- Highly anticipated and much delayed report into Iraq War published.
- John Chilcot said military action in Iraq 'was not a last resort'
- David Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn gave statements in House of Commons.
- Tony Blair said he expressed "sorrow, regret and apology" in response to the report
This concludes our live coverage of the Chilcot Inquiry. For more updates stay with IBTimes UK
Alastair Campbell has made a robust defence of his former boss Tony Blair following the release of the Chilcot report.
Tony Blair has just ended his two hour long press conference answering questions about the inquiry's final report.
Another emotional respsone from Blair when asked about his his regret for starting the war.
There is no inconsistency in expressing my sorrow for those that have lost their lives, my regret and my apology for the mistakes but still saying I believe the decision was right.
There is no inconsistency in that. I understand why that makes some people at least angry with me... In the end, I'm sorry again if people find that difficult to reconcile but I spend so much of my time thinking about this issue, I spend so much of my life analysing it, I would be making a concession I didn't believe if I said to you 'I think if we left him there we'd be better'
Key extract from Blair's speech, along with a video.
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 ten 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 the 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.
Blair says he has "always apologised" for inaccuracy of the intelligence of Iraq's WMDs. "I had to act on the information I had at the time...virtually every intelligence agency had reached to the same conclusions".
He asks: "If you knew for a fact this dictator had used chemical weapons on his own people and for a fact he had killed thousands of his own people and those of other countries......would you have taken that risk to leave him in power? Or eliminate it?"
Blair said he "didn't have the option of that delay" to decide whether intervention would be needed at some point in future, as suggested by the report. "A decision had to be taken, and it was my decision as PM."
He added: "I took it, I accept full responsibility for it, I stand by it. I only ask with humility that the British people accept that I took this decision because I believed it was the right to thing to do based on the information I had and the threats I perceived and that my duty as PM in 2003 was to do what I thought was right...I thought the human cost of leaving Saddam in power would be greater for the world in the long term."
Blair says he hopes even those who "passionately disagree" with him at least understands why he did it.
Shared fears with the US that terror groups could have got their hands of WMDs and "Saddam regimes was the place to start" as his regime have previously used such weapons and was "capable of catastrophic actions".
Asks people "to put themselves as PM...you're seeing the intelligence mount up on WMDs...you have to at least consider possibility of 9/11 happening here."
He adds: "There was no rush to war.I was absolutely clear publicly and privately that we would be with the US" on the issue of combatting terrorism but "needed to go down UN route".
Former prime minister Blair, who was described in the Chilcot report as giving the go-ahead to invade Iraq based on "flawed intelligence and assessments" and belief that Iraq had WMDs on certainties that "was not justified" is now giving a conference on the inquiry.
Says he takes full responsibility for Iraq War and the number of deaths, expresses more "sorrow, regret and apology" than we could ever know or believe.
Disagrees Iraq would have bene better if the UK let Hussein stay in power and would have "threatened world peace" and "clung to power" during the Arab Spring with deadly power.
Tony Blair is expected to give a press conference on the findings of the Chilcot report soon.
We have some more stories on the IBTimes UK published since the release of the report.
First up we have Chilcot's statement in full.
A look at the memos sent between Blair and Bush in the run up to the invasion
Reactions from the public and politicians to the report.
We also have a video from the press conference of the family of those who died in the war.
There is also a video rounding up some of the key findings from the report.
Next up is the anticipated statement from Corbyn, who has constantly spoke out against the war. However, given the length of the report which he has not had enough time to go through, Corbyn says the response today can only be a "provisional" one.
Corbyn starts by remembering and honour those killed in the Iraq War, including the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians.
Tells MPs there is an "overwhelming" view that the war was illegal, adding the war "felled and spread terrorism" across the region.
The decision to invade Iraq on "flawed intelligence" led to a "fundamental breakdown" in trust in politics. Corbyn said "some of us got it right" and refers to the 1.5m people who marched against the war through London in 2003.
Said those Labour members who voted against the war "do not take satisfaction" in the report as "we have to be saddened" in what has been revealed.
Praises the late Robin Cook for speaking out at the time against the war.
Speaking in the House of Commons following PMQs, Cameron has promised two full days of debate on Chilcot report next week after MPs have had time to read through some of the 2.6 million words.
Cameron said the lessons learnt from the Chilcot report is that "taking country to war should always be a last report."
He added: "Sending our brave troops onto the battle field without the right equipment was unacceptable...we must pledge that it never happens again."
Lib Dem leader Tim Farron has also issued a statement regarding the Chilcot report.
"Far from being Bush's passenger, Blair was his co-pilot in taking this catastrophic decision which has destabilised Iraq, provided the hotbed for Daesh and tarnished Britain's reputation around the word." Daesh (Isis) has arisen from the complete absence of any post conflict planning by the government.
Charles Kennedy's judgement has been vindicated in every respect. I hope those in the Labour and Conservative parties who were so forceful in their criticism of him and the Liberal Democrats at the time are equally forceful in their acknowledgements today that he was right. An absence of scrutiny by the Conservative party opened the door for Blair and the Labour Government to pursue a counter-strategic, ill-resourced campaign.
"I hope Sir John Chilcot's findings can in some way provide comfort to the families of the British servicemen and servicewomen who lost their lives, and to the people of Iraq. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have lost their lives and a generation has been shaped by this illegal war.
