lundi 26 janvier 2015

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign


Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign




Exclusive: In November 2002, a group of academics were summoned to advise the then PM. Here, four of them recall that day
COLE MORETON
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/iraq-invasion-2003-the-bloody-warnings-six-wise-men-gave-to-tony-blair-as-he-prepared-to-launch-poorly-planned-campaign-10000839.html
Sunday 25 January 2015


Tony Blair had a cough. He looked sick, pale and exhausted. “Don’t tell me it is going to be bad,” he said to the six men he had summoned to see him in Downing Street as war loomed. “Tell me how bad it will be.”

Those “six wise men” were all academics, expert in Iraq, the Middle East and international affairs. They had been called to the Cabinet Room to outline the worst that could happen if Britain and the United States launched an invasion.

This was a meeting that could have changed the course of history and, with better planning for the aftermath, saved countless lives – if only the Prime Minister and his advisers had listened and acted on the bloody warnings on that day in November 2002.

As we continue to wait for Lord Chilcot’s long-delayed report into Britain’s part in the war, four of those six men have agreed to talk to The Independent on Sunday about how and why things turned out even worse than they predicted. If anybody knows, they do.


The six wise men1 of 6







Next










“They were expecting a short, sharp, easy campaign and that the Iraqis would be grateful,” says Dr Toby Dodge, then of Queen Mary University of London, and the first to speak that morning.

He warned of a possible disaster: that Iraqis would fight for their country against the invaders rather than just celebrate the fall of their leader. A long and nasty civil war could follow. “My aim that day was to tell them as much as I could, so that there would be no excuses and nobody saying, ‘I didn’t know.’”

Blair has been defending himself in advance against the kicking he is expected to get from Lord Chilcot and the panel helping his investigation. There has been outrage at the news that the report will not be published until after the election, but Dr Dodge believes this is partly because members of the panel want to get their draft of history absolutely right – and that they will not pull punches.

“They fought like cats and dogs to get the transcripts of the conversations between Blair and George W Bush,” says the political scientist, who gave evidence to the inquiry’s first gathering back in 2009.

“This is not going to be written in high mandarin. It will be clear and direct. It is going to be damning.”

Professor George Joffe of Cambridge University, who also spoke that morning, and to the panel in 2009, agrees. “I think it is bound to be damning. The errors of judgement were so blatant, there is no way they can whitewash this.”

The six men were assembled around the Cabinet table in 2002 by Sir Lawrence Freedman, professor of war studies at King’s College London and an adviser to Blair. “I simply felt it was important that such decisions should be taken with eyes open about the possible longer-term implications,” he told The Independent on Sunday in 2004. He is now on the Chilcot panel.

Dr Dodge believes the report will criticise Blair’s so-called sofa government, which was “highly informal and backed up with no institutional depth whatsoever. There was no extensive research in terms of risk assessment.”

He expects the panel to attack the chiefs of staff, civil servants and other advisers at the time. “They will damn the diplomats and the top military brass for not doing their job, which was to say, ‘No, minister.’ If Blair was the poodle of Bush then people like Jeremy Heywood [his principal private secretary] served a very poor policy very poorly.”

Others have criticised the Chilcot panel for not pushing witnesses hard enough, but Dr Dodge disagrees. “My reading of the questions was that they were giving them enough rope to hang themselves.”



Families escape from Basra in March 2003 (EPA)

So what did happen? And could lives had been saved if the Prime Minister’s response to that meeting on the morning of Tuesday 19 November 2002 had been different?

“We were heavily briefed,” says Dr Dodge, who is now at the London School of Economics. “They said, ‘Don’t tell him not to do it. He has already made up his mind.’”

So there was no chance of stopping the invasion, or the UK joining it, but what was at stake that morning was the aftermath. What would happen on the day after victory was declared?

“They had no plan for what would happen after the invasion,” says George Joffe. “The approach was, ‘The Americans are heading this up. They will have a detailed plan. We need to follow them.’”

Unfortunately, he says, that was not true. “The State Department had spent a year preparing a detailed briefing about how the after-invasion scenario should be handled. All that was junked. They were making up policy on the hoof.”

The six wise men brought their expertise to Downing Street the day after UN inspectors had arrived in Iraq to look for weapons of mass destruction. Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, was also at No 10, explaining details to the Prime Minister and pointing out places on a number of maps. In other news, the tanker Prestige was spilling 76,000 tons of crude oil into the Atlantic off the Spanish coast.

