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Chris Ames

Chris Ames, a freelance writer and investigative journalist, is editor of iraqdossier.com
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independent minds

Iraq inquiry next year

Posted by Chris Ames
  • Wednesday, 10 December 2008 at 04:51 pm

David Miliband has just all but announced that the Iraq Inquiry promised by Gordon Brown will begin in the middle of next year.

During this afternoon’s House of Commons foreign policy debate, the foreign secretary was asked how many troops would have to be withdrawn from Iraq before the inquiry could take place. He replied: “Of course we are not going to be hiding behind the idea that all the troops must come home” before the inquiry can happen.

Miliband made it clear that, although the government’s position is that the inquiry can only be held “when our troops are safely home”, this refers to “combat troops”, not the 400 or so troops who will remain behind to train Iraqi forces following a “fundamental change of mission” in the spring.

This is very much a new development – a straight answer that I have previously struggled to obtain.

This morning a “senior defence source” was  widely quoted as saying that the majority of the 4,100 British troops in Basra will begin to leave in March next year, with only around 400 remaining by June. It was predicted that Gordon Brown would make a formal announcement in the Commons in January.

I’m trying to find out whether this was an officially sanctioned pre-announcement, or the kind of criminal, national security-endangering leak that results in the recipients being arrested and their offices searched. William Hague has made the same point, saying that “we have a government that deplores leaks by day and lives by leaks by night”. He challenged Miliband to deny the story.

On the other hand, Number 10 has told me that Miliband was of course speaking for the government regarding the inquiry.

Putting the two things together, we can look forward to Brown announcing in January that the Iraq Inquiry will begin sometime after June, when combat troops are safely home. Or will he forget to mention it?

Update: Liberal Democrat Ed Davey has said:

“It was quite wrong for the Government to allow this detailed briefing of the press, without a statement to MPs.

“The fact that the Prime Minister still refuses to set up an enquiry into the Iraq war, despite leaking the withdrawal, only makes this Government’s behaviour more reprehensible. What part in this foreign policy disaster does Brown himself want to hide from the public?”