Select Committee on Defence Third Report


The Government's objectives

345. The UK's overall objective for the military campaign was to create the conditions for Iraqi disarmament. One of the tasks flowing from this objective was to 'secure essential economic infrastructure, including for utilities and transport, from sabotage and wilful destruction by Iraq'. The Government's wider political objectives included:

346. The immediate military priorities for the coalition in the wake of hostilities were set out as follows:

347. In a press statement on 16 March 2003, the Prime Minister made the following 'pledge to the people of Iraq':

    we will help Iraq rebuild, and not rebuild because of the problems of conflict, where if it comes to that we will do everything we can to minimise the suffering of the Iraqi people. But rebuild Iraq because of the appalling legacy that the rule of Saddam has left the Iraqi people. And that in particular Iraq's natural resources remain the property of the people of Iraq and that wealth should be used for the Iraqi people.[513]

In a document published on the following day, A Vision for Iraq and the Iraqi People, the Government stated:

    Our presence in Iraq if military action is required to secure compliance with UN resolutions will be temporary. But our commitment to support the people of Iraq will be for the long term. The Iraqi people deserve to be lifted from tyranny and allowed to determine the future of their country for themselves. We pledge to work with the international community to ensure that the Iraqi people can exploit their country's resources for their own benefit, and contribute to their own reconstruction, with international support where needed. We wish to help the Iraqi people restore their country to its proper dignity and place in the community of nations, abiding by its international obligations and free from UN sanctions.[514]

And in an article in the Arab press on 29 March 2003, the Prime Minister made clear that:

    Our quarrel is not with the Iraqi people but with Saddam, his sons, and his barbarous regime which has brought misery and terror to their country. I recognise that the Iraqi people have been the biggest victims of Saddam's rule. This is not a war of conquest but of liberation.[515]

348. Thus the Government made clear before hostilities commenced that any military campaign would be directed against the Iraqi regime, rather than against Iraq as a country or against the Iraqi people. It is right to judge Operation Telic not only by asking how successfully the campaign against the Iraqi regime was prosecuted, but also by asking whether the Government took all reasonable steps to meet the pledges made to the Iraqi people through the UK's published objectives for the military campaign and through statements made by the Prime Minister and others.

349. The rules of international humanitarian law apply when a territory comes under enemy control during an armed conflict. According to Article 42 of the 1907 Hague Regulations 'territory is considered occupied when it is actually placed under the authority of the hostile army.' This only applies to territory 'where such authority has been established and can be exercised.' The Fourth Geneva Convention contains provisions applicable in occupied territories. The duties of the Occupying Power include restoring and ensuring public order and safety; providing the population with food and medical supplies; maintaining medical facilities and services; ensuring public health and hygiene; and facilitating the work of educational institutions. Prohibited actions include forcibly transferring protected persons from the occupied territories to the territory of the Occupying Power; compelling protected persons to serve in the armed forces of the Occupying Power; and looting.[516] As MoD states, 'the UK has not been an Occupying Power in another country for many years and in the meantime international law has changed dramatically.'[517]

Plans and preparations

350. As we have discussed, British involvement in the planning for military operations in Iraq began around the middle of 2002. Planning for the aftermath of any conflict began at much the same time. This was the point at which the Government 'really started to focus on the sort of planning that we should have in place if a conflict was to take place, the situation we would be left with after and how it should be handled'.[518] We took evidence on two occasions from representatives of three of the most heavily involved Departments—MoD, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the Department for International Development (DfID)—on their respective roles, the effectiveness of the Government's planning for the post-conflict situation, and any lessons that the Government had learned in the light of the months succeeding the combat phase of operations.[519]

351. Initially, Whitehall planning was co-ordinated through the Cabinet Office, the Department generally responsible for joined-up Government.[520] Then, on 10 February 2003, an Iraq Planning Unit[521] was set up in FCO to bring together people from across Government in what had by then become a 'fairly constant' planning process.[522]

352. DfID was a key player in planning for the post-conflict situation in Iraq. It therefore worked 'closely with the Ministry of Defence in its planning to minimise the humanitarian consequences of the conflict; deploying humanitarian advisers to work alongside the UK military; posting staff to Iraq to liaise with humanitarian agencies; and pre-positioning humanitarian supplies in the region.'[523] DfID provided two humanitarian advisers to work alongside the UK military both before and during the conflict, with a third adviser deployed at the end of the combat phase.[524] DfID seems to have been very active in ensuring that it was able to feed not only into the British military structures but also into US-led structures intended to provide for the needs of the Iraqi people:

    We had people embedded with the military before the conflict started, during the conflict and after. In addition, we had people seconded to ORHA[525] and the CPA who were working alongside the military, working in ORHA and the CPA. So as well as actually embedded people (and we were giving advice more than anything else), once we had our own staff and consultants deployed they were working alongside, in the same structures and very closely with, the military. Similarly, contractors, that we funded to get things up and running in the south, were also, I believe, working very closely with the military, who were doing some of that work.[526]

353. DfID's active pre-conflict preparations centred on channelling funds (initially some £16.5 million) and co-ordinating relief through UN agencies, NGOs and the International Committees of the Red Cross and Red Crescent. Most of their preparations were focussed on averting a humanitarian crisis 'possibly as a consequence of large-scale refugee flows or disruption to essential services such as water and food distribution'.[527]

354. As well as co-ordinating work on post-conflict planning and reconstruction across Government from February 2003, FCO took measures to influence US planning. Initially this involved 'drafting planning papers and sharing with the Americans', but FCO:

    fairly quickly realised … that the most effective way to feed our thoughts in was to have people seconded alongside the Americans and so we did that. So while that organisation [ORHA] was still in Washington, we had people working alongside, people like Major General Tim Cross and some people from the FCO who then moved with that organisation when it deployed forward to Kuwait and then moved again with them up to Baghdad and all the time we were adding secondees as the situation was seen to demand it.[528]

A less operational Department than DfID, FCO did not have members of staff embedded within the military before or during the combat phase.[529]

355. Our witnesses put it to us that joined-up British involvement in coalition planning helped to 'raise the profile' of post-conflict issues in Washington, and stimulated 'inter-agency discussions' in the US that might not otherwise have taken place,[530] although it seems to be the case that British civil servants only plugged into US planning at a relatively late stage, certainly long after they were aware that it was happening. Being a junior partner in a coalition constrained the British Government in its ability to plan independently for after the conflict.[531]



356. We have already seen how the need to keep open (and to be seen to be keeping open) the option of a solution other than through military action imposed certain constraints on military planning and pre-positioning for a conflict. Lessons for the Future claims that planning for a post-conflict Iraq was even more constrained:

357. This may be true in those areas in which planning might have been seen to imply not only the intent to take military action, but also the intent to stage a prolonged occupation. But, in general, we would expect the knowledge that the coalition was undertaking planning to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe in the aftermath of a military conflict to be reassuring, rather than controversial, both domestically and internationally. Furthermore within Iraq it could have been seen as a further sign of the coalition's genuine intent to use military force if required to. We do not understand why the Government did not make the case in these terms for undertaking proper planning and preparation for the post-conflict phase and why the Department for International Development did not make greater preparations for post-conflict reconstruction of Iraq at an earlier stage. We discuss below the efforts made to bring together a coherent and over-arching information campaign, but we believe that it was a misjudgement by the Government to have decided that planning to meet the needs of the Iraqi people following a conflict was particularly sensitive—more sensitive, even, than the deploying of military forces. This misjudgement unnecessarily constrained planning for the post-conflict phase.

358. It has also been suggested that DfID's role in post-conflict planning was constrained by the attitude of the then Secretary of State towards the prospect of military action. Although our witness from DfID denied that this was the case,[533] we remain to be convinced.


359. It had always been the stated aim of the coalition to ensure the continued existence of a single Iraqi state. Plans for the governance of a post-conflict Iraq would therefore necessarily have to be co-ordinated between the coalition partners, even though British forces had a territorially distinct area of operations in the south-east of the country. However joined-up British plans were, this would be of limited effect on the ground, unless US plans were similarly joined-up.