The meeting began with five-minute presentations by Dr Dodge, Professor Joffe and Professor Charles Tripp of the School for Oriental and Asian Studies, an expert in the Middle East. Professor Joffe emphasised the rigid power structures in Iraq that defined Saddam Hussein as much as he defined them, but became frustrated when the Prime Minister responded by personalising the problem again, saying: “But the man is evil, isn’t he?”

Another expert present was Steven Simon, then deputy director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies. He was also a US diplomat who had been seconded from the State Department; it is unclear whether Blair was aware of this.

Mr Simon now believes that even with greater forward planning the invasion would have had the same catastrophic results, as it was absurd for the White House to think it could bring democracy to Iraq with a war. “If everything had been done differently, there might have been some small shot at avoiding disaster. But only a small shot.”

Professor Joffe disagrees, and believes there could have been a more positive and peaceful outcome if Blair had taken on board what was said that day and used his influence with George W Bush to push for a detailed post-invasion plan that kept stability in the country. “The people who were put in charge in Iraq had very little knowledge or experience of the Middle East,” he says. “There was nobody in leadership with any practical experience of how to handle a transition to democracy like that. They were quite childish in somehow believing that democracy would bloom. This showed ignorance, not only of the region but also of the way politics works.”

The Pentagon and the White House took the decision to remove those at the top of the Iraqi army and the ruling Ba’ath Party, he says, but Paul Bremer took it much further in his role as Governor of Iraq and demolished both entirely. This opened Pandora’s box, says Professor Joffe, by removing the lid that had been in place under Saddam. “Islamic State is a direct consequence of the decision to invade.”

The civil war and violent chaos that followed the war created the right conditions for Islamic State to grow, says Professor Joffe. The movement picked up strength on the ground by forming alliances with the former Ba’ath party leaders who served under Saddam and who still had extensive networks, he says. “Given their sense of alienation from the Shia-led government, their organisation and the reputation of the Ba’ath Party for bringing order in the past, whatever their methods, you can see why Sunni tribes have said, ‘These are the guys we have got to support.’”

The sixth wise man was Professor Michael Clarke, then at King’s College London and now the director general of the Royal United Services Institute. He was neither a hawk nor a dove that day, but “agnostic” about what might happen after an invasion. “Blair knew this was going to be serious,” he says. “He was not blasé about it at all.”

Sir John Chilcot, centre, and his panel (Getty)

The Prime Minister arrived that day looking ill, he says. “He looked like a man who should not have been working full time, a man who was just getting over a virus that had left him worn out.”

Did he look like a man who should not have been making big decisions? “There is no let-up in leadership. The poor guy had to carry on.”

Professor Clarke does believe that the way Tony Blair was already attempting to justify the invasion to the public was a mistake. “We knew there was no nuclear stuff in Iraq,” he says. “We genuinely believed there were battlefield chemical weapons in the country.” Could they be described as weapons of mass destruction? “Yes, because of the indiscriminate effect they could have on the civilian population.”

The irony was that Saddam himself thought he had chemical WMDs, says Professor Clarke, because his own generals had not dared admit to him that they had not built as many as he thought. “Everyone believed the weapons existed but they didn’t because they had deteriorated and Iraq had not built as many as we thought.” Those that were in existence had deteriorated. Each general thought the others had the weapons, but they too were bluffing: “Nobody would tell Saddam the truth.”

What about the public claim that Iraq could launch a chemical strike against British troops in Cyprus within 45 minutes? “That was always absurd,” says Professor Clarke. “Tony Blair fell into the trap of bringing intelligence material into the public debate, which is a very foolish thing to do. Even the best intelligence is always messy.”

He believes Blair did not actually decide to go to war on the basis of intelligence, but made it look as if he had with his two “dodgy” dossiers. “He presented the case to the public as if they had incontrovertible evidence that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. That was rubbish. They were ridiculous documents, both those documents.”

He does not believe Chilcot’s findings will come as a shock. “We all know the basic picture. The Americans committed a strategic blunder. Tony Blair never gave any real thought to not supporting them.”

Like Steven Simon, Professor Clarke believes that it barely occurred to the Prime Minister not to support the invasion, as his first concern had to be about the long-standing relationship between Britain andthe US. “He has been knocked about, but I think history will judge him more kindly than his contemporaries.”

