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The Bush–Aznar memo is reportedly a documentation of a February 22, 2003 conversation in Crawford, Texas between US president George W. Bush, Prime Minister of Spain José María Aznar, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Daniel Fried, Alberto Carnero, and Javier Rupérez, the Spanish ambassador to the U.S. British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi participated by telephone. Rupérez transcribed the meeting's details which El País, a Madrid daily newspaper, published on September 26, 2007. The conversation focuses on the efforts of the US, UK, and Spain to get a second resolution passed by the United Nations Security Council. This "second resolution" would have followed Resolution 1441. Supporters of the resolution also referred to it as the "eighteenth resolution" in reference to the 17 UN resolutions that Iraq had failed to comply with.
The memo provided insight into the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. It revealed that Saddam Hussein had offered to step down and leave Iraq if he were allowed to keep $1 billion. Some have suggested that this indicates that the war was avoidable. According to the account in El País, the memo also gives details on how Bush tried to coerce members of the United Nations Security Council into supporting US policy: he tells Aznar how he can cut Angola's foreign aid from the Millennium Challenge Account and how he can torpedo the free trade agreement with Chile (awaiting ratification in the United States Senate at the time) if the two countries did not back US policy. Another portion of the transcript shows Bush's confidence in Iraq's stability after the invasion.
Summary of the transcript
The transcript begins with Bush saying he wants to pursue a second resolution quickly, two or three days after the meeting. Aznar prefers three days later so the General Affairs and External Relations Council can meet beforehand. Bush envisions a resolution similar to one passed during the Kosovo conflict, and "he wants it written so that it does not contain obligatory elements, that does not mention the use of force, and that states that Saddam Hussein has been unable to fulfill his obligations."
Aznar then asks if there will be another, parallel declaration. Condoleezza Rice responds that there will not. Rice reiterates the desire for a simple resolution that would not include stages Hussein could use to stall. She also mentions that they are meeting with Hans Blix in an attempt to get information that could be used in the resolution.
Bush says that "Saddam Hussein won’t change and he’ll continue to play games. The time has come to get rid of him." Bush says that they will proceed with the invasion even if the resolution is vetoed, but he believes they will be able to get the second resolution passed. Bush mentions that the coalition forces will be ready to invade in two weeks (second week of March 2003), and they expect to be in Baghdad by the end of March.
Bush goes on to discuss various possibilities of what will happen to Hussein. He gives an estimated 15% chance that Hussein will be dead or gone by the time Baghdad falls. Bush reveals that Hussein seems to prefer exile over standing his ground, and that Hussein has told the Egyptians that he will leave Iraq if he can take $1 billion and information on weapons of mass destruction.
Bush continues to talk and moves to discussing post-invasion Iraq. He says that he expects Hussein's generals to put up resistances by blowing up infrastructure, especially oil wells. Bush says that invading forces will seize the oil wells very early on to prevent this. Meanwhile, he says Saudi Arabia will produce extra oil to cover any disruption in the oil market. Bush thinks they can "win without destruction," and that Iraq has good foundations including a strong bureaucracy and civil society. Bush envisions Iraq government by a federation.
Aznar returns the conversation to the resolution. Aznar wants the resolution to mention that Hussein has lost his chance. Bush replies that he cares little about the content of the message, and Aznar responds that the Spanish will send the Americans some text for the resolution. Bush says they do not have set text, only the requirement that Saddam be disarmed. Aznar says that his text will be written to draw more international support, and Bush consents. Aznar then discusses his upcoming meeting with President of France Jacques Chirac on February 26, shortly after the resolution is announced. Bush says that Chirac thinks of himself as "Mr Arab," and that the two have a rivalry over the Arab world.
Aznar then returns to the subject of the UN inspectors' report. Rice answers that they do not expect to get much out of the report, and the Iraqis can be expected to show some minor steps of compliance to coincide with the report. Bush compares this waiting game to "Chinese water torture," and that he will not wait past the middle of March.
Bush says he will put pressure on countries to get their support. He says he will cut off foreign aid to Angola and stop the ratification of a free trade agreement with Chile.
Aznar asks if there is a chance that Hussein will go into exile. Bush responds that it is a possibility, and that Hussein may even be assassinated. Bush says he expects to discover more of Hussein's hidden crimes, and will then take him to an international court in The Hague.
Aznar says that the best outcome would be a bloodless victory. Bush, acknowledging the death and destruction of war, agrees. "Moreover, it would save $50 billion."
Aznar then asks Bush for help with boosting public (presumably Spanish) public opinion. Bush responds that he will help by making a speech outlining his goals and putting the issue in a "higher context." Aznar relates his concern that he is breaking with historical Spanish policy. Bush responds that he too is guided by history, and that he does not want history to judge him and say that he did not do his duty. Also, he went to the Security Council when some in his administration sought to avoid the UN entirely. Aznar tells Bush "Only your optimism worries me." Bush replies, "I am optimistic because I believe that I am in the right. I am at peace with myself. We have the job of confronting a serious threat to peace." Bush then implies that Europeans are shirking their duties because of racist attitudes. He then says he has a good relationship with Kofi Annan.
The transcript ends with Bush saying, "The more the Europeans attack me, the stronger I am in the United States." Aznar replies, "We must make your strength compatible with the esteem of the Europeans."
- Edward M. Gomez (September 27, 2007). "Secret memo revealed: Bush fixed on war, but could Saddam have been bought off?". SFGate. Retrieved 2007-09-28.
- Andrew War. "New light cast on Bush's plans for Iraq war". MSNBC. Retrieved 2007-09-28.[dead link]