Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs
Déardaoin, 2 Deireadh Fomhair 2003.
Thursday, 2 October 2003
The Joint Committee met at 11.30 a.m.
Deputy T. Dempsey,
Senator P. Bradford,
Deputy T. Gregory,
Senator M. Kitt,
Deputy M. Higgins,
Senator M. O'Rourke,
Deputy L. O'Donnell
Senator D. Wilson.*
* In the absence of Senator P. Mooney.
In attendance: Deputy J. O'Keeffe
DEPUTY M. WOODS IN THE CHAIR.
Conflict in Iraq: Presentation.
Chairman: At our last meeting before the summer recess we were given a comprehensive briefing on the situation in Iraq by officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs. As events have moved on since then it is timely that we were briefed on the current situation in the region. In that context I would like to welcome back Mr. Tony Mannix and Mr. Keith McBean and Ms Maria Dunne from the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Deputy M. Higgins: In a spirit of being constructive, this document is a report on the situation at the United Nations. It is also a discussion on what is happening in the area of funding, but there are many other issues. May we raise these? To be practical about it, we are not confined?
Deputy M. Higgins: Thank you Chairman.
Chairman: Mr. Mannix, as the members of the committee will be aware, is in charge of the Middle East section of the Department.
There are many important issues connected with the situation in Iraq. The outcome in that country may determine the shape of the international order for the foreseeable future. The domestic debate has recently commenced in the United States and in the UK on the justification offered by their respective governments for going to war. No weapons of mass destruction have been found. The humanitarian, security and political situation on the ground remains poor and the cost of occupation is rising by the day. The issues of how and on what timetable power can be democratically transferred back to the Iraqi people are now taking centre stage. Of course the United Nations system has been badly damaged by the war and it has tragically lost personnel in Iraq.
Rebuilding the UN system and the international order based on the UN Charter will be a priority concern in the months ahead. The EU, while it remains divided on some of the fundamental issues, is agreed that it is willing to participate in the reconstruction of Iraq within the framework set out by the UN Security Council Resolution 1483.
The United States has now returned to the Security Council with a new draft resolution. Member states will need to weigh carefully all the issues and will need to consider whether to give support to a resolution that might be seen to legitimise the current occupation or to embroil their own troops in an open-ended occupation that does not have Iraqi support.
What should the international community, Ireland, and the EU be looking for in any such UN resolution? These are some of the questions with which we are concerned. I invite Mr. Mannix to address us. When he has finished his presentation I will invite members of the committee to ask questions and have a discussion.
Mr. Tony Mannix: Thank you Mr. Chairman and good day to members of the committee.
I agree with the assessment that the Chairman has given us of the situation in Iraq. There have been a number of developments since we last discussed this issue in July. I am afraid that to a large extent these developments have been more of the same and worse. For example, there has been the horrific bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad, which has set back hopes of restoring normality to the Iraqi people. The violence has not stopped; even if improvements have been reported in some areas, there is a clear trend of continuing and worsening attacks. The occupying powers are taking what action they can to deal with this situation, apart from their own military operations. A part of the action which they plan is to train between 65,000 and 75,000 police, at a cost of one and a half billion dollars over the next 18 months to two years. As members of the committee are no doubt aware, the Iraqi armed forces are also being re-constituted.
On the political front, on 13 July, the Coalition Provisional Authority appointed a governing council of 25 members as a first step towards an Iraqi interim administration, as envisaged under Resolution 14/83. The Security Council in its Resolution 1500 welcomed this decision. The governing council's remit is to represent the interests of the Iraqi people to the Coalition Provisional Authority and to the international community during Iraq's transition to sovereign, democratic and representative government. The Council also enjoys a range of specific powers enabling it to appoint ministers and to be fully involved in all policy-making and major decisions. It also will play a key role in determining the process for drawing up a new constitution and proceeding to democratic national elections.
Actions by the governing council thus far, have included the setting up of a unit in the Ministry of the Interior to protect holy sites, the passing of a nationality law, which offered equal citizenship to both sexes, recognised dual citizenship, restored citizenship rights to the six million who had left Iraq under the Hussein regime, and promised equal treatment to all citizens.
The Iraqi Finance Minister recently announced a set of measures for economic reform that include plans which allow for foreign investments and take-overs that exclude oil. However, conflicting statements and counter-statements have since emerged from the governing council as to whether this is actually official policy.
In a somewhat negative development, the constitutional preparation committee established by the governing council to report on how to choose a body to write the constitution has failed to deliver recommendations by its September deadline. This stems from serious disagreements on how to go about drafting a constitution among the different groups in Iraq. These disagreements reflect the very real difficulties of finding common ground in a country which is divided among the Shia, the Sunnis, and the Kurds.
There have also been developments at the United Nations. As the committee is aware, Resolution 14/83, adopted on 20 May, sets out the framework under which Iraq will be administered until such time as the Iraqi people are in a position to form a representative government of their own choosing. Also, under this Resolution, the Secretary-General's Special Representative in Iraq was appointed and given a mandate that assures the involvement of the United Nations in the future reconstruction of the country. This resolution, however, was seen as marking a beginning in an evolving situation. It is now generally held that the time has come to go beyond this resolution.
