and retains some of the elements needed for that, including chemical and biological agents and prohibited missiles or their components. The work of the United Nations Special Commission on Iraq is crucial in denying him that capability to threaten the stability of the region.

Ann Clwyd

Given that military action is hardly likely to remove the main problem—Saddam Hussein and his closest associates—would my right hon. Friend support bringing Saddam Hussein before an international criminal court to be tried for war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes of genocide? Will my right hon. Friend use his good offices with the Turkish Government, who are preparing to seal their borders? In the event of a refugee crisis, any Kurds attempting to flee to another country would once again have only Iran to turn to.

Mr. Robertson

My hon. Friend has been brave and consistent in her long opposition to Saddam Hussein and his regime. She has constantly supported the Kurds, against whom Saddam Hussein has already deployed sarin bombs—terrifying weapons of mass destruction—in 1988. Her words have some authority. We must ask whether it would be possible to indict Saddam or bring him before a court, as is currently being suggested. By one means or another, his people must be the final court of judgment on what he has done to them and their country.

As to the possibility of the Turkish armed forces taking action on their border, we have to bear it in mind that, although the large majority of Kurds in northern Iraq are peaceful and have no wish to be aggressive against their Turkish neighbour, there are elements in the PKK and other groups whose sole intention is to destabilise and attack the Government of Turkey. I hope that the Turkish Government will use their discretion and wisdom when the world community is focusing on the iniquities of Saddam and will be as generous and humanitarian to the Kurds as they have been in the past.

Mr. Blunt

If military force has to be deployed against Iraq, will the Secretary of State ensure that the military objectives set for our forces and those of the United States and other members of any coalition are linked to clear political objectives?

Mr. Robertson

They are; the aim of military action will be to oblige Saddam to comply with the United Nations Security Council resolutions. That is the object of the diplomacy and the efforts that have been made by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and many others. If it comes to the bit, if that diplomacy fails and if we have to use force, that is what the objective will be.

Dr. Iddon

Will the Secretary of State confirm that the Gulf operation is code-named Operation Bolton? How usual is it to use place names? Does he agree that such use might be seen by some to be controversial? Might it not be better to stick to code names such as Desert Storm?

Mr. Robertson

The name Bolton for the operation going on in the Gulf was chosen at random from a list of possible operation names. If that same random process had resulted in the operation being called Operation Hamilton, I know that my constituents would have been very proud to have been associated with an effort to resume international law and order and comply with UN Security Council resolutions. I know that my hon. Friend's constituents will share the same sense of pride in our service men and service women, who are standing up at this moment and putting their lives on the line for what we and they know is right.

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