The US 'assumed' UK participation in Iraq, inquiry told
Lord Boyce on US attitudes to UK involvement in military action
The US believed the UK would take part in the Iraq invasion even if there were no efforts to solve the crisis via the UN, the Chilcot inquiry has been told.
Ex-defence chief Lord Boyce said the US assumed in September 2002 the UK would provide the maximum troops available.
"No matter how many times" senior US officers were told UN efforts were necessary for UK involvement "there was a complete reluctance to believe it".
Their attitude, he told the hearing, was "you have got to say that".
Lord Boyce also attacked aspects of UK planning for the aftermath of the war, saying the Department of International Development - in charge of humanitarian assistance - had been "particularly uncooperative".
Clare Short, Secretary of State for International Development, resigned from the Cabinet two months after the invasion in protest at post-war policy in Iraq.
The inquiry has been looking into when military preparations for the invasion began and whether they made a diplomatic solution less likely.
AT THE INQUIRY
BBC World Affairs correspondent Peter Biles
Admiral Lord Boyce and Sir Kevin Tebbit conveyed a sense of the difficulties faced by military planners in the nine months before the invasion of Iraq in March 2003.
There were short timelines, and the original plan for British forces to move into Iraq from the north, was scuppered by Turkey. Most revealing, was that Lord Boyce was prevented by Defence Secretary, Geoff Hoon, from talking to the Chief of Defence Logistics in 2002, as it was thought this might have compromised the diplomatic efforts to secure a UN resolution.
The inquiry's committee missed an opportunity to pursue this in greater detail. As earlier witnesses have pointed out, the situation was further complicated by the different groups, and divergent views, within the US administration.
Lord Boyce described it as "dysfunctionalism" in Washington. There was also British frustration with the American assumption the coalition would be greeted by the Iraqis as a liberation force, carrying flowers in the end of their rifles.
Lord Boyce, the head of the armed forces in the run-up to the war, said UK officials began to "explore options" in May 2002 for contributing to an invasion of Iraq.
Participation was limited to a "small group" of military staff at the Ministry of Defence, he said.
Discussions focused on the scale of the UK's possible contribution, ranging from a small-scale effort - such as providing special forces - to a large-scale division-sized commitment.
But Lord Boyce said US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld always believed that the UK would stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the US and that the "shutters came down" when the possibility that this might not happen came up.
"There was a huge reluctance by the US throughout, from July 2002 through to March 17 2003 to believe that we were not going to commit our forces unless we had been fully through the UN process and through Parliament as well.
"No matter how many times you said to senior US officers... there was a complete reluctance to believe that."
He said the US reaction was "'you have got to say that but actually come the day you will be there'. That was the attitude".
Asked why the US "assumed" that the UK would provide the maximum troops requested, he added: "You will have to ask them that."
Lord Boyce said there was "absolutely no" contingency planning in the UK for action over Iraq in 2001 and that activity was "ramped up" in the summer of 2002, focusing on "what we could provide if asked".
As this process intensified in the autumn of 2002, he said he was prevented from discussing issues of logistics and resources because it would send out the "wrong signals" as the UK tried to get the UN to back a resolution calling on Saddam Hussein to disarm.
But despite the rushed preparation, he said he was "confident" frontline troops were properly equipped when they entered Iraq
The London inquiry, in its second week, also heard from the then senior civil servant at the Ministry of Defence that the UK faced a "dilemma" as planning for possible military action increased in 2002.
November-December: Former top civil servants, spy chiefs, diplomats and military commanders to give evidence
January-February 2010: Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and other politicians expected to appear before the panel
March 2010: Inquiry expected to adjourn ahead of the general election campaign
July-August 2010: Inquiry expected to resume
Report set to be published in late 2010 or early 2011
Sir Kevin Tebbit said the UK was "cautious" in its approach to military planning and timescales because its policy was to go down the UN route to try and force Saddam Hussein to disarm.
He denied military preparations hindered the diplomatic process, saying that options had to be drawn up because of the length of time needed to prepare for potential military action.
But he stressed the UK could not "stand aside" from the process if it wanted to "influence events".
Sir Kevin admitted "serious damage" could have been done to US-UK relations if it had decided late in the day not to send troops to Iraq.
But he said the UK government was insisting right up to the last minute that it needed Parliamentary approval for committing troops.
"It [UK participation] was not agreed until right at the end even though there would be serious consequences for not proceeding."
Lord Boyce criticised post-war reconstruction efforts undertaken by the Department for International Development (DFID), saying a lot of work had to be done by soldiers rather than development experts.
"I thought DFID were particularly uncooperative, as led by Clare Short.
"You had people on the ground who were excellent operators from DFID who were told to sit in a tent and not to do anything because that was the instruction they received. I actually met them."
Sir Kevin suggested DFID was fundamentally at odds with the rest of the government at that time.
"DFID felt a second UN resolution was absolutely essential before they could agree to do anything. That meant that it was only late in the day that we were able to get them fully engaged.
"Their focus on poverty relief rather than backing a strategic objective of the British government meant they were not sure at first the Iraqi people were quite poor enough to deserve major DFID aid."
Prime Minister Tony Blair had to intervene "to finally hammer out the terms of proper support", he said.
In the first few weeks, the inquiry is hearing from senior diplomats and policy advisers who shaped policy in the run-up to the war.
The crucial question of the legality of the war will not be addressed until early next year, when Tony Blair is expected to give evidence.
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