Iraq and the second resolution: it wasn’t the French wot done it, whatever ministers (and the Guardian) might say

Guardian Letters, 29 April 2005 ( :

I’m surprised that you acquiesce in and recycle one of the misrepresentations still repeated by ministers, of what happened over UN security council resolution 1441; namely that the government’s failure to get security council authority for the attack on Iraq in a second resolution was the result of France’s announcement that it would veto any such resolution.

President Chirac did not threaten to veto a second resolution: in his much-misquoted television interview of March 10 2003 he pointed out, absolutely correctly, that the majority of council members were opposed to military action at a time when the UN weapons inspectors had not yet completed their work, so the question of a French veto would not arise (see

Ministers sometimes argue that it was France’s opposition to a second resolution that emboldened some non-permanent members of the council to withhold their support for it since they knew that even if there was a majority in favour, France would veto. But the opposite is the case – the prospect of a French veto would have allowed council members to curry favour with Washington and London by declaring their support, safe in the knowledge that there was no risk of the council authorising war at that time.

The second resolution failed because a clear majority in the council, including a majority of the permanent members, were opposed to military action before the inspectors had finished their work, so the US and UK did not dare to allow their resolution even to come to a vote.

Brian Barder

[Note, not in Guardian letter: For full text of the Attorney-General’s advice of 7.iii.03 on Iraq war legality, in readable form not requiring you to download a PDF file, please see on my website]


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