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?
ebooksNow available in paperback
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: Packaging Operatives

£7 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for two indivi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee / Graduate Helpdesk Analyst

£20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable business is looking to rec...

Recruitment Genius: Estimator

£28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a major supplier of buil...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£28000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas