The UK has stepped up its criticism of US conduct of the Iraq war, with the foreign secretary saying the single most disastrous mistake was the mass removal of supporters of the Ba’ath party from the Iraqi army, which he claimed led directly to the formation of Islamic State.
Philip Hammond said the move by Paul Bremer, an American diplomat in charge of running Iraq in 2003, to dismantle the country’s army had proved a disastrous mistake, as it had sent 400,000 unemployed soldiers on to the streets.
On Thursday the Chilcot report on the UK’s involvement in Iraq delivered a scathing critique of Tony Blair’s decision to go to war on the basis of bogus intelligence and a catastrophic lack of planning for the aftermath of the invasion.
Hammond, giving evidence to the Commons foreign affairs committee, said: “Many of the problems we see in Iraq today stem from that disastrous decision to dismantle the Iraqi army and embark on a programme of de-Ba’athification.
“That was the big mistake of post-conflict planning. If we had gone a different way afterwards, we might have been able to see a different outcome.”
The influx of professional soldiers into groups such as al-Qaida in Iraq and later Isis had increased the threat that the organisations posed, he said. “It is clear a significant number of former Ba’athist officers have formed the professional core of Daesh [Isis] in Syria and Iraq, and have given that organisation the military capability it has shown in conducting its operations.”
Sir Jeremy Greenstock, the UK ambassador to the UN in the run-up to the invasion, also rounded on the US, saying the UK had been prematurely pushed into war, and UN weapons inspectors should have been given more time.
You can read the news by clicking here.