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Context of 'May 1-31, 2002: US Begins ‘Spikes of Activity’ To Put Pressure on Iraq'

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A British Foreign Office memo concludes that a proposal to increase the number of US and British aerial attacks on targets in Iraq’s “no-fly” zone in order to “put pressure on the regime” would violate international law. The memo is later distributed to several high officials as an appendix to a July 21 Cabinet Office briefing paper (see July 21, 2002) meant to prepare officials ahead of a meeting on July 23 (see July 23, 2002). The memo also disputes the United States’ contention that the bombings are meant to enforce compliance with UN resolutions 688 and 687, which ordered Iraq to destroy its weapons of mass destruction. “This view is not consistent with resolution 687, which does not deal with the repression of the Iraqi civilian population, or with resolution 688, which was not adopted under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, and does not contain any provision for enforcement,” it says. [London Times, 6/19/2005]

Entity Tags: British Foreign Office

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

US and British warplanes drop .3 tons of ordnance on targets in Iraq “no-fly” zones. [Statesman, 5/30/2005]

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

The US military steps up its attacks on targets in Iraq’s “no-fly” zones. [London Times, 5/29/2005; London Times, 6/19/2005] US and British warplanes drop 7.3 tons of ordnance on targets in Iraq “no-fly” zones during this month, compared with just .3 tons the previous month (see April 1-30, 2002). [Statesman, 5/30/2005] Two months later, British Defense Secretary Geoffrey Hoon will say at a British cabinet meeting (see July 23, 2002) that the US has “begun ‘spikes of activity’ to put pressure on the regime.”

Entity Tags: United States

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

British Intelligence Chief Sir Richard Dearlove and other top MI6 officials attend an annual CIA-MI6 summit to have candid talks on the issues of counterterrorism and Iraq. CIA Director George Tenet had tried to cancel the summit, but the British, set on getting a better feel for the agency’s intelligence on Iraq and Bush’s Iraq policy, were insistent that the summit take place. Tenet reluctantly agreed to have the meeting, provided that it was held at CIA headquarters. The meeting is held on a Saturday and lasts almost the whole day. At one point during the meeting, Tenet and Dearlove leave to have a private discussion. While it has not been reported what Tenet tells Dearlove during the one-and-a-half-hour long chat, Dearlove’s statements to other top British officials a few days later (see July 23, 2002) make it clear that after the summit he is convinced the US has little evidence to support the allegations they are making about Iraq and that the decision has already been made to invade. [Risen, 2006, pp. 183-184]

Entity Tags: George J. Tenet, Richard Dearlove

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

The British Cabinet Office issues an eight-page briefing note to prepare officials for an upcoming meeting (see July 23, 2002) on Britain’s role in the United States’ confrontation with Iraq. The paper, titled “Conditions for Military Action,” addresses a number of issues including US invasion and post-war planning, legal justification for the use of military force, and what the US and British hope to achieve through “regime change.” [United Kingdom, 7/21/2002; London Times, 5/2/2005; Newsweek, 6/15/2005]
British support for use of military force against Iraq - The briefing summarizes the main points of Prime Minister Tony Blair’s April meeting (see April 6-7, 2002) with President Bush, recalling that Blair pledged British support for “military action to bring about regime change” as long as “certain conditions” were met. Blair told Bush that the US and Britain would have to first develop a strategy to build a coalition and “shape public opinion.” Additionally, Britain would prefer that all “options for action to eliminate Iraq’s WMD through the UN weapons inspectors [are] exhausted” and that the Israel-Palestine crisis be quiescent before going to war against Iraq. [United Kingdom, 7/21/2002]
US objectives in Iraq - The briefing paper reports that US military planners see the removal of Saddam Hussein as the primary objective, to be “followed by [the] elimination of Iraqi WMD [weapons of mass destruction].” The briefing notes that within the British government there are doubts that “regime change,” by itself, would be sufficient to gain control over any WMD present in Iraq. [United Kingdom, 7/21/2002]
Creating conditions necessary for legal justification - Noting that “US views of international law vary from that of the UK and the international community,” the briefing paper makes it clear that the British government believes “[r]egime change per se is not a proper basis for military action under international law.” Because Blair told Bush in April that the British would support military action against Iraq, it will be necessary develop a realistic political strategy that would involve, among other things, working with the US to create “the conditions necessary to justify government military action.” It is suggested in the briefing note that an Iraqi refusal to cooperate with weapons inspections could help create such conditions. Saddam Hussein would “likely” agree to admit inspectors and allow them to operate freely during the first six months of inspections when UNMOVIC is in the process of establishing a monitoring and verification system. After this point, the briefing notes, Hussein would probably begin limiting cooperating with inspectors. This would likely not occur until January 2003. Another alternative—one that would provide a legal basis for “regime change” much sooner—is that “an ultimatum could be cast in terms which Saddam would reject… and which would not be regarded as unreasonable by the international community.” [United Kingdom, 7/21/2002; London Times, 5/2/2005; Guardian, 5/2/2005; Daily Telegraph, 5/4/2005; Los Angeles Times, 5/12/2005]
US invasion plan - According to the briefing paper, US military planners seem to favor an invasion plan that would provide a “running start” to the ground invasion. It would consist of “[a]ir strikes and support for opposition groups in Iraq [that] would lead initially to small-scale land operations.” It would likely begin around November 2002 “with no overt military build-up,” followed by the ground invasion that could commence as early as January 2003. The other option under consideration is the “generated start” plan, which would involve a longer build-up. [United Kingdom, 7/21/2002; London Times, 5/2/2005]
US post-war plan - The briefing paper notes that US “military planning for action against Iraq is proceeding apace” —but with “little thought” to issues such as “the aftermath and how to shape it.” It predicts that a “post-war occupation of Iraq could lead to a protracted and costly nation-building exercise.” The Pentagon’s plans “are virtually silent on this point,” the document notes, warning of the possibility that “Washington could look to [the British] to share a disproportionate share of the burden.” [United Kingdom, 7/21/2002; Washington Post, 6/12/2005]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Tony Blair

