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     Scottish CND      Magazine

TRIDENT AND IRAQ

During the earlier crisis in the Gulf in November a Trident submarine was sent to the Mediterranean. HMS Vanguard sailed from Faslane as British and American planes were preparing to bomb Iraq. At the last moment the bombing was called off and postponed until December. The Navy reported that HMS Vanguard visited Gibraltar from 26 November to 2 December. It may have been in the Mediterranean one week earlier. This was the first ever visit by an operational British nuclear weapon submarine to an overseas port, other than the US.

George Roberston was sending out conflicting signals about the visit - suggesting, and then denying that it had anything to do with events in Iraq. Trident missiles can reach Iraq from Faslane. However the MoD may feel that if a missile was launched from Scotland this could be mistaken for an attack on Russia. At the very least, the Navy sent Vanguard to the Mediterranean to prove it could be deployed in a “sub-strategic” role. The timing suggests that it was also meant to signal to Iraq that if chemical weapons were used, Britain could respond with a nuclear attack. In February 1998 Robin Cook warned that if Iraq used chemical weapons there would be a “proportionate” response.

The government has given assurances that nuclear weapons would not be used against a non-nuclear country which is a signatory to the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT), unless it was in alliance with a nuclear power. However when questioned by the House of Commons Defence Committee the Junior Foreign Minister, Tony Lloyd, said that this guarantee did not apply to Iraq - because Iraq was in breach of the NPT.

Meanwhile it is rumoured that another Faslane based submarine, HMS Splendid, will be sent to the Gulf. HMS Splendid is nuclear powered, but not nuclear armed. It is however the one British submarine capable of firing cruise missiles. It completed the first British test firing of a cruise missile late in 1998.

Scottish CND      Magazine