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Chilcot: Internal memos show Syria may have been on the agenda since 2001

Chilcot-AFP-Getty
The Chilcot Report was released On Wednesday, and a hard copy can be yours for just £767 (though I would suggest reading it free online here), and while there will doubtless be many and varied autopsies of the evidence and documents, this early observation is an interesting one.
An eagle-eyed reader brought the following documents to our attention, as they contain many sections that hint war with Syria may have been on the NATO/US agenda as far back as October 2001.
First there is this, from a letter dated 11th of October 2001 (all emphasis ours):

…The uncertainty caused by Phase 2 seeming to extend to Iraq, Syria etc because it seems to confirm the UBL [Osama Bin Laden] propaganda this is the West vs Arab[sic]. Tony Blair, letter to GW Bush, 11/10/01

This quote suggests that Syria and “etc.” (Lebanon or Iran, at a guess) were already in the crosshairs. Interestingly, it is followed by:

Incidentally, the leaders all warned about treating Syria like Iraq.

It’s safe to say the warnings of these “leaders” (their names are all redacted), were not heeded by the subsequent administrations.
Then there is this, from Downing Street Chief of Staff Jonathan Powell, dated November 15th 2001:

…urgent pressure on Syria and Iran to crack down on terrorists as a quid pro quo for a warmer relationship with the West and getting a Middle East peace process going – with the unstated threat that risk becoming the next target for military action if they do not co-operate

And then this from a memo entitled “The War against Terrorism: The Second Phase”, dated December 4th 2001:

If toppling Saddam is a prime objective, it is far easier to do it with Syria and Iran in favour or acquiescing rather than hitting all three at once. I favour giving these two a chance at a different relationship…

This quote is interesting, because while it sets out that the British position seems to be in favour of a “different relationship”, the fact that it references “hitting all three at once” very strongly implies that such a recourse was suggested (probably by the US).
While there is nothing absolutely concrete here, there is certainly enough of smoke to suggest a little fire. It definitely adds a little weight to the famous claim of the Gen. Wesley Clark that the Project for a New American Century planned to “take out 7 countries in 5 years“.

We’re always interested in readers tips, and if anyone out there is dutifully wading through the 2.6 million words of the Chilcot Report and finds something interesting, let us know via our submissions e-mail address