Comment at end
8th December, 2009
Iraq Inquiry: 9th day of public hearings with Chaplin,Cross,Bowen
These are the most significant quotes from the ninth session of the Iraq Inquiry
And you can watch the videos here
9th day of public hearings
Subject: Baghdad 2004 – 2005
7th December 2009: Morning session: Evidence by
- Edward Chaplin (Ambassador of the UK in Jordan, from May 2000 until April 2002; Director for the Middle East and North Africa from April 2002 until September 2003)
“I think most Iraqis regarded us as more or less honest brokers”
“Of course, the other thing that happened was we had lots of visitors, so Hilary Benn, Development Secretary, and Jack Straw as Foreign Secretary, and the Prime Minister and many others, and officials from all those departments were fairly frequent visitors to I mean, not the ministers; they came once each in my time. But there was a lot of contact on the ground and so they could see for themselves, and I think that’s one of the things that improved the Whitehall coordination of the whole effort; there were people sitting around that table who had actually if they hadn’t served in Iraq, had actually been there, talked to the Iraqis themselves and had a grasp of what was possible and what wasn’t possible.”
PRASHAR:”Do you think you had enough resources and means to turn the policy into reality on the ground?”
CHAPLIN: “Yes, I think we had enough people in Baghdad and in Basra.”
PRASHAR: And did we play a role in that, in getting international support?”
CHAPLIN: “Yes, I think we did.”
PRASHAR: “I mean, looking back on it, what do you think worked? What didn’t work? What could have been done better? In retrospect, any observations?”
CHAPLIN: “Well, I think we were quite we were as effective as we could have expected to be in terms of support for the political process. The key priority, as I said earlier, which everyone agreed on, was to make sure that elections took place on time at the end of January 2005. I think we played quite a significant part in ensuring that that happened. We certainly did our bit in terms of building up the capacity of the Iraqi Government. We did our bit with the Iraqi security forces. We could have done more, we could have done better, I think, on the police side, as I have already mentioned. Similarly on the reconstruction front, but mainly down in the south, I think, certainly at the time that I was there, the multinational force was held in very high regard for what it was doing. Security problems grew up later. I think we succeeded and of course part of the main job, being the first ambassador back after this long gap, was to actually establish the embassy and establish the right relationships with all the key players, both inside and outside the government, and I think we were quite successful in that and in restoring the bilateral links and exploiting, if you like, the enthusiasm of many Iraqis for restoring those ties after a long absence, particularly, for example, on the commercial side and in educational links, which had always been traditionally very, very strong. And I think we succeeded in maximising our impact on what the Americans were doing, both on the military side and on the civilian side.”
FREEDMAN: “Did you have a sense that our performance in the south made a difference to how we were viewed in Baghdad? So long as we seemed to be making progress there, the security situation was comparatively better than Baghdad?”
CHAPLIN: “Yes, I think the Americans were happy for us, so to speak, to get on with it in the south.”
LYNE: “So in this period, when the security environment in the south, as you have said, was relatively benign, did the British succeed in doing an effective job there, in both our civilian and our military capacities?”
CHAPLIN: “I think they did do a pretty effective job. I mean, I can only judge by the reactions I used to get when I visited, and of course you have to amorph(?) for what people will tell the Ambassador. They will sometimes tell him what they think he wants to hear. But I think there is no mistaking that in the training of both police and National Guard and later the army, there was a lot of and in the way that we carried out different projects, there was a lot of admiration for the way we went about it.”
LYNE: “But if we had been drawing the bottom line, say in the middle of 2005, about the time that you left as Ambassador, on our performance in the south, it would have been a record that we could have been fairly proud of?”
CHAPLIN: “I think so, yes.”
9th day of public hearings
Subject: Baghdad 2004 – 2005
7th December 2009: Afternoon session: Evidence by
- Major General Tim Cross
- Desmond Bowen (Deputy Head of Defence and Overseas Secretariat at the Cabinet Office from 2002 until 2003)
“Alastair Campbell who was then running Number 10 media, asked to see me and I was very happy to see him. And I have to say, subsequently he produced some support for us in the media team.”
“At the end of the day a leader has to decide in his own mind what is this campaign going to look like. And eventually you begin to recognise other people’s views and perspectives, but then say,”Okay, I hear that, but nonetheless this is how we are going to proceed.”
FREEDMAN: “Can I just ask one question: you mentioned that you saw the Prime Minister. Did you convey your concerns directly to the Prime Minister?”
CROSS: “Yes. Again, I can’t honestly remember the words that I used. I would say that it was I don’t mean a pleasant conversation in a pleasant sense, but it was a good conversation. He was engaged. I gave him the background to what I had been doing. We knew each other from the past. I say that I’m not sure he would recognise me on the street now, but we had met in Macedonia, I briefed him in Macedonia when my brigade had been involved in building refugee camps. I had been to Number 10 subsequently and there was a recognition, an understanding of who I was in the background. So we had a very sensible conversation, and at the end of it I do remember saying, in so many words, I have no doubt at all we will win this military campaign. I do not believe that we are ready for postwar Iraq.”
FREEDMAN: “What did he say to that?”
CROSS: “He nodded and didn’t say anything particularly. But I’m sure he understood what I was saying. Now, if I may, I do want to recognise publicly the Prime Minister has lots of people giving him lots of briefings and giving him lots of perspectives. So I did not expect him to look me in the eye and say, “This is terrible, we are going to call the whole thing off”. I was just one of a number of people briefing him.
