The Iraq Inquiry will be published in June/July 2016. Katy Bennett takes a deeper look at what the report is and what implications it may have.
It was announced on 29 September that the Chilcot report is due to be published around June or July next year. The inquiry has been ongoing since 2009 and a publication date this late has led to accusations of intentional delay, referred to by Lord Hurd as a “scandal.” The report is unlikely to directly result in any legal action, but its publication could have huge implications for Tony Blair and other high profile members of the government and British intelligence.
The report itself was set up in 2009 by Gordon Brown and will be a lengthy examination of the UK’s involvement in Iraq from March 2001 to July 2009. The aim is to investigate what happened from a balanced stance, in order to “learn lessons” and inform future foreign policy decisions. This means that it will involve an in- depth examination of intelligence, decision-making and actions taken, and will condemn any perceived mistakes.
The inquiry is not a court of law; hence legal action resulting directly from the report is unlikely. Nonetheless, some who “held very high office at the time” have suggested that Blair could be charged under international law for violations of the Geneva Conventions, and many of those involved will be heavily criticised. For those calling for Blair to be tried under international law, the publication of the report could be a first step, but more would have to be taken before anything further happened.
The investigation aims to go “well beyond Blair’s inner circle”; aside from Blair, members of his cabinet including the then foreign and defence secretaries, members of MI6 including its former head, Sir Richard Dearlove, and military commanders will be in the firing line.
Tony Blair has been accused of attempting to evade criticism with his recent apology, dismissed as part of a “spin operation” by critics including Nicola Sturgeon. He acknowledged that mistakes had been made in the planning and intelligence, as well as admitting when pressed that British actions in Iraq may have contributed to the rise of so called Islamic State. However, he did not apologise for the war itself, saying, “I find it hard to apologise for removing Saddam (Hussein)” and many view this as an example of “too little, too late.” Blair will be largely aware of the implications of the report and this could well be preliminary damage control.
Many of the criticisms will fall on the British dossier, nicknamed the “dodgy dossier” by the press, where Blair asserted that Hussein possessed “weapons of mass destruction.” This has become an infamous quote from the entire scandal over Iraq, because to many people it demonstrates the dishonesty with which the entire situation was handled. Intelligence at the time was far less certain; while Blair asserted that the intelligence was definite fact, intelligence chiefs described it as “sporadic and patchy.”
Other questions raised by the report will include investigation into Blair’s discussions with George Bush, the legality of the war and the consequences including the rise of international terrorism and so called Islamic State.
Not only will the Chilcot report answer decade-old questions about the Iraq War, it will also have implications for the future. The situation in Syria is an immediate example of how the findings of the report will be practically applied, and the results could inform the government’s decision on whether or not to support military intervention.
The report will be completed in April 2016, at around two million words, and published nearly seven years after the inquiry was launched, costing £10m overall. With an original completion date set in early 2011, the report is long overdue, and could finally shed some light on what has long been regarded as a controversial moment in Britain’s history. At the same time, we should be wary of what the report could mean for the future, and the very real influence it will have on future government decision-making. The report will have a significant impact on both our perspective of history and the future of the country, and finally answer many questions about where Britain went wrong in Iraq.