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1992 - Mr Major’s Comments on Iraq

Below is the text of Mr Major’s comments on Iraq made during an interview held on Tuesday 18th August 1992.


QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if it was inevitable that Britain would have to return to Iraq?]

PRIME MINISTER:

I think the scale of what is happening - and precisely what is happening to the Shias in the south has not been as evident in the past as it is at present - what has made the difference in the last week or so is receipt and examination of the report by the UN Commissioner Mr van der Stoel, who set out the details of the brutality against the Shias. That is beginning to add up with other evidence.

There comes a time when behaviour that you dislike becomes behaviour that you can no longer tolerate and it has become clear over the last few days that the Iraqis have crossed that line.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if he was worried that this would lead to another full-scale war].

PRIME MINISTER:

I think the first thing to say is that we cannot allow the full-scale persecution of the Shias in the way that we have seen. I think that has to be the point from which we start.

I don’t believe it will create the sort of circumstances you have said. The Iraqis are very well aware that the Allies have overwhelming air superiority. The only effect of the Iraqis putting planes in the air against the British, French and American coalition is that they will lose those planes. I can’t be certain that they won’t do it, but I don’t myself believe that they will. I believe they will have to obey the “No Fly Zone” that we propose to create.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if people thought that the US President was leading this for domestic political reasons].

PRIME MINISTER:

Well if they do, they will be wrong. The view about what is happening there is just as strongly held by President Mitterrand in Paris, who has no elections to hand, and just as strongly by me, who has an election behind him not in front of him, as it is by President Bush, and I repeat, the catalyst that has brought this about has not been a request of any individual leader but the report to the United Nations of the United Nations High Commissioner who has seen and reported upon the persecution of the Shias, that is what has created the action.