Return to an Address of the Honourable the House of Commons
dated 6 July 2016 for
The Report of the Iraq Inquiry: Executive Summary
Report of a Committee of Privy Counsellors
Ordered by the House of Commons to be printed on 6 July 2016
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Pre‑conflict strategy and planning ………………………………………………………………………….5
The UK decision to support US military action …………………………………………………………6
UK policy before 9/11 ……………………………………………………………………………………..6
The impact of 9/11 ……………………………………………………………………………………….10
Decision to take the UN route ………………………………………………………………………..16
Negotiation of resolution 1441 ……………………………………………………………………….19
The prospect of military action ……………………………………………………………………….21
The gap between the Permanent Members of the Security Council widens …………24
The end of the UN route ……………………………………………………………………………….30
Why Iraq? Why now? …………………………………………………………………………………………40
Was Iraq a serious or imminent threat? …………………………………………………………..40
The predicted increase in the threat to the UK as a result of military action in Iraq ..47
The UK’s relationship with the US ………………………………………………………………………..51
Collective responsibility ………………………………………………………………………………..55
Advice on the legal basis for military action …………………………………………………………..62
The timing of Lord Goldsmith’s advice on the interpretation of resolution 1441 …….63
Lord Goldsmith’s advice of 7 March 2003 ……………………………………………………….65
Lord Goldsmith’s arrival at a “better view” ……………………………………………………….66
The exchange of letters on 14 and 15 March 2003 …………………………………………..66
Lord Goldsmith’s Written Answer of 17 March 2003 ………………………………………….67
Cabinet, 17 March 2003 ……………………………………………………………………………….68
Weapons of mass destruction ……………………………………………………………………………..69
Iraq WMD assessments, pre‑July 2002 …………………………………………………………..69
Iraq WMD assessments, July to September 2002 …………………………………………….72
Iraq WMD assessments, October 2002 to March 2003 ……………………………………..75
The search for WMD …………………………………………………………………………………….77
The Report of the Iraq Inquiry
Planning for a post‑Saddam Hussein Iraq ……………………………………………………………. 78
The failure to plan or prepare for known risks …………………………………………………. 78
The planning process and decision‑making ……………………………………………………. 81
The post‑conflict period ……………………………………………………………………………………… 86
Occupation …………………………………………………………………………………………………. 86
Looting in Basra ……………………………………………………………………………………. 86
Looting in Baghdad ………………………………………………………………………………. 88
UK influence on post‑invasion strategy: resolution 1483 …………………………….. 89
UK influence on the Coalition Provisional Authority ……………………………………. 90
A decline in security ………………………………………………………………………………. 93
The turning point …………………………………………………………………………………… 96
Transition …………………………………………………………………………………………………… 97
UK influence on US strategy post‑CPA …………………………………………………….. 97
Planning for withdrawal ………………………………………………………………………….. 97
The impact of Afghanistan ………………………………………………………………………. 99
Iraqiisation ………………………………………………………………………………………….. 101
Preparation for withdrawal ………………………………………………………………………….. 103
A major divergence in strategy ………………………………………………………………. 103
A possible civil war ………………………………………………………………………………. 104
Force Level Review ……………………………………………………………………………… 107
The beginning of the end ……………………………………………………………………… 108
Did the UK achieve its objectives in Iraq? …………………………………………………………… 109
Key findings …………………………………………………………………………………………………….111
Development of UK strategy and options, 9/11 to early January 2002 ………………..111
Development of UK strategy and options, January to April 2002 – “axis of evil” to
Development of UK strategy and options, April to July 2002 ……………………………. 112
Development of UK strategy and options, late July to 14 September 2002 ……….. 112
Development of UK strategy and options, September to November 2002 – the
negotiation of resolution 1441 ……………………………………………………………………… 113
Development of UK strategy and options, November 2002 to January 2003 ……… 113
Development of UK strategy and options, 1 February to 7 March 2003 …………….. 114
Iraq WMD assessments, pre‑July 2002 ………………………………………………………… 115
Iraq WMD assessments, July to September 2002 ………………………………………….. 116
Iraq WMD assessments, October 2002 to March 2003 …………………………………… 117
The search for WMD ………………………………………………………………………………….. 117
Advice on the legal basis for military action, November 2002 to March 2003 …….. 119
