Closed Chilcot Report: Iraq inquiry puts Tony Blair under scrutiny – as it happened

Sir John Chilcot Delivers The Iraq Inquiry Report

Sir John Chilcot has released his long-awaited report on the UK involvement in the Iraq war, which has led to more than 500,000 civilian deaths in the country.

Sir John said the UK government “chose to join the invasion of Iraq before the peaceful options of disarmament had been exhausted” and “military action at that time was not a last resort”.

Prime minister David Cameron tells MPs that the report is not “accusing anyone of deliberate explicit deceit” while Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, formally apologises on behalf of the Labour Party for taking the country to war.

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair said he stood by his decision to back an invasion and that the report “should lay to rest allegations of bad faith, lies or deceit.”

Key findings

  • Blair committed to an invasion almost eight months before receiving parliamentary and legal backing
  • The invasion was based on “flawed intelligence and assessments” that went unchallenged
  • The UK was “undermining” the UN Security Council’s authority in the absence of majority support for military action.
  • The inquiry did not express a view on whether military action was legal but concluded “the circumstances in which it was decided that there was a legal basis for UK military action were far from satisfactory”.


Good morning from London, where Sir John Chilcot is set to reveal the findings of his seven-year inquiry into the UK’s involvement in the Iraq war at 11am.

The FT’s Henry Mance notes:

The 2.6m-word report will not send former UK prime minister Tony Blair to The Hague to stand trial for war crimes, nor end the sectarian strife within Iraq, nor change the minds of many British people.

Mance has, however, identified four things to watch for when the report is published.

Read more here.


The FT’s international affairs editor, David Gardner, has published his own take ahead of the report’s publication later this morning.

It is hard to imagine how much more damage can be done to the tarnished reputations of Tony Blair, former prime minister, and his lieutenants, or whether any inquiry can capture the toxic mix of naivety, vanity and obtuseness that impelled this misadventure when the UK decided to go to war alongside President George W Bush.

Yet whatever Chilcot establishes, there are at least three deeper truths about Iraq — the geopolitical fiasco as well as the destruction of a state and society already brought low by tyranny, wars and sanctions — aside from the fact that the US and the UK started this war of choice with no more forethought than the Brexiters have exhibited.

Read more here.


The full report is 2.6m words.

Caroline Lucas, the Green party’s only MP, received a copy at 8am this morning.

She’s shared a picture of the multiple volumes.

https://twitter.com/CarolineLucas/status/750587001607426048

Lucas, the MP for Brighton, has long opposed the Iraq war, saying in the past that the conflict was “illegal and immoral”.

“Illegal, because nothing in the UN Charter sanctions this kind of pre-emptive attack,” she said in a speech in 2013. “Immoral, because it will have devastating impact on the ordinary people of Iraq.”


The nighmare scenario for Chilcot report watchers via a tweet from a parody twitter account

https://twitter.com/JohnnyChilcot/status/750260912758616064


Much has been made of the length of the Chilcot report — and a select handful of political journalists in central London have been given just three hours to pore over the 2.6m words of findings before Sir John Chilcot begins his press conference at 11am.

In the meantime, the FT’s Henry Mance helpfully points out that the report is far lengthier than some of the world’s most famous Russian novels, religious texts and children’s series.

War and Peace: 560,000
King James Bible: 780,000
Harry Potter books: 1.1 million
Chilcot Report: 2.6 million

And the 2.6m doesn’t include approximately 1,500 documents that will be released alongside the report. By comparison, the 2004 Butler review into intelligence was just 78,000 words, or 216 pages.


Protesters have gathered outside the home of former Prime Minister Tony Blair in central London.

Blair is expected to make a statement following the publication of Sir John Chilcot’s report later today.

Press Association


Former Prime Minister Tony Blair has left his home in central London this morning.

Getty


It has been a long road until the publication of the Chilcot report. Here are some key dates via a timeline from the Press Association:

• June 15 2009: Prime Minister Gordon Brown announces the establishment of an independent Privy Counsellor committee of inquiry to identify lessons that can be learned from the Iraq war. Sir John Chilcot confirmed as chair of the panel.

• July 30 2009: Sir John Chilcot launches the inquiry, saying that he will hold as many public meetings as possible and that the panel “will not shy away from making criticism”.

• November 24 2009: Public hearings commence.

• December 8 2009: Sir John Scarlett, former chief of the British Secret Intelligence Service who drew up the Government’s Iraq dossier, appears to distance himself while giving evidence from Mr Blair’s claim that intelligence had established “beyond doubt” that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

• January 12 2010: Alastair Campbell, who was director of communications and strategy to the Prime Minister, denies that he sought to “beef up” the government’s dossier on Saddam Hussein’s supposed weapons of mass destruction.

• January 18, 2010: Jonathan Powell, Chief of staff to the Prime Minister, denies that an attempt was made to “bully” attorney general Lord Goldsmith into authorising the war but says it was made clear that he could not simply sit on the fence with a legal opinion.

• January 27, 2010: Former attorney general Lord Goldsmith gives evidence to the panel, saying he gave the “green light” to invade Iraq just two days after meeting US government lawyers.

• January 29, 2010: A defiant Mr Blair tells the inquiry that he has no regrets over removing Saddam Hussein and would do the same again.

• February 8, 2010: Jack Straw is called to the panel again and denies blocking detailed cabinet discussion on the attorney general’s advice on the legality of military action against Iraq.

• January 18, 2011: Sir John Chilcot says the inquiry is “disappointed” that it cannot publish the notes Mr Blair sent to President George W Bush nor the records of their discussions.

• January 21, 2011: Mr Blair is recalled to the inquiry where he is jeered and heckled by relatives in the hearing room as he said he “deeply and profoundly” regretted the loss of life in the Iraq War.

• February 2, 2011: At the last public hearing, Jack Straw tells the inquiry that just days before the invasion of Iraq he advised Mr Blair that they need not necessarily send in British troops with the Americans.

• November 16, 2011: The Iraq Inquiry says it will not publish the report until summer of 2012 because of a wrangling over the release of secret documents.