The United States is seeking international assistance in re-establishing security in Iraq and financing its reconstruction. It is seeking this assistance through a draft resolution under discussion in the Security Council. Other countries want to see a strengthened role for the United Nations and an accelerated process towards restoring sovereignty to the Iraqi people. Disagreement among the permanent five members focuses, in particular, on the timetable and the manner of the transfer of political power to the people of Iraq, as well as on the involvement of the United Nations.
Keynote speeches at the UN General Assembly last week reflected the gap between these different positions. The United States' approach is based on an interim authority retaining ultimate control until a new constitution is ratified and an elected government seated. In his speech to the General Assembly, President Bush insisted that the process of restoring self-government in Iraq must unfold according to the needs of Iraqis, neither hurried nor delayed by the wishes of other parties. US Secretary of State, Mr. Colin Powell, has since announced a six-month deadline for the drafting of a new constitution, which would lead to the holding of elections next year. This may not be carried into the text of a new draft resolution, but it is an indication that the United States itself wishes to see more rapid progress in preparing for the holding of elections.
President Chirac also spoke in that debate. He set out the French position on Iraq. He stressed that a new resolution should provide for a quick transfer of sovereignty, in accordance with a clear timetable, and that the UN must lend its legitimacy to that process. In a newspaper interview, he spoke in terms of this being accomplished in a time frame of six to nine months, or something of that nature. These were his words.
The Taoiseach, in his statement to the General Assembly, supported a new resolution that reflects the interests of the people of Iraq and that can enjoy the necessary support of the region and of the broad international community. We share the views of those who seek a strengthened UN role and an accelerated process in transferring sovereignty to the Iraqi people. We also recognise that the foundation for a successful transfer has to be laid.
The United States has just circulated a new draft resolution. This followed discussions that the United States held with members of the Security Council. The new draft has just been circulated. We have not had time to examine it closely, but it appears to contain a number of interesting points, in particular, it provides for a transfer of authority as quickly as practicable and for the governing council, the authority and the UN Special Representative to provide a timetable for drafting a constitution and holding elections. It will be for the members of the Security Council to discuss, and hopefully agree, on a text, which will have the necessary political credibility.
The views of the five key leaders of Iraq's governing council are also very much in the direction of acceleration. They advocate a quick end to the occupation and a transfer of power to the Iraqis. They propose that the governing council expand its role and assume the powers of a sovereign government until the new constitution is written and democratic elections held. Nevertheless, it is a fact that the members of the governing council are divided along lines that one would expect. They have not, so far, been able to reach agreement on how best to go about actually drafting that constitution. This reflects the deep divisions that exist within the country, and have existed for a long time.
I will refer very briefly to Ireland's aid package to Iraq. We have delivered a €5 million funding package for Iraq. Funding was also provided for the UN humanitarian co-ordination efforts. Ireland's funding will continue to be focused on meeting basic needs within the humanitarian context. Future funding requests for recovery and reconstruction will be carefully examined in light of developments within Iraq, the role of the UN, and the use of oil revenues.
The European Union continues to develop its own position on Iraq. The matter was debated at the General Affairs and External Relations Council earlier this week and Council conclusions were adopted. The main points of the conclusions were that the Council recalled that the United Nations should play a vital role in Iraq. The EU also underlined the importance of the restoration of Iraqi sovereignty and the establishment of a fully representative Iraqi government through democratic elections. The Council acknowledged the necessity to reach agreement on a realistic schedule for handing over political responsibility to the Iraqi people. The Council attached particular importance to fostering a national Iraqi dialogue in order to overcome political divisions inside the country. The Council recognised that security remains a major priority in Iraq, and it stressed the importance of discussions underway in the Security Council on the new resolution on Iraq. It is difficult to predict how the situation will evolve in the future. I do not see any great grounds for optimism. However, the difficulties which have arisen are not altogether surprising. Most people realised that the situation would become extremely difficult after the war came to a conclusion and it would take a great deal of effort to come together with the necessary packages and political backing to provide for the physical and political reconstruction of Iraq. I am not surprised that these difficulties are continuing.
A number of things are happening which hold out some hope for the future. It is going to be very much a matter for the Iraqis themselves. They will have to come to an agreement in the governing council and try to see a way forward. The rest of the international community will be very happy to help them in this endeavour. We will have to await events as they unfold over the coming weeks and months. In particular, we hope that the Security Council will be able to agree on a new resolution and that resolution will provide, in a credible manner, for an accelerated restoration of sovereignty in accordance with an agreed and realistic timetable, which is something that the governing council itself must be deeply involved in. We hope that this resolution will have the necessary effect of restoring confidence in the international community, amongst the Arab nations and amongst the Iraqi people, that the occupation is indeed intended to be only a temporary matter and that the necessary steps are being taken which will allow for a representative and stable government to come to power in Iraq.
Deputy J. O'Keeffe: The update from Mr. Mannix is very helpful, very clear and lucid. There are a couple of issues that perhaps we might tease out with him. The first concerns the UN resolution. I take it that our position is that we want an up-to-date agreed UN resolution. May I take it from the rather carefully phrased reaction to the new US draft that we feel that perhaps this draft might provide the bones of an acceptable resolution, one we could back, and one that could be acceptable to the different elements within the Security Council? It seems to be something of a half way house between the two original positions. Have we any role, either through the EU or otherwise, in fostering an atmosphere which would lead to an early acceptance of an agreed resolution? This is very important.
