BBC BLOGS - Nick Robinson's Newslog
« Previous | Main | Next »

Substantial commitment

Laura Kuenssberg | 18:15 UK time, Friday, 7 August 2009

Fascinating stuff has just been released to my colleagues at the World Service, revealing the Treasury's assessments of what the war in Iraq might cost.

Documents prepared for Gordon Brown in the run-up to the 2003 Budget - and obtained by the BBC through freedom of information - say that the "best estimate" of the combat cost of the war is £3.1bn.

But that same document goes on to state clearly that the total "potential military costs" might be much more, some £5bn, since "the emerging politics of post-conflict Iraq are already pointing to a much more substantial commitment both in terms of size and length of stay".

But in the Budget a month after this document was drafted, there is no mention of the larger figure. Now, you would imagine that civil servants would prepare for a range of outcomes.

But at the very least this is an intriguing glimpse of the behind-the-scenes preparations for the Iraq war.


  • Comment number 1.

    "But at the very least this is an intriguing glimpse of the behind-the-scenes preparations for the Iraq war."

    Conniving, misleading and pointless. Yep, sounds like typical Labour.

  • Comment number 2.

    for treasury assessement do we read that as what GB was prepared to spend and no more, therefore the mess with helicopters today.

    Given that at least privately senior top brass seem to have had a different view , some of which they are now making public ?

    As a result of the clunking fist of the treasury trying to bully them.

  • Comment number 3.

    "But at the very least this is an intriguing glimpse of the behind-the-scenes preparations for the Iraq war."

    Yes, it was Illegal (based on the fact that resolution 678 allowed for the expulsion of Iraqi troops from Kuwait not a full-scale invasion of Iraq. Resolution 1441 is irrelevant it wasn't the basis for invading).

    It was also Ill-conceived with no planning for the aftermath and the ensuing bloodbath.

    Way over budget (£5bn is still a ridiculously conservative estimate - it was £7bn as 2007. If you use the Stiglitz/Bilmes methodology, the ultimate cost will be many many times higher than this).

  • Comment number 4.

    Within the context of the Iraq war the dates of decisions and estimates are going to be a whole lot more interesting than the actual monetary costs involved. This way we might be able to find out who knew what and when.

    Neither should we lose sight of the human cost and identify the decison-makers responsible for Britain's involvement in this wholly unnecessary but aggressively-waged war.

  • Comment number 5.

    #2 IR35_SURVIVOR

    This refers to Iraq whereas the issue with helicopters and other essential kit refers to Afghanistan but I get your drift - our troops arrived in Iraq woefully under-equiped with rifles that didn't work (they discovered that the SA80 assault rifle jammed-up because of the sand) and little or no body armour.

    But of course Tony Blair wanted his 'humanitarian intervention' (but why not Zimbabwe, North Korea, Burma/Myanmar, Somalia, Sudan, etc, etc) so our troops were thrown onto the battlefield regardless.

    As for Gordon Brown, has he ever budgeted for anything correctly (without burying it in PFI or causing a large part of the population to suffer)? I've done some research and am a bit stuck - can't find anything.

  • Comment number 6.

    Consequently, regarding Iraq being a 'humanitarian intervention', I wonder if Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz insisting that it would pay for itself made it a bit more 'humanitarian'.

    Hmmmmmmm, interesting.

  • Comment number 7.

    Hi Laura,

    It makes you think that if this "large" figure, which is now larger wasnt mentioned back when it should have been. It shows this labour government has no interest in what things cost as long as there spending more than the tories.

    Why does this government measure success in how much they can spend and not what they can get for the money?

    This was definatly a political war and totally unjustified. Despite the sudden reason (when WMDs were not found) of regime change for the human rights of the Iraqi populace.

    I just think this starts unravelling the picture as to how labour plan, the conspiracy theorist would even go as far to say this is the plan.

  • Comment number 8.