Back in that meeting in 2002, it was Michael Clarke who showed sympathy for the ailing Tony Blair. He was the last to leave the room, and as he did so he placed a hand on the leader’s shoulder, saying, “Good luck, Prime Minister.” What was the reaction? “He gave me a knowing smile and said, ‘Yeah. Thank you.’”

He could probably do with such sympathy now.

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign


Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign




Exclusive: In November 2002, a group of academics were summoned to advise the then PM. Here, four of them recall that day
COLE MORETON
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/iraq-invasion-2003-the-bloody-warnings-six-wise-men-gave-to-tony-blair-as-he-prepared-to-launch-poorly-planned-campaign-10000839.html
Sunday 25 January 2015


Tony Blair had a cough. He looked sick, pale and exhausted. “Don’t tell me it is going to be bad,” he said to the six men he had summoned to see him in Downing Street as war loomed. “Tell me how bad it will be.”

Those “six wise men” were all academics, expert in Iraq, the Middle East and international affairs. They had been called to the Cabinet Room to outline the worst that could happen if Britain and the United States launched an invasion.

This was a meeting that could have changed the course of history and, with better planning for the aftermath, saved countless lives – if only the Prime Minister and his advisers had listened and acted on the bloody warnings on that day in November 2002.

As we continue to wait for Lord Chilcot’s long-delayed report into Britain’s part in the war, four of those six men have agreed to talk to The Independent on Sunday about how and why things turned out even worse than they predicted. If anybody knows, they do.


The six wise men1 of 6







Next










“They were expecting a short, sharp, easy campaign and that the Iraqis would be grateful,” says Dr Toby Dodge, then of Queen Mary University of London, and the first to speak that morning.

He warned of a possible disaster: that Iraqis would fight for their country against the invaders rather than just celebrate the fall of their leader. A long and nasty civil war could follow. “My aim that day was to tell them as much as I could, so that there would be no excuses and nobody saying, ‘I didn’t know.’”

Blair has been defending himself in advance against the kicking he is expected to get from Lord Chilcot and the panel helping his investigation. There has been outrage at the news that the report will not be published until after the election, but Dr Dodge believes this is partly because members of the panel want to get their draft of history absolutely right – and that they will not pull punches.

“They fought like cats and dogs to get the transcripts of the conversations between Blair and George W Bush,” says the political scientist, who gave evidence to the inquiry’s first gathering back in 2009.

“This is not going to be written in high mandarin. It will be clear and direct. It is going to be damning.”

Professor George Joffe of Cambridge University, who also spoke that morning, and to the panel in 2009, agrees. “I think it is bound to be damning. The errors of judgement were so blatant, there is no way they can whitewash this.”

The six men were assembled around the Cabinet table in 2002 by Sir Lawrence Freedman, professor of war studies at King’s College London and an adviser to Blair. “I simply felt it was important that such decisions should be taken with eyes open about the possible longer-term implications,” he told The Independent on Sunday in 2004. He is now on the Chilcot panel.

Dr Dodge believes the report will criticise Blair’s so-called sofa government, which was “highly informal and backed up with no institutional depth whatsoever. There was no extensive research in terms of risk assessment.”

He expects the panel to attack the chiefs of staff, civil servants and other advisers at the time. “They will damn the diplomats and the top military brass for not doing their job, which was to say, ‘No, minister.’ If Blair was the poodle of Bush then people like Jeremy Heywood [his principal private secretary] served a very poor policy very poorly.”

Others have criticised the Chilcot panel for not pushing witnesses hard enough, but Dr Dodge disagrees. “My reading of the questions was that they were giving them enough rope to hang themselves.”



Families escape from Basra in March 2003 (EPA)

So what did happen? And could lives had been saved if the Prime Minister’s response to that meeting on the morning of Tuesday 19 November 2002 had been different?

“We were heavily briefed,” says Dr Dodge, who is now at the London School of Economics. “They said, ‘Don’t tell him not to do it. He has already made up his mind.’”

So there was no chance of stopping the invasion, or the UK joining it, but what was at stake that morning was the aftermath. What would happen on the day after victory was declared?

“They had no plan for what would happen after the invasion,” says George Joffe. “The approach was, ‘The Americans are heading this up. They will have a detailed plan. We need to follow them.’”