LYNE: “But you then say that the Secretary of State for International Development did not allow that official to work with you on a fulltime basis. How was it that officials from one part of the British Government were working with you and an official from another part of it, relevant official, was banned from doing so?”
CROSS: “Very good question. I ought to say again,I’m very happy to say I happen to like Clare Short. I know her well. I think her engagement as DFID Secretary of State I know it was controversial, but I do not have a problem. But when it came to this issue that’s why I say across Whitehall was there had everybody signed up to the fact that we were going to do this and the implications that would flow from it. And there is no doubt at all I mean, I saw the evidence of it in a number of different ways and spoke to the Secretary of State and others within DFID who came to visit me and so forth they were worried about the legality issues, they were worried about their own resourcing issues, which they had allocated to various development work around the world, and they were not signed up to this operation. I don’t think there is any doubt about it. I found that personally not helpful.”
“The thing that really bedeviled our efforts was that we were clear that the right answer we, the UK, were clear that the right answer was to engage the UN. Every other undertaking that we had had you know, Kosovo, East Timor, wherever the answer for us was not to do it ourselves, but to do it, you know, marshal the UN, get the UN into the front line, support the UN, ask to be involved in the whole business of corralling the international community to the extent that we could and to enable them to do that. So there was fundamentally this clash between an American view that the UN weren’t necessarily the best way of doing it and our continued efforts which were, you know, all throughout the autumn but well into 2003, and, indeed, right into March, April and May, to say the UN need to be engaged in this.”
PRASHAR: “I mean, Sir David Manning shared his view that the combination of these various Cabinet committees in sharing your papers across departments ensured that different departments were kept up to date on the Iraq policy developments, and he added that: “I wasn’t approached, as I recall, by the departments who said they didn’t feel they were being properly informed and I’m not aware of particular decisions up until the moments when people who should have known things who didn’t know things.” Do you share this view?”
BOWEN: “Yes, I do.”
PRASHAR: “So you think everybody was fully informed and there was a sense of direction?”
BOWEN: “I’m not sure what you mean by “everybody was fully informed”.
PRASHAR: “All the departments, you said, were around the table. Was there clarity in terms of objectives, what was being achieved, what scenarios were being looked at, what contingency plans were there?”
BOWEN: “Yes, because the papers were shared, the papers were shared by the Committee with all those present. As I say, I don’t think there was anybody absent from that group.”
PRASHAR: “So your assessment is that this was an effective ad hoc group?”
BOWEN: “It was, yes.”
FREEDMAN: “So you think it was perfectly practical at the latest stage of this whole enterprise that we of the United Kingdom would have stood apart and not gone forward?”
BOWEN: “Yes, absolutely, no doubt.”
BOWEN: I don’t think so. Actually there is one point that I would make and it is about the legality, and it is to some extent, it is not quite responding to the point, but it is a point that was made earlier about whether, you know, if the legal advice from the Attorney General had been different, would we have said no. I just make a general point because I have been much engaged in the deployment of forces and the use of force. The Ministry of Defence and it is particularly the Ministry of Defence and maybe exclusively the Ministry of Defence you know, have very clear rules about the undertaking of operations within a legal framework, and not just the undertaking of operations, but the undertaking of particular tasks, you know, bombing missions, attacks, whatever they may be. On every occasion there will be a legal opinion. On many occasions when we are operating in coalition with others, we find ourselves having to say to coalition partners, because we are closely engaged with them, that is not an acceptable target or this has to be done in a different way. That is a dialogue that goes on absolutely constantly and nobody in the Ministry of Defence has any difficulty about conveying that view, that legal view. And if it means that an operation or an undertaking has to be aborted, then that’s what happens. There is no question of, as it were, saying, “Oh, well, there is a greater good to be served by working with a coalition”. The answer is you don’t do it because it is illegal, and that’s not something that there is any chance taken on.
CHAIRMAN: I think this is not time or, indeed, the occasion to pursue it, but there is of course Kosovo as a precedent and the grounds on which that enterprise was undertaken with major international support but without an United Nations Security Council Resolution or a footing in international law as it then stood.
BOWEN: But, I mean, my point is that there was legal backing for that from the highest legal authorit in the UK.
RELATED & ETCETERA
1.Rentoul: “Why aren’t we shocked?” – …”that David Kelly may have been murdered?” Answer: “Because he wasn’t.”
2. Michael White: “The new 45-minute claim – it’s all about timing.”
Tory MP Adam Holloway’s assertion that the 45-minute WMD claim came from an Iraqi taxi driver is an interesting detail but not much more
In politics, as in life – or email leaks ahead of the Copenhagen climate conference – timing matters. With another opinion poll closing the gap between Labour and the Tories we can expect plenty more like this morning’s “Was Iraqi cabbie source of dodgy dossier?” yarn in the Daily Beast.
What? You haven’t heard? Tory MP Adam Holloway has talked to a chap who has talked to other chaps. Lots of these chaps now believe that one of the chaps from whom they used to get information in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq may have got some of it from a chap who was, professionally speaking, a taxi driving chap in Iraq’s western desert.
Well, I never. Intelligence culled under pressure for results from the boss class, obtained from doubtful sources. The Beast’s account of the process reminds me of working for the kind of newspaper where the news the newsdesk wants to fit the headline is what gets printed. They know all about that at the Beast.
The purpose of this morning’s cabbie exercise is to prime the public for ex-M16 and joint intelligence committee (JIC) chairman Sir John Scarlett’s evidence today at the Chilcot inquiry. I expect you can follow that train of thought too. The target, as ever, is Tony Blair.