The full legal advice to the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, from the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, on 7 1h March 2003, published on 281h April 2005
Resolution 1441 does neither precisely authorise force nor prohibit force without authority of a further UN Resolution. "Serious consequences" are threatened in the event of non-compliance and noncooperation with requirements which were first expressed in Resolution 678 (1990) and Resolution 687 (1991). These respectively authorised the war "Operation Desert Storm", suspended hostilities and stated terms for the cease-fire including disarmament in cooperation with weapons inspectors. Resolution 1441 was intended as a "final opportunity" to satisfy those terms; (to the satisfaction of the Security Council it was presumed).
Lord Goldsmith concluded that there are areas of the text of Resolution 1441 where differing interpretations were possible; particularly paragraphs 4, 11 & 12. Much depended upon what was understood to be "material breach" of Security Council terms, and whether such breaches might be so serious as to destroy the basis of the ceasefire. Should there be evidence of possible breaches the Security Council must consider this and any implications; which does not necessarily include deciding upon military action. Lord Goldsmith concluded that should the Council not decide upon punitive action that does not mean that no breaches of the terms had occurred. Furthermore he said the US believed it unnecessary for the Security Council to rule on breaches or their seriousness since breaches are amply described in Resolution 1441, and a breach is equivalent to failure to take the "final opportunity" to comply. The US view was that any breach described in Resolution l441, of whatever magnitude, authorised resumption of hostilities suspended under Resolution 687. The UK view had hitherto been that the Security Council must determine whether its terms had been breached and whether seriously or not. This was the prevailing view elsewhere. The US was concerned the Security Council should not constrain its right of military action, whereas the UK sought a second resolution to approve the military action it intended; and Lord Goldsmith concluded that would be the only certain way to ensure action was legal.
Hans Blix' inspections did not achieve 100% cooperation immediately but there was very marked improvement and some disputed weapons were destroyed. Investigations of us & UK assertions about weapons' stockpiles were increasingly being disproved. This seriously undermined any case for forceful disarmament. Security Council members' prevailing view was that time should be given for inspections to continue since they were achieving their aims.
Lord Goldsmith was dismissive about arguments he believed to be outside the scope of international law: 1) self-defence
3) assuming a proposed second resolution, (unavailable because of an "unreasonable" veto ), which would supposedly have condemned Iraqi non- compliance and granted approval for military action, would non-the-less grant legitimacy to war.
However, this did not prevent politicians, who favoured war, from using such arguments interminably whilst exploiting the broadcast media to garner support and 'soften-up' public opinion.
Lord Goldsmith advised that in the absence of the second resolution a possibly legitimate case could be made for military action only if there were "strong factual grounds for concluding that Iraq has failed to take the final opportunity". (Virtually the US case). He cautioned that the latest Hans Blix findings which were positive and promising did cast doubt upon such a case. He also sad that action must be proportionate and appropriate, and the objectives must be those of Resolution 678 & Resolution 687; not regime change.
Tony Blair and Jack Straw then prepared a report detailing Iraqi "Material Breaches". On the strength of that Lord Goldsmith had, by 17 March, decided that there were adequate "strong factual grounds for concluding that Iraq has failed to take the final -opportunity",
Straw and Tony Blair with information about what he required from them. They provided it and on the strength of their word he gave the green light. Ultimately it was a political decision to go to war, which Tony Blair conceded during the election campaign. It is my view that all the debating, the legal arguments, and the negotiation at the ON were simply a ruse to apply veneers of respectability to a mendacious premeditated determination to go to war. Toppling Saddam was the aim. The rest was strategy and method to achieve it.
The legal case had nothing to do with illegal weapons or disarmament, an issue conveniently sidestepped by its focus upon the precise wording of UN Resolutions. The invasion was called "Operation Iraqi Freedom". No hint of disarmament there. Propaganda stories about weapons, covert rearmament, attempts to acquire nuclear weapons capability, and the 45 minutes threat of biological weapons attack were speculation not founded upon genuine or reliable factual evidence. There was always more reliable and consistent evidence of Iraqi disarmament. Iraqi political games did much to encourage belief in ludicrous and overblown claims, probably assisted by politically motivated Iraqis hoping to cause Saddam Hussein's down-fall. Noticeably the architects of the project to invade Iraq and depose Saddam, who fed us such volumes of misinformation, do not show the least inclination to apologise nor show any sign of remorse, contrition or humility. "I was right" they say. The inadequate consideration given to managing the situation after invasion convinces me that high-minded claims about peace & justice, freedom & democracy were a convenient afterthought. Incidents of 'guerrilla warfare' persist at around 50 daily; the result of fierce resistance to foreign occupation.
Clearly there has been radical departure from an accepted view of the UN role. Invasions in Kosovo & Afghanistan set unfortunate precedents, though both were different in important respects.