Finally, there is a story to top Brexit fallout on the front pages of British media outlets.
The long-awaited official Chilcot report into Britain’s involvement in the Iraq War – the UK’s most controversial military engagement since the end of the Second World War – was finally published on July 6.
The report is named after Privy Councillor Sir John Chilcot, who has chaired the investigation, which has taken place for the last seven years into the United Kingdom’s decision to go to war in Iraq in 2003. It covers political decisions made between 2001 and 2009 relating to the run-up to the UK’s intervention, the military action itself, and the aftermath of the conflict.
The paper of 2,6 million words in total (four times the length of Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace) says, 2003 Iraq intervention was «unnecessary», the war was not the «last resort» and Saddam Hussein, the dictator ruling Iraq at the time, was «no imminent threat». Great Britain chose to join the invasion of Iraq before the peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted. Former Prime Minister Tony Blair presented the case for war in 2003 with «a certainty which was not justified» based on «flawed» intelligence about the country’s supposed weapons of mass destruction (WMD). The decision for the UK to take charge of four provinces in south east Iraq was taken «without a formal ministerial decision» and without ensuring that the UK had the capability it needed. Planning for post-war Iraq was «wholly inadequate». The report says the legality of the war can only be decided by an international court. Indeed, the conflict in Iraq was followed by a period of diplomacy in which the UK was unable to secure United Nations authorization for military action. This sequence of events gave rise to debates about whether the war was even legal.
Scottish National Party (SNP)’s Alex Salmond says, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair should be taken to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for involving the country in the 2003 invasion of Iraq if an inquiry reveals that Blair made a secret commitment to Washington to support the war.
A number of lawmakers want to use the impeachment procedure to hold Blair to account for his role in the invasion of the Arab country.
By the time British combat forces left in 2009, 179 British troops, almost 4,500 American personnel and more than 100,000 Iraqis had been killed. The intervention put an end to the reign of dictator Saddam Hussein but failed to bring stability to the region once he was removed. Today, Iraq is one of the most troubled nations on Earth.
According to Amnesty International’s report, the international terrorist organization Islamic State (IS) is the direct result of the US-led invasion of Iraq.
The origin of IS can be traced directly to the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. The report states that «following the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the subsequent fall of President Saddam Hussein, a number of insurgent armed groups composed largely of Sunni men emerged in opposition to the occupying forces and the Shi’a-dominated Iraqi government».
Tony Blair himself has said he was sorry for the «mistakes».
It’s worth to remember that the mistake drove the wedge into the West’s unity. NATO was not unanimous. Those days Russia was on the same side of the fence with France and Germany – the states strongly opposed to the Iraq war. «Punish France, ignore Germany, forgive Russia». That was the pithy summary of American policy towards Europe attributed to then National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice in the spring of 2003, during the peak of the transatlantic bust-up over Iraq.
The inquiry is not a court of law and nobody is on trial. The key point of the report is to identify «lessons that can be learned», so governments can act accordingly in future. When speaking to the BBC on the eve of its release, Chilcot told that individuals and institutions would be criticized.
Mr Chilcot is right about the need to learn the lessons. Indeed, few recall that David Cameron led Britain into one war in Libya that overthrew Gaddafi, but was disastrous for most Libyans. Without this conflict, the flows of refugees from Libya would not be rushing to Europe today. On August 29, 2013 Cameron lost the vote which would have opened the door to British military intervention in Syria. It would have had an effect only if it had turned into a Libyan-type air campaign to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad. There is every reason to believe that jihadist movements would have filled the vacuum and Syria would have descended even deeper into chaos. Still a smaller scale British intervention there is taking place right now.
The operation is proceeding despite the fact that some time ago the Prime Minister said he ruled out having boots on the ground in Syria.
And it’s not Great Britain only; the lessons should be learned by all, especially the US, who was in the driving seat leading the 2003 invasion.
The United States fought in Iraq for nine years. With the exception of the war in Afghanistan, it was America’s longest combat engagement ever: longer than the American Civil War, the two World Wars, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Any country that enters into a war emerges from it changed but not the United States.
US Democratic presidential front-runner, Hillary Clinton, the former Secretary of State, takes no responsibility for Islamic State’s rapid gains in Libya in the wake of the American-led «coup-by-air» to remove Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. President Obama, who caved in to Hillary’s pressure to oust Gaddafi in 2011, is now thinking about going back into the country, as he has into Iraq (with the war against the Islamic State in Syria to boot), to clean up the previously US-made mess.
It happens against the background of the continuing messes in Afghanistan and Iraq – the states where the US and its NATO allies got bogged down in «nation-building».
The lesson of Iraq must be remembered when it comes to Syria. The 2003 invasion of Iraq influences the position of Russia on the conflict. For Moscow the issue is not sympathy for Syrian President Assad, economic interest or the access to the Tartus naval base. Russia is certain that if continued crushing of secular governments in the Middle East is allowed just because the US and its allies such as the UK support «democracy», it will lead to such destabilization that will overwhelm all, including Russia. It’s therefore necessary for Moscow to resist, especially as the West itself experiences increasing doubts. Besides, Russia is in Syria upon the invitation of the Syrian government, while the US-led coalition, including the UK, is not. Without the authorization of the United Nations, coalition’s military involvement in the Syrian conflict is illegal just like the 2003 Iraq invasion was. The lessons of the 2003 invasion tell us the overthrow of the Syrian government may plunge the country into the same chaos as Iraq after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. An international effort coordinated with the Syrian government and based on the authorization of the UN is the way to manage the conflict. Acting in accordance with the international law, not in violation of it, would show that the US and the UK – the countries responsible for the 2003 intervention – are serious about learning at least some of the lessons in question – something the Chilcot report is calling for.