• July 13, 2012: Sir John Chilcot writes to David Cameron alerting him that the report will be delayed until the middle of 2013 once a process of ‘Maxwellisation’ is completed.

• January 20, 2015: Sir John Chilcot writes to David Cameron confirming that there is “no realistic prospect” of delivering the report before the general election in May.

• October 28, 2015: Sir John Chilcot writes to Mr Cameron setting out a timetable for completion of the report. .

• July 6, 2016: The inquiry committee intends to publish the Report of the Iraq Inquiry.


UK politicians are not the only ones expected to come under scrutiny when the Chilcot report is published later this morning.

US officials are also likely to come under criticism for their role in the Iraq war.

Former US ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton has weighed in this morning, with a fierce defence of former US President George W. Bush and former Prime Minister Tony Blair in the Daily Telegraph :

The war’s opponents point to today’s chaos in the region and ascribe it to Saddam’s overthrow. That conveniently ignores the tidal wave of radical Islamic ideology that was already rising in the twentieth century’s last decades, and now continues unabated, Saddam or no Saddam. It also misses the West’s devastating failure to stop Iran pursuing nuclear weapons. Bumbling diplomacy has legitimised terrorism’s bankers in Tehran, affording them a clear path to deliverable nuclear warheads on their own timetable.

Iraq today suffers not from the 2003 invasion, but from the 2011 withdrawal of all US combat forces. What strengthened Iran’s hand in Iraq was not the absence of Saddam, but the absence of coalition troops with a writ to crush efforts by the ayatollahs to support and arm Shi’ite militias. When US forces left, the last possibility of Iraq succeeding as a multi-ethnic, multi-confessional state left with them. Don’t blame Tony Blair and George W Bush for that failure. Blame their successors.

Read more here.


A reminder of the human cost in the UK of the Iraq war – a composite photo from PA of the 179 troop members that died during the conflict in Iraq.


The Chilcot inquiry has lasted nearly seven years — longer than David Cameron’s entire premiership, or Britain’s combat operations in Iraq. The FT’s Big Read explains.


There were 179 British armed forces personnel (including 6 servicewomen) killed in the 2003-09 Iraq campaign. The BBC this morning carries a number of moving accounts from soldiers who lost colleagues, and families who lost relatives. One of the key questions they want answered by the Chilcot report is why troops went into conflict so poorly equipped?

Here are some examples:

Karen Thornton, whose son Lee, 22, was killed by a single shot while on patrol in Basra, said:

“We’re just hoping to get the truth and find out about all the lies that were supposed to have been told. And if it was planned a year before we went into Iraq, and about the lack of equipment. We just want the truth at the end of the day.”

Doug Beattie, captain with the 2nd battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment, said:

“Why were our military commanders so eager to please, even though we didn’t have the capability and capacity in men or equipment to conduct this campaign?”

Lance Corporal Iain McMenemy recalled how on the first day in the combat zone, the body armour he had been issued had to be given up for other troops fighting on foot. He was manning a vehicle check point and felt he should have had the equipment too.

Lance Corporal Damian Hearne recalled how when Tony Blair visited, soldiers in green UK kit – as distinct from the camouflage desert fatigues – were told to stay away from the event.

“We were told by the company sergeant major who was in charge of the event, that anybody in green was to stay way from the parade. The prime minister didn’t want to see anyone dressed inadequate. It would send the wrong message.”

The FT’s correspondent in Baghdad, Jane Arraf, reported on the number of documented civilian deaths in Iraq, 13 years after Saddam. Read more here


Lord Goldsmith, the government’s senior legal adviser at the time of the Iraq War, has been doorstepped by Sky News this morning.

“We’re going to see the report first and then I’ll make a statement,” the former attorney general, a central figure in the debate about the legality of the Iraq conflict, told reporters as he walked to his car.

Asked whether the decision to go to war was “legal” he replied: “Yes of course it was.”


The FT’s Mark Odell, who covered the run-up to the Iraq war as a defence correspondent, reports:

Just a reminder that the UK’s case for going to war in Iraq was almost solely based on two key briefing documents. The first dossier, published in September 2002 included the controversial claim that Saddam Hussein could deploy biological and chemical weapons within 45 minutes. At the time, the government allowed this claim to develop into an assertion that those weapons could be used against British interests. But even then it was clear that Iraq had no missile capable of delivering a chemical or biological weapon over long distances. The closest British interest was the UK base in Cyprus, which was well out of range.

A second document, published just before the invasion in February 2003, contained what was meant to constitute the government case that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. This document was called Iraq – Its Infrastructure of Concealment, Deception and Intimidation – but ultimately became know as the Dodgy Dossier because of the many inaccuracies it contained and the fact that large swathes of it were plagiarised from various unattributed sources


Was there a pre-commitment given by Tony Blair to George W. Bush that the UK would join the US in invading Iraq?

Alex Salmond, the Scottish National Party’s foreign affairs spokesman, says this is the key question the Chilcot report needs to answer. Speaking to Sky News, he says:

The key issue in terms of accountability is on the question of pre-commitment. Did the prime minister, Tony Blair, precommit to George W Bush in 2002, January 2003 that he was going to go to war, come what may? If that is there, if that evidence is there, everything that came after that – dodgy dossiers, reversal of legal advice and the rest of it, the massaging and manipulation of parliamentary and public opinion – that arose from that pre-commitment. That to me is the absolute key in terms of a line of accountability.


How public support for the Iraq intervention has changed in the US and UK – via a feature by the FT’s Henry Mance on the Chilcot report here:


When the motion to invade Iraq was put before parliament in 2003, 217 MPs voted against it – 139 of them Labour backbenchers – including several who resigned in protest. They voted on the rebel amendment saying there was no moral case for war against Iraq. At the time, the revolt was the largest ever against a Labour government. Fifteen Tories defied their leadership by voting against the government.

Government motion (March 2003), those in favour of the rebel amendment:
139 Labour MPs
15 Tory MPs
53 Liberal Democrat MPs
10 Other MPs

See the full list of names here.