Development of the military options for an invasion of Iraq ……………………………… 120
Military planning for the invasion, January to March 2003 ……………………………….. 121
Military equipment (pre‑conflict) …………………………………………………………………… 122
Planning for a post‑Saddam Hussein Iraq …………………………………………………….. 122
The invasion …………………………………………………………………………………………….. 123
The post‑conflict period ……………………………………………………………………………… 123
Reconstruction ………………………………………………………………………………………….. 124
De‑Ba’athification ………………………………………………………………………………………. 125
Security Sector Reform ………………………………………………………………………………. 125
Resources ………………………………………………………………………………………………… 126
Military equipment (post‑conflict) …………………………………………………………………. 126
Civilian personnel ……………………………………………………………………………………… 127
Service Personnel ……………………………………………………………………………………… 127
Civilian casualties ……………………………………………………………………………………… 128
Lessons …………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 129
The decision to go to war ……………………………………………………………………………. 129
Weapons of mass destruction …………………………………………………………………….. 130
The invasion of Iraq …………………………………………………………………………………… 133
The post‑conflict period ……………………………………………………………………………… 134
Reconstruction ………………………………………………………………………………………….. 135
De‑Ba’athification ………………………………………………………………………………………. 137
Security Sector Reform ………………………………………………………………………………. 138
Resources ………………………………………………………………………………………………… 138
Military equipment (post‑conflict) …………………………………………………………………. 139
Civilian personnel ……………………………………………………………………………………… 140
Timeline of events …………………………………………………………………………………………… 141
The Report of the Iraq Inquiry
1. In 2003, for the first time since the Second World War, the United Kingdom took part
in an opposed invasion and full‑scale occupation of a sovereign State – Iraq. Cabinet
decided on 17 March to join the US‑led invasion of Iraq, assuming there was no
last‑minute capitulation by Saddam Hussein. That decision was ratified by Parliament
the next day and implemented the night after that.
2. Until 28 June 2004, the UK was a joint Occupying Power in Iraq. For the next five
years, UK forces remained in Iraq with responsibility for security in the South‑East; and
the UK sought to assist with stabilisation and reconstruction.
3. 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.
4. The decision to use force – a very serious decision for any government to take –
provoked profound controversy in relation to Iraq and became even more controversial
when it was subsequently found that Iraq’s programmes to develop and produce
chemical, biological and nuclear weapons had been dismantled. It continues to shape
debates on national security policy and the circumstances in which to intervene.
5. Although the Coalition had achieved the removal of a brutal regime which had
defied the United Nations and which was seen as a threat to peace and security, it
failed to achieve the goals it had set for a new Iraq. Faced with serious disorder in Iraq,
aggravated by sectarian differences, the US and UK struggled to contain the situation.
The lack of security impeded political, social and economic reconstruction.
6. The Inquiry’s report sets out in detail decision‑making in the UK Government covering
the period from when the possibility of military action first arose in 2001 to the departure
of UK troops in 2009. It covers many different aspects of policy and its delivery.
7. In this Executive Summary the Inquiry sets out its conclusions on a number of issues
that have been central to the controversies surrounding Iraq. In addition to the factors
that shaped the decision to take military action in March 2003 without support for an
authorising resolution in the UN Security Council, they are: the assessments of Iraqi
WMD capabilities by the intelligence community prior to the invasion (including their
presentation in the September 2002 dossier); advice on whether military action would be
legal; the lack of adequate preparation for the post‑conflict period and the consequent
struggle to cope with the deteriorating security situation in Iraq after the invasion.
This Summary also contains the Inquiry’s key findings and a compilation of lessons, from
the conclusions of individual Sections of the report.
8. Other Sections of the report contain detailed accounts of the relevant decisions and
events, and the Inquiry’s full conclusions and lessons.