The second issue has not been touched on and that is Saddam Hussein. Where is he, or has anybody any idea as to where he is, or is he like Houdini?
Chairman: The Department of Foreign Affairs has the answers to all of these questions.
Deputy J. O'Keeffe: It is an issue that seems to have gone off the map, altogether. I do not say it with any note of levity. May I ask, if in the view of the Department of Foreign Affairs, whether his situation - wherever he is - has any connection with the continuing attacks and instability in Iraq, in particular the attack on UN personnel? What, if any, is his role in Iraq? Is there any prospect of giving him his just desserts?
The last question I wish to raise is whether there is any proactive role we can take in assisting the Iraqi people. Have we exhausted the avenues of humanitarian assistance, or is there anything we can do at EU or UN level which, either in a mediation role or otherwise, can actively contribute towards a resolution in the political or reconstruction fields.
Deputy M. Higgins: I have a number of points I wish to make. I will list these, and when Mr. Mannix has replied we can return and tease out any further aspects. Like Deputy O'Keeffe, I found his presentation very helpful, as it always has been. The last meeting was a very helpful one. I appreciated it because good information and balanced insights based on fact were things we have not had on this issue for some time.
The first matter I wish to raise is that we need to be clear in terms of what Mr. Mannix said concerning what Kamal al Galani said about the acting Finance Minister of the cuts. As I understand it, the most significant announcement was made at a meeting with the Group of Seven. I could be wrong. There have been a number of statements, but there is not any disagreement on what is being proposed which is 100% foreign ownership of all sectors except natural resources. Natural resources, in later statements, were defined as oil. Everything else is open, without restriction, for foreign ownership. Any requirement for a joint venture, or Iraqi participation, is lifted, so that one can have direct ownership, direct foreign ownership. There is provision in Mr. Galani's statement to the Group of Seven for full remittance to the host country, of profits, dividends, interests, and royalties. State resources and state run resources, from electricity, telecommunications, pharmaceuticals, engineering, powdered food, all of these, are to be sold off.
This is an issue of an almost state-led, a state-owned significant infrastructure, as I have described it. It is to move out, and it is going to be privatised. Let us think of what this does to our previous speculation on timescale. At our last meeting, we did not discuss in detail Mr. Bremner's meeting, which I believe was on 25 June - we should have - which was about what one might term, the bidding conference in Amman. There, they had a preliminary version of this, but had the additional element that with Iraqi oil not calculated to flow until the end of 2004, and the bill per month rising to three to four billion; the invitation was that people would buy options on Iraqi oil. As I understand it, on the basis of advice given to me, this would be in clear breach of international law. There is nothing to sustain this.
The US Treasury Secretary is interesting on this topic. He simply said capital is a coward. It does not go places where it feels threatened. Companies will not send employees to places that are not secure and so forth.
When discussing transition, this is my problem with the discussion on the text of the resolution with which Mr. Mannix opened, when speaking about the transfer of sovereignty. It obviously excludes economic sovereignty, if, in fact, all of the decisions are taken in advance by the interim council. This Finance Minister of the interim council does not have absolute authority, nor does the council. The occupying powers have that. Hence, as I have put on the record, the connection between Mr. Bremner's Amman statement and the detailed statement of what has come out in the past week or two. This is exceedingly tragic for the people of Iraq.
At the moment, I can also suggest - I wish to be corrected if I am wrong - that there is now no Irish NGO operating in Iraq. My information is that UNICEF is based in Kuwait, but that the staff travel to Iraq in the morning and return in the evening, and so forth. UNICEF has been heroic in its commitment to the Iraqi people, from before 1990, through the first 1991 conflict, and on to this conflict. If the children are returning to school this week in many places in Iraq, it is very much due to the efforts of UNICEF.
Again, however, there is a distinction. I understand that, in terms of the privatisation model, some of those interested in the different companies have hired private security firms. The committee should be informed, in exact detail, about the role of Haliburton and Bechtel in respect of the reconstruction of Iraq. This is in the background of the motion at the UN. The model for the change in the Iraqi economy was on the basis of a private contract of $500,000 to a US company.
The difficulty about putting in place the new draft resolution that people want is somewhat similar to Richard Perle's statement that the old lady on the banks of the Hudson will be still chattering when the job has been done. The latter was updated in the past fortnight when it was stated that the UN could provide assistance in drafting a constitution and observing at elections because it is good at doing so. The invitation from the new resolution is to leave the giving of contracts to the occupying forces, which they will probably seek to retain - past the end of 2004 - until there has been a significant flow of oil, while the UN should be allowed to return to deal with someone else's disaster and begin discussions on the constitution and the elections.
Some people have stated that the United States is returning, cap in hand, to the UN while others state that it is just a further humiliation of the United Nations. However, I am being positive; I could suggest that statement about a clear involvement of, for example, Arab states could be included in a resolution. We have not heard what would be the case against the establishment of a UN protectorate. That model could be used or there are others which could be discussed.
