New Times,
New Thinking.

  1. Politics
23 November 2009

Iraq inquiry: when did UK sign up for regime change?

The key issue is 2002 Manning memo

By James Macintyre

Following George’s post on the Chilcot inquiry, which begins hearings tomorrow, I just want to add my tuppenceworth and reiterate the point that, if the inquiry does its job, the full context of the infamous “Manning memo” — written by Tony Blair’s foreign policy adviser David Manning as early as 14 March 2002 — must now emerge.

Reminder: Manning had dined with Condoleezza Rice, George W Bush’s national security adviser. In a memo to Blair, he wrote:

We spent a long time at dinner on Iraq. It is clear that Bush is grateful for your support and has registered that you are getting flak. I said that you would not budge in your support for regime change but you had to manage a press, a parliament and a public opinion that was very different than anything in the States.

This was contradicted in February 2003 when, on the eve of war, Blair said:

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.

I detest [Saddam’s] regime, but even now he could save it by complying with the UN’s demands.

The inquiry must somehow square the circle of these conflicting positions.

Meanwhile, it appears that senior intelligence figures will give evidence, including John Sawers, the head of MI6. A former British ambassador to Baghdad, Sir John was close to Blair and might be expected to protect his former boss. But he also sent a private memo in 2003 describing the allied strategy as “an unbelievable mess” (scroll down). His evidence will be fascinating to watch.


Sign up to the New Statesman newsletter and receive weekly updates from the team


Content from our partners
An innovative approach to regional equity
ADHD in the criminal justice system: a case for change – with Takeda
The power of place in tackling climate change