Unfortunately, he says, that was not true. “The State Department had spent a year preparing a detailed briefing about how the after-invasion scenario should be handled. All that was junked. They were making up policy on the hoof.”

The six wise men brought their expertise to Downing Street the day after UN inspectors had arrived in Iraq to look for weapons of mass destruction. Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, was also at No 10, explaining details to the Prime Minister and pointing out places on a number of maps. In other news, the tanker Prestige was spilling 76,000 tons of crude oil into the Atlantic off the Spanish coast.

The meeting began with five-minute presentations by Dr Dodge, Professor Joffe and Professor Charles Tripp of the School for Oriental and Asian Studies, an expert in the Middle East. Professor Joffe emphasised the rigid power structures in Iraq that defined Saddam Hussein as much as he defined them, but became frustrated when the Prime Minister responded by personalising the problem again, saying: “But the man is evil, isn’t he?”

Another expert present was Steven Simon, then deputy director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies. He was also a US diplomat who had been seconded from the State Department; it is unclear whether Blair was aware of this.

Mr Simon now believes that even with greater forward planning the invasion would have had the same catastrophic results, as it was absurd for the White House to think it could bring democracy to Iraq with a war. “If everything had been done differently, there might have been some small shot at avoiding disaster. But only a small shot.”

Professor Joffe disagrees, and believes there could have been a more positive and peaceful outcome if Blair had taken on board what was said that day and used his influence with George W Bush to push for a detailed post-invasion plan that kept stability in the country. “The people who were put in charge in Iraq had very little knowledge or experience of the Middle East,” he says. “There was nobody in leadership with any practical experience of how to handle a transition to democracy like that. They were quite childish in somehow believing that democracy would bloom. This showed ignorance, not only of the region but also of the way politics works.”

The Pentagon and the White House took the decision to remove those at the top of the Iraqi army and the ruling Ba’ath Party, he says, but Paul Bremer took it much further in his role as Governor of Iraq and demolished both entirely. This opened Pandora’s box, says Professor Joffe, by removing the lid that had been in place under Saddam. “Islamic State is a direct consequence of the decision to invade.”

The civil war and violent chaos that followed the war created the right conditions for Islamic State to grow, says Professor Joffe. The movement picked up strength on the ground by forming alliances with the former Ba’ath party leaders who served under Saddam and who still had extensive networks, he says. “Given their sense of alienation from the Shia-led government, their organisation and the reputation of the Ba’ath Party for bringing order in the past, whatever their methods, you can see why Sunni tribes have said, ‘These are the guys we have got to support.’”

The sixth wise man was Professor Michael Clarke, then at King’s College London and now the director general of the Royal United Services Institute. He was neither a hawk nor a dove that day, but “agnostic” about what might happen after an invasion. “Blair knew this was going to be serious,” he says. “He was not blasé about it at all.”

Sir John Chilcot, centre, and his panel (Getty)

The Prime Minister arrived that day looking ill, he says. “He looked like a man who should not have been working full time, a man who was just getting over a virus that had left him worn out.”

Did he look like a man who should not have been making big decisions? “There is no let-up in leadership. The poor guy had to carry on.”

Professor Clarke does believe that the way Tony Blair was already attempting to justify the invasion to the public was a mistake. “We knew there was no nuclear stuff in Iraq,” he says. “We genuinely believed there were battlefield chemical weapons in the country.” Could they be described as weapons of mass destruction? “Yes, because of the indiscriminate effect they could have on the civilian population.”

The irony was that Saddam himself thought he had chemical WMDs, says Professor Clarke, because his own generals had not dared admit to him that they had not built as many as he thought. “Everyone believed the weapons existed but they didn’t because they had deteriorated and Iraq had not built as many as we thought.” Those that were in existence had deteriorated. Each general thought the others had the weapons, but they too were bluffing: “Nobody would tell Saddam the truth.”

What about the public claim that Iraq could launch a chemical strike against British troops in Cyprus within 45 minutes? “That was always absurd,” says Professor Clarke. “Tony Blair fell into the trap of bringing intelligence material into the public debate, which is a very foolish thing to do. Even the best intelligence is always messy.”

