Margaret Thatcher

Gulf War: Bush-Thatcher phone conversation (no time to go wobbly) [memoirs extract]

Document type: Press
Source: Margaret Thatcher The Downing Street Years , pp.823-24
Editorial comments:
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 407 words
Themes: Defence (general), Energy, Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (USA), Defence (Gulf War, 1990-91)

No time to go wobbly

In the evening of 26th August President Bush telephoned me from Kennebunkport. I told him how pleased I was with Security Council Resolution 665 which had been passed the day before, enabling us to enforce the embargo. We must use our powers to stop Iraqi shipping. This was no time to go wobbly. Information we had gleaned from secret sources must be published to show up sanctions busting. The President agreed. I told him that the only area in which I thought we were not doing well was in the propaganda battle. We were now probably going into a longish period to see whether sanctions would work and we must not let the faint hearts grow in strength. The President was worried also about the use of the port of Aqaba in Jordan to evade sanctions and I told him that I would raise the question when I saw King Hussein in a few days' time.

In the case of Syria, my enemy's enemy had to become my friend. But I was saddened that one of Britain's most long standing friends appeared to be siding with the enemy. I had been on the friendliest of terms with King Hussein of Jordan but there could be no question of just allowing him to continue to flout sanctions and justify the Iraqi invasion. So when he came to see me for lunch on Friday 31st August I could not conceal my feelings.

He was clearly very uneasy about the line he was taking. He began by making a forty minute statement which yet again justified what the Iraqis had done. I said that I was amazed at his account of what was in fact a blatant act of aggression. Iraq was a country which had used chemical weapons not just in war but against its own people. Saddam Hussein was not only an international brigand, he was also a loser who had done immense damage both to the Palestinian cause and to the Arabs and who over eight years had vainly thrown wave after wave of young Iraqis into the war against Iran. I said that the King should not be attempting to negotiate on Iraq's behalf but rather to implement sanctions against it. I could not have been more direct. But no amount of pressure was likely to alter the calculation which the King had made: that he could not come out openly against Saddam Hussein and survive.