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Top British officials attend a meeting to discuss Britain’s potential role in the Bush administration’s confrontation with Iraq. According to the minutes of the meeting, transcribed by Matthew Rycroft, Sir Richard Dearlove, head of the British intelligence service, MI6, says that during his last visit (see July 20, 2002) to Washington he noticed a “perceptible shift in attitude. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and [weapons of mass destruction]. But the intelligence and the facts were being fixed around the policy.” Furthermore, he states, Bush’s National Security Council indicated it “had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime’s record.” He also noted that there “was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.” [United Kingdom, 7/23/2002; Salon, 5/6/2005; Los Angeles Times, 5/12/2005] Foreign Minister Jack Straw appears to agree with Dearlove’s assessment, saying that it seems clear that President Bush has already decided on using military force to depose Saddam Hussein. But Straw notes that the Bush administration’s case against Saddam was “thin.” The Iraqi leader “was not threatening his neighbors, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea, or Iran,” the minutes say, summarizing his remarks. [Guardian, 5/2/2005; Los Angeles Times, 5/12/2005] There is no indication in the minutes that anyone present at the meeting disputed Dearlove’s or Straw’s observations. [United Kingdom, 7/23/2002] Furthermore, the account provided by the intelligence official and Straw are corroborated by a former senior US official who is later interviewed by Knight Ridder. It is “an absolutely accurate description of what transpired,” the official will say. [Knight Ridder, 5/2/2005] Straw proposes that the next step would be to “work up an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN weapons inspectors,” which “would also help with the legal justification for the use of force.” [Guardian, 5/2/2005; Los Angeles Times, 5/12/2005] Britain’s attorney general, Lord Peter Goldsmith, warns that “the desire for regime change [is] not a legal base for military action,” the minutes say. But Blair says that “it would make a big difference politically and legally if Saddam refused to allow in the UN inspectors.” [Los Angeles Times, 5/12/2005] Finally, the officials agree that the British government “should continue to work on the assumption that the UK would take part in any military action” but “not ignore the legal issues.” [Guardian, 5/2/2005] The minutes do not provide any indication that officials discussed how war might be avoided. [Salon, 6/10/2005] The minutes of this meetings will be revealed by the British Sunday Times three years later (see May 1, 2005). Commonly referred to as the “Downing Street Memo,” the minutes will re-spark the controversy over politicized intelligence.

Entity Tags: Richard Wilson, Michael Boyce, Peter Henry Goldsmith, Richard Dearlove, Jonathan Powell, Geoff Hoon, Jack Straw, Alastair Campbell, Francis Richards, Sally Morgan, John Scarlett, Tony Blair

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

The London Sunday Times publishes the secret “Downing Secret Memo.” The memo contains the minutes from a July 23, 2002 meeting (see July 23, 2002) revealing that several of Britain’s top officials believed the Bush administration had already decided to go to war with Iraq by the summer of 2002. The minutes also reveal that the head of the British intelligence service believed at the time that US intelligence was being “fixed” around Washington’s plan to topple the Iraqi government. [United Kingdom, 7/23/2002] The memo will be ignored by the US press, even though many believe it represents the best evidence so far that the Bush administration manipulated intelligence prior to the war. Much of the existing evidence on politicized intelligence consists of accounts provided by former officials and unnamed sources. The Downing Street minutes, however, meet a higher standard of proof because it is the official classified record of a meeting attended by the security cabinet of America’s closest ally. [Salon, 6/10/2005] “The memo is significant because it was written by our closest ally, and when it comes to writing minutes on foreign policy and security matters, the British are professionals,” notes Andrew Bacevich, a retired Army colonel. “We can conclude that the memo means precisely what it says. It says that Bush had already made the decision for war even while he was insisting publicly, and for many months thereafter, that war was the last resort.” [Knight Ridder, 6/12/2005]

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

During a joint press conference with President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, a Reuters reporter asks both leaders whether comments made by Sir Richard Dearlove, recorded in the minutes of a July 23 British cabinet meeting (see July 23, 2002), were accurate. According to the minutes, Dearlove said that the “intelligence and the facts were being fixed around the policy [of regime change].” Responding to the question, Blair insists that the facts were not fixed “in any shape or form at all.” Bush’s response, however, does not answer the question. Instead, he addresses another issue that was raised by the Downing Street minutes. The minutes, along with several other recently published Downing Street documents, called into question the Bush administration’s claim that the decision to use military force against Iraq did not take place until shortly before the invasion began. In his response to the reporter’s question, Bush chooses to discuss this issue instead. “And somebody said, ‘Well, you know, we had made up our mind to go to use military force to deal with Saddam.’ There’s nothing farther from the truth… [Saddam Hussein] made the decision.” Significantly, neither Bush nor Blair, in their responses, attempt to challenge the authenticity of the memo. [New York Times, 6/8/2005; US President, 6/13/2005]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Tony Blair

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

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