9. The following are extracts from the main body of the Report covering some of the
most important issues considered by the Inquiry.
Pre‑conflict strategy and planning
10. After the attacks on the US on 11 September 2001 and the fall of the Taliban regime
in Afghanistan in November, the US Administration turned its attention to regime change
in Iraq as part of the second phase of what it called the Global War on Terror.
11. The UK Government sought to influence the decisions of the US Administration and
avoid unilateral US military action on Iraq by offering partnership to the US and seeking
to build international support for the position that Iraq was a threat with which it was
necessary to deal.
12. In Mr Blair’s view, the decision to stand “shoulder to shoulder” with the US was an
essential demonstration of solidarity with the UK’s principal ally as well as being in the
UK’s long‑term national interests.
13. To do so required the UK to reconcile its objective of disarming Iraq, if possible
by peaceful means, with the US goal of regime change. That was achieved by the
development of an ultimatum strategy threatening the use of force if Saddam Hussein
did not comply with the demands of the international community, and by seeking to
persuade the US to adopt that strategy and pursue it through the UN.
14. President Bush’s decision, in September 2002, to challenge the UN to deal with
Iraq, and the subsequent successful negotiation of resolution 1441 giving Iraq a final
opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations or face serious consequences
if it did not, was perceived to be a major success for Mr Blair’s strategy and his influence
on President Bush.
15. But US willingness to act through the UN was limited. Following the Iraqi declaration
of 7 December 2002, the UK perceived that President Bush had decided that the US
would take military action in early 2003 if Saddam Hussein had not been disarmed and
was still in power.
16. The timing of military action was entirely driven by the US Administration.
17. At the end of January 2003, Mr Blair accepted the US timetable for military action
by mid‑March. President Bush agreed to support a second resolution to help Mr Blair.
18. The UK Government’s efforts to secure a second resolution faced opposition
from those countries, notably France, Germany and Russia, which believed that the
inspections process could continue. The inspectors reported that Iraqi co‑operation,
while far from perfect, was improving.
The Report of the Iraq Inquiry
19. 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.
20. In the Inquiry’s view, the diplomatic options had not at that stage been exhausted.
Military action was therefore not a last resort.
21. In mid‑March, Mr Blair’s determination to stand alongside the US left the UK
with a stark choice. It could act with the US but without the support of the majority
of the Security Council in taking military action if Saddam Hussein did not accept
the US ultimatum giving him 48 hours to leave. Or it could choose not to join US‑led
22. Led by Mr Blair, the UK Government chose to support military action.
23. Mr Blair asked Parliament to endorse a decision to invade and occupy a sovereign
nation, without the support of a Security Council resolution explicitly authorising the use
of force. Parliament endorsed that choice.
The UK decision to support US military action
24. President Bush decided at the end of 2001 to pursue a policy of regime change
25. The UK shared the broad objective of finding a way to deal with Saddam Hussein’s
defiance of UN Security Council resolutions and his assumed weapons of mass
destruction (WMD) programmes. However, based on consistent legal advice, the UK
could not share the US objective of regime change. The UK Government therefore set
as its objective the disarmament of Iraq in accordance with the obligations imposed in a
series of Security Council resolutions.
UK policy before 9/11
26. Before the attacks on the US on 11 September 2001 (9/11), the UK was pursuing
a strategy of containment based on a new sanctions regime to improve international
support and incentivise Iraq’s co‑operation, narrowing and deepening the sanctions
regime to focus only on prohibited items and at the same time improving financial
controls to reduce the flow of illicit funds to Saddam Hussein.
27. When UK policy towards Iraq was formally reviewed and agreed by the Ministerial
Committee on Defence and Overseas Policy (DOP) in May 1999, the objectives towards
Iraq were defined as:
“… in the short term, to reduce the threat Saddam poses to the region including
by eliminating his weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programmes; and, in
the longer term, to reintegrate a territorially intact Iraq as a law‑abiding member
of the international community.”1
28. The policy of containment was seen as the “only viable way” to pursue those
objectives. A “policy of trying to topple Saddam would command no useful international
support”. Iraq was unlikely to accept the package immediately but “might be persuaded
to acquiesce eventually”.
