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Chilcot report: Iraq War based on 'flawed intelligence'

Inquiry into Britain's role finds the consequences of the decision to invade Iraq in 2003 were underestimated.

Inquiry

Britain decided to join the 2003 invasion of Iraq based on "flawed intelligence" which was not challenged and should have been, a long-awaited report has found.

John Chilcot, the chairman of the Iraq Inquiry and a retired civil servant, said on Wednesday that the invasion went "badly wrong".

"Military action in Iraq might have been necessary at some point, but in March 2003, there was no immediate threat from [then Iraq President] Saddam Hussein," he said.

The 2.6 million-word Iraq Inquiry - which took seven years to prepare - was published in full on Wednesday. It can be accessed online.

Speaking 30 minutes before the official publication, Chilcot said: "The UK chose to join the invasion of Iraq before the peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted."

Chilcot said that, despite explicit warnings, the consequences of the invasion were underestimated.

Responding to the report, former Prime Minister Tony Blair said in a press conference on Wednesday that he "accept[ed] full responsibility without exception and without excuse" for the decision to go to war in Iraq, but insisted that the world "is in a better place without Saddam Hussein".

"There was no rush to war," Blair declared. "There were no lies. There was no secret commitment to war."

He also said that he made the decision because "it was the right thing to do based on the information I had". He said his mistake was in the "planning and process" following the invasion.

Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and at least 179 British soldiers were killed during the eight-year conflict.

Investigators also found the planning and preparations for Iraq after Hussein was overthrown were wholly inadequate, said Chilcot, who had not been asked to rule on the legality of the invasion.

"The people of Iraq have suffered greatly," Chilcot said.

Speaking from Baghdad, Ahmed Rushdi, Iraqi political analyst, said that the report reminded him of his previous statement, that "Tony Blair is a liar".

"He lied to the British people. He lied to the international community ... he lied on every level".

"In the end, what happened in 2003, made us in a position that Iraqis must take the blame of what happened in 2003."

Rushdi said that it was the responsibility of the "invaders" to consider the consequences of war. 

"It's only go to Iraq, invade Iraq, destroy the infrastructure, destroy the nationality of all the Iraqis," without a clear post-war plan, he said.

Tony Blair responds

Blair was the UK's prime minister at the time of the US-led invasion, and strongly supported joining Britain's key ally.

The Chilcot report concluded that Blair "set the UK on a path leading to diplomatic activity in the UN and the possibility of participation in military action in a way that would make it very difficult for the UK subsequently to withdraw its support for the US."

As Chilcot addressed media at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in west London, anti-war protesters gathered outside.

Before Britain entered the war 13 years ago, at least one million people marched in the capital against a military invasion.

Current Prime Minister David Cameron, of the ruling Conservative Party, said the government needed to learn the lessons from what went wrong in the build-up to Britain's joining the invasion of Iraq. He added that he has put in place steps to avoid similar problems.

"Military intervention is always difficult, planning for the aftermath of intervention, that is always difficult and I don't think in this House we should be naive in any way that there's a perfect set of plans ... that can solve these problems in perpetuity."

'Never again'

The families of British troops killed in the Iraq conflict said Britain should use the Chilcot report to ensure the country never made such grave mistakes again.

In a statement, a group of families who had access to the report's executive summary said that "never again must so many mistakes be allowed to sacrifice British lives and lead to the destruction of a country for no positive end".

The sister of one killed serviceman, Sarah O'Connor, said the report confirmed there was one "terrorist" that the world needed to know about, "and that is Tony Blair".

The military families have long pushed for the inquiry and for those responsible for Britain's involvement to be held accountable.

The Iraq Inquiry has been repeatedly delayed, in part by wrangling over the inclusion of classified material, including conversations between Blair and former US President George W Bush. Some of Blair's pre-war letters to the US president are published in Chilcot's report, but not Bush's replies.

The report was released as Iraq reeled from the deadliest attack since the 2003 invasion.

Early on Sunday, a suicide bomber detonated an explosives-rigged lorry in Baghdad's Karada district as it teemed with shoppers before the holiday marking the end of the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, sparking infernos in nearby buildings.

At least 250 people died in the blast, including many children and women.

The bombing was claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS).


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