The Chilcot Inquiry report: what you need to know

The actions of Tony Blair, as Prime Minister, took the UK to war in Iraq, which led to the death of 179 UK armed forces personnel, almost 200,000 Iraqi civilians, and the present instability in the Middle East.

The inquiry into the war – the Chilcot inquiry – published its long overdue and damning final report today.

It comes in at over 2.6 million words – probably the longest report in history. Here are just some of the key things that you need to know.

1. Long before Parliament formally voted on whether or not to go to war in Iraq, Tony Blair told George Bush “I will be with you, whatever”.

Tony Blair gave a predetermined commitment to President Bush. In a memo of 18 July 2002, entitled “Note on Iraq”, for George W Bush, here’s what Tony Blair said:

2. Diplomatic options had not been exhausted when Tony Blair asked MPs to support his case for military action.

In his statement Sir John Chilcot said “we have concluded that the UK chose to join the invasion of Iraq before the peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted” and that “military action at that time was not a last resort.”

3. Claims about the threat posed by Iraq were said with a certainty that “was not justified” and were based on “flawed intelligence”, which went unchallenged.

Referring to the statement made by Tony Blair to Parliament on 18 March 2003, on the case for war, Sir John Chilcot said that:

“The judgments about Iraq’s capabilities in that statement, and in the dossier published the same day, were presented with a certainty that was not justified… It is now clear that policy on Iraq was made on the basis of flawed intelligence and assessments. They were not challenged, and they should have been.”

4. It is shameful that the Chilcot report found the UK’s actions “undermined” the authority of the UN Security Council.

The Chilcot report states:

“The Charter of the United Nations vests responsibility for the maintenance of peace and security in the Security Council. The UK Government was claiming to act on behalf of the international community ‘to uphold the authority of the Security Council’, knowing that it did not have a majority in the Security Council in support of its actions. In those circumstances, the UK’s actions undermined the authority of the Security Council.”

5. The Chilcot report sets out the failures in planning for post conflict Iraq and concludes that “the UK did not achieve its objectives”.

Sir John Chilcot, in his statement, said “despite explicit warnings, the consequences of the invasion were underestimated” and that “the planning and preparations for Iraq after Saddam Hussein were wholly inadequate.”

Tony Blair claimed in evidence to the inquiry that the difficulties following the war could not have been foreseen. Sir John Chilcot rejected this in his statement, saying, “we do not agree that hindsight is required.” He went on to say “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.”

This report concludes that the UK Government “failed to achieve its stated objectives.”

You can read Sir John Chilcot’s statement here, and the full report is here.