    People believe that we have any control of whom is invited to be leader we do not Blair became leader because his personality is that flawed he was suitable as its about having total control over him, and as long as their is money at the end he was game Gordon would have been much harder to control. So Blairs first lie was to Gordon something this man had never gotten and never will. The Iraqis will never be free of the USA the building going on is for the USA compounds to live in with nice homes and fast food its about control of the Middle East now they are in Afghanistan trying to prove that they can do what the Russians could not do, and Brown who is unelected so in my book is not PM sends out boys to do a man's job after all it was set up by men you do not see Blairs sons out there he can spare one or two why is his sons better than those who died. It is all about Western interests which is the control off the oil and poppy fields and the need to make the world white and American we are having another Jolly Boys outing again next month and what will that do, they should be banned till the so called credit crunch is sorted and people can look at what is going on.

  • Comment number 9.

    But at the very least this is an intriguing glimpse of the behind-the-scenes preparations for the Iraq war.

    More likely it is an intriguing glimpse into the way we are governed where spin replaces fact and data/statistics employed selectively to bolster the political message.

    Fortunately the scales are being lifted from the electorate's eyes as the NuLab mythology crumbles and more and more people realise that the Emperor really is naked.

  • Comment number 10.

    .....Now, you would imagine that civil servants would prepare for a range of outcomes......

    i guess you cant blame politicians for being economical with the is in their nature, but surely this only goes to show how politicised the civil service has become..they no longer ask the questions, just rubber stamp the policy.... The electorate is left unprotected from the worst excesses of government with self serving public servants and a mainly supine media.... I live for the day when a Today programme interviewer says to a minister who does not answer questions.. "this interview is a waste of time goodbye minister..."

  • Comment number 11.

    I don't see anything surprising there. Wars are both very expensive and unpredictable, and the only think you know about your estimate is that it's going to be completely wrong. A war is not like a building project - you can't just add 20% for inflation.

    Once you realise that, and if you have a choice about entering into a state of war in the first place, then you can consider the cost (i.e. it's going to cost a lot more than we think) when deciding whether or not to go ahead.

    Further problems arise when somebody realises that it's all costing more than they thought and then tries to cut back and do it on the cheap. Obvious to most people is that this approach eventually costs far more.

    Remember the poem 'For want of a nail the nation was lost'? Well politicians don't understand it.

  • Comment number 12.

    #5 extremesense

    The helicopter issues started in IRAQ first then moved but this
    has not been made much at the time as the press were being supine
    to Bliars wishes.

    This is the second great issue after whether we should be there.
    that is if you are prepared to commit other peoples children lifes
    you should also be prepared to commit the CASH too to support them in that action.

    They were clearly prepared to commit our soliders lives but not the CASH to support them. That is a great act of selfishness.

  • Comment number 13.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 14.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 15.

    Fiddling the cost figure was rather dumb. It was bound to catch up with them eventually and those million odd marching in the street were not generally interested in a billion pound or so. They seemed to be mostly concerned with a matter of principle.

  • Comment number 16.

    No surprises there really: more spin and lies from a government who have taken spin and lies to a new art form.

    Just out of interest, how much did it actually cost? I'm guessing considerably more than £5 billion.

  • Comment number 17.

    This is good, investigative stuff - it's been missing from this blog for more than a long time.
    Keep it up Laura, it is appreciated and so are the frequent updates!

  • Comment number 18.

    I thought that this comment was crucial:

    "the emerging politics of post-conflict Iraq are already pointing to a much more substantial commitment both in terms of size and length of stay".

    If the original justification (based on the dodgy dossier) for the Iraq war was questionable, it seems evident that the UK government was always very doubful about what would happen next... There was little doubt that a US-led assault would roll over the Iraqi military. But there seemed to be virtually no planning for what would happen next.

    I disliked everything that Saddam stood for. Oppressive governance, murderous, despotic and "family, village, region, tribe" approaches (rather like Mugabe). There seemed absolutely no evidence that he would have tolerated Al Quaeda. The UK troops were undersupported. The US believe we slunk away with our tail between our legs. Iraq is hardly a more stable environment now than previously. As the US close down their involvement, Iraq will probably continue to be blighted by inter-community and inter-sect rivalries for years.

    If the views of our military leaders are to be considered, the same thing is true in Afghanistan. How do you cost in a 2 or 3 decades burden that our children will have to pay for?