360. There were persistent rumours in the media before and immediately after the conflict of wrangling between the US State Department and the Department of Defense (DoD) over plans for a post-conflict Iraq. When we visited Washington in February 2003, we gained the impression from the State Department that planning for the future of Iraq was well under way. Yet, in the event, this planning seems not to have been implemented on the ground. Essentially, the planning of which we heard in the State Department seems to have been discarded by the DoD, as our British Government witnesses came close to admitting:

361. Mr Lee also told us that US planning was concentrated on the conflict phase rather than on planning for a post-conflict Iraq:

    To be fair to the US, they themselves were thinking about the nature of a post conflict or a day after planning task, but at that stage clearly an awful lot of energy was going into the preparations for a potential conflict and it was quite difficult for anyone to leap over that and have plans of equal specificity for an unknown period afterwards.[536]

Yet this was supposed to be an effects-based operation, where the desired effects involved creating stability in Iraq and a better quality of life for the Iraqi people.

362. It is a truism that reconstruction is far more difficult than destruction, and to plan for the unknown aftermath of a conflict involves difficult guesswork. But this implies that planning for a precarious post-conflict situation requires more effort and thought, not less. We detected in the answers of our witnesses a certain frustration at the failure of the US Administration to conduct joined-up planning. As we have noted elsewhere, difficulties in achieving joined-up working in the US Administration were not limited to post-conflict planning. Nevertheless, the poor co-ordination of planning within the US Administration meant that better co-ordinated British input into the process had less impact than it should have had.

363. During our visit to Basra in July 2003 we encountered an issue which epitomised the careful balance to be struck between making economic and social improvements in one part of Iraq and the unity of Iraq as a whole. This was the question of whether and when to reopen Basra airport to civilian traffic. It highlighted for us the limits to British freedom of action in the south-east of the country. As was explained to us:

    The decision about opening Basra airport might be seen to have a consequence for what happens in other airports in Iraq … Any decisions which have the effect of dividing the country up prematurely, or at all in fact, into different almost sub-states, might be viewed as being a not entirely desirable thing to do. From a UK point of view, as we said earlier on, one of our objectives is to maintain the entire territorial integrity of Iraq.[537]

364. In general, British freedom of action in the south-east of Iraq since the combat phase has been significantly constrained by the need to act within a political and financial framework set from Baghdad:

    there is an overall situation here that the CPA is trying to lead policy now, in conjunction with the Iraqi Governing Council, for the whole of Iraq … As long as you are not trying to do things which interfere with some of the broader principles, we probably have a lot of freedom of action. There are certain issues where you do stumble across that and then of course there are financial issues, where the larger amounts of money at the moment are under the control centrally of the CPA and therefore there is a constraint in that dimension.[538]

The need to maintain a unified Iraq under central control has been a constraint—usually a reasonable constraint—on British freedom of action in the south-east of the country.

365. A further factor which made effective action more difficult during the post-conflict phase (far more than the combat phase) was the failure to bring together a widely based coalition of nations with United Nations backing. Ms Carolyn Miller, Director, Europe, Middle East and Americas Division, DfID, told us that the Government 'had envisaged that the international community would play a stronger role earlier on' and noted the absence of the 'international agencies which are able to do these things better and more quickly than bilateral donors'.[539] Perversely, the failure of the wider international community to support the coalition's military action did little or nothing to constrain that action, but did make it more difficult for the coalition to restore law and order and to administer Iraq once hostilities were over.

Planning assumptions for the transitional phase

366. Plans were made for a wide variety of scenarios. But a number of assumptions which underlay the planning turned out to be mistaken.

367. The Government's preparations to assist the Iraqi people concentrated largely on seeking to avert a humanitarian crisis. As our witnesses told us:

Similarly, planning in the US concentrated on humanitarian issues:

    ORHA was really designed, as far as we could see, to prepare mainly for humanitarian issues. It did not have a great focus in the early stages on the other issues which needed to be addressed.[542]

368. There was no humanitarian crisis, and the Government's preparations for such a crisis proved to be in excess of what was actually needed.[543] This has been attributed in part to the speed of the coalition's military success. But the Government has also argued that coalition efforts to pre-position supplies helped. DfID has written that 'an effective UK military effort, with DFID advice and support, helped to avoid a humanitarian crisis in southern Iraq', and we were told that 'getting food pre-positioned and all those things will have made a difference'.[544] MoD claims that 'a combination of coalition preparedness and the sheer speed of the operation meant that a humanitarian crisis did not have time to develop; in most areas, for example, the fighting passed so rapidly that there simply was no time for significant refugee flows to become established.'[545] Mr Edward Chaplin, Director, Middle East and North Africa, FCO, agreed that the absence of a crisis was brought about 'partly by the skill of doing things like seizing the oil fields early, partly by the swiftness of the campaign, so there were no huge flows of refugees'.[546]

369. In evidence to us, the Government has argued that it was 'quite right' for it to have planned for a humanitarian disaster, even though this did not materialise: 'that might have been the outcome and we would have been criticised if we had not done so'.[547] We agree. The Government was right to plan for a humanitarian crisis. Such a situation might have arisen, and the Government would have been rightly condemned if its preparations had been inadequate.

370. It is another question, however, whether the Government planned adequately for other eventualities. The Government has come in for particular criticism for its preparations for maintaining law and order in Iraq, especially in the immediate aftermath of the removal of Saddam Hussein's regime. Our witnesses indicated that they had not anticipated the extent to which the security situation would deteriorate: 'It was certainly something we discussed and we had flagged up. It was just the absolute extent to which it broke down that perhaps we had not quite anticipated.'[548]

371. One of our earlier witnesses, Mr Mark Urban of the BBC, told us that he was aware of planning in Government some weeks before the conflict for the possibility of what he called 'catastrophic collapse' ('a planning assumption that because of the nature of the state, the whole thing just implodes and there is absolutely no authority, no order or whatever').[549] But when pressed on this point, witnesses from MoD said that they were unaware of planning having taken place in these 'stark terms'.[550]

372. It is evident that the Government expected to be able to rely to some extent on existing Iraqi administrative and security structures to govern the country, at least in the immediate post-conflict phase:

    There was an assumption in our plans that there would be Iraqi police and to some extent Iraqi Army who could be used to provide a certain level of security. I do not think we assumed, certainly in the case of the Iraqi civil police, that they would all melt away to the extent they did and that we would have to start again from scratch in putting together a police force.[551]

    In terms of stability after the conflict, as has already been mentioned, we made an assumption which turned out to be an underestimate, about the extent to which you would still have Iraqi administrative structures to deal with, both in the civil service and in the police. We perhaps also underestimated the extent to which the total dysfunctionality of Iraqi society after years of suffering under Saddam Hussein meant that the looting problem turned out to be a larger problem, going on for longer than we had perhaps assumed.[552]

373. MoD has stated that 'it was only after the fall of the regime that the extent of Baath party domination of nearly all aspects of the Iraq state and society became clear' and implies that 'the impact of the sudden collapse of the regime … with the removal not just of top officials, but the whole of senior and most of middle management' could not therefore have been predicted. This argument was repeated by Mr Lee, who told us:

    What I do not think was clear before the event and I am not sure whether it could have been clear to anyone, was the extent to which the people on the receiving end of this state apparatus were oppressed by it and there was a difficulty in predicting their behaviour after the state apparatus was removed.[553]

The argument is that the Government did not and could not be expected to understand the extent of Baath party domination of Iraq or the effects of this domination on the people of Iraq.