Yesterday, by way of parliamentary question, I sought to discover the number of civilian deaths in the conflict. I am not criticising the Minister for Foreign Affairs or asking him to give me information that he is not in a position to provide. However, he stated that the estimate was somewhere between 7,000 and 15,000. The most frequently used figure is something like 7,893-recorded deaths. However, people were not bringing bodies to cemeteries or morgues. I accept that it is difficult to estimate the actual number, but we should seek to know more, at this stage, about civilian casualties. In addition, there has been no information issued on indirect deaths. When Senator Kitt and I visited Iraq, the number of diarrhoeal attacks among children under the age of five stood at 13 to 15 per year. The most recent figures provided by UNICEF suggest that this has increased by between 200% and 300%. How many children have died? We need to know what is the exact position.
We have not received any reports on where, in what conditions and under what international laws on human rights prisoners are being held. Where are these people being detained? It is not a matter of voyeuristic curiosity. Are they being held at a facility similar to that at Guantanamo Bay. Haliburton, Mr. Cheney’s company, built the cages at Guantanamo. I am not interested in knowing who might be responsible for constructing holding cages on the edge of Baghdad, but I am interested in knowing the facts.
I understand the IMF and the World Bank have left Baghdad. I stand to be corrected on any aspects of fact in this regard. What is the position of Poland, one of the accession countries to the EU, which has been given a significant administrative role in occupied Iraq? Perhaps the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs should carry out a review or issue an annual report on the situation in Iraq.
I am not going to waste much time discussing weapons of mass destruction. There was no mistake; it was a fabrication. It was a deliberate attempt to manipulate and dislodge diplomacy. At the request of the acting ambassador of the United States, I attended, some time ago, a lunch in order to meet a person from the Institute of Strategic Studies. The individual in question is a distinguished scholar from London who had produced a report on weapons of mass destruction that was based entirely on secondary information. The person had not been to Iraq and, like many of us, does not speak Arabic. I read the report and discovered that it contained nothing of substance. I understand that some officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs reached the same conclusion. When the famous dossier was presented at a later stage, however, it appears to have been swallowed by the Taoiseach, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Tánaiste and several references were made to it in the Dáil. Mark Brennock referred to it in an article in The Irish Times last June that suggested that the existence of weapons of mass destruction was presented as a fact. The terms used were "they have", "he has", "he will use" and "he has used". That is outrageous.
In so far as any facts of that nature were presented to it, this committee is entitled to ask people to appear before it to state that they were wrong. I do not believe that we were conned because, at the conclusion of the final presentation on the previous occasion on which we met, the issue of our friendship was raised. I value that friendship. I have studied and worked in the United States and I have great admiration for its constitutional position, the possibilities it has to offer and its people. However, I am not required, as a friend, to swallow a fabrication. As already stated, the famous dossier was prepared on the basis of, at best, secondary material. The position was similar in respect of the report I saw and to which I referred. There has been a progressive retreat from the existence of such weapons, to the capacity to have them and, finally, to the contacts that might have led to engendering such a capacity. There was also the incredible business about the visit to Niger, where nuclear capacity was going to be achieved, and the fact that uranium was being purchased in Africa.
Let those who tell lies about this issue perish with those lies. I have the utmost respect for the officials in the Department of Foreign Affairs. If they were free to say so, they would indicate that, from the outset, they thought the dossier was rubbish. Why then, if that is the case, were we strung along with this myth, for which an appalling price has been paid?
If we were to try to return to Iraq now, we probably would be advised that it is unsafe. On our last visit Senator Kitt and I had supper with a family, the members of which, in light of their experiences in 1991, asked what would happen to them. For the benefit of those right-wing columnists who reported that I said that 100,000 people were at risk, I must state that I did so in light of the size of the population of Baghdad and the fact that blanket bombing had been mentioned. Large numbers of people were not killed quickly enough for some of the columnists and we were all proved wrong. I doubt that any of those to which I refer would have the courage to return to Baghdad to speak to the family with which we had supper and inquire about the position in which they find themselves and ask when their electricity supplies, which are essential to help ensure that there is clean water, and sewerage facilities - pollution of the Tigris has doubled - will be restored.
I am interested in having a direct bilateral relationship with the people of Iraq, ideally through the agencies - such as UNICEF and CARE - that are providing assistance. I am amazed by the notion that it would be an immense human achievement if an accommodation were reached between Mr. Chirac and Colin Powell. Friends of the United States will inform it, again, that this was a deadly exercise. The only thing I can say is that if it stops at Iraq, we will have achieved something.
I have listed my questions and I want answers. There were 42,000 outlets for the food programme in central and southern Iraq. No one has answered my question in respect of them and indicated how they have been replaced. How has food been distributed? At a previous meeting I stated - as did Senator Kitt - that food in Iraq was being held in warehouses. When the reserve fund, held in a Swiss bank, that purchased that food is exhausted, how will it be replaced if oil is not sold? These are practical issues that affect the provision of food to two thirds of the population of central and southern Iraq. I have said enough for the moment.
Senator Kitt: I welcome Mr. Mannix and thank him for his worthwhile presentation.
There is a contrast between the gloomy reports we see on television and in the media and those of an optimistic nature we receive from Washington. We could go down the conspiracy theory route and state that bad news will attract publicity. The only item of good news I have seen on television relates to the fact that primary schools in Iraq are reopening which will allow children to return to full-time education. Other than that, however, I am very disillusioned by the messages that are coming across in the media. I refer here - as I did previously - about water, sewerage schemes and electricity services and the question of security, about which many people are concerned. I spoke to a colleague who visited Iraq recently and he informed me that many people have commented on the speed with which Saddam Hussein restored these services following the 1991 war and the fact that it is taking so long now to put the necessary infrastructure in place. Why, for example, is there such a delay in restoring flights in and out of the country?
