By Paul WaughIndependent
February 13, 2003
A war on Iraq that was not explicitly authorised by the UN could worsen a refugee crisis and jeopardise vital food supplies for its civilian population, Clare Short warned yesterday. In her most outspoken comments to date on the risks of military action, the Secretary of State for International Development told MPs that US military preparations for a humanitarian crisis were simply "not good enough".
The minister also gave the first real hint of the military strategy for any invasion, suggesting that the north and south of the country would be secured first before a final onslaught against Baghdad. By ensuring food and security in the regions, other parts of the country could more easily fall, she said. Ms Short told the Commons International Development Select Committee that there were real dangers posed by the idea of an American rather than a UN-led administration in a post-Saddam Iraq.
Ms Short said military action was likely to disrupt the massive UN-supervised oil for food programme, which helps to feed millions of Iraqis. If that programme broke down, there could be "lots of hunger and disaster", she said, adding: "There is a serious danger that, even in optimistic scenarios of limited military action, the programme could be disrupted," she said. "There has been a speeding up in the last weeks in thinking through the scenarios and getting the military to think of humanitarian risks but it is not as full as I would like it to be. The danger is there is not full preparation, that there is preparation for the hopeful scenario. That's not good enough. What happens if something goes wrong?"
Ms Short argued that passing a second security council resolution was important to ensure the international community worked together in helping the Iraqi people after any conflict. "If there is a military rule without UN authority, that would create a lot of strains and troubles for the humanitarians," she said. Questioned on UN estimates that a conflict could result in up to 900,000 refugees, Ms Short said: "I think these considerations underline the overwhelming case for a security council resolution if there is to be action.
"The complexity, if there isn't a united international will, will be dreadful. If there isn't pretty strong international support for military action, then dealing with some of the consequences ... will be difficult." Ms Short said UN aid agencies had an obligation to operate according to need and while they could operate under an American-led administration, such a situation would cause "great complications".
If there was a second mandate to back up resolution 1441, it would have to set out arrangements for who would exercise authority within Iraq in a post-conflict scenario, she added. Otherwise authority would lie with whoever took the action – and that would complicate the position for the UN. The military would also have to be acutely aware of the need to ensure that Iraq did not disintegrate along ethnic lines.
Ms Short said there was no problem with "prepositioned stocks" of aid in the region but stressed that there were real concerns on refugee movements. She said only Syria had so far agreed to take refugees, adding that there was a risk that hundreds of thousands of displaced people could end up in border camps in the desert.
CHALLENGING THE GOVERNMENT
This is the early day motion challenging Government policy on Iraq, which has been signed by the MPs listed below.
The motion reads: "That this House does not believe that British forces should be required to participate in a war against Iraq unless all of the following conditions are met (a) that there is clear evidence that Iraq poses an imminent threat to peace, (b) that there is a substantive motion of this House authorising military action, (c) that there is an express resolution of the Security Council of the United Nations authorising the use of military force against Iraq and (d) that all other policy options have been exhausted."
LABOUR: Tony Banks, Harry Barnes, Paul Flynn, Harold Best, Glenda Jackson, Jon Owen Jones, Anne Begg, Peter Kilfoyle, Mark Fisher, George Stevenson, Kevin McNamara, Alice Mahon, Rudolf Vis, Lynne Jones, Ronnie Campbell, Alan Simpson, Francis Cook, Jeremy Corbyn, Tom Brake, John Battle, David Taylor, David Hamilton, Michael Connarty, Terry Lewis, Tony Worthington, Ann McKechin, Iain Luke, Mark Lazarowicz, Jeff Ennis, Jim Dobbin, Chris Smith, Tom Clarke, Malcom Savidge
CONSERVATIVE: Douglas Hogg, John Gummer, Edward Leigh
LIBERAL DEMOCRAT: David Chaytor, Lembit Opik
PLAID CYMRU: Elfyn Llwyd, Simon Thomas
INDEPENDENT: Richard Taylor
More Information on Iraq
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