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Profile: Jonathan Powell

Positions that Jonathan Powell has held:

  • Aide to the British Prime Minister

Jonathan Powell was a participant or observer in the following events:

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

President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair meet at the White House to discuss Iraq. Also present at the meeting are Blair’s foreign policy adviser, Sir David Manning; his aid Matthew Rycoft; his chief of staff, Jonathan Powell; US National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and her deputy, Dan Fried; and Bush’s chief of staff, Andrew Card. [Sands, 2005; Independent, 2/2/2006; Channel 4 News (London), 2/2/2006; New York Times, 3/27/2006]
Bush Says US Going to War with or without UN Resolution - Blair presses Bush to seek a second UN resolution that would provide specific legal backing for the use of force against Iraq. According to the minutes of the meeting, Bush says that “the diplomatic strategy [has] to be arranged around the military planning” and that the “US would put its full weight behind efforts to get another resolution and would ‘twist arms’ and ‘even threaten.’” But if such efforts fail, Bush is recorded saying, “military action would follow anyway.” Bush also tells Blair that he hopes to commence military action on March 10. Blair does not demur and offers Britain’s total support for the war, saying that he is “solidly with the president and ready to do whatever it took to disarm Saddam.” Notwithstanding, he insists that “a second Security Council resolution would provide an insurance policy against the unexpected, and international cover, including with the Arabs.” According to Bush, the question that needs to be addressed is what should they cite as evidence that Iraq is in breach of its obligations under UN Resolution 1441 (see November 8, 2002). The minutes of the meeting will indicate that there is concern that inspections have failed to provide sufficient evidence of a material breach.
Suggested Provocation of Iraq - “The US was thinking of flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in UN colors,” the minutes report. “If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach.” [Sands, 2005; Channel 4 News (London), 2/2/2006; MSNBC, 2/2/2006; Guardian, 2/3/2006; New York Times, 3/27/2006] The Times of London later notes that this proposal “would have made sense only if the spy plane was ordered to fly at an altitude within range of Iraqi missiles.” In this case, the plane would be far below the 90,000 foot altitude it is capable of operating at. [London Times, 2/2/2006; Channel 4 News (London), 2/2/2006]
Bush Suggests Use of Defector - In addition to the U2 idea, Bush says it is “possible that a defector could be brought out who would give a public presentation about Saddam’s WMD, and there was also a small possibility that Saddam would be assassinated.” At one point during the two-hour meeting, Bush says he thinks “it unlikely that there would be internecine warfare between the different religious and ethnic groups.” [Sands, 2005; New York Times, 3/27/2006] Author Phillippe Sands will later ask, “Why would the US president and the British prime minister spend any time concocting ways of proposing a material breach if they knew they could prove Saddam had weapons of mass destruction?” [Rich, 2006, pp. 190]

Entity Tags: David Manning, George W. Bush, Jonathan Powell, Daniel Fried, Tony Blair, Andrew Card, Condoleezza Rice, Phillippe Sands, Matthew Rycroft

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

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