One of the Labour rebels was former Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, who delivered this memorable speech where he announced his official resignation:


Sir John Chilcot is expected to start speaking about the findings of his inquiry into the Iraq war shortly. Sir John was slated to begin his public statement at 11am. He is not expected to take questions from journalists.

Anti-war protesters have gathered outside the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in central London, where Sir John is set to speak.


Reuters


The respected constitutional expert Vernon Bogdanor, professor of King’s College London, has cautioned those critics of Blair not to expect too much. He says many people will have formulated their view of the former prime minister’s role “and if the Chilcot report doesn’t condemn Blair, they will say it’s a whitewash.”

But the professor, one of the UK’s foremost experts on the constitution, points out previous inquiries into the war – Hutton and Butler – did not “unequivocally” condemn Blair. He tells Sky News:

“The critics said “ah well, you can’t believe this.We must have another inquiry.” So it’s not clear how much the Chilcot inquiry will settle and it’s important to point out it is not a court of law, the witnesses were not on oath, and the members of the inquiry were not legally qualified. It’s an inquiry into the process of government and what we can learn from the mistakes made so that we don’t make them on future occasions.”


Sir John Chilcot has just got up to speak and in his preamble is urging everyone to remember all the innocent people killed in Iraq including the tragedy on Sunday, when a huge truck bomb in Baghdad killed more than 250 people.


The UK government “failed to achieve its stated objectives” in the Iraq war, Sir John Chilcot has said.

Sir John also said that the UK “chose to join the invasion of Iraq before the peaceful options of disarmament had been exhausted” and “military action at that time was not a last resort”.

Sir John also said that intelligence about weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq was “presented with a certainty that was not justified”.


Sir John is laying out the situation in the run up to the decision to invade and the UK government position in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks in 2001 on the US. He says Tony Blair urged President George W Bush not to take any “hasty” actions over Iraq and suggested they work together on a plan to implement regime change. He said that by April 2002, however, the intelligence assessment in the UK had established that only use of force could remove Saddam Hussein. On July 28 2002, Blair wrote to Bush to say he would be with him “whatever” but if the US wanted a wider coalition he would need to secure a change in public opinion, a UN resolution and progress in the Middle East peace process.


Sir John is now running through a summary of how the UK government case on Iraq’s WMD changed in the run up to the invasion. Moving away from assertions that Iraq could deliver them using missiles to assertions by Tony Blair on March 18 2003 to Parliament – two days before the invasion – that he believed terrorist groups possessing WMD were a “real and present danger to the UK” and that Saddam Hussein’s WMD arsenal could not be contained.


“It is now clear that policy in Iraq was made on the basis of flawed intelligence and assessments,” Sir John said. “They were not challenged and they should have been.”


Sir John said the UK policy had assumed a “benign environment” in Iraq during and after the invasion and has criticised Tony Blair for telling his inquiry that the US and UK could not have known in advance that the situation in Iraq would be any different. “We do not agree that hindsight was required,” Sir John said.


“The government’s preparations failed to take account of the magnitude of the task of stabilizing and reconstructing Iraq and the responsibilities that were likely to fall to the UK,” Sir John added.

“The scale of the UK effort in post-conflict Iraq never matched the challenge.”


He is now on to post-conflict planning and says the UK “struggled” with its responsibilities in the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority that ran the country for just over a year after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s administration.


Sir John says there is no doubt that military demands in Afghanistan led to a drain on resources available to British troops in Iraq.

Crucially Sir John has just said that the UK’s involvement in Iraq was “not a last resort.”

He says British military action in Iraq might have been necessary at some point but not in March 2003.


After running through some of the lessons he said should be learned from the UK intervention in Iraq, Sir John Chilcot said that “above all”, all aspects of any intervention “need to be calculated, debated and challenged with the utmost rigor”.

“When decisions have been made, they need to be implemented fully,” he said. “Sadly, neither was the case in the UK’s actions in Iraq.”


Sir John has now wrapped up the official presentation of the report after about 30 minutes, which included a damning assessment of the UK government’s case for war in Iraq.


The FT’s Henry Mance has been poring over the 2.6m words of the Chilcot report for the past three hours.

Here is his initial report:

Tony Blair committed to an invasion of Iraq 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.

The Chilcot report will intensify criticism of the former prime minister, once a towering figure in British politics, now a hate figure for much of his own party. It also represents a further broadside at Britain’s political, military and intelligence establishments, all of which were heavily implicated in what became the country’s worst foreign policy disaster since the 1956 Suez crisis.

The report, published on Wednesday after a seven-year inquiry, is the most detailed assessment of how the UK went to war in Iraq, and managed the subsequent occupation.

Read Mance’s full report here.


The full Iraq Inquiry report is now officially released and can be viewed online here.


Alongside its full report, the Iraq Inquiry has published some 1,500 previously unseen documents, including correspondence between former Prime Minister Tony Blair and former US President George W. Bush.

Select excerpts, via the FT’s Henry Mance:

October 11 2001, after military action against Afghanistan had started:
“[I have] no doubt we need to deal with Saddam. But if we hit Iraq now, we would lose the Arab world, Russia, probably half the EU… I am sure we can devise a strategy for Saddam deliverable at a later date.”

July 28 2002, after US desire for regime change was clear:
“I will be with you, whatever. But this is the moment to assess bluntly the difficulties. The planning on this and the strategy are the toughest yet. This is not Kosovo. This is not Afghanistan. It is not even the Gulf War.”

“The military part of this is hazardous but I will concentrate mainly on the political context for success.”

“[Getting rid of Saddam Hussein is] the right thing to do. He is a potential threat. He could be contained. But containment… is always risky.”

January 24 2003, as US impatience for action increased:
“If we delay, we risk Saddam messing us about, sucking us back into a game of hide and seek with the Inspectors where, unless they find ‘the smoking gun,’ the thing drags on for ever until we give up or get distracted.

“On the other hand, at present there is not support for a second UN resolution; and [Hans] Blix is not yet in a clear and unambiguous position on Iraqi non-co-operation…

“In truth, the world is in a contradiction. No one is really prepared for war, except us. But equally no one believes Saddam is telling the truth. In part we are victims of our own success. Your strength… has forced to let inspectors back in; has made him seem weak and back in his box. So, everyone asks: why bother?”