He believes Blair did not actually decide to go to war on the basis of intelligence, but made it look as if he had with his two “dodgy” dossiers. “He presented the case to the public as if they had incontrovertible evidence that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. That was rubbish. They were ridiculous documents, both those documents.”

He does not believe Chilcot’s findings will come as a shock. “We all know the basic picture. The Americans committed a strategic blunder. Tony Blair never gave any real thought to not supporting them.”

Like Steven Simon, Professor Clarke believes that it barely occurred to the Prime Minister not to support the invasion, as his first concern had to be about the long-standing relationship between Britain andthe US. “He has been knocked about, but I think history will judge him more kindly than his contemporaries.”

Back in that meeting in 2002, it was Michael Clarke who showed sympathy for the ailing Tony Blair. He was the last to leave the room, and as he did so he placed a hand on the leader’s shoulder, saying, “Good luck, Prime Minister.” What was the reaction? “He gave me a knowing smile and said, ‘Yeah. Thank you.’”

He could probably do with such sympathy now.

dimanche 25 janvier 2015

UNHCR's access to IDP and refugee locations in Iraq

2015 UNHCR country operations profile - Iraq
| Overview |
Working environment



PLEASE CLICK ON THE PICTURE TO ENLARGE


The escalation of armed conflict across the central governorates of Iraq, and the constantly changing security situation, have resulted in new and secondary movements of internally displaced people (IDPs) across central Iraq and the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KR-I).


UNHCR's access to some IDP and refugee locations (particularly in central Iraq), as well as the ability of IDPs and refugees to transit through certain areas of Iraq, will likely remain restricted.


Newly displaced people in Iraq find their limited financial resources quickly depleted by the increasing costs of accommodation and basic foods.


The number of Iraqis seeking refuge in other countries is rising considerably; however, it is anticipated that the Syrian refugee population currently in Iraq will probably remain at a similar level or increase slightly, depending on developments in the north-eastern part of the Syrian Arab Republic (Syria).


The central Government and KR-I authorities have contributed to the IDP and Syrian refugee response with: registration, core relief item (CRI) distribution, cash assistance, essential services in collective centres, and land allocation and site preparation for camps.

PLEASE SEE/:

http://www.unhcr.org/pages/49e486426.html

Refugees In Iraqi Camps Face Harrowing Winter


Refugees In Iraqi Camps Face Harrowing Winter
HuffPost Spain | By Antonio Ponce

Posted: 01/24/2015


Despite the latest successes of the Iraqi Army and the forces of the Kurdish regional government, known as the peshmerga, hundreds of thousands of refugees in Iraq are facing a harrowing winter in makeshift camps across the country.

Numbers of the United Nations’ Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), published in January indicated that there were 2,047,700 refugees in Iraq alone. More than 300,000 of them are Syrians who have fled the brutal civil war in their home country. A majority, however, are Iraqis that have been internally displaced. Most refugees are now living in the Kurdistan Region, in the northeastern part of the country.


A group of young Yazidi refugees.

In 2014, when fighters of the Islamic State group crossed the Syrian border and conquered Iraq's second largest city, Mosul, ethnic and religious persecutions flared up across the country. The extremists mainly targeted Kurds, Shiites and other minorities, but thousands of Sunnis also decided to flee their homes in occupied cities rather than face the zero-tolerance doctrines of the Islamic State.

Now, more than two million refugees are confronting winter with few or no resources. International humanitarian assistance can't cope with the refugees’ most basic needs.

At the Barika Refugee Camp near Sulaymaniyah, nearly 1,200 families pile up around muddied streets. The mere act of walking is difficult. Sanitary conditions are awful. Many of the refugees feel the government has abandoned them. They say the camps are poorly managed and that the relief efforts have not been enough.


A refugee washing his hands in the middle of the muddied streets of the Barika Refugee Camp. The houses were paid for by the refugees out of their own pockets. The government only funded a small part.

“People send us money. We know that there is help, but we are not receiving it,” says Munir, a refugee who decided to build his own modest concrete house after two years of displacement. “The government subsidized a room where we could barely fit a kitchen. We had to pay for the rest with our own savings.”

Thousands of families have done the same thing, and now Barika has become an improvised city of 8,000 refugees. Some small shops business have recently sprouted between the mud-flooded streets and the gray buildings.

