version will appear in due course on Hansard)
permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a further
statement about military action in Iraq. Coalition forces
have made significant progress since my statement to the
House last Friday.
Hussein's calculation in this conflict is that western
democracies are weak - that they have no stomach for a
fight - that they will not stand up, and go on standing
up for the things that they believe in.
misunderstand and miscalculate the values that are at
the heart of our democracies - that we are here in this
House only because people are able freely to elect us,
and that we uphold and observe the rule of law. They also
forget that the members of our Armed Forces volunteer
to serve their country.
armed forces comprise free men and women - with their
own often strongly held individual views and ideas - who
serve together and risk their lives together because they
choose to - not because some thug stands behind them or
their family with threats of torture or execution.
free men and women choose to risk their lives in the defence
of the values we share. And when those lives are lost
we pay proper tribute to them and to their families, because
they stand in our place, and we must in turn resolutely
stand up for them.
is why on behalf of the Government I extend our condolences
to the families and friends of those servicemen who have
died. Twenty individuals with twenty grieving families.
Whether they died in tragic accidents, or from enemy fire,
these men gave their lives in the service of their country
and in defence of the highest ideals. We owe them and
their families a profound debt of gratitude for their
sacrifice. They will not be forgotten.
have all seen the reporting from the 24 hour media over
the last few days. Inevitably, such reporting reflects
the immediate situation around specific journalists. It
does not always give an overall picture or strategic perspective.
would therefore like to set out the context by reporting
progress against the tasks identified in the Government's
Military Campaign Objectives published on 20th March.
six days of conflict, the Coalition has made steady progress,
following the main outline of our military plan, towards
our objective of overcoming resistance from the Iraqi
security forces. The Al Faw peninsula, Umm Qasr and the
southern oilfields have been secured, and Iraqi resistance
in those areas defeated. 3 Commando Brigade is in control,
and the US 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit has been released
to return to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force which
is now heading towards Baghdad.
Air Assault Brigade is deployed in the Southern oilfields
and the 7th Armoured Brigade dominates the Basrah area.
Resistance in nearby Az Zubayr has been defeated and British
forces are in place in much of the area around the city
forces are spearheading an advance northwards with lead
elements at Karbala, 60 miles south of Baghdad. US Marine
combat units have also crossed the Euphrates and are proceeding
northwards. Hon Members will have seen accounts of the
serious engagement near al Najaf last night in which US
forces from the 5th Corps repelled an attack by Iraqi
5,000 sorties have now been flown in the air campaign,
and we have achieved significant degradation of Iraqi
regime and command and control facilities. The focus of
our effort will now shift towards close air support of
coalition ground forces advancing on Baghdad.
our most important campaign objective - to deny Iraq use
of its Weapons of Mass Destruction - our efforts have
centred on disabling the command and control facilities
through which the Iraqi regime would order the use of
such weapons. Our experts have already begun to investigate
potential weapons sites in coalition controlled areas.
To date, we have no evidence of Iraqi use of weapons of
mass destruction during this campaign. But it is impossible
to know whether this is the result of successful military
operations or a deliberate tactical judgement of the Iraqi
regime. Indeed, we do know from Prisoners of War that
protective equipment was issued to southern Iraqi divisions.
the Prime Minister has made clear, it will be the removal
of Saddam Hussein's appalling regime which will ultimately
lead to Iraqi disarmament. To achieve this, we have been
seeking to isolate the regime at all levels in every part
of Iraq: - in Baghdad, in Tikrit, in Mosul and in Basrah
- primarily by the use of precision attacks against regime
and military targets. Although the regime has not yet
collapsed - Saddam Hussein's thugs continue to resist
in some areas - the regime has effectively lost control
of southern Iraq. The regime must know that its days are
Forces have made a key contribution towards the objective
of ensuring that essential economic infrastructure is
secure. The Southern Oil fields and associated infrastructure
have been secured, with very little damage. Umm Qasr,
the country's one significant port, is under coalition
control and is in working condition. A mine countermeasures
task force, under Royal Navy command and including US
and Australian elements, is making steady progress in
clearing the Khawr Abd Allah waterway of any mines. This
is necessarily a slow and painstaking process.
the areas now under our control, British commanders are
making contacts in the local communities, in order to
begin the process of restoring normality.
seek to deter wider conflict both inside and outside Iraq.
The situation in Coalition-controlled Iraq is generally
stable, although we are keeping a close watch on events
in Basrah. I can assure the House that the welfare of
the people of Basrah is at the forefront of the concerns
of Coalition commanders. Coalition forces are engaging
groups of enemy forces as they try to flee the city and
we have successfully struck key regime targets within
it - notably the Ba'ath Party headquarters overnight.
Iraq remains stable and we intend to preserve that position.
The situation remains calm along Iraq's other borders.
Much of Coalition-controlled Iraq bordering Iran is under
British command. But the suggestion that the Royal Marines
were sent to guard against Iranian forces is simply not
true. We are seeking close contacts with the Iranian authorities
to reduce the scope for any potential misunderstanding.
our campaign looks to secure a better future for the people
of Iraq. Our fight is not with the people of Iraq. There
can be no greater demonstration of that than the efforts
we are making to provide immediate humanitarian support
and assistance where we can. Let us be clear: there has
long been a humanitarian crisis in Iraq - caused by Saddam
Hussein's misrule and the plundering of that country's
resources for military spending, including his programmes
to develop weapons of mass destruction. Many Iraqis have
long been dependent on aid from the United Nations Oil
for Food programme, and more than half of Iraqis living
in rural areas have no access to safe water.
first stage in providing that help to Iraq must be defeating
Saddam Hussein's forces and establishing a secure environment.
This is necessary before we can begin to conduct humanitarian
Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessel Sir Galahad is loaded
with water, medical supplies, food and equipment for providing
shelter. It is waiting to enter Umm Qasr as soon as the
sea lanes have been cleared of mines.
the same time, in a co-operative effort with Kuwait and
the United States, Royal Engineers are constructing a
water pipe from Kuwait into Iraq to provide drinking water.
humanitarian effort will build up over the coming weeks.
It is impossible to know for certain the full extent of
the resources that will be required. But, in conjunction
with the Department of International Development, we have
plans to address what we know are likely to be the most
immediate and pressing needs. This must be part of a wider
international effort, and the International Committee
of the Red Cross is already providing support to the Iraqi
people in Basrah and elsewhere.
Speaker, after six days of military operations against
the Iraqi regime, the Coalition has made steady progress.
Our Servicemen and women have played a pivotal role in
what has been achieved and we can be proud of their courage,
their resilience and their determination. But there is
much more to achieve, and much more we can offer the people
of Iraq. The Government's position is clear. We will remain
resolute until our objectives have been met.
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