374. A draft resolution adopted by the UN Commission on Human Rights in April 2002 (and following other resolutions in similar terms) condemned 'the systematic, widespread and extremely grave violations of human rights and of international humanitarian law by the Government of Iraq, resulting in an all-pervasive repression and oppression sustained by broad-based discrimination and widespread terror'. In his speech to the House of Commons on 18 March the Prime Minister described the Iraqi regime:

    The brutality of the repression—the death and torture camps, the barbaric prisons for political opponents, the routine beatings for anyone or their families suspected of disloyalty—is well documented… I recall a few weeks ago talking to an Iraqi exile and saying to her that I understood how grim it must be under the lash of Saddam. 'But you don't', she replied. 'You cannot. You do not know what it is like to live in perpetual fear.' And she is right. We take our freedom for granted. But imagine what it must be like not to be able to speak or discuss or debate or even question the society you live in. To see friends and family taken away and never daring to complain. To suffer the humility of failing courage in face of pitiless terror.[554]

An intelligence-derived paper, used to inform the Government's dossier of February 2003 is entirely devoted to showing the total extent of the influence of the Baath regime and the fear that this engendered in the Iraqi people:

    Commentators compare Iraq with the repressive regimes in Syria and Egypt but these are mild in comparison. The best analogy is to Stalin's Soviet Union in the 1930s with show trials, the terror and the systematic deceit of all foreign visitors by all who meet them, on pain of torture and death.[555]

375. While the repressive nature of Saddam Hussein's regime was not the reason for going to war with Iraq, it was much used by the Government in persuading the public that the campaign would be to the ultimate benefit of the Iraqi people. For the Government to argue that it was unaware of the extent of the repressive brutality of the Iraqi regime strains credibility. It was widely known, not least because of information published by the Government. A separate question, which we examine below, is whether the Government and Armed Forces should have predicted the effect that the removal of such a repressive regime would have on the Iraqi people.[556]

Insecurity and disorder in the transitional phase

376. Significant looting took place in the immediate aftermath of the conflict. The impact of this looting on the task of post-conflict reconstruction has been enormous. Not only has the security situation remained precarious at best, but also the goodwill of the Iraqi people, their ability to return to work and to education, and their willingness to assist in reconstruction were compromised. Facilities and infrastructure, including hospitals, were looted and damaged. A variety of administrative records were also destroyed which would have assisted in governing the country. Once the state apparatus of the Baath regime had dissolved away, there was, in the words of our MoD witness 'pretty much a vacuum' which the Government 'had not expected … to be quite as fundamental as it was'.[557]

377. Air Vice Marshal Clive Loader, Assistant Chief of Defence Staff (Operations), viewed the looting, particularly in the south east of Iraq, as people wanting to 'get their own back':

    They ransacked schools, hospitals and took away things they never had in their houses, beds, chairs, and so on, or they just wrecked things. It was not just the state that it had been in for 20 years or so of neglect, state­sponsored neglect, as it were, they produced a cocktail of difficulties with which we found it very difficult to cope.[558]

378. A representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Mr Balthasar Staehelin, told us that 'the impact of the breakdown of law and order was massive' and that 'the destruction and the insecurity after the conflict probably had a greater humanitarian impact than the hostilities themselves.'[559] In his view, at the time he was speaking[560] people in Iraq were not better off than they had been under Saddam Hussein, because of the state of insecurity:

    What struck me was the number of people who do not go to work because they feel that insecurity obliges them to stay at home with a gun to protect their property. People feel that the insecurity is so great that they do not dare to venture out. I was sleeping in a residence where the neighbour is up all night with a machine gun in his hands, in fear of being looted. I think that the insecurity … also has a negative impact on the possibility of the population to conduct economic activities. In this sense the situation is certainly not better right now than the situation before the war.[561]

379. Mr Staehelin was keen to show how security and proper administration were linked to other humanitarian issues:

    What we face is a situation in which insecurity, a certain absence of administration, has created a precarious situation; but that if security can be re-established, if salaries can be paid again, if local administration, et cetera, can resume its function, then we do not have a major humanitarian crisis. So we are at a moment where ICRC feels the evolution could go in two ways, and it is critical to have improvements in the spheres I have mentioned.[562]

Much has been made of the many Iraqis who were involved in looting and destruction in the immediate aftermath of the removal of Saddam Hussein's regime. It should not be forgotten that thousands more were locked up indoors, fearing for their security and for their lives.


380. The Foreign Secretary, in evidence to the Foreign Affairs Committee, stated:

MoD, however, has been less dismissive. According to Lessons for the Future, 'looting was not unexpected, but the scale of the problem was greater than envisaged and particularly difficult for forces to address while still committed to combat operations'.[564] Air Marshal Burridge, speaking to us in June 2003, was equivocal: 'As we saw, there was significant looting, although perhaps not as much as the media made out, both in Baghdad and Basra. Could we have predicted that? I do not know.'[565]

381. Air Vice Marshal Loader was prepared to admit to a 'miscalculation' of the popular reaction 'when the yoke of Baathism was lift from an oppressed people', but told us that this was a result of 'things which were not plain and there for everybody to see', namely: the total melting away of Iraqi security structures; the way that popular 'ire and frustration' had unexpected targets—'hospitals, schools, police stations and so on'; and the release of 'several thousands' of criminals from prison by the Baathist regime. This had resulted in 'a completely different situation to the one we had envisaged', and the Air Vice Marshal was 'not sure how foreseeable that really was'.[566] As he later told us, 'if it was a failure of planning then so be it'.[567] Mr Chaplin took a similar line, noting in addition that others had not predicted what would happen any more accurately than the Government: 'I do not think anyone was making better guesstimates at that than we were.'[568]

382. Commentators outside Government and the military have been less sympathetic. Mr Fergal Keane of the BBC, speaking to the Foreign Affairs Committee in June, put this argument succinctly:

    'Did we know there was a possibility of a serious breakdown of law and order…? Yes, of course we did. We knew this was one of the most heavily armed societies on earth. In any situation where you remove central control, whether that is Yugoslavia, Rwanda or indeed Iraq, where you remove what has been a heavily repressive centralised control there must the danger of an upsurge in violence and lawlessness. Having known that, were adequate preparations taken to combat that? Of course not.'[569]

Mr Alex Thomson of Channel 4 News, while understanding of the military's position, spoke persuasively of why a breakdown in law and order should have been predicted:

    When there has been a kleptocracy in place for that long, which has been thieving from the people and depriving them of what they need, then one afternoon a very small number of heavily armed soldiers comes in tanks and sits in a compound, of course people are going to set fire to things and steal everything and remove everything—and I mean everything—that can be removed.[570]

383. DfID's claim on 21 March, before the battle for Basra, that 'the need for the maintenance of law and order has been fully appreciated and incorporated into campaign planning' certainly rings hollow in the light of what happened. But it is only fair to note that before the conflict, the focus of concern in the media and wider community, as well as in Government, was the risk of a humanitarian disaster, rather than the risk of lawlessness and disorder.

384. Speaking after the conflict, our expert witnesses were unanimous in believing that the coalition did not have sufficient forces in theatre for transition to the post-conflict phase.[571] Professor Bellamy told us that Phase 4 issues were not sufficiently the focus of planning before the conflict. He noted that the British armoured division seemed only to realise in the midst of warfighting operations that it would be useful to have a senior police officer to help with security issues: as a result, no civilian police officers were found to help until May 2003. He also told us that 'with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight there should have been battalions of military police' available. [572]

385. Quite apart from whether the scale of public disorder should have been predicted, it would have presented enormous practical difficulties for the United Kingdom to have provided the quantity of forces that some have called for. Forces vastly in excess of those deployed would have been required to maintain public order in Basra alone. As MoD told us:

    Basra is a city of about 2.2 million people, as I recall, so one third of London. Imagine how many people you would have to flood in militarily to stop a large proportion of that city wanting to go and loot their local police station, hospital, library, school and so on. It just made for an impossible task. Once the indigenous Iraqi organs of suppression had melted away, it was just too much for the available military forces.[573]

386. Dr Posen reminded us of the evidence given by the Chief of Staff of the US Army, who told the US Senate Armed Services Committee in February 2003 that the requirement to police Iraq after the combat phase would be 'several hundred thousand soldiers', which he described as 'from a political point of view … the wrong answer'. He also reminded us of the formula devised for the US Army by James Quinlivan in Force Requirements in Stability Operations.[574] As Dr Posen explained:

    'You can police the United States with about two people per thousand and when things were pretty bad in Northern Ireland it took about 20 soldiers and police per thousand, you can do the math for a country of 22 million and you end up with big numbers'.[575]

These 'big numbers' are, doing a rough and ready calculation ourselves, a few thousand short of half a million for Iraq as a whole, or a little short of 50,000 for Basra alone—nearly twice the size of the entire initial British land deployment. In Dr Posen's view, 'this [calculation] was a fact that was devastating politically and needed to be suppressed'. [576]

387. A swift and undoubted military success is not enough on its own. This was an effects-based operation. The scale and shape of the force provided were best suited to achieving the coalition's desired effects in the combat phase, but not to carrying those effects through into the post-conflict phase. We acknowledge, however, that the scale of force which might have best achieved these effects was beyond the Government's means.