February 19 2003, as Blair argued for second UN resolution:
“[It is] apparent to me from the EU summit that France wants to make this a crucial test: is Europe America’s partner or competitor?… For the first time… a strong bloc prepared to challenge France and Germany [was emerging].”

“… the trick we need to take is this: we have to find a way of re-focusing the issue on the absence of full co-operation… and do so in a way that pulls public opinion and the UNSC [Security Council] waverers back to us by showing that we have indeed made every effort to avoid war…

“We work like crazy next week to get the UNSC members to agree or at least not oppose this strategy [contained in the proposed draft resolution]; and then we build the support to carry a majority for 14 March.”


One key note sent from former Prime Minister Tony Blair to former US President George W. Bush, from July 28, 2002.

Blair told Bush: “I will be with you, whatever.”

A snapshot of the note from the Chilcot report, via Sky’s Faisal Islam:

https://twitter.com/faisalislam/status/750639661203222528


On the pre-commitment given by Blair to Bush to support an invasion of Iraq:

Chilcot said at a meeting at Crawford, Texas in early April 2002 “the formal policy was still to contain Saddam Hussein”. But he said “by then there had been a profound change in the UK’s thinking”. The Joint Intelligence Committee concluded Saddam Hussein could not be removed without an invasion.

Internal contingency planning for a large contribution to a military invasion had begun.

On the legal basis for the war:

In the absence of a majority in support of military action ( in the UN security council) we conclude the UK was in fact undermining the security council’s authority.

The inquiry did not express a view on whether military action was legal. That could of course only be resolved by a properly constituted and internationally recognised court. We have however concluded that the circumstances in which it was decided there was a legal basis for UK military action were far from satisfactory.


Here is the FT’s take on the key judgments and conclusions of the report:


Prominent anti-war activist Caroline Lucas, the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, has this to say on former Prime Minister Tony Blair:

https://twitter.com/CarolineLucas/status/750641439298707456


Former Prime Minister Tony Blair (above, leaving his central London home today) has responded to the report, saying he will “take full responsibility for any mistakes without exception or excuse”.

Full statement below:

“The report should lay to rest allegations of bad faith, lies or deceit. Whether people agree or disagree with my decision to take military action against Saddam Hussein; I took it in good faith and in what I believed to be the best interests of the country.

I note that the report finds clearly:

-That there was no falsification or improper use of Intelligence (para 876 vol 4)

-No deception of Cabinet (para 953 vol 5)

-No secret commitment to war whether at Crawford Texas in April 2002 or elsewhere (para 572 onwards vol 1)

The inquiry does not make a finding on the legal basis for military action but finds that the Attorney General had concluded there was such a lawful basis by 13th March 2003 (para 933 vol 5)

However the report does make real and material criticisms of preparation, planning, process and of the relationship with the United States.

These are serious criticisms and they require serious answers.

I will respond in detail to them later this afternoon.

I will take full responsibility for any mistakes without exception or excuse.

I will at the same time say why, nonetheless, I believe that it was better to remove Saddam Hussein and why I do not believe this is the cause of the terrorism we see today whether in the Middle East or elsewhere in the world.

Above all I will pay tribute to our Armed Forces. I will express my profound regret at the loss of life and the grief it has caused the families, and I will set out the lessons I believe future leaders can learn from my experience.”


Prime Minister David Cameron is now taking questions in the House of Commons at Prime Minister’s Questions. After PMQs he is expected to make a full statement on the Chilcot report and take further questions from MPs.

Cameron said he did not want to pre-empt that statement, but in response to one MP’s question about the inquiry’s findings, the Prime Minister said: “The most important thing we can do is really learn the lessons for the future.”


Here is a video of Sir John Chilcot delivering his verdict earlier today:

https://twitter.com/SkyNews/status/750636127724285952


And here are representatives of the families of Iraq war victims calling on the UK government to take action recommended by the Chilcot report:

https://twitter.com/BBCBreaking/status/750645767052750848


A few reactions on the Chilcot report from anti-war party leaders. Tim Farron, leader of the Liberal Democrats and Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister for Scotland. Mr Farron said in a press release: “Blair was fixated in joining Bush in going to war in Iraq regardless of the evidence, the legality or the serious potential consequences.”

https://twitter.com/timfarron/status/750641099362934784


Prime Minister David Cameron is now speaking about Sir John Chilcot’s findings in the House of Commons.

He has announced that MPs will have two full days to debate the Chilcot report next week.


Former Labour cabinet minister Clare Short, who resigned over the war, said the report was “a damning indictment of the British system of government.”

She said the report finds all the criticisms of Blair’s role to be true.

“The report gives a great damning list of the criticism that the critics have made – and that they were all true. That Blair gave his word long before;. that there was no need to hurry; the diplomatic options weren’t exhausted; that we didn’t have to go on a US timetable; that preparations weren’t properly made. I mean it’s all there and it’s damning but the situation in Iraq and the wider Middle East remains absolutely terrible and making the criticism won’t put any of that right.

Short, who was international development minister, said she was ready to resign before the vote in parliament in mid-March 2003, but was given assurances by Blair that the UN would lead the post invasion reconstruction.

But she says Mr Blair’s sofa style of government meant she and other cabinet members were kept in the dark.

“We didn’t see anything. We didn’t know what he was up to, which of course helped to create the confusion of planning for afterwards.”


After quoting extensively from Sir John Chilcot’s report, Prime Minister David Cameron is running through what he says are lessons to be learned from the findings of the Iraq Inquiry.

Saying war should “always” be a last resort, Cameron said he took steps to improve the government’s defence decision-making by setting up the National Security Council and appointing a National Security Advisor.

“The machinery of government does matter,” Cameron said.

The Prime Minister said that while MPs needed to “take responsibility” for voting in favour of military intervention in Iraq, but added it “would be wrong to conclude” that the UK should not “stand by our US allies”.

“We have no greater friend in the world than America,” he added.

