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Context of 'Late January 2003: British Officials Order Translators and Analysts to Work with US Spy Operation Targeting UN Members'

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The US and Britain announce that they will act without UN approval if the UN fails to pass a resolution authorizing the use of force. British Foreign Minister Jack Straw warns that the US and Britain will take military action against Iraq with or without UN approval. He says, “We reserve the right to act within international law in respect of the use of force which may or may not be covered by a new resolution. It is entirely appropriate for America, as for us, to reserve their position if the United Nations does not meet its responsibilities.” (BBC 10/18/2002; BBC 10/18/2002)

When asked about claims that Iraq has ties to al-Qaeda, British Foreign Minister Jack Straw responds: “It could well be the case that there were links, active links, between al-Qaeda and the Iraqi regime before Sept. 11. What I’m asked is if I’ve seen any evidence of that. And the answer is: I haven’t.” (Rotella 11/4/2002)

British Foreign Minister Jack Straw says that another UN resolution will be needed before taking military action against Iraq. Straw tells the BBC, “The most likely course of action, if military action is required—which it is not at the moment—is that we go to the Security Council, which is where there would be discussion. Our preference has always been for a further resolution for the Security Council, and that would then be put to the House of Commons for further endorsement, just as this original 1441 resolution (see November 8, 2002) is being put before the House for endorsement on Monday [November 25].” (BBC 11/22/2002)

In a private note to British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw says he is concerned that weapons inspectors will fail to uncover a smoking gun. He says he hopes that UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix will turn up enough evidence to declare Iraq in breach of its UN obligations under UN Security Council Resolution 1441 (see November 8, 2002). (Sands 2005; Norton-Taylor 2/3/2006)

British Foreign Minister Jack Straw tells the BBC that prior to using force against Iraq, there should be a second Security Council resolution. He also says that there should be “a substantive vote in the House of Commons before action takes place.” (Schemann 1/15/2003)

Britain’s GCHQ.Britain’s GCHQ. [Source: BBC]British officials order translators and analysts working at the British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) to cooperate with a US surveillance operation (see January 31, 2003) that is targeting diplomats from the “swing nations” on the Security Council—Chile, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Angola, Guinea, and Pakistan. China, too, is likely a target of the mission. The espionage campaign is “designed to help smooth the way for a second UN resolution authorizing war in Iraq.” (Bright and Beaumont 2/8/2004 Sources: Unnamed sources close to the intelligence services) The operation is likely known to the director-general of GCHQ, David Pepper, and Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, “who has overall responsibility for GCHQ.” (Bright and Beaumont 2/8/2004) The operation reportedly causes “significant disquiet in the intelligence community on both sides of the Atlantic.” (Bright and Beaumont 2/8/2004)

The Mexican government sends a series of diplomatic letters to British Foreign Minister Jack Straw asking the minister if the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) had spied on UN Security Council member states prior to the US-British invasion of Iraq. (Reuters 2/14/2004; Bright, Beaumont, and Tuckman 2/15/2004) To date, no response has been received. Nor has the British Foreign Office responded to inquiries from the press.


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