388. Indeed a harsh critic might argue that coalition planning assumed that it would be possible to employ elements of the Iraqi police, army and administration to maintain law and order, because the alternatives were too difficult to contemplate. That assumption was not only incorrect, but incautious. A realistic judgement, based on good intelligence, should have warned of the risk of serious disorder.

389. Was best use then made of the force that was provided? Measures were taken to ensure that some key infrastructure was protected, oil infrastructure in particular: we were told that this was 'an enormous success', with only 'six oil well heads … actually fired out of the many hundreds which were there'.[577] The Secretary of State told us that in fact 'one of the entire purposes…of the planning of our operations in the south was to prevent Saddam Hussein destroying the oilfields.'[578] And General Reith told us that priorities for securing essential infrastructure were well established:

    when we attacked in the south, the first priority, whenever we took anywhere, was to ensure that we got the pumping stations, the electricity, distribution system, controls, and everything else, to secure those without damage.[579]

He also claimed that damage to this infrastructure was 'minimal', but that the infrastructure itself was 'crippled' owing to lack of investment and noted that Saddam Hussein had 'used the delivery of power as a weapon' and that therefore Shia areas of Basra were difficult to supply with electricity. However, according to Air Vice Marshal Loader, the looting produced a 'cocktail of difficulties', including damage to electrical infrastructure, and, in his words 'it was not just the state that it had been in for 20 years or so of neglect'.[580] The Secretary of State has noted that 'electricity infrastructure is an enormously difficult thing, even today, to protect.'[581] This is certainly the case for power lines, but is less true of power stations and other key sites such as hospitals, banks and government buildings.

390. It was indeed crucial to protect Iraq's oil infrastructure from damage, as the main potential source of future Iraqi wealth. But it was a mistake not to have identified and protected (and to have been seen to be protecting) other key buildings and infrastructure as a priority. In presentational terms, this failure made claims that this was a war for oil appear more valid. In substance, it had negative effects both on the standard of living of Iraqis and on the coalition's ability to govern them effectively.

391. As Air Vice Marshal Loader acknowledged, 'maybe in retrospect we should have put a few more [troops] to the banks or hospitals and schools, but that would have been at the expense of something else.'[582] Mr Lee argued that it is difficult for forces to deal with looting while still engaged in 'low level war-fighting', while also suggesting that the 'limited numbers' of troops on the ground made it difficult to deal with looting over a 'short and intense period' in a large city such as Basra.[583]

392. We have already acknowledged that it would not have been reasonable to have expected the military to be able to prevent the vast majority of the looting and damage that took place in Basra. However, commanders should not have been placed in the position of lacking the capability to protect key sites. This is not a question of preventing mass looting through the provision of an impossibly large force. If 'a few more' troops were needed to protect key sites, this should have been identified as a scenario at the planning stage, and these troops should have been found and deployed with this specific task in mind.

393. Yet the implications of the looting and damage that were being carried out seem not always to have been fully understood by commanders on the ground. General Brims spoke of the looting as in part caused by 'euphoria', which he seemed to believe was understandable because of the degree to which Iraqis had been 'brutalised' by the regime.[584] General Reith told us that 'looting might not be the exact, right term, because in many ways what was happening there was what the population there would have seen as a fair redistribution of wealth'.[585] According to Mr Alex Thomson, the military attitude was 'Looting? Civil unrest? Let it go',[586] and according to Human Rights Watch, some British troops 'tolerated, and even encouraged, the looting of government buildings as the population's cathartic reaction to the fall of Saddam Hussein's government'.[587]

394. Widespread lawlessness did not help to give the impression to the Iraqi people that coalition forces were able to provide for their security. As DfID noted in June 2003 'Insecurity on the streets has deterred many people, particularly women, from returning to work, or education'. And Mr Staehelin noted how the lack of security, the absence of public transport and the fact that public servants were not being paid made it difficult for key (but perhaps not obviously key) workers such as hospital cleaners to go to work.[588] There was much talk of 'a window of opportunity'.[589] The ongoing lawlessness made it much harder for coalition forces to take advantage of this window.

395. Another aspect of the looting seems not to have been fully understood by the forces on the ground. Attacks on Government buildings were not merely a question of symbolic revenge by the Iraqi people on a repressive regime; these attacks also led to the destruction of important administrative records. In a war, it may not be obvious why records matter. But records enable the authorities to identify who they employ and how much they are to be paid. In a society, like Iraq, in which the state was the principal employer, it would have been an important tool in restoring normality and winning hearts and minds to have had access to records allowing ordinary employees to be paid, and showing whether the situation in Iraq for ordinary people was indeed improving.

396. The Government itself told the International Development Committee in June that:

    The sacking of government buildings and banks has made it difficult to resume normal administrative functions in many areas … Partly as a result of this breakdown in public administration, data is very patchy and it is often difficult to make reliable comparisons between service provision and living conditions before the conflict and the situation in its immediate aftermath, or at present.[590]

And as the then Secretary of State added:

    There were real problems with the Iraqi ministries because the looting that happened meant that key records, and so on, were not available for use. ORHA, as it then was, which became the CPA, had no information. People mentioned the issue of making payments, but they had no idea who they should pay because those records were simply not available … if some Iraqis had not taken home essential discs with information on them we would still be facing significant difficulties in terms of being able to pay public service workers.[591]

397. It is also likely that the records which were destroyed might have assisted the coalition both in identifying past crimes by members of the Baathist regime, and possibly in providing evidence of elusive weapons of mass destruction. Mr Bill Neely of ITN told us of his experience in Basra, where:

    at the secret police headquarters there was not a single Marine for days and days and days. I went there, I think, within a day or two of arriving in Basra and people were pulling out files. We said we wanted to prosecute the Iraqi leadership for war crimes, but there seemed to be no attempt to gather the evidence; there was not a single British soldier covering the headquarters. There were some very interesting things being pulled out. One man pulled out a book which was an account of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and the taking of Kuwaiti prisoners. For the Kuwaitis this was a huge issue: where are the prisoners? It became part of the post-1991 conflict negotiations. No one was going to the intelligence headquarters to retrieve those documents, and they were just being pulled apart by people, who were taking vast files home with them to show their friends. That is what surprised me, not that British troops were not stopping the looting of electrical equipment.[592]

The Government should have taken more care to identify in advance sites in Iraq likely to contain records of use to the coalition, and should have ensured that forces were provided to protect these sites from damage and looting.

398. It would not have been possible without a very large increase in the numbers of troops available for the military to have prevented the looting of schools (of which there are about 700 in Basra). But in fact, the rehabilitation of schools is a relatively straightforward matter. The coalition's failure to protect hospitals is less excusable. Some hospitals at least should have been a priority. There are very real difficulties in securing sites in urban areas, not least force protection, and also the ability to identify the sites when only patchy intelligence is available. But the failure to protect these facilities did nothing to 'demonstrate to the Iraqi people that our quarrel is not with them and that their security and well-being is our concern'.[593] While coalition forces successfully removed Saddam Hussein's regime with remarkable speed, they were not able to establish themselves on the ground with sufficient speed and precision to avoid a damaging period of lawlessness during which much of the potential goodwill of the Iraqi people was squandered.