    The Blessed Leader (apparently a brilliant historian) seems to have taken a very Victorian view of wars. Was a time when a leader knew what the costs would be. Get an army together. Equip them as well as possible. Not hear anything back for days, weeks or even months, because communicaions were poor... Win, or lose, you knew what you'd spent.

    Interesting that (probably) the worst defeat of the British by the US in the War of Independence occured in New Orleans on Jan 8th 1815. A Peace Treaty had already been signed on 24th Dec 1814, but news didn't reach the combatants until Feb 12th... Nobody switched off their Blackberry.. it just took a while for news to travel.

    Any government that tries to estimate a "real cost" of war is deluded. If you are offered a minimum and possibly maximum spend, you should take the upper limit and double it.

    It's interesting to note the obfuscation about financial matters in other areas. Broad sheets are suggesting that the NHS will HAVE to find GBP4BILLION savings, just to cope with the wildly expensive PFI contracts entered into over the last decade. (So, the OFF-balance sheet "investments" come back as ON-balance sheet costs!)

    Just hope that my children understand what they are working for - while they strive to keep in a job until they're 70 or more, in order to qualify for a pension!

  • Comment number 19.

    Now that the Iraqi government has kicked out the British Armed forces, as their mandate to stay was not ratified/renewed (delete as applicable) by the Iraqi parliament, does Britain still have any financial obligations there? That is are we still committed to building up that country's infrastructure?

    Ordinarily the fact of our armed forces being kicked out like this would be a source of national embarassment and angst, but this country has been so run down I am quite sanguine about this. Ho hum, only a matter of time before the UK will not even get invites to G20 meetings...

  • Comment number 20.

    Well done Laura,; good investigative stuff.

    You might like to update your BBC profile though!!!

  • Comment number 21.

    I get the feeling that these leaks are yet again designed to dilute the effect these damning defence reports would have if they were released properly.

    One can only assume that all government departments have been similarly understating how much things cost,in which case we will only find out the truth at some later date.

  • Comment number 22.

    #12 IR35_SURVIVOR

    Yes, sorry you're right about helicopters being an issue in Iraq although it's important to stress that there other much bigger issues such as body armour and the then non-operating SA80 assault rifle (didn't work in the desert).

    You're also obviously right in saying that they're prepared to view soldiers lives as expendable but not cash. You suggest that this is selfish, I would suggest that this is supreme cowardice as the government are too scared to face the electorate with the true costs.

    It turns my stomach.

  • Comment number 23.

    #16 DisgustedOfMitcham2

    The cost? As of 2007, it was £7bn although this figure is not based on the Stiglitz/Bilme methodology which incorporates ALL the costs so it higher.

  • Comment number 24.

    Governmental budgeting for war is similar to governmental supervison of banking. The numbers are never correct, corruption eats a lot of the funding, and no one wants to tell bad news. War is for military contractors and they will always argue, privately, that this is all good for the economy. The patriots that scream the loudest are usually profitting from the venture.

  • Comment number 25.

    I think that these people involved in costing things out are so used to millions and billions that they do no understand just how much money they are talking about. To them 1 million or 10 million is the same as 1 pound or 10 pound. This breeds a blase culture and they probably do not care that it costs 5 billion more.

    This is not just a disease of government. I have rarely seen costings that come anywhere near reality. They are just fudge and smear to get a number at the end to justify the action.

    Just like the troop & civilian deaths these just become a number.

    I say put your money where your mouth is Mr Brown and hold the next cabinet meeting in Helmand.

  • Comment number 26.

    However much it cost the reality is that you cannot impose a democracy on people. The cost will be hidden, but the deathtoll will be there for all to see as the bombings of the last couple of days have shown.
    Regime change? Great if you didn't get on with the regime that was in power. The problem now is that although the regime may be more to the liking of the Americans, there are growing signs that the population in Iraq are not willing to lay down like we do and just accept who rules us.
    I hope I'm wrong but I don't believe the coelition of the good has delivered a sustainable, peaceful, democracy for the future.

  • Comment number 27.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 28.

