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Chilcot Inquiry slams UK’s role in Iraq war

A long-awaited U.K. inquiry into the Iraq war has slammed the invasion in a report that is heavily critical of former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Military action in Iraq in 2003 was not used as a "last resort," said John Chilcot, who led the so-called Chilcot Inquiry, on Wednesday. Speaking at a media conference, Chilcot said Britain chose to join the U.S.-led invasion before diplomatic means to disarm Iraq had been exhausted.

"Military action in Iraq might have been necessary at some point, but in March 2003 there was no imminent threat from Hussein," Chilcot said.

He added that Blair overestimated his ability to influence the U.S, then led by George Bush, despite Britain's joint occupation of Iraq after the war.

"The U.K. was fully implicated in the authorities' decisions, but struggled to have a decisive effect on its policies," Chilcot said.


George W. Bush shakes hands with Tony Blair.
Mario tama | AFP | Getty Images
George W. Bush shakes hands with Tony Blair.

Plans for stabilizing, administrating and reconstructing Iraq were inadequate, he added, and the war and its aftermath allowed Islamist extremist groups like al-Qaeda to flourish.

"The scale of the U.K. effort never matched the scale of the challenge … In practice the U.K.'s most consistent strategic objective was to reduce the level of its deployed forces," Chilcot said.

"The U.K. military role in Iraq ended a very long way from success … This is an account of an intervention that went generally wrong," he added.

The Chilcot Inquiry was established seven years ago, when the last British troops left Iraq.

Blair responded immediately on Wednesday to the report.

"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 said in a statement published online.

"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 … However, the report does make real and material criticisms of preparation, planning, process and of the relationship with the United States," he later added.

People gather at the site of a suicide car bomb in Baghdad, Iraq July 3, 2016.
Khalid al Mousily | Reuters
People gather at the site of a suicide car bomb in Baghdad, Iraq July 3, 2016.

Blair has been vilified by some U.K. politicians — including those in his own Labour Party — for entering Iraq. The Sunday Times reported this weekend that Jeremy Corbyn planned to "cling on" as Labour leader until the report's publication in order to "crucify" Blair. The newspaper claimed Corbyn was prepared to join a cross-party effort to make Blair stand trial as war criminal at the International Criminal Court, citing unnamed officials in Corbyn's office.

Current U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron spoke in parliament after the Chilcot Inquiry was published.

"Taking the country into war should always be a last resort," he said on Wednesday.

"It would be wrong to conclude we should not stand with our American allies when our common security interest is threatened… it remains the case that Britain and America shares the same fundamental values," Cameron later added.

Corbyn spoke after Cameron, saying the U.K.'s participation in the Iraq war had increased the threat of terrorism in Britain.

"Military action in Iraq not only turned a humanitarian crisis into a disaster, it also convulsed an entire region," he added.

The left-wing politician suggested the House of Commons should take action against Blair for misleading it in the run-up to the war, according to the Guardian newspaper.

The Chilcot Inquiry comes at a sensitive time for Anglo-American relations, following the U.K.'s vote to leave the European Union and ahead of the possible presidential election of Donald Trump.

The Republican nominee praised Hussein's ruthlessness on Tuesday, according to the Associated Press.

"Saddam Hussein was a bad guy, right? ... But you know what he did well? He killed terrorists. He did that so good," Trump told a campaign rally Tuesday night in Raleigh, North Carolina.

"They didn't read 'em the rights, they didn't talk. They were a terrorist, it was over."

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