399. None of these criticisms, however, should be seen to detract from the thoroughly impressive way in which individual members of Armed Forces personnel demonstrated their ability to accomplish the transition between warfighting and peacekeeping operations swiftly and effectively. One of our witnesses noted that this flexibility 'is one of the great strengths of the British Armed Forces.'[594] General Reith commended forces for their 'versatility', noting in particular how in Az Zubayr 'at one end of the town they were still fighting, and at the other end they were already in berets and dealing with the population'.[595]

400. The responsiveness of the British military to the needs of the civilian population was praised by Mr Staehelin from the ICRC. He noted in particular the co-operation received by the ICRC from the Armed Forces, the speed with which contacts were established between the ICRC and the military,[596] the understanding the military showed of the role of the ICRC and the level of access granted to the ICRC.[597]

401. It is worth drawing attention to specific instances of such co-operation. The loss of water supply to Basra very nearly did cause a humanitarian catastrophe. It was only thanks to the efforts of the ICRC and the co-operation of the British forces outside Basra (as well as that of the Iraqi forces inside Basra) that such a disaster was avoided. As we were told 'we would have seen hundreds of thousands of people looking for water and we could have seen a problem on a major scale.'[598]

402. The ICRC also pointed to an occasion on which the British authorities in Az-Zubayr secured a warehouse containing the remains of hundreds of people, enabling the identification and repatriation of these remains. This was cited to us as 'an example of a successful operation'.[599] We commend the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for the performance of its humanitarian role in Iraq, before, during and after the combat phase of operations, and we commend British forces for the way in which they co-operated with the ICRC.

Prisoners of War

403. Fewer prisoners of war were detained by coalition forces during and after the conflict than had been expected. The UK was responsible for 2,203 Prisoners of War (PoWs) and others captured and detained by UK forces. Guarding responsibilities were split between the coalition partners, although the UK retained responsibility as Detaining Power for all UK-captured PoWs. At the end of March 2003 about 1,500 prisoners were held by coalition forces at Camp Bucca at Umm Qasr in southern Iraq. Throughout April, there were approximately 2,000 prisoners held at the camp. The release of PoWs began in early May, with the number decreasing to 620 by 10 May, and to 58 by 15 May. By the beginning of July only one PoW remained.[600]

404. One of the ICRC's responsibilities under the Geneva Conventions is to visit and monitor the conditions of people deprived of their freedom, including PoWs. The results of such visits are confidential between the ICRC and the detaining authorities. On 31 March 2003, the ICRC began visiting PoWs captured by coalition forces. By the beginning of May it had visited more than 6,000 PoWs and interned civilians. Mr Staehelin of the ICRC specifically remarked on the co-operation the ICRC had received in visiting prisoners of war held by British and other coalition forces.[601]

Lessons for future campaigns

405. Increasingly, our Armed Forces are asked to carry out peace support operations around the world, operations which can prove more difficult than, and just as dangerous as combat operations. MoD has suggested to us that there is a need for 'a much more rapidly deployable force of international policemen' or 'carabinieri type of forces who are part military and part police'.[602] Currently, the deployment of British civilian police is on a voluntary basis, and occurs at the expense of local policing in the United Kingdom. Mr Lee put it too us that 'whether countries should have more police contingency forces which are maintained for deployable purposes, I feel, is obviously a question that does need to be addressed in the light of recent experiences.'[603]

406. The idea of a deployable international gendarmerie is a very fine one. But it would in fact have been of little assistance in Iraq, given that the lack of international agreement over the decision to take military action would almost certainly have prevented the deployment of such a force. We are also not convinced that the problem is one of lack of capability: British forces on the ground have shown themselves to be superb at carrying out peace support operations around the world.

407. We recommend that the Government should consider closely, in the light of operations in Iraq, how the United Kingdom provides peace support capabilities, and in particular how the transition is managed between warfighting and peacekeeping. We further recommend that the Government should consider whether either a dedicated part of the Armed Forces, or even a separate organisation altogether, could be specifically tasked with providing these capabilities.


408. The ongoing peace support operations have meant that to date there have been two roulements of the military personnel in theatre. We have already discussed how this has affected the troops themselves, in terms of training and operational welfare.[604] We heard during our visit to Iraq from troops in 3 (UK) Division taking part in Operation Telic 2 that the previous tour had been hampered (not unsurprisingly) by having to change its focus from warfighting to peace support. These troops believed that arriving in Iraq with peace support as their primary mission enabled them to carry out these tasks more effectively.

409. The need for the military to continue to provide various functions which would elsewhere be carried out by civilians has had an effect on roulement. MoD has told us that the assumptions under which they were working meant that they did not have the capacity to carry out civilian expert functions 'on a very large scale' or 'for a very long period of time':

    our assumption had been that once security had been restored after the end of actual fighting then it would have been possible to hand over a lot of those tasks to NGOs and to the UN agencies. In practice, of course, the security situation remained difficult for longer.[605]

410. Something of a 'Catch-22' situation seems to have developed, in which the security situation inhibited the deployment of non-governmental and international organisations, while the absence of these organisations helped to perpetuate the circumstances in which insecurity thrives. As a result, the military has been 'stretched to perform tasks of various sorts which are not strictly speaking military tasks', to which they will 'turn their hand', but for which they are 'not actually designed', such as 'taking control of and re­constructing a fairly large area of the country.'[606] The deterioration of the security situation in August 2003, most obviously and tragically with the bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad, made the task of the military even more difficult.[607]

411. The delayed arrival of civilian government and of British civil servants also put strain on the Armed Forces. FCO told us that 'there was frustration on the military side' because of the 'expectation that they would be able to pass this task over to a civilian structure headed by a Foreign Office person more like quickly than happened to be case'.[608] We are concerned about the continuing requirement on the ground for specialists from the military in areas which would under other circumstances be provided by civilian organisations. Many of these specialists will be reservists, and their prolonged deployment may have adverse consequences for retention in specialisms which are already suffering from undermanning.

412. For its part, FCO has 'had difficulty in continuity of providing people for long enough'.[609] Given the relatively fast turnover of civilian personnel, there are clearly issues here about preserving and passing on knowledge and experience.


413. The cultural and linguistic divide is one of the main potential obstacles to forces wanting to demonstrate goodwill to the Iraqi people, needing to explain what they are doing and seeking information and assistance. FCO has picked up as one of its lessons learned from Operation Telic 'the whole question of civil liaison, in other words people to work alongside the military who have some knowledge of the country, perhaps the language and so on'.[610]

414. British forces sent to Iraq receive basic training in social laws and customs to help them avoid causing unwitting offence.[611] But they had only very limited access to Arabic language interpreters. Only 28 military interpreters deployed alongside Operation Telic forces (of the 57 trained Arabic speakers available within the Armed Forces[612]), a ratio of one interpreter for approximately every thousand troops deployed forward to Iraq.[613] MoD has admitted that this affected forces' 'ability to engage with the local population', and noted that shootings of locally engaged interpreters early on in the campaign had 'a pretty negative effect' on the willingness of others to serve in similar roles. Attempts to engage additional Arab linguists from Gulf States were unsuccessful.[614] We heard in Iraq that locally engaged interpreters were of varying reliability, both in terms of their skills and their personal political agendas. Armed Forces interpreters cannot be the only answer, but they are, of course, 'totally on side'. We have been told that the provision of language training will need to be re-examined if the Armed Forces are to be more involved in expeditionary operations in the future.[615] We agree. In an effects-based operation aiming to win over hearts and minds, an ability to communicate with the local population is vital.


415. We have already discussed the security situation in the immediate aftermath of the combat phase of operations. The failure to establish law and order swiftly has made it more difficult for the military to transfer the responsibility for these tasks to others.

416. UK Ministry of Defence police officers first visited Basra in April 2003 to provide policing advice to UK forces in control of the city, but an initial policing assessment mission to Iraq, led by Chief Constable Paul Kernaghan of Hampshire Police, did not take place until May. Professor Bellamy told us that commanders only realised that such advice would be useful in the midst of the warfighting phase.[616] Preparations should have been made in advance of the military campaign to ensure that police advice on maintaining law and order would be available as soon as possible after the end of the combat phase.

