More from: Salutations

Dr Brian Jones – Will Chilcot come too late?

by Andrew Mason

Paul Waugh makes only one tiny error in his otherwise exemplary tribute to Brian. His last post for the Digest was in fact this one, entitled “Will Chilcot come too late to give us lessons for Iran?“, and not the one that was linked to, which had been published here nearly two months earlier.

With the greatest of respect for Dr Jones, and in light of his important suggestion that perhaps bigger lessons need to be learned very soon, I have decided, on behalf of the Digest as a whole, to publish this final piece here again.

Will Chilcot come too late to give us lessons for Iran?

by Brian Jones

November 6 2011

The Guardian’s reporting of the possibility of military strikes against Iran because of its probable (but unproven) nuclear weapons programme and likely UK involvement is particularly relevant to the Digest because, for many of us, the situation in which “lessons learned” from Iraq might be significant was always most likely to be military action involving Iran and its WMD. It is good that comments by John Bone and Bobm have got the ball rolling.

Although the UK aspect – rightly criticised for lack of substance in one Guardian reader’s letter – should be treated with extreme caution, reporting in the US press of statements by those keen to talk-up the potential problem demand attention.

Given the present rumblings and comments on this made by Tony Blair in his evidence to the Iraq Inquiry, there can surely be few acceptable excuses for the Inquiry’s continued leisurely pace. The silence of Parliament on this suggests that the efforts of Sir John Chilcot and co are sliding dangerously close to irrelevance.

The uncertain intelligence and half-baked justification offered in Guardian background pieces for a US/UK attack on Iran’s probable (nuclear) weapons of mass destruction programme sound all too familiar. Fortunately, its leaders (including that in today’s Observer) are much more rational – as was Richard Norton-Taylor’s Comment is Free piece, although I would be less concerned than he about the Iranian leaders’ supposed irrationality. In my view military strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities would be unlikely to eliminate its likely weapons programme and would only serve to stiffen the resolve of all sides in Iran.

In general terms, I think a couple of points should be noted. This problem continues to be cast in nuclear terms. We hear no mention of any capabilities that Iran may have with biological or chemical weapons capabilities (i.e. WMD). I would be very concerned about provoking a BW-capable Iran that has an extended global reach, not with missiles, but through links with terrorists. Unlike with Iraq, this particular nexus might be far more feasible. And, for this and more direct practical reasons, I’m afraid the dream of disarmament (global or regional) is too distant to guide medium term policy. Thus, as undesirable as it is, the world has to come to terms with an expanding number of states which possess or are on the threshold of possessing not only nuclear but biological and chemical weapons as well.

But why should we, rather than France or Germany, find ourselves embroiled in all this? It is because we have a government dominated by a Tory party that, whilst repeatedly taking Labour to task for its “dodgy” dossier, still, in retrospect and without further explanation, continues to support the decision to go to war in Iraq. I have heard a serving minister include the impossibility of not supporting the US as one element in his explanation. Furthermore, many of the senior civil servants involved in the deception have achieved promotion and are advising the present government on security matters.

It is very difficult to see that even a nuclear armed Iran need be a significant threat to our national security in a timescale that precludes the consideration and development of a more coherent security policy on WMD. Central to that policy may be a re-evaluation of our policy with the US, including its implications with respect to Israel and the Middle East problem in general. I would like to think Chilcot would kick start a debate on this issue. His committee has had time to think about it.

Seasonal greetings from the Digest

by Andrew Mason

Once again we would like to collectively thank all our writers, readers and supporters for their individual contributions to the Digest over the course of this past year.

I think it is fair to say that many of us believed a year ago that we would all have seen, read and, dare I say it, completely digested the final Iraq Inquiry report by this time. As we now know, the whole process is taking much longer than was earlier anticipated, and is now not expected to be concluded until at least next summer. We will remain dedicated to bringing you the best possible coverage and analysis of all things related to the Inquiry throughout the coming year.

We would like to wish everyone associated with the Digest, no matter of any differing political persuasions, a happy, prosperous, and most enjoyable holiday season.

Seasonal greetings to all

Everyone here at the Iraq Inquiry Digest would like to take this opportunity to wish all our contributors, supporters and readers a very Happy Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous New Year.

Since this website opened in very early October, we have created 204 posts and 89 pages. We have approved 704 comments, and have consistently remained very high in the Google blog ratings system. The Digest has attracted contributions from individuals who were personally involved in the unfolding events of the run up to the 2003 invasion, including Hans Blix (UNMOVIC), Rod Barton (UNSCOM and the ISG) and Brian Jones (UK DIS), who has now become one of the Digest’s key contributors.

We believe that we have helped shape the debate about how the Inquiry is operating, and sincerely hope that we can build on this success throughout the remaining period of the Iraq Inquiry process.

We would like to thank everyone involved for their very welcome support.

We’ll be aiming to take some time away from our keyboards over the holiday season, although we will endeavour to bring you any breaking news as and when it appears.

In the meantime we will leave this post as an open thread. Please use it as you feel fit (usual rules apply!) to raise any points or comments which you might wish to address.

Wishing you all a very Happy Christmas!