Cameron also said that the UK “should not conclude that intervention is always wrong”, saying it would be “wrong to conclude that our military are incapable of fighting effectively abroad”.


Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader who always opposed the war, is now speaking in the House of Commons and said it was a “matter of regret” about the “extraordinary length of time” it took to publish the report. He says the length of the report, a copy of which he only received at 8am this morning, means he cannot respond adequately today.

He draws on the finding that the war was “not a last resort” to remind MPs that many international experts consider the invasion was illegal. He points out that there was a lot of opposition to the war both among the public and MPs and goes back even further to remind the House that he was speaking out against the regime of Saddam Hussein at a time when the UK government was supporting it.


He adds: “We know now that the House was misled over the war and we must now decide what to do about it 13 years later.”


David Cameron had earlier argued that MPs should “not conclude that intervention is always wrong”.

He cited the successful interventions in Sierra Leone and Kosovo and the occasions “where we should have intervened but didn’t” to prevent genocide in Srebrenica and Rwanda.

Intervention is hard, War fighting is not always the most difficult part. Often the state building that follows is a much more complex challenge.


After Jeremy Corbyn sat down David Cameron got back up to to remind MPs that Islamic extremism was around before the invasion of Iraq, countering the implication by the Labour leader that the Iraq war had triggered the ongoing wave of terrorist attacks. But Mr Cameron did agree with Mr Corbyn that the intervention in Iraq did “create space for Al Qaeda​”​, and that there are a ​”​litany of failures​” identified in the Iraq Inquiry report​.

​However cautioned that the lessons to be learned have already been put in place, thanks to the more national security committee that was established when Prime Minister David Cameron came to office: “​I would urge him to look at the way the beefed up national security committee works​,​​” ​ he said.

Mr Corbyn called for an open partnership with the US and while Cameron agreed “they are always our best partner,” the prime minister added he did not always think “the United States is right about everything, but it [our relationship] is vital for our national security.”


Ken Clarke, the former Conservative chancellor, has questioned Cameron now, criticising Mr Blair’s system of sofa government. Clarke says the prime minister should urge his successor to “return to a pre-Blair era of full collective cabinet responsibility”. He also said parliamentary accountability in such decisions as going to war “should be reconsidered” and “timely” debates held before the preparations for war are already irreversible.


Angus Robertson, the leader of the SNP in Westminster, is picking out some of the report’s findings and highlighting the many criticisms of Tony Blair, including the former PM’s commitment to US president George W Bush in July 2002 – almost eight months before the invasion of Iraq.

In a previously unpublished memo from July 2002, Mr Blair told US president George W Bush: “I will be with you, whatever.” That commitment — which was given without consulting colleagues — made it “very difficult for the UK subsequently to withdraw its support” for the March 2003 invasion, the report found.

Mr Robertson suggests a similar scenario played itself out in Afghanistan. Mr Cameron replies he agrees with many of his points but not on Afghanistan where he says there was a clear link between the 9/11 attacks and Al-Qaeda training bases. He also insisted the UK was still involved in post-conflict planning in Afghanistan.


Liberal Deomcrat leader Tim Farron has just invoked the late Charles Kennedy, a former Lib Dem leader who said at the time of the invasion of Iraq: “The big fear that many of us have is that this is simply going to breed further generations of suicide bombers.”

The Daily Mirror has posted a full video of Kennedy’s appeal to MPs against the war here.


David Cameron says everyone will have to read the report to draw their own conclusions, but in comments which Mr Blair will welcome he says:

From my reading of it Sir John Chilcot is not accusing anyone of deliberate explicit deceit


Prompted by a question from Caroline Spelman, a Conservative MP who was shadow international development secretary in the run up to the invasion, about post-conflict planning, David Cameron agreed that there was a total failure in that regard.

If you want to know just how bad the post-conflict planning was then you should read this book, an excellent piece of reportage by Rajiv Chandrasekaran, a journalist at The Washington Post :


The FT is hosting a live Facebook chat at 3pm today.

FT editors and reporters Roula Khalaf, Phillip Stephens, Christine Spolar and Seb Payne will be answering readers’ questions on the Chilcot report.

Follow along from 3pm here.


Ann Clwyd, a backbench Labour MP who has campaigned for human rights in Iraq for decades, is a rare voice in the House today – defending the military intervention. Cataloguing some of the torture and human rights breaches inflicted by the Saddam Hussein regime she tells MPs:

“I wish people would ask Iraqis what they think of the invasion because many Iraqis are grateful we took the action we did.”


Some more reaction to the Chilcot report coming in. Martha Spurrier, director of Liberty, the human rights campaign group, said:

The impartial findings of the Chilcot inquiry panel are comprehensively damning – of the then Prime Minister and his Cabinet colleagues and our intelligence agencies. Basic adherence to the rule of law, evidence-based policy making and the protection of human rights came second to egos, ideology and political grandstanding. The resulting failure to plan for the aftermath of war led to the deaths of more than a million of people and grave human rights violations on a massive scale that continue to the present day.

The Chilcot report must mark a turning point – an end to UK government ministers’ systematic and cynical demotion of human rights. Sir John’s recommendations must be implemented and respect for due process, evidence and human rights values must be restored to public policy making. Only then will our leaders truly learn the lessons of Iraq and ensure failures on this incomprehensible scale can never happen again.


Tony Blair’s former spin doctor Alastair Campbell has just spoken to BBC Radio 4, defending his old boss, saying: “I don’t believe that people were misled”.

Campbell added that “although there clearly were an awful lot of trenchant criticisms of Tony Blair and the government” in Sir John Chilcot’s report, the inquiry made clear that the former Prime Minister “was trying to influence the Americans”.

“People can criticise Tony Blair, but ultimately he had to make a decision,” Campbell added.

Campbell has also published longer comments on his blog under the headline “Many mistakes yes, but no lies, no deceit, no secret deals, no ‘sexing up’. And ultimately a matter of leadership and judgement”.