    #24 ghostofsichuan
    patriots that scream the loudest are usually profitting from the venture.

    you do not have to be a patriots to be accused of profiting from the
    venture. to accuse people of such is quite obnocious and seeks to destort the debate. Is there someone wrong with putting your country first rather than your party ?

    quite the opposite you may well want your country to be well defended
    and equiped against enemies and the correct process of parliament has been followed. Which is obviously the Not case with some of Bliars wars.

    he certainly did not win over the people.

  • Comment number 29.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 30.

    What a blessing the freedom of information act is, Journalists can get the facts so easily now, so why do we need to pay for so many of you at the BBC? Once upon a time it was put about that investigative journalists had to work hard to get the facts. That was of course until Labour brought in the FOI act. Now it seems all we need is a few clerks at the Beeb putting in requests around every bit of government. Mind you its going to be a bit of a bummer when the Beeb eventually gets covered by the act!

  • Comment number 31.

    it seems clear that this adventure was (and is) a grave mistake - but who to blame? - for me (from the UK angle) it's one man's folly - a man who (egged on by his fabulous success in taming the "unelectable" Labour Party and getting it, not just elected, but by a landslide) thought he could walk on water - and wanted to walk on water - thirsted for the acclamation of, if not the world, the next best thing ... the United States of America - the modern Colossus - the place we all go to in our Dreams - and he wanted to be a rock star (didn't he?) back in his student days - well, this was a throwback to that - Oasis, Robbie Williams, Sir Cliff ... none of them managed to do it ... to "break America" ... but oh boy, did our Tony do exactly that - applause in Congress, cruising around Camp David, Morgan Stanley on tap! - who could resist? - could you? - with great talent comes great flaws and in this case, I'm afraid, it's the flaws which won out - perhaps it was inevitable

  • Comment number 32.

    As many of the terorrists involved in the 9/11 attack were identified as having been here and this was known as a terrorist breeding ground will we ever find out what was threatened had we not participated in the Iraq war.

    It is doubtful so we will never really find out the true consequences of what would have happened and of what Bush meant when he said we were with him or we were against him if we had not participated.

  • Comment number 33.

    I noticed that even the Guardian was concerned about the masses of troop carrying vehicles parked here in the UK, while fairly poorly protected vehicles are still used in Afghanistan. Of course, the vehicles here are waiting for a bit of servicing and to have proper armour built in...

    And we don't have the supply aircraft to deliver them rapidly to where they're needed, anyway.
    And the aircraft we do have have been criticised by a coroner for their lack of "fitness for purpose". (Especially as the MoD decided NOT to install fire suppressants the US used for a decade, making them vulnerable to small arms hits. Even though they were well aware of the protective possibility. So when a (fully internal to the MoD) whistle blowing acquaintance of mine raised the issue, he was stunned to recognise that the MoD had decided that the "balance of probabilities" meant it wasn't worth the installation costs years before he raised the issue...)

    And that helicopters that would have cost "only" £1 BIL will now cost £1.7BIL, because of dithering over purchase...

    And helicopters we actually own and ministers say will be shipped to the Mid-East are badly armoured, so the crews aren't happy and the troops are going to be more exposed than is ideal.

    If your children treated your money (and other people's lives) with such casual disregard, you'd probably give them a blistering tongue-lashing...
    (But I forgot, you'd probably get a restraining order, for telling them the truth.)

    We've been led through a decade of phantasy economics, bogus social advances, educational "wonders" based on a completely fraudulent approach to the "worth" or "value" of the actual outcomes. Some morally dubious wars, plenty of grandstanding intiatives and not much delivery.

    And, sadly, with too many young people believing that "The Government" will provide. But these poor souls don't realise that "The Government" gets the money it sprays around by using Fagin's line that "You've gotta pick a pocket or two, Boys - or rather, to keep in with Harriet H - boys and girls in equal measure, you gotta pick a pocket or two".

    Mandelson said that New Labour was totally relaxed about people and companies making vast sums of money. Me too. I don't mind anyone making their own money and spending it. I object to someone taking a slice of the much less amount I make and squandering it on nonsensical projects. Like a Billion plus new headquarters for the MoD when soldiers' home quarters are like neglected squats.