Deputy Michael D. Higgins inquired about how long it will take for the oil to flow and for the benefits of this - Iraq's major resource - to become apparent. The committee should be provided with some information in this regard because the restoration of oil supplies is key to the improvement of Iraq's economy.
NGOs are very important, they are doing great work and we have met many of their representatives in the past year. On the bombing of the UN building in Baghdad, many of the Iraqi people who worked there have been told that they must return home because there is no employment for them. Is Mr. Mannix in a position to provide any information on what the future holds for these people?
On the question of a resolution from the Security Council, it would be important that the basic infrastructure issues to which I refer should be dealt with and that we should work towards establishing a government in Iraq. I will be interested in hearing what is said at today's press conference in respect of weapons of mass destruction. The debate on that matter could go on indefinitely, but what matters for the people in Iraq is that they do not have access to basic services. That is the real hardship being experienced by people who, as Deputy Michael D. Higgins stated, were used to the oil for food programme and basic services. I accept that, in many ways, Saddam Hussein destroyed the country, but matters now are even worse than when that particular gentleman was in power.
Senator O'Rourke: I thank Mr. Mannix and his colleagues for their presentation.
It may be seen as vindictive to say, "I told you so", but one cannot resist doing so. A major deception was perpetrated on people across the globe on the reasons for the prosecution of this war. Leaders in different countries kept pushing the boat out, stating that weapons of mass destruction existed in Iraq and asking us to trust them because they knew best. This matter will bring about, worldwide, major cynicism about the political process, particularly when those who ordinary people would have held in high regard are now being seen to be valueless in terms of the information they put forward about this war.
I cannot understand how people were gulled into believing that there were weapons of mass destruction because, from the first day, other parliamentarians and I were of the view that this war was based on the aggrandisement of the American people, who were led on this adventure by President Bush. I was struck by Deputy Michael D. Higgins's comment that perhaps the world will stymie any further embryonic stories about other countries that might come in the way of the predatory path on to which the American President has ventured. People will not be as easily gulled as they were on the previous occasion.
Senator Kitt is correct; we must deal with the situation with which we are faced. Will Mr. Mannix and his colleagues indicate what is the measure of authority of the new governing council? We should mourn the eminent female member of that authority who was struck down. Stories about that event passed quite quickly, but the committee should record its regret at her passing and its abhorrence about the way she was attacked. I propose that the committee offer its sympathy to her family. What authority does the governing council possess or is it merely a facade? Are there departments, as such, and are there people in charge of them?
In the opinion of the officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs, is the UN being used because the Americans need the presence and the finance offered by various other governments in order to proceed on the path on which it launched itself and which it stated would lead to a wonderful life for everyone involved? Will Mr. Mannix and his colleagues offer their views, in so far as they are able to do so, on that matter? It seems that the UN is now being used as a sort of recruitment office to get other countries to rally to the flag or the cause of the UN.
I understand that a report is due to be published today on the question of weapons of mass destruction. The BBC indicated this morning that such weapons do not exist. I understand that the proposition will be put forward that this was a gigantic hoax, aimed at intimidating invading countries, and was perpetrated by Saddam Hussein. People will soon run out of excuses. The reality is that they swallowed the line on offer because they wanted to do so.
I thank our guests for appearing before the committee. I know that there are constraints placed upon them. All members present are aware of the way in which Government Departments are run. However, clarification is important and I would be glad to obtain precise answers to the questions I have asked.
Deputy T. Dempsey: I also thank Mr. Mannix and his colleagues for their presentation.
As Senator O'Rourke stated, it has been suggested that Saddam Hussein perpetrated a hoax in regard to weapons of mass destruction in order to intimidate foreign powers. However, it occurs to me that he did so also in order to intimidate his own people. That was probably part of the reason for his intimation that such weapons existed.
I understand that a draft resolution will issue from the UN this week. What is the UN's involvement at present and how does Mr. Mannix see it developing over time? I do not know if the organisation has had any involvement in Iraq since the building its people occupied was bombed. How is aid from Ireland - approximately €5 million - and that from the EU - €70 million - being distributed? Is such funding being used to reconstruct electricity or sewerage facilities?
Deputy Gregory: I wish to make one or two points. Mr. Mannix forecasts that the trend in Iraq will be for continuing and worsening attacks. That is what is emerging on a daily basis. What is the Department's position on that? How does it assess President Bush's request for countries to send additional troops in such a context? Was that request made because the United States cannot contain the situation and does not have enough troops to continue the occupation?
Can we be assured that this country has no intention of acceding to President Bush's request for troops? We are aware of the widespread opposition to American troops using Shannon Airport to get to Iraq and the idea of this country sending Irish troops to assist directly or indirectly the United States in continuing its occupation of Iraq would enjoy very little support in Ireland - there would be great resistance to the idea. There seemed to be ambiguity in the Taoiseach's position on the matter when he met with Senator Hillary Clinton in the United States and I would like that to be clarified.
