Thursday, February 21, 2008
Israeli Nukes - The Great Unmentionable
The story of how Britain went to war in Iraq remains the biggest political controversy of the Blair/Brown era. New pieces of the puzzle continue to come to light, causing fresh, if diminishing, embarrassment to those involved, as well as revealing hidden little 'extras' along the way. The Security Files is a bit late pushing this one out but if you're not familiar with it, it's worth a quick read. 

One of the British Government's key pieces of evidence against Saddam Hussein was a weapons dossier presented in September 2002. It contained the now infamous claim that the Iraqi leader needed just 45 minutes to launch an attack using weapons of mass destruction. The Government said the dossier was based on the collective assessment of the intelligence agencies.

This week saw the publication of the first draft of that dossier. Though it did not contain the 45-minute claim, it does bear a close resemblance to the final version. It was written by the then chief information officer at the Foreign Office, John Williams, leading to renewed claims that the case for war was based more on the work of spin doctors than of spooks.

The first draft was released complete with hand-written comments in the margin. These were made by an unnamed FCO official. The Guardian newspaper on Thursday reported that one of those comments, a one-word comment in fact, had been removed from the published draft. That word was "Israel" and it was a query to the assertion that "no other country [apart from Iraq] has flouted the United Nations' authority so brazenly in pursuit of weapons of mass destruction."

Upsetting Israel by mentioning its nuclear weapons programme, or (implicitly) comparing it, on a single issue, to Saddam Hussein's Iraq, clearly remains a taboo subject for the Foreign Office. No matter that it's twenty years since the Sunday Times first published its scoop on Israeli nukes, or even that it's over a year since Ehud Olmert's Freudian slip on German TV, when he appeared to admit Israel's nuclear capability,  the relationship is just too sensitive to withstand comment by flippant Brit officials.

Fortunately, the UK either cares less about, or is perhaps more confident in, its relationship with two other of its allies. Against the claim that "no other country [apart from Iraq] has twice launched wars of aggression against neighbours" is written "Germany?" and "US: Cuba, Guatemala, Mexico." These comments were not withheld from publication.  
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• February 2008
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