Published on Monday, January 26, 2004 by the Financial Times (UK)
Cheney 'Waged War' on Blair Iraq Strategy
by James Blitz in London and Demetri Sevastopulo in Washington
Dick Cheney, US vice-president, "waged a guerrilla war" against attempts by Tony Blair, the British prime minister, to secure United Nations backing for the invasion of Iraq.
Mr Cheney remained implacably opposed to the strategy even after George W. Bush, US president, addressed the UN on the importance of a multilateralist approach, according to a new biography of Mr Blair.
The US vice-president, along with the neo-conservatives in the Bush administration, has consistently argued that the US could be constrained by the UN's inability to reach agreement over the need to invade Iraq.
He told the World Economic Forum in Davos at the weekend: "There comes a time when deceit and defiance must be seen for what they are. At that point, a gathering danger must be directly confronted. At that point, we must show that beyond our resolutions is actual resolve."
The extent of Mr Cheney's opposition emerges in the biography of the British prime minister by Philip Stephens, the Financial Times' political columnist.
In the run-up to the war, Mr Blair worked closely with Mr Bush to try to secure prior UN backing.
But Mr Stephens writes that Mr Cheney's opposition to UN involvement left Mr Blair uncertain whether Mr Bush would go down the UN route until he uttered the relevant words in his speech to the UN general assembly in September 2002. One Blair aide remarked: "[Mr Cheney] waged a guerrilla war against the process . . . He's a visceral unilateralist". Another agreed: "Cheney fought it all the way - at every twist and turn, even after Bush's speech to the UN."
In the US, Democrats have also accused Mr Cheney of putting pressure on intelligence agencies to produce evidence Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. On Friday, David Kay, the top US weapons inspector in Iraq, resigned, saying he did not believe Iraq had large stocks of biological and chemical weapons.
Mr Stephens' book reveals a string of acid interventions by Mr Cheney during critical talks between the president and prime minister at Camp David in September 2002. Once, he directly rebuked Alastair Campbell, Mr Blair's communications director.
In occasional contacts with British officials, Scooter Libby, the vice-president's chief of staff, made little secret of his boss's scorn for multilateralism. He once jibed: "Oh dear, we'd better not do that or we might upset the prime minister."
Mr Stephens also reveals that Mr Blair was concerned about relations with other European leaders, particularly Jacques Chirac, French president.
Mr Blair confided in close aides before the Iraq war that he believed Mr Chirac was personally "out to get him" because he feared the UK prime minister was usurping his own position as the natural leader of Europe.
According to Mr Stephens, the prime minister came to the view that Mr Chirac wanted to see him fall from power after receiving intelligence reports about the French president's private conversations.
© Copyright The Financial Times Ltd 2004