Brown has agreed that an inquiry will be held after the withdrawal of all British combat troops from Iraq, which must take place by 31 July. Government sources insist that no final decisions have been made on the format and timing of the inquiry, though it is expected to meet in private and to be given a lengthy timetable.The Guardian falls for the story hook, line and sinker, telling us credulously what ministers are "not keen" to do and what they "fear". "if you have to keep a large force in place to guard the withdrawal"? I'm sorry, what on earth are you talking about? Who would believe that the government could move from promising to hold the inquiry as soon as practicable after the troops withdraw to claiming that they need to assess the withdrawal? And why does anyone believe that a withdrawal that has already started will take until 31 July?
Brown and David Miliband, the foreign secretary, want to assess the success of the operation to withdraw British combat troops before deciding when to make an announcement.
The Guardian understands that, on current thinking, an announcement is unlikely in the immediate aftermath of a 31 July withdrawal. This raises the possibility that it will come in early October when MPs return from the summer recess. An autumn announcement would mean hearings did not start until the new year. Ministers are keen not to commit themselves to an early announcement because they are nervous about the withdrawal, fearing that militias could use it to stage attacks on British forces.
One Whitehall source said: "If everything goes to plan and everyone is out and you don't need to leave a substitute force there, then you can get on with the inquiry. But if you have to keep a large force in place to guard the withdrawal, then that's going to be dangerous and will delay any announcement on an inquiry."
When ministers make the announcement, they are likely to say that it will be modeled on the Franks inquiry, which reported on the Falklands war in 1982. This consisted of six privy counselors who met in private and had access to all the relevant government papers. "A privy council inquiry probably makes sense because they can see all the papers," one government source said.
Tuesday, 14 April 2009
Quite how addicted to spin Gordon Brown remains is demonstrated by this Guardian story, in which - under cover of the emails and smears row - he lets it be known that he will delay the Iraq inquiry for as long as possible.