I am confused about the export of Iraqi oil. It has not yet been possible because of attacks on pipelines. What is involved in exporting the oil and to what use will the revenues be put? Who will determine that? Will the revenues be used to repair the damage caused by the United States in the country when they get round to exporting the oil?
Senator Bradford: I would like to follow up on the questions about Irish peacekeeping troops being sent to Iraq. Deputy Gregory posed the question in the context of the request from President Bush for an international peacekeeping force and expressed his view as to why such a concept should not be supported by the Government. What is our thinking on the matter should it arise as a result of a UN resolution? The Taoiseach gave two different indications, neither of which was strong one way or the other, and there was a degree of ambiguity. The Minister for Foreign Affairs, in response to questions in the Dáil, indicated a certain willingness to participate should there be a UN resolution. Has there been much thought about this? Would we do this in the context of a UN resolution? We have spoken at the committee about the desirability of UN involvement and it is in everyone's interest for the United Nations to get a grip on the situation.
I take on board Deputy Michael Higgins's remarks that the United States is coming cap in hand, while others are looking at the situation in a different light. This is an international crisis and the stronger the UN involvement in any solution, the better that is. If there is a request for UN peacekeeping forces, we must have a view on it.
Chairman: The questions on progress on schools, health and children are crucial. The question of security has been discussed before and we would like to know the present situation. Power, water and food supplies tend to be forgotten in the media.
Deputy Michael Higgins raised the danger of contracts being given out while people discuss a new constitution. The new constitution can be formulated but by then the contracts have already been awarded. That is highly relevant because, in my experience, when we were trying to undertake community work, we could not get people to get on with the job. Some people want to include all sorts of conditions in constitutions. It would be best to establish a constitutional committee and let it work away while at the same time the rebuilding of the country is taking place. That would be a community trying to make progress right away before the legalities are sorted out. Nevertheless, we were the first community council in Dublin to be recognised. It is a highly relevant question that must be addressed because people will keep talking to the media and get everyone excited about the constitution while things are consolidated. The constitution will be established but there will be little control over events on the ground with contracts already granted.
What should the international community, the EU and Ireland be looking for in any resolution? The importance of having our ideas built into the proposals has been highlighted. I am inclined to agree with the proposal of Deputy Michael Higgins, that we conduct a review and present a report on the issue as soon as possible to ensure that our proposals are included. I recognise the work done by the Department of Foreign Affairs but we want to include everything possible and to bring the experience available to bear on the issues. We will conduct a review of the present position taking everything into consideration - the development of the constitution, the UN resolution and the awarding of contracts.
Dr. Hans Blix was very forthright about what he found in the course of his investigations and he was annoyed that events moved ahead of him and many of us were also concerned about that.
Mr. Mannix: I thank the members of the committee for their questions and I will do my best to handle as many of them as I can. Deputy Jim O'Keeffe asked for a reaction to the US draft resolution and inquired if I think it contains the bones of an agreement in the Security Council. Views have been divided between the United States and the United Kingdom on one side, and countries including France on the other side, about how best to handle this situation. The views are based on different analyses of the situation and different ways of approaching it. I agree with Deputy O'Keefe, and with what the United States proposes, that there will be some sort of half-way house. This is quite normal in the Security Council because when 15 countries with differing views come together, as in the European Union, a consensus has to be found and the wisdom that each country can bring to the debate is distilled. The US position has moved. I have not had the opportunity to analyse the resolution or to find out through our mission in New York how other members of the Security Council are reacting to this. Usually we assess these matters by consulting and trying to put together as comprehensive a picture as possible. There is a possibility, which I hope will be realised, and I hope the Security Council agrees a resolution.
The terms of that resolution will be important. This brings us to the question of whether Ireland, or any other country, would wish to participate in any peacekeeping exercise. In my presentation I said that it would be for the Security Council to try to devise a resolution that will have the necessary political credibility. It is always possible to get a resolution through the Security Council. It may be difficult but it can be done. This does not mean that a resolution will achieve its real objectives. The objective is not simply to get through the Security Council but to influence the international community. If a resolution should emerge from the Security Council, and if we are invited we will examine the request and the resolution as we always do. We have a number of criteria that are well known and we will look at any request that comes our way. It would not serve any useful purpose to try to speculate now on what would happen. We usually wait until we see the terms of the resolution and the context at the time. We do not even know if this resolution will be carried. There are too many variables in this situation.
Some speakers felt that the position given by the Taoiseach and the Minister was somehow-----
Deputy M. Higgins: Is Mr. Mannix discussing participation under UN military command rather than US military command?
Mr. Mannix: I am referring to a multinational force that emerges as a result of the adoption of a resolution in the Security Council. There would be no question of our participating in anything that was not underpinned by the necessary Security Council resolution. The reality is that we are not able to foresee what kind of situation would obtain at the time. We always look at requests from the United Nations but there are certain logistical difficulties in meeting requests. We already have troops in various parts of the world so several factors would have to be put together. That is all that I can usefully say on that subject at the moment.
Senator Bradford: There appears to be some degree of confusion between the Taoiseach's comments on a couple of occasions and those of the Minister on that issue.
Mr. Mannix: I did not see any confusion. The position is fairly clear that we will look at any request that comes in and that there are several factors to be considered, including the availability of troops. That is a perfectly normal position. I do not see any discrepancy between the two.
