Wednesday night the Australian media reported that in early 2002 their ambassador to the U.N. was telling the Australian company AWB that a U.S. attack on Iraq was “inevitable.” The information appears in the minutes from a February 27, 2002 AWB board meeting. The minutes are listed on this page, and you can download them directly here (pdf).
Here’s the relevant text, from pages 10-11, with my emphasis added. For anyone curious, a screenshot of the memo itself can be found on my site. (AWB minutes are printed in Helvetica!)
Middle East situation
The Chairman met with the Australian Ambassador to the UN, John Dauth, who gave a synopsis of the current conflict in the Middle East. With regard to Iran, the Ambassador noted that, despite the President’s State of the Union address and reference to the “Axis of Evil,” most acknowledge that US/Iran relations are at an all time high. Accordingly, there appears to be an unofficial agreement between the two countries that despite the language of the President, these comments should be seen as for domestic consumption only. The Ambassador’s view was that it was unlikely that the war against terrorism currently being waged in Afghanistan would follow on to Iran in the current political environment.
However, with regard to Iraq, the Ambassador stated that he believed that US military action to depose Saddam Hussein was inevitable and that at this time the Australian Government would support and participate in such action. The Ambassador believed that the Iraqis grossly underestimated the US’ reaction to September 11 (with the consequent military response in Afghanistan) and that Iraq’s request to re-negotiate UN weapons inspectors was a direct result of their nervousness about US action. The Ambassador believed that the latest “olive branch” from the Iraqis was likely to stave off US action 12 to 18 months but that some military action was inevitable.
The Ambassador felt that engagement in Iraq would be similar to that currently being undertaken in Afghanistan (ie. heavy use of air support followed by deployment of ground troops). He undertook to ensure that AWB was given as much warning as would be possible under such circumstances but noted that in these instances often the Australian Government had little notification. However, he did note that Secretary Powell was running this campaign in a similar way that he ran the Gulf conflict which was to plan meticulously and not rush into conflict.