An excerpt:

I did not receive a Maxwellisation letter, and so I am assuming I am not criticised within the report. That is four inquiries now which have cleared me of wrongdoing with regard to the WMD dossier presented to Parliament in 2002, and I hope that the allegations we have faced for years – of lying and deceit to persuade a reluctant Parliament and country to go to war, or of having an underhand strategy regarding the respected weapons expert David Kelly – are laid to rest.

Read more here.


The Press Association has just put this Tweet out on the reaction of Jack Straw, who was Foreign Secretary at the time of the war in 2003:

https://twitter.com/PA/status/750669317382008833


The BBC has just published this comment from one of the declassified letters written by Blair to Bush in the run up to the war:

This is the moment when you can define international politics for the next generation – the true post-cold war world order. Our ambition is big: to construct a global agenda around which we can unite the world, rather than dividing it into rival centres of power


Alex Salmond, the Scottish National Party’s foreign affairs spokesman, has just stood up and asked the prime minister once again about Tony Blair’s assurance to former US president George W Bush that he would be with him “whatever” eight months before the invasion. Mr Salmond suggests Mr Blair should be held accountable as that assurance was not in “any way compatible with what was said to Parliament and people at the time”. Mr Cameron does not disagree, but says that it is up to Mr Blair to respond to that and points out that the former PM will be holding a press conference of his own today.


Hans Blix the former chief weapons inspector for the UN, says he told Blair in the run up to the war he was “unimpressed” with the intelligence evidence he cited about biological and chemical weapons.

But Blix does not accuse Blair and Bush of deceit.

I do not have evidence that they acted in bad faith but my conclusion is they showed remarkably bad political judgement


We are expecting Tony Blair to start his press conference in the next few minutes


Transparency International has also reacted to the Chilcot report, saying:

Iraq today remains stricken by conflict, with weak institutions, crippled by corruption, for which the people are paying the highest price. This is a direct result of a lack of any coherent post-conflict strategy that has also led to escalating levels of popular frustration and ultimately the rise of ISIS, despite the billions of dollars the international community has poured into post-conflict reconstruction.

Such mistakes must never be repeated and future governance, including anti-corruption measures, must be a central tenet of military strategies pre-action.

Iraq was one of the worst performers in Transparency International’s government defence anti-corruption index last year.


Just a reminder that in a statement released a bit earlier, Tony Blair said this:

The report should lay to rest allegations of bad faith, lies or deceit. Whether people agree or disagree with my decision to take military action against Saddam Hussein; I took it in good faith and in what I believed to be the best interests of the country.

He went on to say:

However the report does make real and material criticisms of preparation, planning, process and of the relationship with the United States.

These are serious criticisms and they require serious answers.

I will respond in detail to them later this afternoon.

I will take full responsibility for any mistakes without exception or excuse.

I will at the same time say why, nonetheless, I believe that it was better to remove Saddam Hussein and why I do not believe this is the cause of the terrorism we see today whether in the Middle East or elsewhere in the world.


And here is what is almost certainly going to be the biggest revelation from the Chilcot report – the first page of the previously unpublished memo from July 2002, in which Tony Blair told US president George W Bush: “I will be with you, whatever.” This memo was sent almost eight months before the UK parliament gave the green light for British military involvement.


Tony Blair is now up and talking and says he will be making a “fairly long statement”. He says he will take questions at the end. He repeats that he takes “full responsibility” for the decision to go to war and says he “feels deeply and sincerely, in a way no words can properly convey, the grief and suffering” of all those who lost relatives in Iraq.


He says he regrets “more sorrow, regret and apology” for the shocking aftermath of the war. But he says he “profoundly” disagrees that the war has led to the terrorism that exists now and that leaving Saddam Hussein in power would have prevented the chaos that now exists in the Middle East. He says there were “no lies, cabinet was not misled and there was no secret commitment to war.”


He defends the armed services, the intelligence services and the civil service and says any faults are his and his alone.

A very drawn and haggard Mr Blair is now explaining why he saw Saddam Hussein as a threat. He says 9/11 was the worst terrorist attack in history and points out that more UK citizens died in that attack than in any other. He says Hussein had a record of terrorising his own people and the region, listing his attempts to get a nuclear weapons programme in the late 1970s and early 1980s to the invasion of Kuwait in 1990. He says Hussein used WMD on his own people and that his was the only regime to have used such weapons. He said intelligence showed that Al-Qaeda was trying to achieve such weapons and that 9/11 showed the group would use chemical and biological weapons.


A short clip from the start of Tony Blair’s ongoing press conference, via the BBC:

https://twitter.com/BBCBreaking/status/750682433347989504


He says the increasing number of Al-Qaeda attacks meant the whole world order had changed. He insists intelligence showed that Saddam Hussein intended to go back to developing WMD once sanctions against Iraq were lifted. He insists there was “no rush to war” and says the inquiry dismisses the conspiracy theory that he had pledged to go to war with the US during a meeting with president George W Bush in April 2002.


Mr Blair points out that the report shows he held back the US from going to war in 2002 and insisted they seek UN clearance. That never came amid opposition from France and Russia in the Security Council. He says the build up of US and UK troops on the borders of Iraq meant that without UN authority a decision had to be made in March 2003 to use them. He rejects the report’s suggestion that the UK had “undermined” the UN and instead says the confusion at the UN caused by the opposition from Moscow and Paris was what “undermined” the world body.

He terms the decision to go to war without UN approval as a “binary decision” and insists that he did “not have the option to delay.”

He adds: “As of March 17 2003 there was no middle way, no further time for deliberation.”


Mr Blair has dealt with the post-conflict chaos in Iraq between 2004 and 2010 fairly briefly and insists it led to peaceful elections taking place. He says the Arab Spring triggered a revival in terrorist activity after Al-Qaeda in Iraq, which had been effectively defeated by a US troops surge in the country from 2007, found a haven in the chaos in Syria and then returned to Iraq as Isis.

He again apologises that he had the wrong intelligence on Saddam Hussein’s chemical and biological weapons stockpile but says that all the other intelligence agencies in the world had concluded the same.


