UK rocked by damning report on former Prime Minister Tony Blair's decision to invade Iraq

Seven-year investigation exposes flawed intelligence and inadequate post-conflict planning by British government in lead-up to US-led action.

Sir John Chilcot| Photo credit: PA Images

The British political establishment has been rocked by the findings of a long-awaited inquiry into the decisions surrounding the lead-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

On Wednesday in London, following a seven-year investigation, Sir John Chilcot unveiled his verdict on the actions of then Prime Minister Tony Blair's that led to the overthrow of Saddam Hussein by a US-led military coalition.

The former civil servant said Blair had made the decision to remove Saddam Hussein "before the peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted" and was highly critical of the intelligence and legal advice given before the war, along with what he called "wholly inadequate" planning for the post-conflict situation.


Chilcot delivered a series of stinging criticisms of Blair's government, with, according to UK political news service PoliticsHome, the most controversial concerning a memo to former US president George W Bush in July 2002 containing an assurance that "I will be with you, whatever."

Chilcot was also highly critical of the advice given to the government about the legality of the invasion, saying that his inquiry had, "concluded that the circumstances in which it was decided that there was a legal basis for UK military action were far from satisfactory."

Reacting to the findings, Tony Blair expressed "sorrow and regret" over the Iraq War - but insisted that he would do it all over again.

"There's not a single day goes by", he said, when he does not think about his decision to approve military action, admitting that many mistakes had been made before, during and after the 2003 invasion.

But he said he could not apologise for the decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power - and said history will "take a different view" on the war and its aftermath.

"The decision to go to war in Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein from power in a coalition of over 40 countries led by the USA, was the hardest, most momentous, most agonising decision I took in 10 years as British Prime Minister.

"For that decision today I accept full responsibility, without exception and without excuse.

"I recognise the division felt by many in our country over the war and in particular I feel deeply and sincerely - in a way that no words can properly convey - the grief and suffering of those who lost ones they loved in Iraq, whether they were members of our armed forces, the armed forces of other nations, or Iraqis.

"The intelligence assessments made at the time of going to war turned out to be wrong. The aftermath turned out to be more hostile, protracted and bloody than ever we imagined.

"The coalition planned for one set of ground facts and encountered another, and a nation whose people we wanted to set free and secure from the evil of Saddam, became instead victim to sectarian terrorism.

"For all of this I express more sorrow, regret and apology than you may ever know or can believe."

However, the former Prime Minister insisted he would still approve military action, given the intelligence information he was shown in the run up to the war.

He said: "If I was back in the same place with the same information I would take the same decision.

"People want me to go one step further - and this is my problem, I know it causes a lot of difficulty - they say 'no, we want you to apologise for the decision' and I can’t do that."

Current leader of the British Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn apologised for Tony Blair's "disastrous decision to go to war in Iraq" and, in a thinly veiled attack on the former leader, called on the UK to support moves to give the International Criminal Court "the power to prosecute those responsible for the crime of military aggression."