Iraq war probe ready to name and blame, says chairman

Inquiry to begin as leaked papers reveal troops were poorly equipped for conflict
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Indy Politics

The former Whitehall mandarin heading the long-awaited inquiry into the Iraq war has said his team will not shrink from criticising Tony Blair and other senior government figures if they are found to be at fault.

Sir John Chilcot, whose inquiry will hear the first public testimony tomorrow, said that the probe aimed to produce a "full and insightful" account of the decisions made in the run-up to war to build up a full narrative of the events and mistakes that occurred.

He added that he wanted to avoid the "adversarial ding-dong" of the courtroom during the exchanges. However, his team has already come under pressure to investigate claims that the former prime minister misled Parliament in the run-up to the war.

Sir John said he was aiming to create a natural atmosphere during the public hearings, which will carry on into the new year, in order to help foster "the human reaction to the key questions about people's responsibility at any particular time or any particular bit of the Iraq adventure".

But he warned witnesses that this did not mean that they should try to mislead the inquiry team, which has already been handed hundreds of documents about the decision-making that took place during the period.

"Because we have so much documentary evidence, a witness who sought to hold something back or misdescribe something would be on a loser because we already have all the factual underpinning," he said.

His warning comes as leaked government documents appeared to show "appalling" failures in planning that meant British troops were poorly equipped for the Iraq campaign. In the damaging documents, handed to the Sunday Telegraph, army chiefs complain of their troops being put at risk as a result of a rushed operation "lacking in coherence and resources".

They also argue that plans for the 2003 invasion did not include "detail once Baghdad had fallen". Body armour, boots and protection against chemical weapons failed to arrive on time, while radios reportedly tended to stop working at midday due to the heat. Lt Col ML Dunn, of 9 Supply Regiment, Royal Engineers, said his soldiers "only had five rounds of ammunition each, and only enough body armour for those in the front and rear vehicles".

Another stated that "in-theatre asset tracking was absolutely appalling". He added: "I know for a fact that there was one container full of skis in the desert." The documents also cast doubts over Mr Blair's assertion to MPs in July 2002 that no plans to invade Iraq had been drawn up by suggesting that some preparations had begun in February 2002.

Sir John said that he would be looking at the issue of resources, including both "manpower and material".

Mr Blair is not expected to be called to give evidence until next year.

Under scrutiny: Senior mandarins to face inquiry

Tuesday UK policy towards Iraq in 2001

* Simon Webb, director general of operational policy, Ministry of Defence, 1999-2001. MoD policy director, 2001- 2004

* Sir Peter Ricketts, chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, 2000-2001. Director general, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), 2001-2003

* Sir William Patey, head of Middle East department, FCO, 1999-2002

* Sir Michael Wood, Legal adviser to FCO, 1999-2006

* Wednesday Weapons of Mass Destruction

* Sir William Ehrman, director of international security, FCO, 2000-2002. Director general, Defence and Intelligence at FCO, 2002-2004

* Tim Dowse, head of counter proliferation, FCO, 2001-2003

Thursday The Transatlantic Relationship

* Sir Christopher Meyer, UK ambassador to the US, 1997-2003

Friday Developments in the United Nations

* Sir Jeremy Greenstock, UK ambassador to the UN, 1998-2003. UK's special representative for Iraq, 2003-2004

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