Addressing the post-conflict planning, he accepts there were failures but says the inquiry had failed to identify even after this time another way of having successfully rebuild the country. He says this is due to the rise in terrorism that he could not have been expected, pointing out that Al-Qaeda attacks tipped Iraq to the brink of civil war, compounded by Iranian support for Shia militias that attacked coalition troops. He then says that it subsequently emerged that Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad was “sending terrorists over the border” to carry out attacks.


A reminder that at 3pm FT editors and reporters Roula Khalaf, Phillip Stephens, Christine Spolar and Seb Payne will be answering readers’ questions on the Chilcot report.

Follow along here.


Back to Tony Blair’s press conference.

On processes in the lead up to war, Mr Blair accepts he should have submitted the formal option papers to cabinet and agrees he should have insisted on written legal advice by the attorney-general on the legal basis of his decision to go to war.

He has gone back to the fact that this hand was forced by the build up of US and UK troops in the region. He insists that build-up of military force could not have been replicated again and suggests that Iraq sanctions would gradually have eroded over time.


Mr Blair insists that if Saddam Hussein had remained, the Arab Spring would have resulted in a similar situation in Iraq today to the one in Syria and says “we would have been dealing with Saddam and his two sons today.”


Mr Blair has now turned the press conference into a presentation on how future interventions in the Middle East should be conducted. He says he will publish more thoughts on this in the coming weeks and months. Just a reminder that Mr Blair was until last year the Middle East peace envoy for the Qaurtet of the US, EU, Russia and the UN. He quit having made little progress in his eight years in the role.

He says he continued to work in the Middle East to this day because of the responsibility he feels for the war. He has now wrapped up his speech and is taking questions.


In response to the first question about looking the families of the troops that were killed in the eye he replies:

“I can look not just the families but the people of the country in the eye and say I did not mislead this country . . . I acknowledge the mistakes and accept responsibility for them . . . but what i can not do is accept that I made the wrong decision”

He says Sir John Chilcot came close to disagreeing with his decision this morning but says if anyone is going to do that then they have to say what the consequences would have been if the opposite decision had been made.

“If you can’t answer that question then you are a commentator and not a decision-maker.”


Tony Blair has insisted the memo to US president George W Bush that appeared to commit the UK to an invasion almost eight months before receiving parliamentary and legal backing included a “but”. He insists the US did not read it as an unconditional commitment to go to war and the FT’s Lucinda Elliott has just filed this about Mr Blair’s explanation of this “but”:

“In July 2002 the whole purpose of my intervention with the US president was to drive him down that route.” Referring to an alternative route to war.

“Had Saddam complied with the UN resolution it would have been the end of that matter. But he didn’t comply.” That is the ‘but’.”


Tony Blair has just said he would take the same decision again if he was in the same place and had the same information and says he cannot apologise for the decision to go to war. He says if people refuse to take these type of decisions the world will “be a less safer place.” He has compared his decision to the defeat in parliament in 2013 of David Cameron push to take military action in Syria. He says a decision then to take action against al-Assad’s regime would have been the right one but it would not have been easy.


He is now being pushed on whether he should face “consequences” for his decision to take the country to war. He says that is up to others and asks that people stop saying that he lied.


He says his assurance to the US that he would be with with them “whatever” in his memo in July 2002 was intended to reassure president George W Bush that it was the right thing to do to try to get a UN resolution. He reminds reporters there were “many in the US administration who didn’t want to go down the UN route.”


It looks like Mr Blair will take questions from all the reporters in the room. He is now addressing the warning he received about an increased threat to the UK from terrorism if British troops invaded. He replies that would have “happened anyway”, pointing out that Belgium had no links to the Iraq War but is being attacked.

He is also addressing the lack of proper equipment for British troops and replies that he never turned down a request from the military for funding for equipment if they needed it.


Tony Blair is asked about the threat of legal action from the families of British troops that were killed in Iraq. “I cannot accept the implicit nature of the criticism that they died in vain,” he replies but doesn’t really respond to the question. He insists the troops died in Iraq fighting terrorism.

A bit earlier he had this to say about whether he should be punished, reports Lucinda Elliott:

“It’s up to them to call for what they want. What more can I do than explain to people? I can’t depart from my decision.”

“I took the decision we should be America’s biggest ally. I personally think that when we failed to support Obama in Syria in 2008 we dealt a blow to their campaign.”


The FT’s James Blitz has written a lengthy analysis today of the Chilcot report, saying unlikely previous inquiries into Britain’s decision to invade Iraq, Sir John Chilcot’s work can hardly be described as a “whitewash”.

Such a description hardly applies to the monumental inquest that has been published by Sir John Chilcot. It will take time to digest fully every aspect of a report running to 2.6m words, but his condemnation of the Blair government’s intervention in Iraq is far more sweeping — and quietly damning — than many had anticipated.

Those who had hoped to see Tony Blair receive some kind of coup de grâce 13 years after he took Britain to war in Iraq will be disappointed. The allegation often made against the former prime minister is that he knowingly and deliberately lied to the British people when making the case for war. That suggestion is nowhere supported in Chilcot’s report. Nor is there any indication that the UK decision to join the invasion breached international law. As Sir John makes clear, he has run a public inquiry, not an international criminal court.

Even so, Mr Blair can take little comfort in Sir John’s verdicts. The former prime minister might have acted in good faith over Iraq as he again insisted yesterday, but he also emerges from the report as a leader guilty of a profound catalogue of political and diplomatic misjudgments.

Read Blitz’s full piece here.


Mr Blair was asked why he went ahead with the decision to invade when he knew there was no link between Saddam Hussein’s regime and Al-Qaeada but he was warned there were links between Al-Qaeda and some of the Gulf Arab states that the UK maintained strong diplomatic ties with and that he had built his business career on.

He responds by saying he never thought there was a link with Al-Qaeda, but that some people in the US administration had used that argument. He said he was motivated to take action by the fact that Saddam Hussein was someone who had previously used WMD and he was convinced would again in the future.

He ducked the question about the link between Al-Qaeda and Gulf Arab states.


As the questions continue, here are some of the key quotes from Tony Blair’s lengthy formal statement delivered earlier

The decision to go to war in Iraq and to remove Saddam Hussein from power in a coalition of over 40 countries led by the US was the hardest, the most momentous, the most agonising decision I took in my ten years as British prime minister.