29. After prolonged discussion about the way ahead, the UN Security Council adopted
resolution 1284 in December 1999, although China, France and Russia abstained.2
30. The resolution established:
• a new inspectorate, the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection
Commission (UNMOVIC) (which Dr Hans Blix was subsequently appointed
• a timetable to identify and agree a work programme; and
• the principle that, if the inspectors reported co‑operation in key areas, that would
lead to the suspension of economic sanctions.3
31. Resolution 1284 described Iraq’s obligations to comply with the disarmament
standards of resolution 687 and other related resolutions as the “governing standard
of Iraqi compliance”; and provided that the Security Council would decide what was
required of Iraq for the implementation of each task and that it should be “clearly defined
32. The resolution was also a deliberate compromise which changed the criterion for
the suspension, and eventual lifting, of sanctions from complete disarmament to tests
which would be based on judgements by UNMOVIC on the progress made in completing
33. Iraq refused to accept the provisions of resolution 1284, including the re‑admission
of weapons inspectors. Concerns about Iraq’s activities in the absence of inspectors
34. The US Presidential election in November 2000 prompted a further UK review of the
operation of the containment policy (see Section 1.2). There were concerns about how
long the policy could be sustained and what it could achieve.
35. There were also concerns over both the continued legal basis for operations in the
No‑Fly Zones (NFZs) and the conduct of individual operations.4
1 Joint Memorandum by the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and the Secretary of State for Defence, 17 May 1999, ‘Iraq Future Strategy’.
2 UN Security Council Press Release, 17 December 1999, Security Council Establishes New Monitoring Commission For Iraq Adopting Resolution 1284 (1999) By Vote of 11‑0‑4 (SC/6775).
3 UN Security Council, ‘4084th Meeting Friday 17 December 1999’ (S/PV.4084).
4 Letter Goulty to McKane, 20 October 2000, ‘Iraq’.
The Report of the Iraq Inquiry
36. In an Assessment on 1 November, the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) judged
that Saddam Hussein felt “little pressure to negotiate over … resolution 1284 because
the proceeds of oil smuggling and illicit trade have increased significantly this year, and
more countries are increasing diplomatic contacts and trade with Iraq”.5
37. The JIC also judged:
“Saddam would only contemplate co‑operation with [resolution] 1284, and the return
of inspectors … if it could be portrayed as a victory. He will not agree to co‑operate
• there is a UN‑agreed timetable for the lifting of sanctions. Saddam suspects
that the US would not agree to sanctions lift while he remained in power;
• he is able to negotiate with the UN in advance to weaken the inspection
provisions. His ambitions to rebuild Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction
programmes makes him hostile to intrusive inspections or any other constraints
likely to be effective.
“Before accepting 1284, Saddam will try to obtain the abolition of the No‑Fly Zones.
He is also likely to demand that the US should abandon its stated aim to topple the
38. In November 2000, Mr Blair’s “preferred option” was described as the
implementation of 1284, enabling inspectors to return and sanctions to be suspended.6
39. In December 2000, the British Embassy Washington reported growing pressure
to change course from containment to military action to oust Saddam Hussein,
but no decision to change policy or to begin military planning had been taken by
40. The Key Judgements of a JIC Assessment in February 2001 included:
• There was “broad international consensus to maintain the arms embargo
at least as long as Saddam remains in power. Saddam faces no economic
pressure to accept … [resolution] 1284 because he is successfully
undermining the economic sanctions regime.”
• “Through abuse of the UN Oil‑for‑Food [OFF] programme and smuggling of
oil and other goods” it was estimated that Saddam Hussein would “be able to
appropriate in the region of $1.5bn to $1.8bn in cash and goods in 2001”,
and there was “scope for earning even more”.
5 JIC Assessment, 1 November 2000, ‘Iraq: Prospects for Co‑operation with UNSCR 1284’.
6 Letter Sawers to Cowper‑Coles, 27 November 2000, ‘Iraq’.
7 Letter Barrow to Sawers, 15 December 2000, ‘Iraq’.
• “Iranian interdiction efforts” had “significantly reduced smuggling down
the Gulf”, but Saddam Hussein had “compensated by exploiting land routes
to Turkey and Syria”.
