Beyond the Iraq Inquiry: fresh perspectives on Britain’s difficult war by Brigadier (rtd) Ben Barry

  • Seminar Room G, Manor Road Building, Manor Road Oxford OX1 3UQ

Britain's war in Iraq remains controversial, particularly in regards to the difficult post-conflict stabilisation of Basra and southern Iraq. In 2010 the British Army produced its own internal analysis of these operations and their lessons. The document was the result of a year's unconstrained investigation, and its findings included some challenging and uncomfortable assessments. 

The report was not made publicly available at the time. Following publication of the independent Iraq Inquiry, however, the report was declassified. 
The author of the report, Ben Barry, will explain how the analysis was conducted and identify the report’s main conclusions. He will assess the extent to which the hard lessons of Basra were applied by British forces in Afghanistan, and their influence on the subsequent evolution of the British Army. From this perspective he will critically analyse the report by Sir John Chilcot's Iraq Inquiry, look at its strengths and weaknesses, and outline the implications of both reports for UK defence.

Ben Barry left the British Army in October 2010. A graduate of Sandhurst, the Army Staff College, the joint Higher Command and Staff Course and the Royal College of Defence Studies. An infantry officer, he has commanded troops at every rank from Lieutenant to Brigadier and in every British infantry role apart from parachute. Regimental experience includes three Northern Ireland tours, two in intelligence appointments, Cold War soldiering in Germany and Berlin, and duties in France, Portugal, Canada and Hong Kong. He wrote 'A Cold War; Frontline Operations in Bosnia' describing his battalion's operational tour under both UN and NATO flags. He subsequently commanded a NATO brigade in Bosnia. He has instructed at the Rifle Depot, the School of Infantry and Shrivenham and has led Defence Diplomacy work in NATO countries, Central Asia and the Middle East. Staff appointments have mainly been in the MOD, including the commitments staff, Director General Staff, Director Force Development; responsible for assessing future capabilities across the UK forces, and finally as Head of MOD Streamlining; designing and then implementing reduction and rationalisation of the MOD. His final appointment was leading the British Army's analysis of the lessons of the Iraq campaign.