The Rt. Hon. Sir John Major KG CH

Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 1990-1997

1991Prime Minister (1990-1997)

Mr Major’s Address to RAF troops at Dhahran – 8 January 1991

Below is the text of Mr Major’s address to the RAF troops at Dhahran, given on 8th January 1991.


I am not quite sure what to make of all the signs up there but I daresay they will run very well at home.

Can I just say to you all that I am very pleased to have the opportunity of coming to see you here today. I am here for a variety of reasons. I wanted in particular to see for myself what it was like out here, both in the desert and here at the sharp end of whatever may happen in due course, both to see for myself so I got a clearer perspective of what was actually happening, the scale of it, and what it actually means to the people who are here. It does not really matter how much briefing you get back in London, unless you actually come and see for yourself I do not think you get a proper idea of what is happening and I must say, what I have seen in the last couple of days has made the trip very worthwhile indeed and I am extremely glad that I came.

The second reason for coming was to satisfy myself that the equipment that was needed was either here or on its way here and to see for myself how people felt about the job that they were being asked to do. And I must say one of the overwhelming impressions I have had both in Riyadh, at headquarters, out in the desert, out at sea, and now with the people I have met here, is that morale seems to me to be pretty high and I hope we are going to keep it that way.

Let me just tell you something about some of the things that are happening and what lays a bit behind them. You will all know at the moment that Secretary of State Baker will be meeting Tariq Aziz later on this week. Let me tell you what that is about and what it is not about.

It is not about negotiation, it is not about compromises and it is not about shifting away from the position that we have held. What it is to do, is to make it absolutely certain, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the Iraqis understand that the allied forces are serious, that if they do not withdraw from Kuwait and go back to Iraq that at some stage we will use the force that we have here to compel them to withdraw and go back into Iraq.

We do not want the Iraqis to be in any doubt about the fact that we are serious and that is why the message that Mr Baker will deliver will be quite clear-cut they must get out of Kuwait and go home and that means get out of Kuwait fully and go home, not partially, and with no expectation of any gain whatsoever from what they have done. And that is the message that will be delivered later on this week in very clear and crisp terms so there is no misunderstanding.

I guess you all know pretty well why you are here, not just to reverse what has happened in Kuwait, pretty horrible though that is, you may have seen the Amnesty Report and know exactly what is happening in Kuwait day by day. But there are other things on top of that that we regard as being very important and I might just illustrate one or two of them because you are here to do the difficult work and I think you have a right to know precisely why it is that we think it is necessary and desirable that we should ask you to do it.

The first is what has been done in Kuwait and it is unacceptable and I need say no more about that. The second is, contemplate the proposition that the whole of the world could not have said more clearly, through the Security Council Resolutions, which side of this argument they were on. There is a dividing line between right and wrong, you are in the right and on this occasion Saddam Hussein is undoubtedly in the wrong.

If that is the view of the whole of the world other than him – and it is – and he were to get away with it, what other small nations elsewhere, faced with large and potentially aggressive nations next door, may face the same sort of problem that Kuwait is facing at the present time? We want to make it clear to any of those potential aggressor nations that they too need not expect to get away with that sort of aggression.
So we hope what is going to happen here and the defeat of Saddam Hussein, either with his withdrawal or ultimately by force, will send a very strong message to people who might be aggressive elsewhere.

And perhaps the third reason that I would just set out for you, though there are far more and I could extend that list for a considerable period of time. You know what weapons Saddam Hussein has got, you have all been issued with respirators, you know about the chemical weapons he has got, the biological weapons, and the fact that at some stage in the future – not yet – but at some stage in the future that he will have nuclear weapons as well. It is better to deal with this problem now and make sure he does not get a taste for more trouble and more difficulty in the future, and that is why we are determined that one way or another he will have to come out of Kuwait and go back into Iraq.

So it is not just the important principles of Kuwait, important though they are, there are wider principles as well which is why we have invited you and the Americans and the Saudis and the Egyptians and all our other allies in this venture to come here and deal with the problem that there is.

Let me say categorically, our preferred outcome to this matter is for Saddam Hussein to withdraw peaceably, that is what we would like to see, we hope very much we will see that. But that is a matter for him, there is no point in him asking to extend the deadline. If he is worried about the deadline he can start withdrawing from Kuwait, he has had months to do it, he should never have been there and he now at last I think must understand the sheer weight of the forces that are ranged against him.

One thing I am absolutely certain of in terms of what I have seen and what I have discussed and what I have been briefed with over a period: there is no conceivable way that Saddam Hussein can win this conflict, either easily or by force he is going to lose and I hope he understands that message very clearly indeed.

The final two things I just want to say you, very briefly, is firstly, although you will see the British newspapers out here, I think you may not perhaps understand the full weight of concern and interest that people have back home in what you are doing. It is becoming a consuming and increasing interest day by day, not just amongst those who sit in the House of Commons but in each and every house up and down the land, people are very concerned about what you are doing here, the equipment you have got, what you may be called upon to do. And if I may add this point, they are immensely proud, too, of the way in which you are doing it.

I simply therefore want to say in conclusion, thank you very much for what you have done and what you may yet have to do. From myself and I think also from all those other people back home who have wished me simply to say this, we wish you the very best of luck in the weeks ahead with whatever may come, we know whatever it is you will do it superbly well and I am most grateful to you all. Thank you very much for being so patient and listening, thank you very much indeed.

And now we must invite the cameras to have a look over there because there are a large number of mothers who want to know what their sons are up to at this very moment – very good.