eventually agreed that they could be visited once. That was clearly unacceptable, but he refused to move further. Meanwhile,we and the Americans,together w ith our other allies,continued to make it clear that,if he did not back down,we saw no alternative in the end to the use of force. We made preparations to ensure that we
were ready to use force,if absolutely necessary. . . .
We should never forget that if we do not stop Saddam Hussein acting in breach of his agreement on weapons of mass destruction,the losers will be not just th ose threatened by him,but the authority and standing of the UN itself. . . .
The Saddam Hussein we face today is the same Saddam Hussein we faced yesterday. He has not changed. He remains an evil,brutal dictator. The onl y thing that has changed is that he has changed his mind in the face of effective diplomacy and firm willingness to use force. . . .
We will not tolerate any repetition of the Iraqi behaviour that has led to this agreement. We are not going to play more elaborate diplomatic games that allow Saddam Hussein to thwart the inspections regime that has now been agreed. . . .
Throughout the dispute,our aim has been a peaceful,diplomatic settlemen t. There was no desire on either side of the Atlantic to use force,but it was also clea r to us throughout that Saddam Hussein only understands and respects force. . . .
Saddam Hussein has spent seven years playing for time,but has been thwarte d by the resolve of the international community. It is now clearer than ever that his games have to stop once and for all. If they do not,the consequences should be clea r to all.
[Hansard, 24 February 1998, Col 173]
A joint memorandum submitted by the then Foreign and Defence Secretaries to the Cabinet Ministerial Committee on Defence and Overseas Policy in May 1999 covered future strategy towards Iraq. That paper set out the Government’s policy objectives towards Iraq as being:
. . . in the short term,to reduce the threat Saddam poses to the region,inclu ding by eliminating his Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) programmes; and,in the longer term,to reintegrate a territorially intact Iraq as a law-abiding member o f the international community.
The paper noted that the Government had sought to achieve these aims: . . . by a policy of containment,through active support of UNSCOM/IAEA effo rts to complete WMD disarmament in Iraq,diplomatic pressure and sanctions,bac ked by the threat and,as necessary,use of military force.
The paper made judgements on the success of that policy and its longer-term prospects: Containment has kept the lid on Saddam. . . . But containment has disadvantages: it does not produce rapid or decisive results; it is resource-intensive,r equiring constant diplomatic effort and a significant military presence; and it is not always easy to justify to public opinion,as criticisms of UK/US air strikes and of the humanitarian impact of sanctions has shown.