27 Nov 2009

Iraq inquiry: the view from the United Nations

Day four of Sir John Chilcot’s Iraq inquiry sees the appearance of Sir Jeremy Greenstock, UK ambassador to the United Nations in the run-up to the decision to go to war.

Good morning, and welcome to day four of the Iraq inquiry. Today’s hearing is titled “Developments in the United Nations”, and few British diplomats are better placed to report on this than Sir Jeremy Greenstock.

He was the UK’s permanent representative at UN HQ in New York between 1998-2003, the same time that yesterday’s witness Sir Christopher Meyer was Our Man in Washington.

While Meyer led UK efforts to keep a hawk-dominated White House working with the UN, Greenstock tried, eventually in vain, to corral security council members into forcing Iraq into disarmament and – when that failed in March 2003 – into supporting a resolution backing war.

Odds are he’ll also get asked about Clare Short’s allegation that UK spooks were bugging UN Secretary General Kofi Annan’s office in the run-up to the war.

A final thought: while Meyer’s book (you just may have picked up yesterday that he’d written a book) became a best-seller, Greenstock’s The Costs of War never even made it to the bookshops. It was blocked by the FCO and Number 10, apparently because he’d quoted confidential diplomatic exchanges.

Whether that makes him more or less likely to talk freely today remains to be seen…