Blair to ask for NATO rapid reeaction force deployment to Iraq


Tony Blair will call this week for a British-led Nato rapid reaction force to take control of the whole of southern Iraq.

In a move designed to bring greater cohesion to the military coalition, the Prime Minister will ask Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, the Nato secretary-general, for permission to deploy to Iraq the Allied Command Europe Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC) headquarters.

The move will greatly enhance the Prime Minister's ability to influence coalition policy because, for the first time since the start of the war, Britain will have a strategic-level headquarters in Iraq.

Defence chiefs believe the deployment will aid stability in the country after the transfer of power to the Iraqis on July 1 and will speed up the eventual withdrawal of British forces.

It will also mean that Iraq will in effect be divided into two military zones: one in the north commanded by the US military, the other in the south commanded by the British.

Besides the good this would do in Iraq, it also robs John Kerry of one of his talking points on the war.


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