"Blair was fixated in joining Bush in going to war in Iraq regardless of the evidence, the legality or the serious potential consequences."
One of the first MPs to give a response to Chilcot report is the SNP's Alex Salmond.
"The publication of the Report of the Iraq Inquiry by Sir John Chilcot today is welcome but long overdue.
"The report's forensic examination of thousands of pages of evidence and its firm conclusions are excoriating of a Prime Minister who, contrary to his denials, gave a pre-determined commitment to President Bush on 28 July 2002 to join US military action in Iraq. We now know that long before Parliament formally voted on whether or not to go to war in Iraq, Tony Blair had told George Bush - "I will be with you whatever".
"The subsequent actions of the then Prime Minister blundered the country into a war that has caused the deaths of 179 UK armed forces personnel, and almost 200,000 Iraqi civilians, and led the world into the present nightmare instability in the Middle East. It is shameful that the Chilcot Report found the UK's actions undermined the authority of the UN Security Council, and the Prime Minister's lack of commitment to collective decision-making and his determination to stand with the US before diplomatic options had been exhausted, led the country prematurely to war. It is now clear from the report that military action was not the last resort as Blair stood in Parliament on 18 March 2003 to ask MPs to support his case for war.
"And when the Iraqi regime headed by Saddam Hussein was toppled, Chilcot has found that it was Tony Blair who increased the risk of the UK failing to react to the unexpected in Iraq, and damaged the likelihood of achieving strategic objectives. There was no plan for the reconstruction of Iraq and for the provision of services to the Iraqi people, and there was no plan to deal with the violence that we saw explode in the months following the invasion.
"In the days, weeks and months ahead, the intimate detail of this report will only implicate further a former Prime Minister who recklessly committed the country to war without collective judgement, and personally failed to ensure there was a plan for delivering a future for the people of Iraq.
"After such carnage, people will ask inevitable questions of was conflict inevitable and worthwhile? The answer from Chilcot is undoubtedly no. And who is responsible? The answer is undoubtedly Tony Blair. There must now be a consideration of what political or legal consequences are appropriate for those responsible."
Sarah O'Connor, whose brother was killed in the Iraq War, described Tony Blair as the "world's worst terrorist" during an emotional press conference given by the troops' families.
She added: "There is one terrorist in this world that the world needs to be aware of, and his name is Tony Blair, the world's worst terrorist. If he is so sure of his decision, why isn't he here?"
Tony Blair has already issued a response to the Chilcot report, saying he still believes the decision to invade Iraq was taken "in good faith".
The report should lay to rest allegations of bad faith, lies or deceit. 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.
I note that the report finds clearly:
- That there was no falsification or improper use of Intelligence (para 876 vol 4)
- No deception of Cabinet (para 953 vol 5)
- No secret commitment to war whether at Crawford Texas in April 2002 or elsewhere (para 572 onwards vol 1)
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 (para 933 vol 5)
However the report does make real and material criticisms of preparation, planning, process and of the relationship with the United States.
These are serious criticisms and they require serious answers.
I will respond in detail to them later this afternoon.
I will take full responsibility for any mistakes without exception or excuse.
I will at the same time say why, nonetheless, I believe that it was better to remove Saddam Hussein and why I do not believe this is the cause of the terrorism we see today whether in the Middle East or elsewhere in the world.
Above all I will pay tribute to our Armed Forces. I will express my profound regret at the loss of life and the grief it has caused the families, and I will set out the lessons I believe future leaders can learn from my experience.
If anyone has a spare nine days, you can read the full report into the Iraq War from Chilcot here.
Here's the IBTimes UK's first take on the report - Tony Blair's rush to war when Saddam Hussein was 'not an imminent threat'.
"Sir John Chilcot has presented a damning indictment of the British case for invading Iraq, concluding that former Prime Minister Tony Blair's argument for going to war was based on "flawed intelligence and assessments" that "were not challenged [and] should have been."
Some more key extracts from Chilcot's statement:
Blair had been advised that an invasion of Iraq was expected to increase the threat to the UK and UK interests from Al Qaida and its affiliates.
By early March , the US Administration was not prepared to allow inspections to continue or give Mr Blair more time to try to achieve support for action. The attempt to gain support for a second resolution was abandoned.
In the Inquiry's view, the diplomatic options had not at that stage been exhausted. Military action was therefore not a last resort."
The consequences of the invasion and of the conflict within Iraq which followed are still being felt in Iraq and the wider Middle East, as well as in the UK. It left families bereaved and many individuals wounded, mentally as well as physically. After harsh deprivation under Saddam Hussein's regime, the Iraqi people suffered further years of violence.
Blair confirmed that he was 'solidly with the President and ready to do whatever it took to disarm Saddam' Hussein.
"Above all the lesson is that all aspects of any intervention need to be calculated, debated and challenged with the utmost rigour and when decisions have been made they need to be implemented fully. Sadly, neither was the case in relation to the UK government's actions in Iraq."
"Intervention in Iraq might have been necessary at some point, but in March 2003 there was no imminent threat from Saddam Hussein - the strategy of containment could have been adapted and continued for some time."
The government failed to take into account the "magnitude" of the task in reconstructing stabilising and Iraq and the responsibilities likely to fall to the UK.
He adds: "The scale of the UK's effort in post-war Iraq never matched the scale of the challenge."