    It's not what you SPEND that counts, it's the value of what you buy that's important. You'd never guess it from this governments' approach.
    But it seems to be all about "We spent NNpercent more than the Tories, or the EU average, or the G20", as if that matters. Given a free rein with a cheque book based on other-people's money, I could spend to Olympic standards. Would that mean it was "wise" and that what I bought would deliver something "better"?

    Meanwhile, we're propping up a new Afghan regime that appears to be economically corrupt, with Karzai's brothers, cousins and goodness knows who tapping into the most important areas of national wealth generation (which seems to be other peoples' money, again).

    I wonder how long it will be until the US and UK (and whoever else is prepared to lose young lives) will be involved in a "regime change activity" in Afghanistan?

    (BTW, it's rather sad that a political bog was closed for further comments, while Bob Preston's blog was open over the weekend.)

  • Comment number 34.

    #33 Fairlyopenminded
    The Government minister this morning said that the armoured troop carrying vehicles parked here are needed for training purposes........

    Yeah right!!!

  • Comment number 35.

    #32. At 7:51pm on 10 Aug 2009, virtualsilverlady wrote:
    As many of the terorrists involved in the 9/11 attack were identified as having been here and this was known as a terrorist breeding ground will we ever find out what was threatened had we not participated in the Iraq war.
    It is doubtful so we will never really find out the true consequences of what would have happened and of what Bush meant when he said we were with him or we were against him if we had not participated.

    virtual s l,

    I can hardly believe that George Dubya would have launched a "shock and awe" blast against the UK - with so much US money tied up here... The French were actively opposed to his ideas - but he also decided not to nuke them!

    Most of the Al Quaeda origins were based in Saudi Arabia. Has the US ever proposed a little bit of "shock and awe" there? Nah. Is it a bastion of democracy? Nah.

    GW's Dad should have done what would have been a good deed, by not only pushing the Iraqis out of Kuwait (with strong support from the Brits), then pushing on to topple Saddam. The world already knew about the Marsh people, the problems of the Iraqi Kurds, etc. But maybe the US held back because they knew they had built up Saddam as a bastion against the Iranian Islamic Republic.

    The history books say that Harold Wilson (who I always thought was a weasely sort of Labour PM) had the guts to say "No" to joining in the US venture in Vietnam. IF Blair had the same degree of courage, he'd have said "Just wait up, till we determine whether there really are WMD in Iraq". Nah. Grabbed a White Stetson, rode on the uncomplaining, but under-equiped, UK army's back and reappeared as a darling of - and highly paid performing flea to - the US population. SICK.

    (By the way, I was all in favour of toppling Saddam during the first war and keen to see him go later. And I've a few others on my list...)

    The "true consequences" were that, during GW's reign, the US banks - with a huge amount of UK finance houses cooperation - created the basis for a total collapse of sanity in the finance arena. So the benefit we got from lining up with GW was (admittedly helped by a UK Chancellor who had "spend" not "value for money" in mind) a massive recession.

    In retrospect, which would you prefer?

    A brutal dictator in power (along with many others we could have got rid of but chose to ignore) or a rediculous and totally avoidable economic disaster? Which probably means that, if someone genuinely threatened UK interests right now, we couldn't afford to fight?

    Maybe we could flood invaders with ASBOs or "Street Play co-ordinators". Possibly the parking ticket brigade would swoop, so tanks couldn't be left in the same place for more than an hour? Possibly we'd tell the invaders that their kids would have to go to "bog standard" comprehensives? That combination would really drive them away.

    It isn't what you say that counts, it's what you do!

    That's what our government doesn't seem to have understood over a decade.

    By the way, this blog has become like a ghost town. Is that down to the Moderators constant interventions?

  • Comment number 36.

    Laura, You are right - this is intriguing. However, it will be a decade or two before the facts are clear. Only in the eighties did we see the cumulative efffects of two world wars. It will be the twenties or thirties before we see how far we have been sunk by the Blair wars (not to mention the cost of the Brown PFIs, the Foot-and-Mouth, the EC Fisheries policy, the closure of farms all across the UK, the destruction of manufacturing, the crumbling roads, the unrestrained immigration, the impossible expansion of universities, the collapsed building industry, the collapsed finance industry, and the coming hyperinflation).
    Anyway, I'm not botheed by the moderators - they are only doing their job;-)
    The real issue no is "Where's Laura?" You've been gone all of Monday... I'm having withdrawal symptoms. I'll have to stay up all night, checking for new posts.