Deputy M. Higgins: Perhaps the confusion arises in the distinction between a UN-mandated force and a UN-initiated force. I agree with Mr. Mannix that we need a Security Council resolution but there is a difference between a resolution that initiates an action and one that mandates an international force to deal with the consequences of an action carried out perhaps in breach of the Chapter, pre-emptively, as Kofi Annan puts it. That is the difficulty that I have about considering this. I am not asking Mr. Mannix to reach a conclusion on it but it is a real problem.
Mr. Mannix: The Deputy is aware of the triple lock system. We would have to look at the terms of any resolution and ensure that it comes within the meaning of the Act. We do not know yet what the terms of the resolution will be and we cannot try to take a position until we see them.
Deputy Gregory: I too am slightly confused. Returning to Mr. Mannix's statement that the trend appears to be that there will be continuing and worsening attacks on the occupying forces in Iraq. What is the distinction in that context between a peacekeeping force and a peace enforcement force that would assist the United States in resisting those people who are attacking the occupying forces?
Mr. Mannix: The major distinction to be made here is whether the Security Council has agreed to it. It is very clear that the United States needs international assistance both in establishing security and in funding the reconstruction of Iraq and it is approaching the Security Council in the hope of obtaining this assistance. There are 15 members of the Security Council who will consider what kind of request is being put to them in a resolution and whether it meets the requirements that they have specifically for a strengthened role for the United Nations and for an accelerated transfer of power to the Iraqi authorities. If the 15 members of the Security Council can come to an agreement on that the situation will be different because the Council will have agreed that some multinational force should operate in Iraq. Then we can no longer think of it in terms of lending assistance to an occupying power, which might be the case if troops were sent in the absence of a UN mandate. Once the UN has mandated a multinational force it changes the political complexion of the action.
Chairman: May we move on to some of the other questions?
Mr. Mannix: I am conscious of the time and will try to move quickly. The Irish role is principally but not exclusively in the European Union. We have our own views on the general principles that should be carried over into any resolution in the UN. I have outlined this already. We also work for that within the European Union. There are several different groups involved in the attack on the UN. There is organised resistance to the occupation and anger and vengeance from people who feel that they have been attacked by US forces. It is likely there is more than one element involved which makes it more difficult to deal with.
I wish to refer to the decision taken by the Finance Minister on the Iraqi governing council. There are always doubts about the whole question of privatisation in any country in which it occurs, as people have their particular viewpoints on this. What is happening here is that there is a gradual, progressive transfer of power to the governing council. This is also answering part of another question on what are the powers and mandate of the governing council. It is a fluid situation and it is moving along, though sometimes not so well, partly due to difficulties within the governing council itself. A number of powers are being gradually transferred to them. This decision taken by the Iraqi Finance Minister is itself an exercise of sovereignty by the governing council. It seems to have run into some difficulty in the governing council, which shows there is an active debate going on within the council. It is their decision to take.
Deputy M. Higgins: Mr. Mannix-----
Mr. Mannix: Could I just make my point?
Deputy M. Higgins: -----I do not think it is their council.
Senator O'Rourke: That was really what my question was about, the measure of authority the governing council has.
Deputy M. Higgins: It is because the occupying forces have, in fact, the final authority over the council on finance matters.
Chairman: We will come back to this later, without interruption. Mr. Mannix may continue.
Mr. Mannix: There is the gradual transfer of power as the governing council puts itself in a position where it is able to take on additional responsibilities. What was Senator O'Rourke's question?
Senator O'Rourke: Mr. Mannix has answered it.
Deputy M. Higgins: I am sorry for my interruption.
Senator O'Rourke: My question was about the measure of authority afforded to the Iraqi governing council.
Mr. Mannix: The measure of authority afforded to the governing council is one that is in flux. It is a matter of gradual transfer of power. The governing council itself feels that the transfer is taking place too slowly. As I have already said, we are in favour of an accelerated transfer. It is up to the Security Council members to devise the means by which this can be successfully accomplished.
We do have to bear in mind that there are genuine difficulties on the ground. This is shown, for example, in the continuing problems with restoring various utilities to the civilian population. It is difficult to restore utilities when they are being blown up and workers intimidated. The same holds true for the flow of the oil. As everyone has seen on television, there have been many attacks on oil installations and pipelines. All of these are creating great difficulties for the running of the economy, for the living conditions of the unfortunate Iraqi people and for the smooth transfer of power. It is quite obvious that it is not taking place in a smooth way and hardly could in the circumstances that have to be faced.
On the question of civilian deaths, as the Minister for Foreign Affairs said in the Dáil on 1 October 2003, we simply do not know. We have asked various international bodies if they have figures. They were unable to provide us with figures. In a sense, that is not too surprising. In any conflict of that nature, as everyone knows, civilian casualties are high. They are usually much higher than military casualties and it is very difficult to come to actual figures for rules and reasons we do not need to go into. We would also be interested in having an accurate figure. We are not that absorbed with the actual figure, but what we know is that there has been a high and tragic loss of civilian life. There has been a high and tragic amount of injury inflicted on innocent people. This is to be deplored.
