When the former Attorney- General, Lord Goldsmith appears before the Iraq Inquiry tomorrow, I have little doubt that the panel will spend some time on his advice given to the government at the beginning of March 2003. This forms the legal basis that Blair used to invade a sovereign state without either an explicit UN Security Council Resolution or without claiming such action was in self defence.
The important paragraphs are these.
28. Nevertheless, having regard to the information on the negotiating history which I have been given and to the arguments of the US Administration which I heard in Washington, I accept that a reasonable case can be made that resolution 1441 is capable in principle of reviving the authorisation in 678 without a further resolution.
29. However, the argument that resolution 1441 alone has revived the authorisation to use force in resolution 678 will only be sustainable if there are strong factual grounds for concluding that Iraq has failed to take the final opportunity. In other words, we would need to be able to demonstrate hard evidence of non-compliance and non-cooperation. Given the structure of the resolution as a whole, the views of UNMOVIC and the IAEA will be highly significant in this respect. In the light of the latest reporting by UNMOVIC, you will need to consider extremely carefully whether the evidence of non-cooperation and non-compliance by Iraq is sufficiently compelling to justify the conclusion that Iraq has failed to take its final opportunity.
In paragraph 28, the Attorney ought to expand on exactly what was the negotiating history he had been given, when, and by whom. And precisely which arguments of the US administration he had heard, and from whom. As we know different parts of the US Administration had divergent views . There must be documentary evidence in support of this assertion.
The emphasised sections of paragraph 29 begs the question whether it was his- the Attorney's -view at the time that Iraq's non-compliance was sufficient to justify invasion. We now know that the Blair government were being asked for the UNMOVIC inspectors to be given further time to continue their inspections. Surprisingly, no mention of this was made in his advice.
Goldsmith, who attended all the relevant Cabinet meetings, cannot be allowed to claim he did not have sufficient information to come to a view whether the 'latest reporting by UNMOVIC', did not show 'evidence of non- cooperation and non-compliance by Iraq'.
The Attorney would certainly have sought independent opinion of outside counsel on this matter. Goldsmith is not an international law expert. I wonder whether any member of the Chilcot panel will explore this. Two barristers can, and often, give very different opinons!