ON BBC radio's Today programme on Monday morning Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said the probability of war had moved to 60–40 against from 60–40 in favour a week or two ago. It is not unreasonable to ask, therefore, why Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon yesterday announced that an amphibious task force with 3'000 Royal Marine commandos and the aircraft carriers HMS Ark Royal and HMS Ocean would be deployed in the Gulf very soon. In all, this task force will consist of 15 surface vessels, a nuclear powered submarine and a total of 15'000 Royal Navy and Royal Marines personnel. The justification for this deployment according to Mr Hoon is that, “It is clearly necessary that we demonstrate to Saddam Hussein and his regime that we mean business. He will not disarm voluntarily unless we continue to present him with a clear and credible threat of force.” This is the same argument being used by the United States administration to justify its much bigger military deployment in the Gulf area.

I think I am right in saying that there is nothing in the UN Security Council's Resolution 1441 which authorises this kind of pressure on Iraq while UN Weapons Inspectors are carrying out the job given them by the Security Council. On what authority are the United States and Britain acting in this threatening way before the UN has considered the report of the weapons inspectors on January 27?

Mr Straw is wrong. The probability, on present form, is 90–10 in favour of military action.