permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a further
statement about military action in Iraq. Coalition forces
have made significant progress since my statement to
the House last Friday.
Hussein's calculation in this conflict is that western
democracies are weak - that they have no stomach for
a fight - that they will not stand up, and go on standing
up for the things that they believe in.
misunderstand and miscalculate the values that are at
the heart of our democracies - that we are here in this
House only because people are able freely to elect us,
and that we uphold and observe the rule of law. They
also forget that the members of our Armed Forces volunteer
to serve their country.
armed forces comprise free men and women - with their
own often strongly held individual views and ideas -
who serve together and risk their lives together because
they choose to - not because some thug stands behind
them or their family with threats of torture or execution.
free men and women choose to risk their lives in the
defence of the values we share. And when those lives
are lost we pay proper tribute to them and to their
families, because they stand in our place, and we must
in turn resolutely stand up for them.
is why on behalf of the Government I extend our condolences
to the families and friends of those servicemen who
have died. Twenty individuals with twenty grieving families.
Whether they died in tragic accidents, or from enemy
fire, these men gave their lives in the service of their
country and in defence of the highest ideals. We owe
them and their families a profound debt of gratitude
for their sacrifice. They will not be forgotten.
have all seen the reporting from the 24 hour media over
the last few days. Inevitably, such reporting reflects
the immediate situation around specific journalists.
It does not always give an overall picture or strategic
would therefore like to set out the context by reporting
progress against the tasks identified in the Government's
Military Campaign Objectives published on 20th March.
six days of conflict, the Coalition has made steady
progress, following the main outline of our military
plan, towards our objective of overcoming resistance
from the Iraqi security forces. The Al Faw peninsula,
Umm Qasr and the southern oilfields have been secured,
and Iraqi resistance in those areas defeated. 3 Commando
Brigade is in control, and the US 15th Marine Expeditionary
Unit has been released to return to the 1st Marine Expeditionary
Force which is now heading towards Baghdad.
Air Assault Brigade is deployed in the Southern oilfields
and the 7th Armoured Brigade dominates the Basrah area.
Resistance in nearby Az Zubayr has been defeated and
British forces are in place in much of the area around
the city of Basrah.
forces are spearheading an advance northwards with lead
elements at Karbala, 60 miles south of Baghdad. US Marine
combat units have also crossed the Euphrates and are
proceeding northwards. Hon Members will have seen accounts
of the serious engagement near al Najaf last night in
which US forces from the 5th Corps repelled an attack
by Iraqi forces.
5,000 sorties have now been flown in the air campaign,
and we have achieved significant degradation of Iraqi
regime and command and control facilities. The focus
of our effort will now shift towards close air support
of coalition ground forces advancing on Baghdad.
our most important campaign objective - to deny Iraq
use of its Weapons of Mass Destruction - our efforts
have centred on disabling the command and control facilities
through which the Iraqi regime would order the use of
such weapons. Our experts have already begun to investigate
potential weapons sites in coalition controlled areas.
To date, we have no evidence of Iraqi use of weapons
of mass destruction during this campaign. But it is
impossible to know whether this is the result of successful
military operations or a deliberate tactical judgement
of the Iraqi regime. Indeed, we do know from Prisoners
of War that protective equipment was issued to southern
the Prime Minister has made clear, it will be the removal
of Saddam Hussein's appalling regime which will ultimately
lead to Iraqi disarmament. To achieve this, we have
been seeking to isolate the regime at all levels in
every part of Iraq: - in Baghdad, in Tikrit, in Mosul
and in Basrah - primarily by the use of precision attacks
against regime and military targets. Although the regime
has not yet collapsed - Saddam Hussein's thugs continue
to resist in some areas - the regime has effectively
lost control of southern Iraq. The regime must know
that its days are now numbered.
Forces have made a key contribution towards the objective
of ensuring that essential economic infrastructure is
secure. The Southern Oil fields and associated infrastructure
have been secured, with very little damage. Umm Qasr,
the country's one significant port, is under coalition
control and is in working condition. A mine countermeasures
task force, under Royal Navy command and including US
and Australian elements, is making steady progress in
clearing the Khawr Abd Allah waterway of any mines.
This is necessarily a slow and painstaking process.
the areas now under our control, British commanders
are making contacts in the local communities, in order
to begin the process of restoring normality.
seek to deter wider conflict both inside and outside
Iraq. The situation in Coalition-controlled Iraq is
generally stable, although we are keeping a close watch
on events in Basrah. I can assure the House that the
welfare of the people of Basrah is at the forefront
of the concerns of Coalition commanders. Coalition forces
are engaging groups of enemy forces as they try to flee
the city and we have successfully struck key regime
targets within it - notably the Ba'ath Party headquarters
Iraq remains stable and we intend to preserve that position.
The situation remains calm along Iraq's other borders.
Much of Coalition-controlled Iraq bordering Iran is
under British command. But the suggestion that the Royal
Marines were sent to guard against Iranian forces is
simply not true. We are seeking close contacts with
the Iranian authorities to reduce the scope for any
our campaign looks to secure a better future for the
people of Iraq. Our fight is not with the people of
Iraq. There can be no greater demonstration of that
than the efforts we are making to provide immediate
humanitarian support and assistance where we can. Let
us be clear: there has long been a humanitarian crisis
in Iraq - caused by Saddam Hussein's misrule and the
plundering of that country's resources for military
spending, including his programmes to develop weapons
of mass destruction. Many Iraqis have long been dependent
on aid from the United Nations Oil for Food programme,
and more than half of Iraqis living in rural areas have
no access to safe water.
first stage in providing that help to Iraq must be defeating
Saddam Hussein's forces and establishing a secure environment.
This is necessary before we can begin to conduct humanitarian
Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessel Sir Galahad is loaded
with water, medical supplies, food and equipment for
providing shelter. It is waiting to enter Umm Qasr as
soon as the sea lanes have been cleared of mines.
the same time, in a co-operative effort with Kuwait
and the United States, Royal Engineers are constructing
a water pipe from Kuwait into Iraq to provide drinking
humanitarian effort will build up over the coming weeks.
It is impossible to know for certain the full extent
of the resources that will be required. But, in conjunction
with the Department of International Development, we
have plans to address what we know are likely to be
the most immediate and pressing needs. This must be
part of a wider international effort, and the International
Committee of the Red Cross is already providing support
to the Iraqi people in Basrah and elsewhere.
Speaker, after six days of military operations against
the Iraqi regime, the Coalition has made steady progress.
Our Servicemen and women have played a pivotal role
in what has been achieved and we can be proud of their
courage, their resilience and their determination. But
there is much more to achieve, and much more we can
offer the people of Iraq. The Government's position
is clear. We will remain resolute until our objectives
have been met.
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