Leaked British documents on Iraq war; “No way through”; Peres promises

These British documents that were leaked are important.

The Sunday Telegraph has obtained hundreds of pages of secret Government reports on “lessons learnt” which shed new light on “significant shortcomings” at all levels.They include full transcripts of extraordinarily frank classified interviews in which British Army commanders vent their frustration and anger with ministers and Whitehall officials.

Tony Blair, the former prime minister, misled MPs and the public throughout 2002 when he claimed that Britain’s objective was “disarmament, not regime change” and that there had been no planning for military action. In fact, British military planning for a full invasion and regime change began in February 2002.

The need to conceal this from Parliament and all but “very small numbers” of officials “constrained” the planning process. The result was a “rushed”operation “lacking in coherence and resources” which caused “significant risk” to troops and “critical failure” in the post-war period.

The Foreign Office unit to plan for postwar Iraq was set up only in late February, 2003, three weeks before the war started.

The plans “contained no detail once Baghdad had fallen”, causing a “notable loss of momentum” which was exploited by insurgents. Field commanders raged at Whitehall’s “appalling” and “horrifying” lack of support for reconstruction, with one top officer saying that the Government “missed a golden opportunity” to win Iraqi support. Another commander said: “It was not unlike 1750s colonialism where the military had to do everything ourselves.”

The leaked documents bring into question statements that Mr Blair made to Parliament in the build up to the invasion. On July 16 2002, amid growing media speculation about Britain’s future role in Iraq, Mr Blair was asked: “Are we then preparing for possible military action in Iraq?” He replied: “No.”

Introducing the now notorious dossier on Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction, on Sept 24, 2002, Mr Blair told MPs: “In respect of any military options, we are not at the stage of deciding those options but, of course, it is important — should we get to that point — that we have the fullest possible discussion of those options.”

In fact, according to the documents, “formation-level planning for a [British] deployment [to Iraq] took place from February 2002”.

The documents also quote Maj Gen Graeme Lamb, the director of special forces during the Iraq war, as saying: “I had been working the war up since early 2002.”

And stuff on the special relationship.

At least once, say the documents, General Stewart’s refusal to obey an order resulted in Britain’s ambassador to Washington, Sir David Manning, being summoned to the State Department for a diplomatic reprimand – of the kind more often delivered to “rogue states” such as Zimbabwe or the Sudan.

General Stewart bluntly admitted that “our ability to influence US policy in Iraq seemed to be minimal.” He said that “incredibly,” there was not even a secure communication link between his headquarters in Basra and the US commander, General Rick Sanchez, in Baghdad.

In other news, Shimon Peres has announced that Israel will end settlement construction in reward for negotiations. He announced this not in Ramallah, but Cairo. This reflects the seriousness of it: that it is not done to strengthen Abbas and show that he wrung a concession out of Israel. Of course, I don’t think this should be believed, but this simply gives a reason to make the prolonged peace process even longer. If Israel stopped building settlements during peace talks, and continued building them in their absence, then Abbas would be wisest to negotiate forever. I imagine Israel will renege on this promise, and say “natural growth” doesn’t count or “East Jerusalem is part of the eternal undivided city blah blah blah”. The thing is, Israel is so committed to bullying and humiliating Abbas that they didn’t announce this with him. Presumably, they want to make it clear that they still regard him with contempt. This is Israel’s attempt at international relations and PR: as though speaking in an unpopular collaborationist Arab dictatorship was an achievement. Israeli governments know that if these dictatorships were overthrown, they wouldn’t be able to hold these press conferences making such announcements.

Oh. And this video speaks for itself.

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