United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Practice Relating to Rule 8. Definition of Military Objectives
Section E. Lines and means of communication
In 1991, in a report submitted to the UN Security Council on operations in the Gulf War, the United Kingdom stated: “Iraqi military command and control has been severely damaged and increasingly Iraq has moved to alternative, less effective means of communication. Iraq’s ability to sustain a war has been steadily reduced.”
In 2003, during a debate in the House of Commons on “Iraq (Overnight events)”, the UK Secretary of State for Defence made a statement and replied to questions by Members:
The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Geoffrey Hoon): With permission, Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a statement about military operations to disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction.
President Bush announced at 3.15 this morning on behalf of the coalition that operations had begun with attacks on selected targets of military importance. Those attacks were carried out by coalition aircraft and cruise missiles on more than one target in the vicinity of Baghdad, following information relating to the whereabouts of very senior members of the Iraqi leadership. Those leaders are at the very heart of Iraq’s command and control system, responsible for directing Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.
Mr. Simon Thomas (Ceredigion): … Will the Secretary of State confirm that the attacks last night were in residential areas of Baghdad and were, in fact, an attempt to assassinate Saddam Hussein? Will he take this opportunity to spell out in more detail the UK MOD processes for ensuring the protection of civilians in such situations? What advice is taken and given in order to achieve that? …
Mr. Hoon: The hon. Gentleman probably understands more about the nature of Iraqi society than he is letting on. In the past, we have heard many references to the palaces that the regime has constructed. Those palaces are residential – if the hon. Gentleman chooses to describe them as such – but they are also command and control centres that are operated by leaders of the regime simply because they are afraid of any close contact with their own people. In reality, those targets are perfectly legitimate military targets because they are the places from which Saddam Hussein exercises command and control over his own people and over weapons of mass destruction. It is entirely consistent with our campaign objectives that such military command and control facilities should be targeted.
Mr. George Osborne (Tatton): It is clear from the action overnight that the military is targeting Saddam Hussein himself. Should Saddam Hussein be killed or overthrown, would military action cease immediately? If not, how would the Iraqi military bring the conflict to a close? What would it have to say to us to bring the conflict to an end?
We are pursuing lawful military targets. Clearly, part of that effort is designed to disrupt the command and control of the regime. As I have said, and as the Prime Minister made clear yesterday, we are seeking to remove weapons of mass destruction from Iraq. However, with the expiry of the ultimatum to the regime and to Saddam Hussein, the means of achieving that will be through the removal of the regime. The removal of the regime will be the specific focus of our military operations.
In 2003, during a debate in the House of Commons, the UK Prime Minister replied to a question by a Member:
Mr. Duncan Smith: Given the Prime Minister’s answer about losing grip on power with regard to Saddam Hussein, he knows that television is a powerful medium and that it is never more so than during times of war when it is used by a ruthless dictator, like Saddam Hussein. Will the Prime Minister tell us what progress is being made to take Iraqi television off air permanently, how successful coalition attempts have been to jam Iraqi radio broadcasts in Iraq, and what methods are being used to pass information to the Iraqi people to let them know that, if and when they rise up, they will be supported?
The Prime Minister:
In relation to any military targets, we have to ensure that they have a military objective – that is the legal requirement as well as the stated political objective that we have set. There is no doubt that one of the issues is how we can best communicate with the Iraqi people. That is being urgently looked at. There are different ways in which we can communicate with them, including through people inside Iraq who can tell them exactly what is happening.
In 2003, in reply to a written question in the House of Commons, the UK Secretary of State for Defence wrote:
The military campaign is crafted around the principle of minimum use of force. We attack only military objectives and combatants subject to the constraints of proportionality …
Television offices and studios have not been the object of coalition attacks. The coalition has attacked, and reserves the right to continue to attack systems (such as transmitters) which are used by the regime for conveying military command and control information. Coalition attacks are designed to minimise damage to civilian infrastructure.