417. In some parts of Iraq, British forces have allowed local people to provide for their own security. In Maysan province in particular, where the Baath regime was removed by local Iraqis before the arrival of British troops, militias have been allowed to operate. MoD told us that this was a matter for the judgement of commanders on the ground in the light of the dynamics of the local situation,[617] and that it was a 'classic example of the British way of doing things on the ground'. We were assured that initiatives are not introduced if they would 'clearly get the back up of the majority of the population'.[618] However, according to press reports, the militias in Maysan 'answer only to a self-appointed provincial council of Shiite religious groups, which wants no one else to deal with the British' and that 'local people appeared fearful of criticizing the brigades, but those who did said the militiamen were mainly outlaws'.[619] While we support entirely the notion that Iraqis should be encouraged to take responsibility for their own security, we are concerned that local militias which have been allowed to operate in the south-east of Iraq may represent vested interests. There is a danger that these may seek to use their position to pursue agendas which might not be to the advantage of the people of Iraq more generally.

418. Important steps have been taken in recent months towards the establishment of national security institutions staffed by Iraqis. Recruitment appears to be good for the various police, facilities protection and civil defence organisations being established, although the exact numbers quoted to us in January and more recent figures provided in February do not seem to tally.[620] Recruitment for the New Iraqi Army was less advanced in January, with only about 25 per cent recruited of the 3,000 sought.[621] Retention in the New Iraqi Army has apparently not been "a significant problem" since the introduction of hazardous duty pay.[622] However, we have not been provided with the information we have requested on retention in other Iraqi security organisations.

419. We were encouraged to hear that some of these institutions appear to be well regarded on the streets of Iraq.[623] This is crucial if they are to be a success. It is a matter of concern that in recent months, those who oppose the coalition haven been targeting Iraqis working for these institutions; according to MoD, however, the police service continues to be regarded as "an attractive occupation".[624]


420. Iraq was a country in desperate need of reconstruction before the coalition military campaign. The combined effect of the hardships imposed on the Iraqi people by thirty years of Baathist tyranny, exacerbated by sanctions imposed by the international community under United Nations Resolutions and the policy of containment following Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in 1991 had left the south-east of the country in a particularly poor state. The most basic infrastructure operated only thanks to decades of repair and cannibalisation, as we saw for ourselves in July 2003. Two kinds of reconstruction were called for in the aftermath of combat operations. Firstly, civilians needed to be provided with basic resources such as power and water as a matter of urgency. Secondly, a structured programme was needed in the longer term to provide for less immediate needs and to allow Iraq to re-emerge as a functioning, thriving state. In this report, we concentrate on the more immediate needs of the Iraqi people in the aftermath of combat operations. We will look in the future into longer term reconstruction efforts, and the role of the British military in facilitating and co-ordinating these, and indeed in carrying them out.

421. As far as immediate needs were concerned, coalition efforts were thwarted by the appalling state of the infrastructure, and by the looting (including of copper wire from electrical cables) and sabotage, which had a much greater effect than would have been the case if the infrastructure had been more sound. Added complications were the absence of experienced international organisations, largely due to the security situation. As Ms Miller told us, 'there are international agencies which are able to do these things better and more quickly than bilateral donors can do them. Not everyone can be geared up to do this'.[625] And she confirmed that 'it was the security issue that was really the problem [for the NGOs].' and that the Government 'saw no constraint whatsoever, other than the security situation which was worse than had been anticipated, for them [the UN] to come back in'.[626]

422. Air Marshal Burridge suggested, and Mr Chaplin agreed, that

    what we would like to have called on, as military people, was some civilian organisation that could come in and in a big way fix electrical grids, in a big way fix water. We do not have that and I do not think many nations do. That would have made a big difference. In dealing with the infrastructure in Basra, we reached a plateau ultimately beyond which we could not go with our expertise or without quite significant investment.[627]

Some such organisations do exist, in the form of the UN and NGOs, but because of international disagreement, and because of the security situation, they were not able to contribute as much as coalition forces would have liked them to. Iraqi expertise was also presumably available, but difficult to identify. The circumstances of the conflict in Iraq were particular: operations without broad international consensus in a country with a relatively advanced but extremely decrepit infrastructure. While MoD is right to assess whether a national capability to repair infrastructure is required, it would be wrong to assume that a capability which might have been useful in Iraq will necessarily be required in future operations.


423. We were impressed during our visit to Basra by the work of a Territorial Army Captain and a sergeant, were responsible for the implementation of Quick Impact Projects (QIPs). MoD had been allocated some £10 million, in order that the Armed Forces could begin small but important reconstruction projects without needing to wait for other larger-scale organisations to arrive. The projects also provided much needed local employment for Iraqis, and, according to those we met, the need to put together proper tenders for projects would stand local firms in good stead in a future more competitive climate.

424. According to Lessons for the Future the funding in Iraq 'was sought as a direct result of lessons learned from Afghanistan and elsewhere':

425. Things had clearly been moving on apace since July, when we visited Basra, at which time 284 tasks had been approved. We were also pleased to be told by the Prime Minister that when the current £10 million allocation had been used further funds would be provided.[629] Quick Impact Projects are, as one of our interlocutors told us in Iraq, a 'band-aid' solution, which cannot hope to approach the scale of the reconstruction effort required in Iraq. But they have been a vital tool for showing that there are immediate benefits from the presence of coalition forces and the end of Saddam Hussein's rule. We commend all those involved.


426. It was well known before the conflict that Iraq was one of the most heavily armed and heavily mined places on earth. As the Minister of the Armed Forces explained to the House in November 2003, 'unexploded ordnance in Iraq includes munitions from the Iran-Iraq war, mines laid by Iraqi forces, stores of ammunition and other ordnance left by Iraqi military and paramilitary forces as well as ordnance fired or dropped by both sides during recent hostilities'. He assured the House that 'the provision of a safe, secure and risk free environment for the Iraqi people is a key aspect of restoration activity for all members of the International Coalition in Iraq' and that 'the United Kingdom takes seriously its obligations as a member of that coalition to deal with unexploded ordnance'.[630]

427. As the occupying power, the coalition has a legal and moral responsibility to provide security for civilians in Iraq, including protection from unexploded ordnance (UXO). The coalition has been involved in marking and securing sites, clearing and disposing of the ordnance and educating civilians on the dangers of unexploded remnants of war.[631] The House was informed on 17 November 2003 that in the UK's area of responsibility about 1,600 sites had been cleared, containing about 619,000 munitions.[632] The same figures were quoted to us more than two months later.[633] As of February 2004, UK Forces had disposed of around 680,000 individual items of UXO, NGOs had disposed of 227,000 items and other multinational partners operating within the UK Area of Operations had disposed of a further 113,000 items. We sought an indication from MoD of what proportion of UXO within the UK area of operations this represented. We have been told, however, that "it is not possible to estimate the amount of UXO left in Iraq". The MoD has, however, noted that of the 62 Captured Enemy Ammunition (CEA) sites recorded within the UK area of Operations, around 13 have been cleared.[634] This may give an indication of the scale of the clearance task still to be completed.

428. A report published in December 2003 by Human Rights Watch (HRW) sets out starkly the scale of the problem in the south-east of Iraq. Many Iraqi stockpiles were kept in or near populated areas, most of them in civilian buildings such as schools and mosques. Because many of the munitions were old, they lacked modern safety features. Shortages of fuel meant that Iraqi civilians would 'empty crates of ammunition for firewood' and 'remove the warheads of artillery shells in order to collect brass casings or gather propellant for fuel'.[635] The risk to life and limb from such activities is clearly horrifying.

