Flawed and far from satisfactory: Blair at centre of damning Iraq war findings

The Iraq inquiry finds the former prime minister liable for failings in intelligence, preparation and legality

THE decison to invade Iraq in 2003 was based on ‘flawed inteligence’, according to the findings of the Chilcot Report released today. 

The Chilcot Report, published seven years after it began taking evidence, concluded that the decison to take miltary action did not occur after all peaceful avenues had been exhausted. There were serious concerns raised over the quality of intellegence used and the relationship between the former Prime Minister Tony Blair and former US President George W. Bush.

At a press conference as the report was released, Sir John Chilcot said: “Policy on Iraq was made on basis of flawed intelligence and assessments-they were not challenged and should have been.” Sir John went on to describe the inconsistencies between what the former prime minster had given as the reasons for invading Iraq and the intelligence evidence and public government line at the time.

Confused about the issues? Click on our explainer to find out more about the Chilcot Report

There were also questions over the handling of preparation and planning for the aftermath as well as the UK and US relationship with the UN and the security council. Chilcot stated: “But in March 2003 there was no imminent threat from Saddam Hussein, the strategy of containment could have been adapted and continued for some time, the majority of the Security Council supported continuing UN inspections and monitoring.” 

Lord Goldsmith, the government’s Attorney General at the time, came in for heavy criticism for his inconsistent advice to Tony Blair and change of position in the run up. 

The main argument Tony Blair cited for going to war was that Iraq possessed chemical and biological weapons. However, this was never proved, which cast an extra layer of doubt over the legitimacy of the invasion. 

The Iraq war and subsequent occupation lasted from 2003 to 2011 when the combined militaries of the UK, US and other European allies invaded Iraq governed by the country’s dictator Saddam Hussein. 

Over the course of the conflict, a total of 179 British servicemen and women and 500,000 of Iraqi civilians lost their lives. The intervention was successful in bringing an end to the reign of Saddam Hussein but failed to bring stability to the region once he was removed. 

The main argument Tony Blair cited for going to war was that Iraq possessed chemical and biological weapons. However, this was never proved, which cast an extra layer of doubt over the legitimacy of the invasion. 

The legal basis for war has been reviewed by Sir John Chilcot. He said: “We have, however, concluded that the circumstances in which it was decided that there was a legal basis for UK military action were far from satisfactory.”

The soldiers killed in Iraq and the many Iraqi civilians who have suffered were acknowledged by Sir John Chilcot in his opening statement and throughout the report. 

“The invasion and subsequent instability in Iraq had, by July 2009, also resulted in the deaths of at least 500,000 Iraqis - and probably many more - most of them civilians. More than a million people were displaced. The people of Iraq have suffered greatly.”

In response to Sir John Chilcot's report, former PM Tony Blair said: “I do not believe the removal of Saddam Hussein is the cause of terrorism we see today in the Middle East or elsewhere.” 

Tony Blair also said that his decision to take military action against Saddam Hussain was taken “in good faith and in what I believed to be the best interests of the country”. 

Alex Salmond, the SNP’s Westminster spokesperson on foreign affairs, said: “After such carnage, people will ask inevitable questions of was conflict inevitable and worthwhile? The answer from Chilcot is undoubtedly no. And who is responsible? The answer is undoubtedly Tony Blair. There must now be a consideration of what political or legal consequences are appropriate for those responsible.”

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