Soldier at the heart of arms sale control: Jordan was known to be a 'front' for Iraq in arms purchases, a senior Army officer tells the Scott inquiry

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The Independent Online
IN THE EYES of the civil servants and companies whose futures were inextricably entwined with the sale of weapons or defence equipment to Iran and Iraq, Lt-Col Richard Glazebrook and his colleagues became known as the 'branch that likes to say no'.

As Lord Justice Scott and his team endeavour to discover the extent of government knowledge of, and possible complicity in, exports to Iran and Iraq in breach of their own guidelines, Lt-Col Glazebrook has now spent four days helping them unpick a complicated Gordian knot of government guidelines, Whitehall committee procedures, export regulations and obscure mandarin speak.

His role on the Arms Working Group, a Ministry of Defence (MoD) group of military advisers which vetted defence exports to Iran and Iraq, has taken the inquiry to the centre of the system regulating the sale of weapons and related equipment.

The group determined what could and could not be sold abroad. 'If you are talking pure security you would sell nothing to nobody. On the other hand, that would make the UK manufacturing centre broke tomorrow and so what you are faced with is a compromise,' he said.

The MoD is responsible for 'looking after our own troops'. 'We are desperately concerned that nothing should go which might affect, say, troops deployed in Bosnia at the moment.' This meant the interests of selling equipment was overridden on occasions, he said. Despite being in a job which hugs anonymity like a newly discovered, long-lost friend, the 61- year-old retired Army officer has taken the open hearings easily in his military stride and set standards of candour other witnesses will be expected to follow. Unlike almost every other witness called so far, he chooses to sit without a legal adviser at his elbow.

During a 30-year career in the Army, Richard Glazebrook, MBE, reached the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in 1973 before retiring from the Prince of Wales's Own Regiment of Yorkshire in 1985. Such was his expertise he was immediately re-employed by the MoD as an 'RO1' (Retired Officer class 1) on 'technical security'. Retired officers re-employed as civilians in this way are usually on specialist military duties, often with a technical slant.

Usually, a retired officer will be employed two grades below his rank on leaving: for example, a Brigadier will be employed as an RO1 which equates with Lieutenant-Colonel: a Lieutenant-Colonel as an RO3, equating with a Captain. So Lt-Col Glazebrook's grade suggests either unusual expertise or a subsequent promotion.

His expertise, the inquiry learnt, was nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) warfare - a particularly sensitive area of arms proliferation - which is almost certainly one of the main reasons behind his appointment to JSORESB: Joint Systems, Operational Requirements, Equipment Security Branch, which examines the technical problems soldiers face in modern war.

He told the Scott inquiry he was involved in drafting key NBC guidelines for the British Army. In a rare glimpse of Richard Glazebrook, the man, as opposed to the professional soldier, he revealed that he brought to bear more than just a technical perspective. 'My father was gassed twice in World War One and from his descriptions of what happened I have a particular hatred of it,' he said.

(Photograph omitted)