Royal Navy head 'had prior knowledge of forthcoming Iraq invasion'

The former head of the Royal Navy has revealed he knew that an invasion of Iraq was forthcoming before the decision had been widely announced.

Labour peer Admiral Lord West of Spithead was giving evidence at the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee this week as it looked more closely at the role of parliament in authorising the use of military force.

He said he was aware in 2002 that British troops would be going into Iraq alongside the Americans.

"I was told as commander-in-chief (fleet) in June, after the Camp David meeting, that we would be invading Iraq with America in the beginning of the following year," Admiral Lord West commented.

He said he then had to issue a message to the fleet and the Royal Marines to be "ready for war in the Northern Gulf", as well as sending a fleet capable of countering mines to the region.

It had been assumed that a consultation with parliament officially authorised the use of military force, but this revelation suggests this was not the case and the military was already prepared for war.

The invasion of Iraq came about after then-prime minister Tony Blair insisted Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and was ready to use them within 45 minutes.

As a result, a US-led coalition force invaded the Middle Eastern country in March 2003, despite widespread controversy and a lack of public support.

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