429. According to HRW, the first priority for dealing with abandoned ordnance should have been securing sites:

    Keeping civilians away from caches, particularly large ones like the site in Basra that Human Rights Watch visited, removes the temptation to search for scraps or playthings and helps protect civilian lives. It also ensures that the ordnance does not end up in the hands of those that threaten both civilians—local and foreign—and Coalition troops. Finally, properly securing explosive ordnance sites facilitates later clearance by keeping the ordnance in its proper containers.

But HRW found that 'six weeks after the end of major hostilities, the Coalition's efforts in this area were still inadequate':

    The British forces in Basra made little or no effort to secure the large sites near its posts in the city. The storage facility Human Rights Watch visited was about 600 meters (.4 miles) from the headquarters of the First Fusiliers Battle Group. According to a briefing by Lieutenant Colonel Alan Butterfield on May 3, the British had no plans to secure the sites because of a lack of manpower. Human Rights Watch criticized this failure in a May 6 press release. At the time, Basra's al-Jumhuriyya Hospital was receiving five victims a day from unsecured ordnance. A month later, little had changed. The storage facility remained unsecured, and the U.K. forces were handing over clearance responsibility to UNMACT [the United Nations Mine Action Clearance Team].[636]

Coalition sources told HRW that Iraqi looters had interfered with efforts to secure and clear sites, and that there was a shortage of clearance experts. However, according to HRW, 'the Coalition … did not need specially trained EOD experts to secure sites. To speed up efforts, regular soldiers could provide security for abandoned munition caches'.[637]

430. We questioned MoD on their planning for dealing with unexploded ordnance, and the speed with which they had been carrying out these tasks. We were told that difficulties were caused by the scale of the problem compared to the manpower available, coupled with the unstable security situation. This was 'just a problem across the board of resources' and 'the reality of only having so many military people on the ground and what you can do with them'.[638] The security situation meanwhile was limiting the presence of NGOs on the ground and their ability to operate.[639]

431. HRW makes the point that securing sites containing UXO does not require the presence of experts. Once again at issue is the size of the force sent to Iraq, coupled with the mistaken expectation that some elements of the Iraqi army and security forces would be available to carry out basic guarding tasks. There were simply not enough people on the ground to secure munitions sites for some time after the combat phase, even when these sites were in populated locations. Coalition efforts to clear unexploded ordnance throughout Iraq will make the country a far safer place for the people who live there. But the failure to provide sufficient forces to guard and secure munitions sites in the weeks and months after the conflict cost Iraqi civilian lives, and also provided potential enemies of the coalition with a ready stock of easily accessible weaponry.

432. In recent months, most clearance has been undertaken through NGOs and commercial demining organisations. But between the start of the conflict and February 2004 the Government's funding of NGOs for this task in Iraq amounted to only £5 million, although this was 'set to rise in the coming months.'[640] In the context of wider expenditure on the conflict in Iraq and on the post-combat phase, this is surprisingly little. Indeed, the Government's funding of mine clearance worldwide in 2003-04 appears according to the Government's own figures to have decreased compared with the previous year.[641] The Government should look again at whether the relatively modest funds that it has dedicated to supporting the clearance of unexploded ordnance in Iraq are adequate for the task at hand.


433. Our Government witnesses have been unanimous in their view that it is for Iraqis to decide how they should be governed.[642] The key milestones on the road towards self-government agreed by the coalition and Iraqi Governing Council include the establishment of an Iraqi Transitional Legislative Assembly and Government by the summer of 2004, elections for a Constitutional Convention by March 2005, and a popular referendum on the constitution and full national elections by the end of 2005. On 1 March 2004, the Iraqi Governing Council agreed to a draft interim constitution for the country. We have not sought during this inquiry to investigate how Iraqis are being enabled to make these longer-term choices. But the steps taken by coalition forces to involve Iraqis in political institutions and decision-making in the immediate aftermath of the conflict have had repercussions for the formation of any more permanent institutions that may follow.

434. One of the preconceptions upset by political realities on the ground was the notion that middle-ranking Iraqis would be able to remain in post and provide administrative continuity. In fact, it swiftly became clear that enough people in Iraqi society were opposed to those associated with the former regime remaining in post, that a more radical 'De-Baathification' process was instituted. This was complicated by the coalition's lack of reliable information about individuals' associations with the former regime, which meant that on occasion decisions were made about appointments that had to be swiftly reversed. The first man appointed to form civilian leadership within Basra province turned out to be a former brigadier in the Iraqi army and a member of the Baath party. His successor was accused of being an associate of Uday Hussein, and he too was replaced. The current governor, Abdulwahid Latif, a judge, seems to be widely respected, as we heard during our visit last July.

435. Mr Chaplin told us that 'a much finer grained understanding of the local politics' would have helped in making this kind of decision, but that the coalition 'could not realistically have expected to have that.'[643] As we heard:

    There is a tension that exists between, on the one hand, wanting to get some contact with local, responsible people quickly and, on the other hand, not choosing someone who turns out to be the wrong person just because you want speed. That is, I am afraid, something that can only be judged in a particular circumstance at the time. I think, in fact, the first person that was chosen as being the de facto mayor in Basra turned out to be not acceptable.[644]

436. It was always going to be difficult to establish a functioning administration after the removal of Saddam Hussein's regime. Most people of any prominence in Iraq would have needed to be associated with the regime in one way or another to attain that prominence. It is hardly surprising, given how cowed the Iraqi people had been by the regime, that most of those who came forward in the first instance were not the kind of dedicated middle managers the coalition was looking for.

437. It was often asserted that not all former Baathists were Baathists by choice: Iraq was a society in which membership of the Party was necessary to prosper. But the coalition was not always in a position to distinguish between those who were more closely associated with the former regime, and those who were members of the Baath party in name only. It seems also to have been the case that in some cases popular resentment of the former regime led to the ousting of officials who might profitably have remained in post. As we heard,

    you cannot impose upon people who have certain views about ex Baathist people who in their perception have benefited from the previous regime. It did not matter about the skill sets, their leadership qualities and other things; if they were not acceptable, we could not use them.[645]

    There were very strong feelings, particularly from those who had suffered most under Saddam Hussein, which included of course in the south where we were operating. They were simply not going to accept that someone who had visibly benefited from the rule of Saddam Hussein could be back in a position of power, even though they might have other qualities which would mean they could run an efficient administration. So we were starting from scratch in a more fundamental way than we had perhaps expected.[646]

Mistakes were made in identifying potential local leaders, and without better intelligence and a better understanding of Iraqi society, such mistakes were probably inevitable.

438. There is a risk that a flawed understanding of Iraqi society coupled with the need to be seen to be transferring authority to the Iraqi people will leave the new political and administrative structures open to capture by unrepresentative interest groups. In Mr Chaplin's view, 'one of the things that the British Army is very good at is getting alongside local leaders and feeling their way as to how to get the administration going again'. He referred to 'a process of shuttle diplomacy' to ensure when creating the provincial council in Basra 'that one group was not completely unacceptable to the rest and arriving at a provincial council which was broadly acceptable'.[647] But Dr Toby Dodge, who has advised us during this inquiry, has written how:

    informal and highly personalised networks undermine the creation of an effective and transparent bureaucracy, and have a flexibility and resilience that makes them very difficult to root out. Thus, coalition forces run the danger of inadvertently bolstering the networks of the shadow state created by the regime they ousted. The more this happens, the harder it will be to build stable state institutions with infrastructural power.[648]

439. When we put this point to Mr Chaplin, he reassured us that 'the military and civilians of the CPA who are engaging with local authorities are very alive to the risks you have outlined and take every possible precaution to ensure they are seen as objective and not favouring one faction over another.'[649] But without a deeper and better understanding of Iraqi society it will be hard for them to know whether this is occurring.

440. The Armed Forces have substantial experience of encouraging local governance, and of managing this function themselves where necessary, from peace support experience around the world. We were told of a 'direct read-across' from experience in the Balkans in the establishment of ad hoc local councils, as a 'stop gap' before the establishment of more permanent structures.[650]

441. The Armed Forces have done their utmost to fulfil their responsibilities to the Iraqi people as the occupying power, and we applaud them. But they have been under-resourced for this enormous task. It is unreasonable to expect the military to have a fine-grained understanding of how an unfamiliar society operates; but without this understanding, and without substantial civilian support in the form of experts and interpreters to help them to gain this understanding, mistakes were bound to be made which would make it more difficult to construct the kind of Iraq that the coalition wants to see: stable, secure and prosperous; a threat neither to its neighbours nor to the wider world.