  • Comment number 37.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 38.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 39.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 40.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 41.

    Extremesense, Indeed British troops have problems with the SA80A1 in desert conditions, in 1991 during the 1st Gulf war.
    And the government of the day did damn all about it.

    The A2 mods, which made the weapon much more reliable, was undertaken in the early part of this decade, as well as the long awaited buy of a proper light machine gun, something else that previous government had ignored.

    I'm not defending the current government generally, certainly not on Iraq, but for troops kit they are no worse than any other, since WW2.
    Just that current conflicts are more politically charged, so various media types talking heads etc, pretend to care about such things as a political stick to use.

    I also recall an editorial in the respected Flight International, lamenting the lack of support helicopters, but this was back in 1986!

  • Comment number 42.

    #35 fairlyopenmind

    Regarding your point about it being good to topple Saddam Hussein.

    My gut agrees with you, however, my brain doesn't for a number of reasons:

    - UN res 678 did not allow for foreign troops to invade Iraq, go to Baghdad and topple Saddam Hussein unless it was for the protection of Kuwait in order to expel Iraqi troops, which to my knowledge, was not threatened at the time.

    Therefore, the troops that invaded were a lawless lynch-mob and this is illustrated throughout the whole conflict (various massacres, torture, etc, etc all carried out by 'NATO' troops).

    - The continuing post war violence.

    - The current political situation where it could be said that various Iraqi politicians have their own private armies who are above the law (Nouri al Maliki has denyed having his own army although questions remain).

    - Iraqi prisons are packed full of men and women living in the most horrendous conditions who don't really know why they're there and are lost in the system.

    - Saddam Hussein was a weakened almost spent force who would more than likely have been the victim of a coup by his own unpaid, underfed army.

    What I'm trying to get at is that Iraq, sadly was better under Saddam Hussein and with more hope for the future than there is today. The Americans, aided and abetted by us, intervened purely on the basis that it allowed them to control the future of the country.

  • Comment number 43.


    Thanks for that, interesting stuff.

    Mind you, would the Stiglitz/Bilme methodology make much difference on this side of the pond? One brief description I read of the costs their method includes that aren't otherwise include are the costs of replacing military equipment and caring for wounded veterans for the rest of their lives.

    Given that we don't do those things over here, maybe it doesn't make much difference!

  • Comment number 44.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 45.


    Just to add to the "toppling Saddam Hussein was a bad idea" list it is worth recording that he had introduced some western influenced improvements for women in education and politics. These have been lost to the new political regimes. It is kind of ironic isn't it?

  • Comment number 46.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 47.

    "2. At 10:52am on 10 Aug 2009, IR35_SURVIVOR wrote:
    for treasury assessement do we read that as what GB was prepared to spend and no more, therefore the mess with helicopters today."

    Sorry but every one knows that we have several stealth squadrens of stealth helicopters deployed, but its so top secert that only the PM knows where they are.

    I just hope that next time GB visits the war zone he is treated like all the brave men out there and transported around in the lightly armored land rovers.

    The helicopters have far more important roles than transporting him around.

  • Comment number 48.

    I wonder if those Iraqis who lost family in the war or were maimed will have a case for claiming damages from the US and UK under international law as it could be argued that the war was illegal?
    There are individual cases involving torture victims (e.g. Baha Musa) and cases against private security companies.
    I believe an Iraqi committee has been set up to look into compensation. Anyone have more info on this?

    PS Laura, can we expect more blogging or have you been censured (or censored)?

  • Comment number 49.

    Would this be the same budget where G.Brown CUT (oops sorry re-allocated) the helicopter budget, looks like he decided to pay for the war by stoping future investment in much needed equipment.

  • Comment number 50.