In Arbat, ten minutes by car from Barika, Hussein Ali's family has two tents for ten people. “We only have one heater,” he says. The Ali family are Yazidis from Sinjar, who fled from the Iraqi city months ago fearing the advance of the Islamic State. Hussein says he lives with bitter memories and claims that the peshmerga escaped from Mount Sinjar and left his religious minority to fend for themselves. Last August, the Islamic State group executed at least 500 Yazidis. They also sold hundreds of captured women as slaves in Mosul.

The conditions in Arbat are the same or worse than those in Barika. A small covered building serves both as the school and as the center for food distribution. Dozens of families line up in front of it every day to claim their daily rations.



The inside of Munir’s house. He is a Kurdish refugee from Syria who now lives at Barika.

The refugees are pessimistic about their future. Some say they have lost all trust in their government and refuse to return to their homes. The atrocities of the Islamic State are still too fresh in their minds.

One of the refugees shows his body, full of scars and burns. He refuses to give his name or to appear in front of the camera. He says he's a former Iraqi Army soldier. When the jihadists reached his village, he says, they set his house on fire while he was inside with the rest of his family.


The refugee camp at Arbat.

The situation is becoming desperate. Few refugees in the camps can find jobs. Even in large cities like Sulaymaniyah or Erbil, it’s hard to find employment.

Muhammed Kamil, a young man who is studying to become a doctor, says that there is growing racism among the Kurds.

“Many see them as terrorists or as bad people, even though they are refugees. The fact is that many Sunnis supported Saddam Hussein in the past and now support the Islamic State. This has worsened an already bad situation,” Kamil says.

Kamil and his sister are Kurds and they both work with an association called IFMSA-Kurdistan, a group that collects food and medicines for the refugees. “We are all people and human beings. I have Arab friends in Baghdad and they’ve always treated me like an equal.”



A line of refugees waiting for basic foods.

Abdul al-Baqi, another refugee, says his family is trying to find something positive in their current situation by comparing it to their lives in Damascus.

“In Syria, my shop was destroyed during the protests, the government was after us,” he says. “The only thing that we have here is peace, but at least that is something.”



Inside of a tent at Camp Arbat.



This post originally appeared on HuffPost Spain and was translated into English.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/24/iraqi-isis-refugees_n_6526540.html?utm_hp_ref=tw

samedi 24 janvier 2015

The Chilcot inquiry: September 11 and the road to the Iraq War

The Chilcot inquiry: September 11 and the road to the Iraq War
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/the-chilcot-inquiry-september-11-and-the-road-to-the-iraq-war-9999788.html




The Iraq Report – Part 1: The beginning
ANDY MCSMITH

Friday 23 January 2015

After six years and nearly £9m, the report of Sir John Chilcot’s inquiry into Britain’s involvement in the Iraq war remains unpublished – and, we were told this week, will not be published this side of the general election.


Will the British public ever be told the truth about a conflict that millions of them opposed, whose lethal fallout can still be felt across the world today?

In the absence of an official account, this series of articles – based on evidence given to the inquiry and other accounts that are already in the public domain – is an attempt to set down in writing, as objectively as possible, the known facts and unresolved questions of one of the most bitterly controversial episodes in recent British history

***

Tony Blair was in a hotel room reading through the speech he was due to deliver to the TUC annual conference when Alastair Campbell came bursting in and insisted that he switch on the television. At 1.46pm British time, a Boeing 767 passenger airliner had hit the north tower of the World Trade Centre in New York. The south tower was hit 17 minutes later.
READ MORE:THE IRAQ REPORT – PART 2: INVASION AND OCCUPATION OF IRAQ
THE IRAQ REPORT – PART 3: THE AFTERMATH
THE IRAQ REPORT – PART 4: TIMELINE OF EVENTS
THE IRAQ REPORT – PART 5: THE KEY PROTAGONISTS
THE IRAQ REPORT – PART 6: A SUMMARY OF THE IRAQ WAR BY NUMBERS

The Prime Minister grasped at once that what he was seeing, from the Grand Hotel, Brighton, on 11 September 2001, was seminal, a pivotal moment in world affairs. There would obviously be a reaction from the US government that would be felt across the world: and whatever the US did, Blair decided, the UK must back them up.

“TB said that we had to help the US, that they could not go it on their own, that they felt beleaguered and this would be tantamount to a military attack in their minds,” Campbell recorded in his diary.