The intelligence assessments made at the time of going to war proved to be wrong. The aftermath turned out to be more hostile, protracted and bloody than ever we imagined. The coalition for one set of ground facts encountered another and a nation whose people we wanted to set free and secure from the evil of Saddam became instead fell victim to sectarian terrorism. For all of this, I express more sorrow, regret and apology than you may ever know or can believe.

The world was and is in my judgement a better place without Saddam Hussein

I will never agree that those who died or were injured made their sacrifice in vain.

As the report makes clear there were no lies; parliament and cabinet were not misled; there was no secret commitment to war; intelligence was not falsified, and the decision was made in good faith.

However I accept the report makes serious criticisms of the way decisions were taken. and again I accept full responsibility for those points of criticism even where I do not fully agree with them.

Now the inquiry finds that as at the 18th of March war was not – and I quote – the last resort. But given the impasse at the UN, and the insistence of the US – for reasons I completely understood – and with hundreds of thousands of troops in theatre who could not be kept there indefinitely, it was the last moment of decision for us as the report indeed accepts. By then the US was going to war and was going to move with us or without us”


He is now dealing with the allegations that he and his officials lied about the intelligence. He insists that after five different inquiries, including the Hutton inquiry that he set up, he has been exonerated.


Back to the July 2002 memo in which Blair said he would be with the US “whatever”. He insists it was designed to ensure that the US would take the UN route. The commitment was “absolutely qualified because we went to the UN.”


Blair is now saying that it “wasn’t as if I didn’t try” referring to trying to get the US to go down the UN route. He insists he had influence but that he always accepted that the UK was the “minority partner”. He said the relationship between the US and UK going forward militarily would always see the UK acting as a junior partner in future conflicts against Islamic extremists. He suggests that Sir John Chilcot seems to have digressed from the tone of the report by suggesting that the UK didn’t have to go with the US when the decision to invade was made.


The last question tries to establish a link between the result of the EU referendum the decision by Blair to invade Iraq as it led to the breakdown in trust between the British people and politicians after it emerged the reasons for going to war were flawed. Blair describes it as a “stretch” to suggest as much.

And after almost two hours which started with Blair making an emotional statement and then taking a multiple questions from reporters, he has wrapped up his press conference.

Next up we are expecting a press conference by Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour party, at 5pm.


Here’s another take on the Chilcot inquiry by the FT’s Sebastian Payne:


Earlier some of the families of the British troops killed in Iraq have insisted they will seek to take legal action against Tony Blair. Sarah O’Connor, whose brother Bob died when a military aircraft was shot down near Baghdad in 2005, said her overwhelming emotion on reading the report had been anger.

“The terrorists took my brother – and in that sentence of terrorists I include Mr Blair – took my brother and took my family. But you won’t take me. I’m going nowhere. I’m going nowhere Blair.”

She added: “There is one terrorist in this world that the world needs to be aware of, and his name is Tony Blair – the world’s worst terrorist.”

Reg Keys, whose son Lance Corporal Thomas Keys died in the Iraq War, told Sky News that he could take some closure from the report but sounded downbeat about the prospect of taking Mr Blair to court, although he hoped lawyers would find something in it to use against the former prime minister.

He said the invasion of Iraq had made the UK a less safe place and said the 2005 bombings in London were a direct consequence of the invasion.


Earlier, David Blair, chief foreign correspondent for the Daily Telegraph, spotted this revelation within the 2.6m words of the report, showing that SIS, also known as MI6, was aware that there was some problems with its sourcing of some of the claims in one of the key reports it released on Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction in September 2002:

https://twitter.com/davidblairdt/status/750680477435105280


Sky’s Robert Nesbit has revealed that Jeremy Corbyn will not be taking any questions from reporters after he gives his speech on Chilcot, which we expect to start at 5pm.

https://twitter.com/RobNisbetSky/status/750715510598332416


Jeremy Corbyn is now speaking:

“By any measure the invasion of Iraq was a catastrophe,” he says. He says it was this conflict that led to the breakdown of trust between the public and politicians. And says most of the public got it right, referring to the demonstration in February 2003 that brought more than 1m people on to the streets of London in the biggest peace time protest in history.


He says the intervention in Iraq led to mind-set among politicians that regime change through military intervention was acceptable, refering to the intervention in Libya that has now left the country in the grip of militias.

“I now apologise sincerely on behalf of my party for the decision to go to war in Iraq”, he says, adding the apology applies to all the Iraqi victims, the families of the soldiers killed in the conflict and the people of Britain.


In a speech that lasted just over 10 minutes, Mr Corbyn described the Iraq War as “a catastrophe” and said it had “fuelled terrorism” around the world. He added: “We now know that parliament was misled in the run-up to the war.”

He called for a different type of foreign policy where war is an absolute last resort.

Much of the speech was a rerun of what he said in parliament earlier but the expected public apology on behalf of the Labour Party came at the end of the speech. Earlier in the House of Commons, Mr Corbyn, who has lost the support of his parliamentary party, faced some heckling from his own MPs.


Mr Corbyn’s stance contrasts sharply with the refusal earlier of Tony Blair to apologise for taking the UK to war:


We are now going to wrap up our live coverage of the publication of the Chilcot report and its aftermath. The report, which ran to 12 volumes and more than 2.6m words, itself was highly critical of Tony Blair and the wider political, military and intelligence establishments in the run up to the invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

It found that military action at the time was not the “last resort” and more diplomatic pressure could have been brought to bear.
Blair said the report proved he did not lie or mislead parliament or the public in the run up to the war and denied a memo he sent to the US president George W Bush eight months before the invasion was effectively a green light that the UK would join it in military action.
David Cameron, the prime minister, backed Blair in that regard, saying the report did not accuse “anyone of deliberate explicit deceit”.
But Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader and an opponent of the Iraq War, insisted the report did show that Parliament had been misled. He issued an apology on behalf of the Labour Party to the victims of the war, both civilian and military, as well as to the British people.

For further coverage please go to FT.com