MI6 boss blames Russia for Iraq war

The head of the British intelligence service MI6 has reportedly said that Russia bears part of the blame for the start of the war in Iraq.

John Sawers made the statement at public hearings in London aimed at establishing the circumstances in which the war started.

Sawers, who at that time held an advisor’s position in the Prime Minister’s office, was quoted as saying by the BBC that Russia prevented the introduction of so-called “smart sanctions” against Iraq in 2001. He went on to say that some high-placed Russian officials had told him back then that the smart sanctions program harmed the economic interests of certain Russian companies. The official reason given by the Russian delegation was that the sanctions plan was too broad and complicated.

Sawers told the inquiry that Russia had vetoed a second round of sanctions against Iraq to protect its own business interests, making an invasion inevitable.

“I’d say to John Sawers, nice try, but I don’t think there’s any truth in this at all,” said journalist Andrew Gilligan. “The fact is that as we now know, an awful lot of countries were breaking sanctions on Iraq, and the fact is, that as we also now know, Iraq was seriously weakened by sanctions and didn’t pose a threat to anyone except their own people.”

The head of MI6 accuses Russia of colluding with Iraq. He says Saddam Hussein put the Russian government under pressure to use its permanent membership in the UN Security Council to veto sanctions, on the threat of having business contracts annulled.

Meanwhile, Russia opposed the armed invasion of Iraq until the very last moment, with the last resolution calling to refrain from military involvement being issued in 2003, months before the Iraq war started.

“I just don’t see how countries which opposed the war can be blamed for starting a war… it’s absolutely obvious from all the evidence we’ve seen in the inquiry so far that Britain and the US wanted a war from a very early stage, and they were determined to do everything they could to have a war, and everything else was just done to cover over that determination,” Gilligan said.

Sergey Utkin from the Institute of World Economy and International Relations says "that for the British public and the international community, it is not very important how Russia behaved before the war; it is much more important how the situation in Iraq developed”.

People are very interested to know whether it was right or wrong to topple all members of Saddam Hussein’s party, leaving Iraq without people who had some professional experience. People are also interested in how to go beyond the situation that we have today. In this regard, the case of Russia is just a small piece of history.

Sergey Utkin added that “they have showed that they support the Iraq war so many times that they just have to take responsibility for that. They have no other option, they have no other way to escape that, they only can prove that the decision was right. And the whole inquiry will go this way: they will just insist that this decision was right.”

Watch Utkin's interview

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The Iraq inquiry is in its early stages; its findings are not expected to be published until the end of next year. But there have already been some surprises – for one, according to evidence, a prime source of information on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq came from a taxi driver.

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