512   Ministry of Defence, Operations in Iraq-First Reflections (July 2003), Annex A. Back

513   On-line at Back

514   On-line at Back

515   Ev 440 Back

516   International Committee of the Red Cross Back

517   Ev 440 Back

518   Q 2014 (Mr Chaplin) Back

519   Ev 297-298, 324-343 Back

520   Q 1778 (Mr Chaplin) Back

521   Subsequently, the Iraq Policy Unit. Back

522   Q 1782 (Mr Chaplin); HC Deb, 10 Jun 2003, c 794W Back

523   Minutes of Evidence taken before the International Development Committee on Iraq, HC 780 (2002-03), Appendix 8, para 13. Back

524   Q 1808 (Ms Miller) Back

525   The US-led organisation which preceded the CPA. Back

526   Q 2088 (Ms Miller) Back

527   Ministry of Defence, Operations in Iraq-Lessons for the Future (December 2003), para 11.4. Back

528   Q 2014 (Mr Chaplin) Back

529   Q 1810 (Mr Lee) Back

530   Q 2015 (Mr Lee) Back

531   See paras 359-65 Back

532   Ministry of Defence, Operations in Iraq-Lessons for the Future (December 2003), para 11.1. Back

533   Qq 1790-7 (Ms Miller) Back

534   Q 1811 (Mr Chaplin) Back

535   Q 2015 (Mr Chaplin) Back

536   Q 2015 (Mr Lee) Back

537   Q 1814 (Mr Lee) Back

538   Q 1814 (Mr Lee) Back

539   Q 1840 (Ms Miller) Back

540   Q 1816 (Mr Lee) Back

541   Q 1816 (Mr Chaplin) Back

542   Q 1813 (Mr Chaplin) Back

543   Q 1826 (Mr Lee) Back

544   Minutes of Evidence taken before the International Development Committee on Iraq, HC 780 (2002-03), Appendix 8, para 13; Q 2016 (Ms Miller) Back

545   Ministry of Defence, Operations in Iraq-Lessons for the Future (December 2003), para 11.5. Back

546   Q 1816 (Mr Chaplin) Back

547   Q 2016 (Ms Miller) Back

548   Q 1817 (Ms Miller). See also Q 1822 Back

549   Q 792 Back

550   QQ 1821-2 (Air Vice Marshal Loader and Mr Lee) Back

551   Q 1827 (Mr Lee) Back

552   Q 1816 (Mr Chaplin) Back

553   Q 1997 (Mr Lee) Back

554   HC Deb, 18 March 2003, c772-3 Back

555   Intelligence and Security Committee, Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction, Cm 5972, Annex A, p 46 Back

556   See paras 381-99 Back

557   Q 1997 (Mr Lee) Back

558   Q 2030 (Air Vice Marshal Loader) Back

559   Q 436 (Mr Staehelin) Back

560   June 2003 Back

561   Q 451 (Mr Staehelin) Back

562   Q 435 (Mr Staehelin) Back

563   Tenth Report from the Foreign Affairs Committee, Session 2002-03, HC 405, Q 228 Back

564   Ministry of Defence, Operations in Iraq-Lessons for the Future (December 2003), para 11.6. Back

565   Q 312 (AM Burridge) Back

566   Q 1818 (Air Vice Marshal Loader) Back

567   Q 2030 (Air Vice Marshal Loader) Back

568   Q 2033 (Mr Chaplin) Back

569   HC 405 (2002-03), Q 342 Back

570   Q 790 Back

571   Q 182 (Dr Posen, Prof Bellamy and Mr Beaver) Back

572   Q 182 Back

573   Q 1835 (Air Vice Marshal Loader) Back

574   Published in Parameters, Winter 1995, pp 59-69. Back

575   Q 185 (Dr Posen) Back

576   Q 185 (Dr Posen) Back

577   Q 1837 (Air Vice Marshal Loader) Back

578   Q 2311 Back

579   Q 887 (Lt Gen Reith) Back

580   Q 2030 Back

581   Q 2313 Back

582   Q 1837 Back

583   Q 1816 (Mr Lee) Back

584   Q 694 Back

585   Q 937 Back

586   Q 792 Back

587   Human Rights Watch, Basra: Crime and Insecurity under British Occupation (June 2003). Available on-line at Back

588   Q 442 (Mr Staehelin) Back

589   eg. Q 742 (Mr Hewitt) Back

590   HC 780 (2002-03), Appendix 8, para 16 Back

591   HC 780 (2002-03), Q 52 (Baroness Amos) Back

592   Q 736 (Mr Neely) Back

593   Ministry of Defence, Operations in Iraq-First Reflections (July 2003), Annex A. Back

594   Q 2038 (Air Vice Marshal Loader) Back

595   Q 914 (Lt Gen Reith) Back

596   Q 464 (Mr Staehelin) Back

597   Q 460 (Mr Staehelin) Back

598   Q 458 (Mr Staehelin) Back

599   Q 456 (Mr Staehelin) Back

600   Ministry of Defence, Operations in Iraq-First Reflections (July 2003) para 5.14. Back

601   Q 458 (Mr Staehelin) Back

602   Q 2062 Back

603   Q 2066 Back

604   See paras 292 and 327. Back

605   Q 2001 (Mr Lee) Back

606   Q 2009 (Mr Lee) Back

607   Q 2010 (Mr Chaplin) Back

608   Q 2037 (Mr Chaplin) Back

609   Q 1810 (Mr Chaplin) Back

610   Q 1810 (Mr Chaplin) Back

611   Q 2038 (Air Vice Marshal Loader); Ev 441 Back

612   Ev 441 Back

613   HL Deb, 8 July 2003, c WA 31 Back

614   Ev 441 Back

615   Q 2046 (Mr Lee) Back

616   Q 182 Back

617   Q 2067 (Mr Lee) Back

618   Q 2067 (Air Vice Marshal Loader) Back

619   International Herald Tribune, 15 July 2003. Back

620   Q 2054 (Mr Lee); Ev 442 Back

621   Q 2054 (Mr Lee) Back

622   Ev 442 Back

623   Q 2068 (Mr Lee) Back

624   Ev 442 Back

625   Q 1840 (Ms Miller) Back

626   QQ 2002, 2007 (Ms Miller) Back

627   Q 317, Q 1839 (Mr Chaplin) Back

628   Ministry of Defence, Operations in Iraq-Lessons for the Future (December 2003), para 11.9. See also Q 2084 (Mr Lee) Back

629   Ev 403 Back

630   HC Deb, 17 November 2003, c 504W Back

631   Q 2040 (Mr Lee) Back

632   HC Deb, 17 November 2003, c 504W Back

633   Q 2040 Back

634   Ev 442 Back

635   Human Rights Watch, Off Target: The Conduct of the War and Civilian Casualties in Iraq, Chapter IV. Online at Back

636   HRW, Ibid Back

637   HRW, Ibid Back

638   Q 2042, Q 2044 (Mr Lee: Air Vice Marshal Loader) Back

639   Q 2042 (Mr Lee) Back

640   Ev 442 Back

641   HC Deb, 12 November 2003, c314W Back

642   eg Q 2075 (Mr Chaplin) Back

643   Q 1830 Back

644   Q 2074 (Mr Lee) Back

645   Q 1827 (Air Vice Marshal Loader) Back

646   Q 1829 (Mr Chaplin) Back

647   Q 2076 Back

648   Toby Dodge, 'US Intervention and Possible Iraqi Futures', Survival, vol. 45, no. 3, (Autumn 2003), pp 103-122. Back

649   Q 2080 (Mr Chaplin) Back

650   Q 2024 (Mr Lee) Back

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