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1991 - Mr Major’s Doorstep Interview on the Gulf War - 20th January 1991

Below is Mr Major's doorstep interview given outside Church at Chequers on Sunday 20th January 1991.


QUESTION:

I would just like to get your view on the Patriots sent to Israel - what is your reaction to that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Let me just say a word about last night's activity.

The weather, as you may have heard, was not terribly helpful and conducive last night to our operations. Nonetheless, there were a very large number of sorties again and preliminary reports would seem to indicate that they were very successful.

What is clear is that this continual day-and-night bombardment of the Iraqi war machine is gradually beginning to damage the destructive capacity that it has and I suspect this phase of the war will continue for a considerable period of time. It certainly seems to me the right way to proceed.

I am pleased that last night there were no further attacks on Israel and I think it is entirely right of the Israeli Government to have shown the restraint that they have and I commend them upon that - I think it is an act of considerable statesmanship to have done so. They are now, as you may know, going to have some more Patriot defensive missiles with American support and I hope that will give them a greater degree of comfort against the wholly unprovoked and unjustified attacks that they face.

QUESTION:

Are we talking about a war of weeks or months, Prime Minister?

PRIME MINISTER:

It is impossible to say, isn't it? One can never be quite sure how these events will fall out. I would imagine it would be a war of quite a few number of weeks but how far that will extend, it is too early to say.

QUESTION:

Are you encouraged by opinion polls showing a large measure of support for your policy?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think there is a very considerable amount of support for the general policy of the United Nations, for the Allied policy. I think there is a very great understanding of the nature of the regime in Iraq, what it has done, potentially what it could do and, of course, the sort of activities we have seen in the last few days with the wholly unprovoked attacks on large civilian centres in Israel will reinforce that support, I believe. Yes, I am very encouraged by it.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, these Patriots that have gone to Israel, are they going to be simply a comfort for Israel or are they going to provide real protection? Have they sent enough?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think they are going to provide some very substantial protection for Israel, most certainly. They are a very formidable defensive weapon and they are in the hands of people who know how to use them so I think it is a wise policy to have sent them and I think they will be a very considerable comfort to Israel. I am delighted it has happened.

QUESTION:

And as you say, you welcome Israel's continued restraint.

PRIME MINISTER:

I think it is remarkable. I am absolutely delighted with it. I urged the Israeli Government to restrain; thus far, they have done so. I think that is entirely right. I hope they will find themselves able to continue to do that.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, is the war just about to enter a much more bloody phase with the attacks on troops at the front?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think it is difficult to say. The war phase will continue in terms of the attacks on airfields and military establishments for a little while yet - it is impossible to say how long - but of course, it is also necessary to weaken the Iraqi war machine in other ways and therefore it will be necessary to attack their key troops. That is absolutely necessary. We want this war to end as satisfactorily and as speedily as possible and our commanders in the field have the authority to make the appropriate attacks - and they will continue to have that authority.

QUESTION:

Do you think public support for the war may start to diminish if we start getting a lot more casualties?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think the public are very well aware of what is at stake in this war. The degree of support there is at the moment is absolutely remarkable. I hope and expect that that degree of support will remain.

QUESTION:

Can we take it from what you are saying, Prime Minister, that we can expect the ground war to start any time now?

PRIME MINISTER:

No. I have nothing whatsoever to say about that; absolutely nothing whatsoever to say about that.

QUESTION:

Can I ask you, finally, how you heard about the Patriots being sent to Israel?

PRIME MINISTER:

We heard through the open line from the White House. We heard that some time ago.

Thank you all very much indeed!