• “Most countries” believed that economic sanctions were “ineffective,
counterproductive and should now be lifted. Without active enforcement,
the economic sanctions regime” would “continue to erode”.8
41. The Assessment also stated:
• Saddam Hussein needed funds “to maintain his military and security apparatus
and secure its loyalty”.
• Despite the availability of funds, Iraq had been slow to comply with UN
recommendations on food allocation. Saddam needed “the Iraqi people
to suffer to underpin his campaign against sanctions”.
• Encouraged by the success of Iraq’s border trade agreement with Turkey,
“front‑line states” were “not enforcing sanctions”.
• There had been a “significant increase in the erosion of sanctions over
the past six months”.
42. When Mr Blair had his first meeting with President Bush at Camp David in late
February 2001, the US and UK agreed on the need for a policy which was more widely
supported in the Middle East region.9 Mr Blair had concluded that public presentation
needed to be improved. He suggested that the approach should be presented as a
“deal” comprising four elements:
• do the right thing by the Iraqi people, with whom we have no quarrel;
• tighten weapons controls on Saddam Hussein;
• retain financial control on Saddam Hussein; and
• retain our ability to strike.
43. The stated position of the UK Government in February 2001 was that containment
had been broadly successful.10
44. During the summer of 2001, the UK had been exploring the way forward with the
US, Russia and France on a draft Security Council resolution to put in place a “smart
sanctions” regime.11 But there was no agreement on the way ahead between the UK, the
US, China, France and Russia, the five Permanent Members of the UN Security Council.
8 JIC Assessment, 14 February 2001, ‘Iraq: Economic Sanctions Eroding’.
9 Letter Sawers to Cowper‑Coles, 24 February 2001, ‘Prime Minister’s Talks with President Bush, Camp David, 23 February 2001’.
10 House of Commons, Official Report, 26 February 2001, column 620.
11 Minute McKane to Manning, 18 September 2001, ‘Iraq Stocktake’.
The Report of the Iraq Inquiry
45. Mr Blair told the Inquiry that, until 11 September 2001, the UK had a policy of
containment, but sanctions were eroding.12 The policy was “partially successful”,
but it did not mean that Saddam Hussein was “not still developing his [prohibited]
The impact of 9/11
46. The attacks on the US on 11 September 2001 changed perceptions about the
severity and likelihood of the threat from international terrorism. They showed that
attacks intended to cause large‑scale civilian casualties could be mounted anywhere
in the world.
47. In response to that perception of a greater threat, governments felt a responsibility
to act to anticipate and reduce risks before they turned into a threat. That was described
to the Inquiry by a number of witnesses as a change to the “calculus of risk” after 9/11.
48. In the wake of the attacks, Mr Blair declared that the UK would stand “shoulder
to shoulder” with the US to defeat and eradicate international terrorism.13
49. The JIC assessed on 18 September that the attacks on the US had “set a new
benchmark for terrorist atrocity”, and that terrorists seeking comparable impact
might try to use chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear devices.14 Only Islamic
extremists such as those who shared Usama Bin Laden’s agenda had the motivation
to pursue attacks with the deliberate aim of causing maximum casualties.
50. Throughout the autumn of 2001, Mr Blair took an active and leading role in
building a coalition to act against that threat, including military action against Al Qaida
and the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. He also emphasised the potential risk of
terrorists acquiring and using nuclear, biological or chemical weapons, and the
dangers of inaction.
51. In November 2001, the JIC assessed that Iraq had played no role in the 9/11 attacks
on the US and that practical co‑operation between Iraq and Al Qaida was “unlikely”.15
There was no “credible evidence of covert transfers of WMD‑related technology and
expertise to terrorist groups”. It was possible that Iraq might use WMD in terrorist
attacks, but only if the regime was under serious and imminent threat of collapse.
