The Iraq Inquiry is demanding access to a damning secret Ministry of Defence report into the shambles surrounding the invasion.
The report by former Iraq commander Lieutenant-General Chris Brown has been slapped with a highly secret classification because its contents are so explosive.
Defence sources say that they will not hand it over to the inquiry chairman Sir John Chilcot, until senior officers have had time to prepare a response to the accusations it makes.
But that decision was condemned as ‘another kick in the teeth’ for the families of Britain’s war dead.
The Iraq Inquiry has heard a succession of military and political witnesses explain the lack of planning before the war and the chaos that ensued after the conflict. But defence chiefs have restricted the circulation of their own internal report into what went wrong.
The MoD denies that the report has been suppressed to avoid embarrassment. But Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, chief of the defence staff, is blamed by some military officials for preventing the report being read as widely as is usual with lessons learned documents, which are routinely conducted after major military operations.
Lt Gen Brown, the last senior British military representative in Baghdad in 2009, is believed to have echoed the concerns of Major General Tim Cross, the only UK military official appointed to help plan the invasion aftermath who told the Iraq Inquiry that the preparations were ‘woefully thin’.
An MoD spokesman said: ‘Lt Gen Chris Brown has led a small team in the production of an internal, classified MoD paper examining the Iraq campaign for the purpose of learning lessons for the future.
‘As part of the routine staffing of such an important piece of work, a variety of military officials and civil servants have provided input during the paper's development.’ A spokesman for the Chilcot inquiry said: ‘The inquiry is aware of the MoD's internal study of lessons learned in Iraq. We do not comment on specific documents we hold but, the inquiry is confident that it will be given access to all relevant government documents.’
Rose Gentle, whose 19-year-old son son Gordon was killed in Iraq, said: ‘This report should be passed to the Chilcot Inquiry right away. I't’s just another cover up. The Ministry of Defence have lots of stiff that they won’t show to people. It’s just another kick in the teeth for the families who want to know what really happened.’
Sir John Chilcot and his team yesterday released details of senior officials in the US government who they have quizzed in private hearings in America, chief among them Paul Bremer, who ran Iraq after the war.
Signalling that the legality of the war is a major concern, the four members of the panel quizzed John Bellinger, the legal adviser to President Bush’s National Security Councillor.
And with the absence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq a key focus of the inquiry, they also met David Kay and Charles Duelfer, who ran the Iraq Survey Group.
Over the next month, the inquiry will release a new list of witnesses who will give evidence in London at the end of June and into July. Some will be officials whose names have come up regularly in evidence provided by other witnesses.
Other hearings will see previous witnesses recalled if their verbal claims do not appear to match up with the documents seen by the Chilcot team.
Colonel Richard Kemp, who commanded British forces in Afghanistan said: ‘Defence is far too important to get too sensitive about potential embarrassment.’
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