JOHN HUMPHRYS: The American Vice President
Dick Cheney arrives here this weekend. He's meeting Tony Blair tomorrow
and then he's off to the Middle East, trying to whip up support for America's
next stage in the so-called war against terrorism - an attempt to overthrow
Saddam Hussein. He's got a job on his hands. There is great unease at
the prospect of an attack on Iraq, not least in the Labour Party's own
ranks. Nearly seventy backbench MPs have signed a motion effectively warning
Tony Blair to tread cautiously. What about the Conservative Party? Bernard
Jenkin is the Shadow Defence Secretary.
Mr Jenkin, you've been....your
party has been standing as it were, to use a phrase 'shoulder to shoulder'
with the government until now in the war against terrorism. Is there in
your view enough evidence, as it stands, to take military action, justify
taking military action against Iraq?
JENKIN: Well, we're a very long
way from making a decision about military action, either the British or
the Americans. There's a huge amount of diplomatic effort and political
effort backed by perhaps the threat of military action which must be brought
to bear, but the issues are not just the direct involvement of Saddam Hussein
in promoting international terrorism, and I've reason to believe that there
will be increasing evidence that he is involved. For example, I understand
that Abu Nidal, the guy who organised the hijacking of the Achille Lauro
is not only being given shelter in Baghdad, but is actually being made
use of by Saddam Hussein.
HUMPHRYS: But you've not yet seen
any evidence that proves that he has been involved in any way supporting
the September 11th.?
JENKIN: Well, the al-Qaeda terrorists,
there is evidence to suggest that he is sheltering some al-Qaeda terrorists.
HUMPHRYS: Have you seen that evidence
JENKIN: I've not personally seen
that evidence, but I think we would need to produce that, but there is
a more important point such as ...
HUMPHRYS: Just before we leave
that. Would that itself be enough. I mean is the evidence that you believe
to be there, would that be enough to justify an attack.
JENKIN: There's a more important
point here, if I may move the conversation on, which is that in the United
States they have made the link very quickly between what happened on the
September 11th and the development of weapons of mass destruction by dictatorships
HUMPHRYS: Have they?
JENKIN: Yes, they have. Well the
real message of September 11th is that we live in a much less predictable,
more dangerous world than many of us hoped and one of the major sources
of that instability and danger are countries developing weapons of mass
destruction who we know have connections with all kinds of terrorism, and
therefore to contain and preferably remove these threats is now a prime
element of American and British policy.
HUMPHRYS: But, would you agree
with your colleague....
JENKIN: That's why the Prime Minister
said in Australia that he completely backed what Bush was saying about
weapons of mass destruction and Iraq in particular.
HUMPHRYS: But what about your own
colleague, Alan Duncan who was on television this morning saying that there
has to be clear evidence, clear evidence, note he said it twice, that
Saddam has this capability and might use it, and Blair should come to the
House to explain his policy.
JENKIN: Well, exactly, I think
that clear evidence will be forthcoming, and I was in Washington a few
weeks ago, I was given a very extensive briefing by the Missile Defence
Agency about the information that they're gathering and I've no doubt that
there will be very clear evidence, and in fact - many people have been
writing about this for some time and Iain Duncan Smith produced a pamphlet
during the last Parliament, and in fact was speaking about it in the 1992
Parliament, that these countries are developing serious missile capability
and possibly nuclear, certain chemical and biological weapons. They will
have the capacity to threaten European and even American cities within
the next few years, so therefore we've got to deal with that.
HUMPHRYS: Some people would agree
with that, others, some of whom know a great deal about the situation and
have spent many years there, like Scott Ritter of the United Nations, one
of the senior inspectors who was head of their intelligence and he spent
a long time in Iraq as you will know, and he said that by the end of 1998
Iraq had been de-militarised in a greater way than any other country in
history, and in June of last year he said Iraq today represents a threat
to nobody. Well, you know, Mr Ritter, former American Marine knows a thing
or two, spent a lot of time in Iraq.
