Prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende had little choice but to bow down and agree to a formal investigation into the Dutch position on the US invasion of Iraq.
Despite his repeated refusal to agree to an inquiry, evidence has been mounting that there was more to the decision-making process than MPs have been told.
There has been a string of media revelations which indicate that civil servants were not confident about the Dutch position – and had severe doubts about the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. And this was the reason the Dutch government gave for lending political, but not military, support to the war.
Balkenende has always denied that the US made a formal request for military help. But last week a former US deputy secretary of state told reporters that such a request was made – a claim which made an inquiry inevitable.
The prime minister’s credibility was being called into question by a close ally. The rumbling in parliament grew louder and who knows what memos and civil service documents were being dug up.
However Balkenende has not gone as far as his critics wanted and has opted for an independent commission rather than a full parliamentary inquiry. But he must be hoping that even this partial u-turn will help dispel the sense that he has something to hide.
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