Iraq crisis: Cook seeks to head off MPs' revolt

The Government is planning a full-scale debate next week to show a united front at the House of Commons and crush opposition to the threat of a renewed bombing campaign against Saddam Hussein's military might in Iraq.

Robin Cook gave a clear signal in the Commons that air strikes would be targeted at Saddam's Republican Guard in an attempt to destroy his military support and bring about the overthrow of the Iraqi leader.

The strongest call for action during a statement in the Commons came from John Major, the Prime Minister at the time of the Gulf War, who attacked Saddam as a "psychopath" and urged the allies to target the Republican Guard who had sustained the Iraqi leader in power.

"Saddam has kept himself in power through fear and force," the Foreign Secretary said. "He should be under no illusion that if military action is taken, that power which keeps him in power will be hit hard."

Mr Cook wants the Commons debate to show a united, cross-party alliance in support of the threatened action against Iraq, and The Independent has learned that Mr Cook has asked the Leader of the House, Ann Taylor, to arrange an emergency debate next Tuesday in the Commons.

The Foreign Secretary is keen to use a vote in favour of action to increase the pressure on Saddam to back down, and to snuff out opposition, in spite of signs of a coalition at Westminster between left-wing Labour MPs and hard right Tories, who want to destroy Saddam, but share the scepticism of General Sir Peter de la Billiere, who commanded the British forces in the Gulf War, about the military objectives of renewed air strikes.

"There is an unholy alliance between the left and the Tory right wing," said one prominent left-winger.

Ministerial sources said Mr Cook is keen to show that the vast majority of MPs on both sides of the House supported the action.

A member of the Campaign Group of left-wing Labour MPs estimated that only about 20 Labour MPs will vote against the Government, and they are not expecting any Tory MPs to rebel.

Mr Cook last week privately met leading left-wing dissidents, including Tony Benn, Dennis Skinner, and George Galloway, who accused Mr Cook of "outstorming Norman Schwarzkopf", the commander of the allied forces in the Gulf War, known as "Stormin' Norman".

The Tory leader, William Hague, has pledged his support to Tony Blair for action, if it is necessary, but Michael Howard, the shadow Foreign Secretary, warned that there was a danger of conflicting signals from the Government about the objectives of military action "ending in uncertainty".

Few MPs believed the opinion poll showing the public in favour of action. One Tory MP said: "I was on a phone-in show at the weekend and nearly everyone was against it."

There are also signs of a split between Britain and America over the strategy of returning to the United Nations for a fresh resolution to carry out the air raids. Mr Cook said the action was covered by existing UN resolutions, but he appeared to leave open the option of seeking a fresh mandate, backed by Japan, which the US is against.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Dakota Johnson as Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey
Bafetibis Gomis of Swansea City is stretchered off at White Hart Lane
Jerry Seinfeld Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee
peopleSitcom star urges men to be more supportive of women than ever
Life and Style
Living for the moment: Julianne Moore playing Alzheimer’s sufferer Alice
Jay Z
businessJay-Z's bid for Spotify rival could be blocked
footballLouis van Gaal is watching a different Manchester United and Wenger can still spring a surprise
The spider makes its break for freedom
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
Arts and Entertainment
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle v United player ratings
Life and Style
love + sex
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner - Night Shift

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A leading Leicestershire based chilled food ma...

Ashdown Group: Senior Accountant - ACCA, ACA or ACMA - Construction Sector

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Accountant (ACCA, ...

Recruitment Genius: Media Sales Executive - PR and Broadcast - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company has an exciting op...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor - Shifts

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This European market leader for security...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot