Bush 'plotted to lure Saddam into war with fake UN plane'

George Bush considered provoking a war with Saddam Hussein's regime by flying a United States spyplane over Iraq bearing UN colours, enticing the Iraqis to take a shot at it, according to a leaked memo of a meeting between the US President and Tony Blair.

The two leaders were worried by the lack of hard evidence that Saddam Hussein had broken UN resolutions, though privately they were convinced that he had. According to the memorandum, Mr Bush said: "The US was thinking of flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in UN colours. If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach."

He added: "It was also possible that a defector could be brought out who would give a public presentation about Saddam's WMD, and there was also a small possibility that Saddam would be assassinated." The memo damningly suggests the decision to invade Iraq had already been made when Mr Blair and the US President met in Washington on 31 January 2003 ­ when the British Government was still working on obtaining a second UN resolution to legitimise the conflict.

The leaders discussed the prospects for a second resolution, but Mr Bush said: "The US would put its full weight behind efforts to get another resolution and would 'twist arms' and 'even threaten'. But he had to say that if ultimately we failed, military action would follow anyway." He added that he had a date, 10 March, pencilled in for the start of military action. The war actually began on 20 March.

Mr Blair replied that he was "solidly with the President and ready to do whatever it took to disarm Saddam." But he also insisted that " a second Security Council resolution would provide an insurance policy against the unexpected, and international cover, including with the Arabs".

The memo appears to refute claims made in memoirs published by the former UK ambassador to Washington, Sir Christopher Meyer, who has accused Mr Blair of missing an opportunity to win the US over to a strategy based on a second UN resolution. It now appears Mr Bush's mind was already made up.

There was also a discussion of what might happen in Iraq after Saddam had been overthrown. President Bush said that he "thought it unlikely that there would be internecine warfare between the different religious and ethnic groups". Mr Blair did not respond. Details of the meeting are revealed in a book, Lawless World, published today by Philippe Sands, a professor of law at University College London.

"I think no one would be surprised at the idea that the use of spy planes to review what is going on would be considered," Mr Sands told Channel 4 News last night. "What is surprising is the idea that they would be painted in the colours of the United Nations to provoke an attack which could then be used to justify material breach.

"Now that plainly looks as if it is deception, and it raises... questions of legality, both in terms of domestic law and international law."

Other participants in the meeting were Mr Bush's National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice, her deputy, Dan Fried, the chief of staff, Andrew Card, Mr Blair's then security adviser, Sir David Manning, his foreign policy aide, Matthew Rycroft, and his chief of staff, Jonathan Powell.

The Downing Street spokesman later said: "The Prime Minister only committed forces to Iraq after securing the approval of the Commons in the vote on 18 March 2003."

The spokesman added: "All these matters have been thoroughly investigated and we stand by our position."

* The Ministry of Defence will publish casualty figures for UK troops in Iraq on its website within the next few weeks, the Government disclosed last night. Defence Secretary John Reid said the figures ­ which will be regularly updated ­ would identify the number of personnel categorised as seriously injured and very seriously injured. He promised to alert MPs before the first publication of the figures. The pledge came in a Commons written reply.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
News
news
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
New Articles
i100... with this review
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Sport
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
i100
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
News
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
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

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

£32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam