Chilcot report: Aberdeen was “to be twinned” with Basra

People  leaving Basra in March 2003 after the coalition invasion. Credit: Dan Chung/MoD Crown Copyright/PA Wire

People leaving Basra in March 2003 after the coalition invasion. Credit: Dan Chung/MoD Crown Copyright/PA Wire

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Civil servants wanted to twin Aberdeen with war-torn Basra in the aftermath of the Iraq War.

In one of the more unusual revelations of the 6275-page Chilcot report, Whitehall believed that twinning the cities could help build links between Iraq and the UK.

Aberdeen Harbour.  Picture Ian Rutherford/TSPL

Aberdeen Harbour. Picture Ian Rutherford/TSPL

Frank Baker, head of the Iraq Group at the Foreign Office, made the suggestion in February 2009 ahead of the final withdrawal of UK forces from Iraq.

He wanted to rebuild the port’s capacity but also “focus on the long-term relationships between Basra and the UK”.

READ MORE: Chilcot report: All you need to know

While, on the face of it, the Granite City and the second city of Iraq may seem an unlikely match, Mr Baker wanted to exploit their links to the oil and gas industry.

Mr Baker said: “I have asked my team to draw up a mini-strategy focusing especially on areas such as co-operation in the educational field, including universities, local government co-ordination, city twinning (perhaps focused on oil, eg Aberdeen, or as a centre for a religion eg Canterbury), co-operation in the field of the arts and museums.”

Basra sustained heavy losses after US and British troops invaded in March 2003 with thousands of troops fighting to take the city under coalition control.

READ MORE: Chilcot report: Charles Kennedy ‘vindicated’ over war stance

British troops were stationed there for six years with the city suffering ongoing military action and sectarian violence.

Oil production has increased since the end of the war but still suffers from instability in the region.

Iraq remains the second-largest crude oil producer in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) after Saudi Arabia, and it holds the world’s fifth-largest proved crude oil reserves after Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Canada, and Iran.

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