John Major was at his most waspish on BBC Radio's Today programme this week but his views are of particular interest given that he was in charge at Downing Street during the last effort to contain Saddam Hussein by military means. He made one intriguing comment about the danger that the Iraqi leader might use his weapons of mass destruction against an invading force or a nearby civilian target. He said: “We can prepare against that. We can largely protect against that. Don't press me on how.” In his autobiography Mr Major was more forthcoming, saying that, “In private, Saddam Hussein received an unmistakeable warning about the immediate and catastrophic consequences for Iraq of any such attack on civilians”. Think nuclear?

Although Mr Major expressed support for reactivating the UN Inspection Team he also said that ”We ought not to stop the rest of the machinery now in action.” In the end, he said, “we should proceed and deal with Saddam” even if Security Council authority for military action is not forthcoming. John Major also stressed the need to think through carefully the exit strategy following a successful operation against Saddam Hussein and urged that this issue should be pressed by the Opposition during next week's debate in the House of Commons. He implied that Ian Duncan Smith had not been vigorous enough in calling for a Commons debate – an accusation that brought IDS to the airwaves yesterday morning to defend himself. Will senior Conservatives ever unite again?

Ray Fleming

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