JENKIN: If you speak to other people
in the UNSCOM inspection team first of all you've got to ask yourself why
did Saddam Hussein chuck them out. All those palaces he was building,
they've all got weapons development facilities. If it's as simple as that
no doubt he will let us in, he will give the UN inspectors full rein and
I'm certain that the issue of UN inspection is going to have a big bearing
on how Saddam Hussein is treated by the international community.
HUMPHRYS If he were to allow inspectors
back in again would that mean as far as your party is concerned there is
absolutely no question of an attack?
JENKIN: Well, I keep saying we're
a very long way from...
HUMPHRYS: Indeed, but I'm trying
JENKIN: But it depends how the
UN inspection team is treated. I think the difficulty that we're going
to be faced with is that Saddam Hussein has pretty well decided that for
his personal survival as ruler of Iraq he requires weapons of mass destruction
and a missile programme, and that is on collision course with the United
Nations which says that he should dismantle these weapons.
HUMPHRYS: Do you agree that...Charles
Clarke said this to me yesterday, that whatever is done, there must be
international agreement before it is done and we have to be very, very
cautious indeed and Charles Clarke of course is the Chairman of the Labour
JENKIN: Well I think that's why
Dick Cheney's coming over to Europe and Asia over the next, and the Middle
East, over the next few days. It's why President Bush has been travelling
abroad, it's why Colin Powell is pursuing a very, very extensive initiative.
It's because there has to be an international coalition against these
countries to be effective, America cannot - it will be very much harder
for America to act on its own and achieve its objectives.
HUMPHRYS: But as things stand,
you seem not to need very much persuading yourself. You seem to believe
there are grounds...
JENKIN: ...well persuading of what?
That we need to confront countries with a dictator...
HUMPHRYS: That we need specifically
to confront Saddam Hussein and replace him in office, kick him out and
put somebody else in.
JENKIN: Well both the Prime Minister
and Colin Powell, Colin Powell was the first person to talk about regime
change, and he's not regarded as a natural hawk. And the Prime Minister
has confirmed the need to seek a regime change, unless things change dramatically,
unless Saddam Hussein changes character, it seems difficult to believe,
that we're going to be able to stabilise the Middle East and reduce the
threat, the ultimate threat to European cities from a country like Iraq,
unless there is a change of regime.
HUMPHRYS: And what about the potential
use, I emphasise potential obviously, of nuclear weapons, and I raise this
because of having read something that your present leader, Iain Duncan
Smith, said a few years ago: We would contemplate the use of nuclear, would
we con......he asked this question, 'would we contemplate the use of nuclear
weapons as the United States seems prepared to do, the possession of such
weapons is of no use unless we have the will to use them. We must make
it clear that we are prepared to use them'.
JENKIN: Well that's exactly right,
otherwise it's not a deterrent and you hear the left complaining about,
about the west's attitude towards Iraq, and say, well if it's just say
sabre-rattling that's alright. Well, if it's just sabre-rattling, and the
dictators know it's just sabre-rattling and there is no resolve behind
that sabre-rattling, then you might as well not bother to round.....at
HUMPHRYS: Just a final quick thought
on what help we could give the United States, we learn this morning that
they'd like us to send twenty-five-thousand troops if it comes to a big
invasion. Where would we get them from?
JENKIN: Well that's a very good
question. I mean, this last couple of months have been characterised by
a whole lot of unexpected cuts in capability, the latest one being the
scrapping of Invincible, the scrapping of the Harriers...the joint force
Harriers, the Sea Harriers, the scrapping of the Fighter Squadron at Coningsby.
These, if we going to get involved in a big military operation, let's not
forget that it was Geoff Hoon that wanted to cancel the ...Syria desert
operation earlier last year, we're gonna have to, I think the government's
going to have to put some money where its mouth is, otherwise that shoulder-to-shoulder
with the United States might mean rather less than it should do.
HUMPHRYS: Bernard Jenkin thanks
very much indeed.