Tony Blair was not, of course, the only head of government to promise to be at America’s side as it embarked on what became known as the “war on terror”. One of the first world leaders on the phone to Washington was the German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder. The day after the attack, he reported to the Bundestag that he had promised Bush “Germany’s full – I repeat, full – solidarity.” The first foreign head of government to visit the smouldering remains of New York’s Twin Towers was France’s President Jacques Chirac one week after the attack. Standing on US soil, he announced: “France, I can tell you, will not stand aside in a fight against a scourge that defies all democracies.”

Though neither Chirac nor Schroder said so at the time, their promise of support was not unconditional: it depended on what the US decided to do. Within 14 months, Schroder and Chirac were meeting to co-ordinate their opposition to the planned invasion of Iraq.

But when Tony Blair broadcast from Downing Street on the evening of 11 September, promising that “we here in Britain stand shoulder to shoulder with our American friends”, there was no unspoken codicil. He fully intended to go wherever the Americans went.


The Iraq War: A timeline1 of 17



jeudi 22 janvier 2015

Erbil committee finds Kurdistan officials implicated in illegal trade with ISIS


by Saeed Sahen Mufti – Rudaw – 21 Jan 2015 – ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – A committee investigating Kurdish officials smuggling cars, food and fuel across territories held by the Islamic State (ISIS) said that the illegal trade amounted to $1 million a day. According to a final report by the committee on the smuggling, a number of officials from the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Peshmerga have been involved in the illegal trade. Firsat Sofi, a KDP member of the Kurdish parliament said the identities of people arrested for involvement in the smuggling had not been disclosed by the committee.



“We asked about the identity of those detainees. Some of them were tanker drivers, senior political members and merchants. Even if we knew the names we would not reveal them since that would be illegal, since the judiciary must deal with this issue and we will see the verdicts soon.”

Fakhraddin Qadir, another Kurdish MP who is from the Kurdistan Islamic Group (Komal) said: “We believe that any kind of relationship with ISIS is treachery, and we will hold a meeting in the parliament concerning the smuggling cases if we are asked.” The investigative committee includes the KRG’s interior minister and natural resources minister.

KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani has warned that anyone caught smuggling with ISIS would be punished. “Anyone caught smuggling with ISIS should be considered a traitor and the government must punish them,” he has said.The autonomous Kurdistan Region in northern Iraq sits on a border with ISIS that is more than 1,000 kilometers long. The insurgent group blazed across Iraq’s mainly Sunni territories in June, capturing a third of the country. According to US-based Foreign Policy magazine, ISIS has become the world’s richest terrorist group through oil smuggling, theft, human trafficking and hostage-taking. Intelligence officials and private experts say the group has become a self sustaining financial force and is said to be earning more than $3 million from these activities.

Muqdadiyah Provincial Council calls for urgent investigation about giant helicopters landing in ISIS strongholds


January 21, 2015 by Abdelhak Mamoun

http://www.iraqinews.com/iraq-war/muqdadiyah-provincial-council-calls-urgent-investigation-giant-helicopters-landing-isis-strongholds/




(IraqiNews.com) On Tuesday, Municipal Council in Muqdadiya in the Diyala province demanded to investigate the landing of unknown giant helicopters in the heart of ISIS strongholds northern the district, stressing the need to detect and clarify the facts before the public opinion.

Council chairman Adnan al-Tamimi said in an interview for IraqiNews.com, “The Municipal Council in Muqdadiyah received many calls from eyewitnesses in the villages of northern the district, about seeing unknown giant helicopters landing in the heart of ISIS stronghold in Sensl and Hanbs villages (13 km north of Muqdadiyah) yesterday evening. They were dropping off boxes, supplies and dozens of gunmen.”

Tamimi called the Security Institution for “urgent investigation of the incident because it may reveal a new plot against the district by some hostile forces in support of terrorism, especially with the imminent launch of large-scale military operation to purge the ISIS strongholds north of the district.”

Tamimi said, “The Council of Muqdadiyah will provide all assistance to any investigative committee, especially with contacting witnesses and recording their evidence,” stressing the need to “detect and clarify the facts before the public opinion.”

British parliamentary committee breaks historic taboo on Kurdish independence


British parliamentary committee breaks historic taboo on Kurdish independence
By GARY KENT


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The stark starting point of the influential and bipartisan Foreign Affairs Committee's long-awaited report on the Kurdistan Region is that the future of Iraq as a nation state is in question as never before. It judges that the clock is ticking on whether Iraq can be stitched back into a functioning whole.



