Sunday, May 01, 2005

Blair's Cover Blown

It's all over the press that various killer documents have been leaked: including the Foreign Office's legal advice on the admissibility or otherwise of a war with Iraq, and the detail that contrary to his repeated denials, Tony Blair read it, and even further that Sir Richard Dearlove, the head of MI6, told the government in the spring of 2002 that President Bush was determined on war and that "the intelligence and facts are being fixed around the policy".

Ten out of ten for policy analysis, C.

This shouldn't be surprising. In the official US Army lessons learnt report, On Point: The United States Army in Operation Iraqi Freedom, it is stated that base development in Kuwait was underway at the time Blair flew to see Bush in March, 2002. In the House of Commons Select Committee on Defence's report on Operation TELIC, which I blogged on here (you can get a copy from the links provided), it became clear that the Ministry of Defence was in talks with industry regarding Urgent Operational Requirements (UORs, purchases under a special procedure to obtain immediately needed equipment) as early as May, 2002. This was the same time that PJHQ operations chief Lieutenant-General John Reith told the committee that he became "aware" of planning going on. However, the UK Component commander, Air Marshal Brian Burridge, met General Tommy Franks of CENTCOM in April, 2002. And the UK Defence Logistic Organisation (DLO) was apparently involved from "day one of the strategic planning options".

Surely the DLO must also have been involved in the UORs, which would put "day one" somewhere before May, 2002? General Applegate of the DLO stated that
"there was an impact of when we could start doing the planning… We had to wait to get the approval to go forward with the AS90 work… actually, we were planning for the end of March / beginning of April for that work to be conducted…"
That it was the AS90 job - work on the army's self-propelled guns to stop them overheating is significant. Other UORs, such as minesweeping gear for the Navy, were of limited relevance before the January 2003 decision to shift the British axis of effort from Kurdistan to southeastern Iraq and to launch an amphibious landing there.

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