MI6 made secret plan for anti-Saddam coup in December 2001

 

MI6 drew up proposals to support a coup against Saddam Hussein three months after the terrorist attacks on 11 September in the United States, previously classified documents indicate.

The papers outline a proposal for regime change in Iraq backed up by airstrikes. The files were read by the then Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who described them as "very perceptive". He recommended Tony Blair, who was then Prime Minister, also read the files.

The three documents were written by a senior MI6 officer only referred to as "SIS4" in December 2001.

They were declassified and released yesterday by the Chilcot inquiry. Among the revelations are the following:

* Oil was a key motivating factor behind the efforts to remove Saddam. "The removal of Saddam remains a prize because it could give new security to oil supplies," the officer writes.

* MI6 did not believe that Saddam or Iraq were supporting al-Qa'ida. "There is no convincing intelligence (or common-sense) case that Iraq supports Sunni extremism," it says. But in January 2004, Mr Blair told the Commons: "We do know of links between al-Qa'ida and Iraq. We cannot be sure of the exact extent of those links."

* Britain believed America was planning military action to remove Saddam long before it was officially acknowledged. One document is dedicated to outlining the case for preventing America from taking direct action. They also refer to "US impatience".

But it was the plan to support a coup in Iraq which is most intriguing. The officer wrote: "At our meeting on 30 November [2001], we discussed how we could combine an objective of regime change in Baghdad with the need to protect important regional interests which would be at grave risk if a bombing campaign against Iraq were launched in the short term."

Under the heading a "new route map" the officer goes on to suggest that the West should adopt "an onion" approach to the problem – admitting only part of the plan in pubic but with detailed support for a coup in private.

"The key idea is that it is possible to speak openly about support for regime change in Iraq, without compromising the actual project to support a coup," the documents say. "The overall plan would need to be like an onion – each layer concealing the one below. The whole is a policy statement: 'we want regime change in Baghdad and we are ready to provide air support to coup makers'. The inmost part is knowledge of the coup makers with whom we are in touch and their operational plan. The layers in between would need to include operational plans."

Air support is defined as the act of using aircraft to attack an enemy to assist ground forces. The operational plans suggest a 12- to 18-month timeframe for the plot to work "to meet US impatience". It also questions the legality of Britain supporting a coup. "Government law officers to provide assurances of legality (there has been a serious problem here)," it says.

Mr Straw was asked about the documents when he was recalled by the committee in February. Because of their classification he had been given access to them in advance – in contravention of the inquiry's undertakings.

Yesterday it apologised and released his detailed comments about them. He said his comments that the papers were "perceptive" could in no way be taken as a "commendation of regime change".

He cited the MI6 officer's emphasis on the legality of any coup as the reason why he felt no need to question it.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Polish Speaking Buying Assistant

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Superb opportunity for a BUYING...

Recruitment Genius: Support Worker

£14560 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company offers personalise...

Recruitment Genius: Key Account Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A really exciting opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Multi Trade Operative

£22000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An established, family owned de...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project