Thatcher govt never opposed Iraq chemical weapons program

In 1980s despite knowing about Saddam's plans on building up a chemical weapons arsenal, British government chose not to interfere

Thatcher govt never opposed Iraq chemical weapons program

World Bulletin / News Desk

According to previously classified Foreign Office documents, Thatcher’s government chose not to oppose ex-President of Iraq Saddam Hussein in building up a chemical weapons arsenal. The reason behind this was the fact that a British firm was involved in that process. In 1980s Iraq used those chemical weapons against Iran in a brutal war, resulting in estimated 100.000 causalities.

The company involved in Iraqi chemical weapons manufacture was Weir Pumps. It supplied a number of pumps to an Indian contractor, which built a chemical plant in Iraqi Samarra, where mustard gas was produced.

The Foreign Office had to simple choise – to act and hamper the Iraqi chemical weapons program or stay inactive. According to a memo, the latter option was chosen.

“Britain alone could take limited action to control exports, but this would do little good. Global action might eventually be effective but would probably require public presentation of our evidence and would be very slow. Given that the Iraqi programme is already far advanced, I am sceptical about the feasibility of effective action,” the letter said.

“A move to ban CW sales to Iraq would therefore look very discriminatory unless we could show that Iraq had breached, or intended to breach the Geneva Protocol,” it said. “It would be far easier for Iran to bring this case than us. Our own position on CW exports is not invulnerable.”

Besides, UK's international image was also of a matter, because of Weir Pumps’ involvement and a wider record. Britain extensively used the chemical during anti-riot action in Northern Ireland in 1979, drawing some international criticism.

The Foreign Office contemplated rallying its allies, including the US and France, to respond to Saddam’s chemical weapons build-up. The effort, however, never materialized.

In 2003, production and stockpiling of weapons of mass destruction was the main reason and the best excuse for the U.S. to invade Iraq. This invasion was strongly advocated by the UK. The alleged weapons were never found, because by that time Baghdad had destroyed its stockpiles due to international pressure. The evidence to the contrary presented by Washington proved to be overstretched and erroneous.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 04 Temmuz 2015, 12:05