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Cost of Iraq War tops US$1 trillion says University of York expert in defence economics

Posted on 22 June 2005

The total cost of the Iraq War for the UK, the USA, Iraq and other nations is likely to top US$1.25 trillion dollars, according to a University of York academic.

Professor Keith Hartley, Director of the University's Centre for Defence Economics, estimates the cost using official figures and including the impact on world output caused by the rise in oil prices prompted by the conflict.

But Professor Hartley suggests that regime change could have been secured and the war avoided at a fraction of the cost - by paying Saddam Hussein to go.

The cost of military action to the UK and the USA both during the war and since will be more than $260 billion by the end of 2006, the bulk of which will be borne by the US. But the UK will have to find $7.5 billion to meet the costs of Britain's military involvement in Iraq.

It is a very costly adventure, particularly for the Americans - the military cost alone to them will be $255 billion

Professor Keith Hartley

Professor Hartley will detail his calculations on the cost of the conflict in a lecture at the University of the West of England tomorrow (Thursday 23 June). He will also suggest that the scale of the expenditure should prompt a major re-assessment of Britain's military role.

He reports the loss of world output due to the rise in oil prices up to 2010 will amount to $1 trillion.

"It is a very costly adventure, particularly for the Americans - the military cost alone to them will be $255 billion. The cost of the conflict for the UK was £1.5 billion over three months. That would build 25 hospitals in this country and the total bill for the UK military including post-conflict costs will be more than three times that figure," he said.

"Wars are not cheap and quite often costs are ignored in debates about war. But one solution would have been to make Saddam Hussein an offer he couldn't refuse to go.

"If, at the outset, the Americans anticipated the Iraq operation would cost $100 billion, they could have given Saddam Hussein and his family $20 billion to go, $50 billion to Iraq and still have had $30 billion left over. The UK would not have been involved, no-one would have died and no buildings would have been destroyed.

"People would say that involves rewarding a dictator but what is the moral authority for going to war with the huge loss of life that it involves?"

Professor Hartley says the war has major implications for the UK's defence policy and gives the opportunity for a re-assessment of the UK's military role.

"If we are going to continue our role as a world military power, we can't ignore the economics. The cost of equipment and personnel are rising and something has to give. We could abandon our role as a world military power leading to considerable savings on our defence budget, probably of the order of 0.5 per cent of Gross Domestic Product a year," he added.

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