    Labour have always been pitiful at supporting our armed forces. Even the worst of the Conservatives have been better (not exactly a ringing endorsement that). Not surprising. I have more military experience (which is not a lot) than all Labour MPs put together.

  • Comment number 51.

    Perhaps the real cost of going into Iraq is now the growing threat of Iran.

    Whilst the world has taken its eye off the ball, Iran grows into a much greater threat than Iraq ever was.

  • Comment number 52.

    #41 The difference between 1991 and now is that we have has massive economic growth, well we are told that, GB has spend it all BUT not on the armed services when he should have been.

    back in 1991 they did not have the money in the first place. We were deep in recession back then, still coming to term with the mess from 1979.
    but in 1997 onwards we were in good health and on the way up

    so you have to ask yourself where has all the money gone.

    something the BBC should be doing in retrospect , looking at the priorites of spending etc since 1997

  • Comment number 53.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 54.


    Re - SA80, I agree with you to an extent, that's why UK special forces select their own weapons. However, in 1991 the involvement of combat troops was incredibly limited and dod not involve occupation of hostile territory (I don't just mean enemy territory which then involved holding on to an empty patch of desert).

    Regarding support helicopters, that doesn't surprise me although I would have thought that this government with its sizeable defence budget would have gotten round to doing something - it's been twelve years and much of that has been spent in conflict with someone or other (not including Northern Ireland).

  • Comment number 55.

    Governments have been underestimating costs for years, there are so many examples that it's pointless to list them all. Why anyone should think that a war should be any different amazes me. What is of concern however is the apparent massaging of figures for public consumption. Brown and co seem to be worse at this than any prior government, yet fail to get held to account.
    i am disappointed that the BBC is not much more aggressive in pressing politicians on this subject and instead of moving on to the next question, should press and press until they get a yes or no answer, and not be fobbed of by lawyer speak. I work in high value sales and if I spoke to my clients in an evasive and unspecific manner I would ultimately lose my job. Oh, yes, well we do have an election looming, however it's been too long in coming.

  • Comment number 56.

    #51 DistantTraveller

    I disagree, according to the latest (came out the last few weeks) US National Intelligence Estimate, Iran won't have enough fissile material for a bomb until 2013 at the earliest - a lifetime in foreign affairs.

    There are other much greater threats.... for example, the latest reliable poll of Pakistanis showed a significant majority viewed the US as the greatest threat to the country.

    Regarding Iran, I think the greatest threat it poses right now is an indirect threat and that's being bombed by Israel.

    If Netanyahu's government do agree to attack, the fallout I think will be horrendous and affect the whole of the Middle East if not the world (oil prices, the breakdown of the UN, etc).

  • Comment number 57.


    Hang on a moment, Iraq has NEVER been a NATO operation. Not ever. Not Gulf War 1, Not the North and South No Fly Zones, Not Shock & Awe, Not toppling Saddam, none of it. You could never have got all the member nations to agree to it, especially the cheese eaters.

    Those were COALITION operations. Not the same, not by some considerable distance.

    Now, ISAF and KFOR are NATO ops...

    Sorry if I'm being pedantic, but the fact that some of the nations that took part were themselves NATO member nations does not make it (legally) a NATO Op.

  • Comment number 58.

    Topic how much might a war in Iraq cost? Answer how much did the conflict in Iran cost ?How much is it costing to maintain a stable solution to Afghanistan ? How much Did it require to have some bullets in my 45 revolver When passing the check point in the Russian zone in 1952 must have been expensive as we never had any, yet the Russian sentry's were armed to the teeth ,Government cuts i suppose .Whats more to the point is all this outlay trying to be the worlds policeman is getting the UK know were and for what a pat on the back from our good friends the united states.As regards to the helicopters the troop carrying ones were all grounded at one stage as they had problems that needed to be rectified and it is this type that were required not the stealth type fast in strike and out but the rapid deployment of troops like the Chinook were the ones that were really needed, and they cost money and can't be conjured up in two minutes.For the record if the united states did not assist in ww2 you would all-be fluent in German by now doing the goose step.But you can't continue to be the worlds policeman either so its time to sit back and see where you are going in these hard times of resession.


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.