The question of the weapons of mass destruction was raised. It was suggested that the Taoiseach and the Minister for Foreign Affairs swallowed the British dossier and we went along with it. The Minister for Foreign Affairs said in the Dáil on 1 October that at no point did we rely on information provided by any foreign intelligence service. We relied entirely on the resolutions already adopted by the Security Council stretching back as far as 1991 when the Security Council found that Iraq was in possession of weapons of mass destruction. The UN Security Council required Iraq to admit, first, UNSCOM and, then, UNMOVIC to assess the situation, disarm Iraq and to verify it had been disarmed. Then there were also the reports by the arms inspectors. Dr. Baradei's reports made it pretty clear that there were no nuclear weapons and that they had been disposed of long ago. Dr. Blix, in all his reports to the Security Council, pointed to the failure of the Iraqi authorities to account for weapons holdings they were believed to have. Those were the reports upon which we relied.
We were not the only ones to reply on these reports and to be convinced that there were weapons of mass destruction present in Iraq. This was the view of all 15 members of the Security Council, including an Arab member, Syria. It was also the view of the 15 member states of the European Union. We will recall there was a serious disagreement between several member states of the EU as to how to handle this problem. However, they all agreed and in the conclusions on 19 November, they stated three times their belief that Iraq was in possession of weapons of mass destruction. This was a viewpoint held by many people.
It was suggested that this might be an attempt by the Iraqi regime to mislead the world and to engage in deception so as to put it in a position to intimidate both its own people and its neighbours. We can only speculate on that.
Deputy M. Higgins: The fact that it was so generally held, does not make it accurate in retrospect. That is the way life is.
Mr. Mannix: That is the way life is
Deputy M. Higgins: The fact that everyone was conned does not make it better.
Mr. Mannix: The report that is about to come out, referred to as the 'Kay report', will say, from what we hear, that they have not been able to find weapons of mass destruction. This is the situation now. It was not the situation at the time when there was a widespread belief that these weapons did exist.
Senator O'Rourke: Was it a false belief?
Mr. Mannix: If weapons of mass destruction cannot be found, then clearly, it was a false belief.
Chairman: Although some of them were never found anyway which were there to be counted earlier. That did not help the situation.
Mr. Mannix: It is clear that Saddam Hussein did possess weapons of mass destruction. It is a matter of the historical record. It is also clear that UNSCOM was not able to provide a satisfactory report that could account for all of those weapons. This did not prove possible and large quantities of weapons remained unaccounted.
In Resolution 1441, the Security Council, of which Ireland was a member at the time, stated that it recognised Iraq continued to pose a threat to international peace and security because, first, of its non-compliance with Security Council resolutions and, second, of its proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Non-compliance means that it failed to co-operate fully and satisfactorily with the weapons inspectors. Indeed, Hans Blix complained of this himself. There are quite a number of factors that have to be taken into consideration there.
Deputy M. Higgins: In fairness to all members of this committee and all parties, all of them would have interpreted Resolution 1441 as being capable of giving the inspectors more time.
Senator O'Rourke: Yes
Deputy M. Higgins: That did not happen.
Chairman: There may have been an element of moving into the hot weather.
Senator Bradford: If the weapons had been there? We cannot ignore that factor.
Chairman: I am not justifying that, but in practical terms I believe that it is a factor.
Mr. Mannix: I share that point of view and so too does the Government. We did indeed take the position that more time should be given to the arms inspectors. We said so publicly.
Senator O' Rourke: That is correct.
Chairman: It was the logical thing to do at the time.
Deputy M. Higgins: I also think as a member of a foreign affairs committee------
Chairman: No, Senator O'Rourke; it was to wait for more time.
Senator O'Rourke: Yes, to wait for more time.
Deputy M. Higgins: If one looks at how other foreign affairs committees discussed this - I am not saying this contentiously - there is the simple fact that many holes were blown in Colin Powell's presentation to the Security Council. He thanked the British Government for supplying him with baseline information that had been shown to be borrowed, plagiarised and include work by an Irish citizen. The first document that was presented to me was an alleged academic document - it was an academic document, but it was all secondary. It is my belief that there were other people in the Department of Foreign Affairs -----
Senator O'Rourke: It was an interesting revelation that on the eve of the departure of the British forces, Jack Straw did not want them to go. As I said, we are turning into a debating society. We had better stop.
Deputy M. Higgins: Mr. Mannix is very interesting in all of this.
Chairman: I thank Mr. Mannix and his colleagues for attending today and giving us a very useful update.
Deputy M. Higgins: What about my question on the prisoners?
Mr. Mannix: The prisoners of war taken by the occupying powers? The occupying powers have indeed bound themselves to comply with all the instruments of international law, including international humanitarian law. I do no have information on what exactly is happening in that area but that is an obligation that the occupying powers have accepted. When we get a new special representative following the tragic death of the former special representative, he will take over the existing mandate, possibly a strengthened mandate, and will report to the Security Council on the entire range of issues in Iraq, and there will be an assessment of accountability at that stage.
Chairman: Again, I thank Mr. Mannix and his colleagues for attending the meeting today. We would like to keep closely in touch with the officials. At this fairly critical time, this may, as was suggested, just mean getting information from them and circulating it to our members so that we can keep in touch with issues.
The joint committee went into private session at 1.15 p.m. and adjourned at 1.23 p.m. sine die.