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Timeline of Hussein’s defiance laid out by Britain’s Tony Blair

LONDON (BP)–War with Iraq will determine more than the fate of the Iraqi regime or the future of the Iraqi people, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said in an address to Parliament March 18.

War with Iraq, he said, will determine the way Britain and the world confront the security threat of the 21st century, the development of the United Nations, the relationship between Europe and the United States as well as the relations with the European Union and the way the United States engages with the rest of the world.

To solidify his claims, Blair walked through a timeline beginning in 1991 and culminating in the present state of affairs regarding Iraq and the United States and its allies.

In April 1991, in the terms of Iraq’s surrender in the Gulf War, the country was given 15 days to provide a full and final declaration of its weapons of mass destruction. When the declaration came, it was false, a blanket denial of any such program, Blair said.

In March 1992, Iraq admitted it had possessed previously undeclared weapons of mass destruction but said it had destroyed them. The regime gave another “full and final declaration.”

In October 1994, Iraq ceased cooperation with the United Nations weapons inspection team altogether. Military action was threatened, and inspections resumed.

In March 1995, in an effort to rid Iraq of inspectors, Blair said, a further full and final declaration of weapons of mass destruction was made. By July 1995, Iraq was forced to admit that it too was false.

In August 1995, Iraq provided yet another full and final declaration. A week later, Hussein’s son-in-law defected to Jordan and disclosed a far more extensive biological weapons program than the regime had declared. The son-in-law also revealed Iraq’s plans to produce a nuclear weapon in 1990.

In November 1995, Jordan intercepted prohibited components for missiles that could be used for weapons of mass destruction, Blair recounted.

In June 1996, a further full and final declaration was made, supposedly to explain the weapons program Hussein’s son-in-law disclosed. That declaration also proved to be false, Blair said.

In June 1997, weapons inspectors were barred from specific sites within Iraq. In September 1997, another full and final declaration was made, but again was false. Meanwhile, the inspectors discovered VX nerve agent production equipment, something repeatedly denied by the Iraqis, Blair said.

In October 1997, the United States and Britain threatened military action if Iraq refused to comply with the inspectors, but obstruction continued. In February 1998, under threat of military action, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan went to Baghdad and negotiated a memorandum with Saddam to allow inspections to continue. Annan’s agreement was successful, but only for a few months. In August, Iraqi cooperation ended.

In December 1998, the inspectors left Iraq. Blair described their final report as an indictment of Hussein’s lies, deception and obstruction, with large quantities of weapons of mass destruction still unaccounted for.

That same month, the United States and Britain commenced Desert Fox, a targeted bombing campaign to degrade as much of the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction facilities as possible.

In 1999, a new UN weapons inspection team was established, but Hussein refused to allow them to enter Iraq. The team remained in limbo until U.N. Resolution 1441 in November 2002, when they were allowed to return to Iraq.

Resolution 1441 gave Saddam a final opportunity to disarm with full, unconditional and immediate compliance. The first step, Blair said, was a full and final declaration of all weapons of mass destruction to be given Dec. 8, 2002. That declaration was false, Blair said, and was in itself a material breach. Iraq made some concessions to cooperation but did not fully cooperate, Blair said. Iraq continued to deny possession of weapons of mass destruction.

Blair said the threat of force is the only language Hussein understands.

“From December 1998 to December 2002, no U.N. inspector was allowed to inspect anything in Iraq,” he said. “For four years, not a thing. What changed his mind? The threat of force. From December to January and then from January through February, concessions were made. What changed his mind? The threat of force…. The only persuasive power to which he responds is 250,000 allied troops on his doorstep.”

In regard to the UN Security Council’s hesitation to authorize military action against the Iraqi regime, Blair said the world must again learn the lesson that weakness in the face of a threat from a tyrant is the surest way not to peace but to war.

“The truth is our patience should have been exhausted weeks and months and years ago,” he said. “Even now, if the world united and gave him an ultimatum, ‘Comply or face forcible disarmament,’ he might just do it. The world hesitates and in that hesitation he senses the weakness and therefore continues to defy.

“What would any tyrannical regime possessing weapons of mass destruction think viewing the history of the world’s diplomatic dance with Saddam?” Blair asked. “That our capacity to pass firm resolutions is only matched by our feebleness in implementing them.”

Blair, in closing, urged Parliament to show at the moment of decision that Britain has the courage to do the right thing by moving the motion to back “all means necessary” to disarm Hussein.

“To retreat now, I believe, would put at hazard all that we hold dearest,” he said, “turn the United Nations back into a talking shop, stifle the first steps of progress in the Middle East; leave the Iraqi people to the mercy of events on which we would have relinquished all power to influence for the better.”

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  • Erin Curry