The long-awaited results of the Iraq Inquiry, also known as the Chilcot Inquiry, have been published. The unanimous conclusion drawn is that there was no need to go to war in 2003.
It has Chilcot saying war was “not a last resort”. The UK decided to invade before the peaceful options had been exhausted. Tony Blair committed to an invasion of Iraq almost eight months before receiving parliamentary and legal backing, and began military action before diplomatic alternatives were exhausted, a much-awaited inquiry into the conflict has concluded.
Here are the key findings and conclusions of the report:
Tony Blair and George Bush relationship:
Tony Blair: “I will take full responsibility for any mistakes without exception or excuse.”
The report has found that the decision by the UK cabinet to go to war with Iraq was made on 17 March 2003, but was “shaped by key choices” made by Blair over 18 months.
UK policy had been to manage Iraq by containing Saddam Hussein. By April 2002, when Blair met Bush in Crawford, Texas, there had been a “profound change in the UK’s thinking”.
On 28 July, Mr. Blair wrote to President Bush with an assurance he would be with him “whatever”, but for a coalition said Bush would need progress on the Middle East Peace Process, UN authority, and a shift in global public opinion.
Chilcot says that “Mr. Blair overestimated his ability to influence US decisions on Iraq.”
There were a number of occasions when Iraq policy should have been discussed by cabinet but was not.
Chilcot says the intelligence justifying invasion was presented “with a certainty that was not justified”.
The UK policy and intelligence communities had an “ingrained belief” that Iraq had retained biological and chemical weapon capabilities, was determined to keep and expand them, and could hide these capabilities from inspectors.
“The judgements about Iraq’s capabilities” made by Blair to parliament and in the September 2002 dossier “were presented with a certainty that was not justified”.
“The Joint Intelligence Committee should have made clear to Mr Blair that the assessed intelligence had not established ‘beyond doubt’ either that Iraq had continued to produce chemical and biological weapons or that efforts to develop nuclear weapons continued.”
Blair “had been warned…that military action would increase the threat from Al Qaida to the UK and UK interests”. Blair was also warned invasion could lead to Iraqi weapons falling into the hands of terrorists.
“It is now clear that policy on Iraq was made on the basis of flawed intelligence and assessments. They were not challenged, and should have been.”
Legality of the war:
Chilcot says his inquiry concluded it was America and Britain who were undermining the authority of the UN security council, because they pushed for military action when peaceful alternatives had not been exhausted. The report has concluded that there was no imminent threat from Saddam Hussein.
The panel has concluded that “the circumstances in which it was decided that there was a legal basis for UK military action were far from satisfactory”.
Lord Goldsmith then the attorney general, told Blair in January 2003 a second security council resolution “would be necessary to provide a legal basis for military action”. He did not advise until February that a “reasonable case” could be made without until the end of February.
Goldsmith asked Blair “to confirm that Iraq had committed further material breaches” of the UN security council resolution, which Blair did.
“The precise basis on which Mr. Blair made that decision is not clear”.
Planning and preparation:
Chilcot: “The planning and preparations for Iraq after Saddam Hussein were wholly inadequate”
Britain did not settle what its military contribution to Iraq conflict would be until January 2003, when it agreed to send brigades to Southern Iraq.
“There was little time to prepare three brigades and the risks were neither properly identified nor fully exposed to ministers”, which led to “resulting equipment shortfalls”.
Cabinet “did not discuss the military options or their implications”.
“When the invasion began, UK policy rested on an assumption that there would be a well-executed US-led and UN-authorised operation in a relatively benign security environment.”
“Mr. Blair told the Inquiry that the difficulties encountered in Iraq after the invasion could not have been known in advance.” The panel does not agree that hindsight was required.
“The risks of internal strife in Iraq, active Iranian pursuit of its interests, regional instability, and Al Qaida activity in Iraq, were each explicitly identified before the invasion.”
“Ministers were aware of the inadequacy of US plans.”
Blair “did not ensure there was a flexible, realistic and fully resources plan that … addressed the known risks”
Aftermath of the invasion:
“The UK military role in Iraq ended a very long way from success”
“More than 200 British citizens died as a result of the conflict in Iraq. Many more were injured … the invasion and subsequent instability in Iraq had, by July 2009, also resulted in the deaths of at least one hundred and fifty thousand Iraqis – and probably many more – most of them civilians. The people of Iraq have suffered greatly.”
The UK was “fully implicated” in the decisions of Iraq’s governing coalition authority “but struggled to have a decisive effect on its policies.”
“The Government’s preparations failed to take account of the magnitude of the task of stabilising, administering and reconstructing Iraq, and of the responsibilities which were likely to fall to the UK.”
“The scale of the UK effort in post-conflict Iraq never matched scale of the challenge. Whitehall departments and their ministers failed to put collective weight behind the task.
“In practice, the UK’s most consistent strategic objective in relation to Iraq was to reduce the level of its deployed forces.”
The Ministry of Defence was “slow in responding” to the threat to troops posed by IEDs (improvised bombs) – “delays in providing adequate medium weight protected patrol vehicles should not have been tolerated”.
“From 2006, the UK military was conducting two enduring campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. It did not have sufficient resources to do so. Decisions on resources for Iraq were affected by the demands of the operation in Afghanistan.”