November 9, 2004 | WebMemo on International Organizations
Excellency Kofi Annan
Secretary-General of the United Nations
Thank you for your letter of 31 October.
I agree with you on the importance of the forthcoming elections in Iraq. I believe that the very act of holding elections will in itself contribute hugely to stability and security in Iraq - perhaps more than anything else.
I am therefore determined that these elections should go ahead, and according to the timetable laid out in Security Council Resolution 1546. A delay to this timetable would be a victory for those bent on the path of violence. Of course, these elements are not looking simply for a delay: they want the whole democratic political process to fail. They would not be appeased by a delay, but rather encouraged by one.
That is why, when we met in New York, I disagreed with those who advocate a delay to the elections timetable. It is also why I believe it is essential that we take urgent steps to improve the security situation in Iraq.
In your letter, you suggested that the prospect of an escalation in violence could be very disruptive to Iraq's political transition. I share this view. But I believe that this argues for taking firm steps now to tackle the violence we face today. Unchecked, this violence will escalate - perhaps even into a sectarian struggle which threatens the elections altogether. We cannot afford to run that risk.
At the moment, we have parts of the country in which the civilian population has been hijacked by the terrorists and insurgents. That is unacceptable. Worse still is that the terrorists and insurgents operating from places like Fallujah are exporting their violence to other parts of the country, terrorising and killing innocent Iraqis and those seeking to protect them. I cannot allow these terrorists to continue to murder with impunity.
I was a little surprised by the lack of any mention in your letter of the atrocities which these groups have committed. I believe that the blame for the violence and difficulties in Iraq at the moment should be laid squarely at their door. The same group who murdered so many of your staff in the bombing of the UN headquarters last year, has since murdered hundreds of innocent Iraqis and committed countless other atrocities. We have overwhelming evidence that they have used and continue to use Falluja as a base of operations.
As I told your Special Representative earlier this week, I share your strong preference for a political solution over military confrontation. But I did not find in your letter a new plan or a new strategy beyond this strong preference, which has already guided my thinking throughout.
I have always been determined to give every opportunity to rejectionist elements to join the political process, as you have again urged. I have worked hard and for many months for a political solution to the problems of Fallujah and other cities. So has my entire government - the most broad-based government Iraq has ever seen, as your own team who appointed us were keen to emphasise. I have also enlisted the help and support of numerous groups from all parts of Iraqi society. Much of this dialogue - including the formation of the Interim National Assembly, and many subsequent initiatives - has been conducted with the help and participation of the United Nations. I do not see how this dialogue could have been more broad, more genuine or more intense.
Sadly, the extremist elements causing the violence and instability in Iraq have made it clear that they are simply not interested in joining the political process. They have been prepared to talk, but not to deliver. I do not see how a fresh effort, however genuine and whoever conducts it, will change this. Meanwhile as the violence has continued, more lives have been lost, and the elections are now under threat.
Essentially, the violent groups have rejected the rule-of-law, without which there can be no democracy. I am not prepared to allow these groups a veto over democracy in Iraq, nor to continue to terrorise the vast majority of Iraqis who want to live in peace and freedom.
Even now, the door remains open to these groups to embrace the rule-of-law, to put down their weapons, and to join the political process. I gave that offer to the armed groups in Najaf, and I honoured my word. I would never cut off any real dialogue which was in process. But, again I fear that we have all but exhausted the comprehensive dialogue that we have conducted. We are now left with few options. I believe that it is the government's duty now to act in order to safeguard lives, elections and democracy in Iraq from those choosing the path of violence and atrocities.
If we do have to go down the path of military action, we will make every effort to safeguard civilian lives. We have a significant humanitarian relief package already prepared to help the people of Falluja - both those who have remained in the city and the tens of thousands who have been driven out already by the terrorists and insurgents. And we have also prepared the ground for a major reconstruction effort to breathe fresh life and hope into a city which has been held hostage for too long. All this will, I believe, demonstrate the clear benefits of stability and will help to persuade many of those on the fringes to embrace the new and inclusive political process.
I should also stress that there is no question of the multinational forces taking action on their own. Any military operations in Iraq will be planned with my government, approved by me, and with the Iraqi security forces playing a leading role.