In essence, the 30,000 word blockbuster report says: a centralised Iraq has gone, a looser federation is better, and the Brits can quietly help mend fences but must get their diplomatic act together. The priority for the time being is defeating Daish but Kurdish independence is a medium-term possibility. Britain should work with the Kurds, who are on the same side as the west and ahead of many in the Middle East but who should embrace major internal reform.



The report recognises rational fears of the unpredictable consequences of independence but also that the Kurds, who tried to make Iraq work but got Maliki's disastrous sectarian autocracy, are rational in seeking increased self-governance or even independence.


The priority for the time being is defeating Daish but Kurdish independence is a medium-term possibility.




The report, which praises PM Abadi's promising start, supports a looser Iraqi federation because highly centralised rule under a 'strongman' in Baghdad has not worked and never will. It enters important caveats about independence. Much depends on energy self-sufficiency, which is more difficult given falling oil prices. The internal southern border needs fixing by finalising the status of the disputed territories. It notes the opposition of Turkey and Iran to independence.



Independence is currently paused but if it returns once Daish is defeated or degraded the UK and its partners should stand ready to help ensure that any clear expression of will for independence on reasonable terms is accepted and respected. Independence should be with the consent of the rest of Iraq. In my view, independence requires at least Baghdad's acquiescence to ensure good neighbourly relations and prevent Iraqi revanchism souring relations for decades.



Britain's priority in any case, it stresses, should be deepening an already strong and trusting partnership with what it calls a genuine Kurdish democracy, albeit an imperfect and still developing one, and a beacon of tolerance and moderation in a region of rising extremism and instability.



The report candidly describes Kurdistan's society as often traditional, conservative and patriarchal. Its shortcomings include a tendency to dynastic political rule, regional and tribal voting rather than informed policy choice, new wealth accruing to a politically connected elite, patronage as an instrument of political power, public sector inefficiency, a politicised and divided Peshmerga, party militias, insufficient media freedom, and police violence.



The report says that the Daish crisis has deferred domestic differences but an increasingly sophisticated electorate, including a better educated and more travelled young urban middle class, probably won't allow new politics to be postponed indefinitely. It encourages equitably sharing the harvest of a growing economy. It recognises the historic reasons for a 'Big Tent' of all parties in government but regrets the lack of an Opposition.



But it adds that any shortcomings are of a lesser order of magnitude than other British partners. Furthermore, Kurdistan's values are broadly those of Britain, which is fortunate that the relatively moderate, pragmatic, stable, democratic, secular and reflexively pro-Western KRG wishes to be its ally. Britain should respond positively to the KRG’s invitation to be its partner of choice on trade, education, cultural exchange, defence and intelligence matters or the KRG may feel compelled to deepen links with powers who may not share British values.


Independence is currently paused but if it returns once Daish is defeated or degraded the UK and its partners should stand ready to help ensure that any clear expression of will for independence,




The report itemises British actions to deepen its diplomatic presence, tackle visa problems, and advance direct flights. It backs the supply of heavy weapons but linked to clear evidence of Peshmerga reform. It stresses UK mentoring in developing public sector reform and a human rights culture.



The report disputes ministerial assertions that the British government's hands are legally tied on recognising the Anfal. Britain could emulate governments that politically recognised other genocides. Kurds are generously helping refugees, it says, but the strain could disastrously destabilise Kurdistan and international bodies must bolster the KRG's humanitarian efforts. It also questions the British government's refusal to recognise the PYD in Syria.



The report is richer in analysis and detail than I convey briefly here. While it says as it finds on controversial internal questions, it is passionate in urging bigger and better connections on the basis of shared values and hard economics. It is a far cry from the days when British policy-makers trotted out tired reasons why Kurds must stay in Iraq, whatever. Independence is for the Kurds to decide but they may now reasonably expect some slack from a major power, which was the 'midwife of modern Iraq'. The report breaks the British taboo on Kurdish independence and firmly puts Anglo-Kurdish links on the radar. In March, the British government will reply to this landmark report, which should be seized with enthusiasm.



The full report is at http://www.parliament.uk/facom



* Gary Kent is the director of All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG). He writes this column for Rudaw in a personal capacity.

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