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12 March 2002

Why Saddam Is Still a Threat to Britain, by Prime Minister Tony Blair

(Reprinted from the Daily Express, London, March 6, 2002) (830)
[Note: The following commentary by U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair
appeared in the Daily Express of London on March 6. It is in the
public domain.]
(begin byliner)
[Reprinted from the Daily Express, London, 6 March 2002]
By Tony Blair
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
The biggest change in my time in politics has been the degree to which
a problem in one part of the world far from us can have a direct
impact on Britain and the British people. Afghanistan has reminded us
what happens if we turn our back on a problem and has also
demonstrated how dangerous the world has become.
If India and Pakistan, both nuclear powers, went to war, it would
affect us here on our streets. If a conflict in the Middle East makes
the whole region unstable, we would see the consequences here in the
price of petrol at the pumps and in the effect it would have on our
jobs and industry. If Afghanistan were again to become a haven for
terrorism, we would not be immune, as September 11 showed.
In the new interdependent world, terrorists from several countries,
trained in Afghanistan, brought terror to the streets of America. We
acted in Afghanistan not just to hold to account those responsible but
also to prevent further planned outrages around the world. And despite
the immense problems of any military operation in a country like
Afghanistan, underlined by the deaths of the US servicemen on Monday
[4 March 2002], we have made great progress towards our goals.
Al Qaeda and other international terrorists remain a serious threat
but we always made clear that the action against Al Qaeda and their
Taliban allies in Afghanistan was only the first stage in the war
against terror.
What we now have to face is the fact that there are irresponsible
states which either have, or are actively seeking, biological,
chemical and nuclear weapons. This is the threat which President Bush
rightly highlighted in his State of the Union speech.
We know, for instance, from his own history that Saddam Hussein, the
Iraqi leader, has mass destruction weapons and will use them. He has
an appalling track record of terror and aggression against his own
people and neighbouring states, including the unprovoked invasion of
Saddam not only used chemical weapons repeatedly against Iranian
soldiers, but against his own citizens when he attacked Kurds in
northern Iraq. This is why, as a condition of the ceasefire at the end
of the Gulf War, the United Nations demanded -- and Saddam agreed --
that its representatives should be allowed into Iraq to dismantle his
weapons of mass destruction and ensure he did not replace them.
Before he kicked out the UN weapons inspectors three years ago, they
had discovered and destroyed thousands of chemical and biological
weapons, including thousands of litres of anthrax and 48 missiles.
These were weapons he always denied having.
The UN inspectors were also convinced he had hidden other deadly
arsenals and the plants to manufacture more but, because of his almost
daily obstruction of their work, they could not track them down. As
they got closer, they were told to get out of Iraq.
So it is important we remain vigilant about the threat he poses. IF we
fail to continue to restrain Saddam Hussein, what is already a
volatile situation in the region could easily become a world crisis.
Guarding against that and dealing with this threat matters to this
country: to British lives; to British security; to British prosperity.
Just because we have managed to contain the threat from Saddam for so
long does not mean it has gone away. Saddam is continuing his chemical
and biological weapons programmes and is developing the long-range
missiles to deliver them. This explains why the international
community is so determined to get UN inspectors back into Iraq and to
make it possible for them to do their job without obstruction.
How we act is a matter for discussion. Though Iraq seems far away and
Saddam, for the moment, is on the defensive, it is in the interest of
us all to face up to these threats with determination and resolve.
Effective foreign policy and UK stability have never been more closely
linked. There aren't faraway problems that have nothing to do with
Britain. In today's world, they are our problems and they are capable
of hurting us if we don't deal with them and helping us if we do.
What the lessons of America's leadership following September 11
demonstrate is that President Bush will consult widely with his
allies. Saddam Hussein would be wise not to mistake this for weakness.
He should not underestimate the determination of the international
community to prevent him developing and using weapons of mass
(end text)
(end byliner)
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site:

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