52. The UK continued actively to pursue a strengthened policy of containing Iraq,
through a revised and more targeted sanctions regime and seeking Iraq’s agreement
to the return of inspectors as required by resolution 1284 (1999).
12 Public hearing, 21 January 2011, page 8.
13 The National Archives, 11 September 2001, September 11 attacks: Prime Minister’s statement.
14 JIC Assessment, 18 September 2001, ‘UK Vulnerability to Major Terrorist Attack’.
15 JIC Assessment, 28 November 2001, ‘Iraq after September 11 – The Terrorist Threat’.
53. The adoption on 29 November 2001 of resolution 1382 went some way towards that
objective. But support for economic sanctions was eroding and whether Iraq would ever
agree to re-admit weapons inspectors and allow them to operate without obstruction was
54. Although there was no evidence of links between Iraq and Al Qaida, Mr Blair
encouraged President Bush to address the issue of Iraq in the context of a wider
strategy to confront terrorism after the attacks of 9/11. He sought to prevent precipitate
military action by the US which he considered would undermine the success of the
coalition which had been established for action against international terrorism.
55. President Bush’s remarks16 on 26 November renewed UK concerns that US
attention was turning towards military action in Iraq.
56. Following a discussion with President Bush on 3 December, Mr Blair sent him
a paper on a second phase of the war against terrorism.17
57. On Iraq, Mr Blair suggested a strategy for regime change in Iraq. This would build
over time until the point was reached where “military action could be taken if necessary”,
without losing international support.
58. The strategy was based on the premise that Iraq was a threat which had to be dealt
with, and it had multiple diplomatic strands. It entailed renewed demands for Iraq to
comply with the obligations imposed by the Security Council and for the re‑admission
of weapons inspectors, and a readiness to respond firmly if Saddam Hussein failed
59. Mr Blair did not, at that stage, have a ground invasion of Iraq or immediate military
action of any sort in mind. The strategy included mounting covert operations in support
of those “with the ability to topple Saddam”. But Mr Blair did state that, when a rebellion
occurred, the US and UK should “back it militarily”.
60. That was the first step towards a policy of possible intervention in Iraq.
61. A number of issues, including the legal basis for any military action, would need
to be resolved as part of developing the strategy.
62. The UK Government does not appear to have had any knowledge at that stage
that President Bush had asked General Tommy Franks, Commander in Chief,
US Central Command, to review the military options for removing Saddam Hussein,
including options for a conventional ground invasion.
63. Mr Blair also emphasised the threat which Iraq might pose in the future.
That remained a key part of his position in the months that followed.
16 The White House, 26 November 2001, The President Welcomes Aid Workers Rescued from Afghanistan.
17 Paper [Blair to Bush], 4 December 2001, ‘The War against Terrorism: The Second Phase’.
The Report of the Iraq Inquiry
64. In his annual State of the Union speech on 29 January 2002, President Bush
described the regimes in North Korea and Iran as “sponsors of terrorism”.18 He added
that Iraq had continued to:
“… flaunt its hostility towards America and to support terror … The Iraqi regime has
plotted to develop anthrax, and nerve gas, and nuclear weapons for over a decade.
This is a regime that has already used poison gas to murder thousands of its own
citizens … This is a regime that agreed to international inspections – then kicked out
the inspectors. This is a regime that has something to hide from the civilized world.”
65. President Bush stated:
“States like these [North Korea, Iran and Iraq], and their terrorist allies, constitute an
axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world. By seeking weapons of mass
destruction these regimes pose a grave and growing danger.”
66. From late February 2002, Mr Blair and Mr Straw began publicly to argue that Iraq
was a threat which had to be dealt with. Iraq needed to disarm or be disarmed.
67. The urgency and certainty with which the position was stated reflected the
ingrained belief that Saddam Hussein’s regime retained chemical and biological warfare
capabilities, was determined to preserve and if possible enhance its capabilities,
including at some point in the future a nuclear capability, and was pursuing an active
policy of deception and concealment. It also reflected the wider context in which the
policy was being discussed with the US.
68. On 26 February 2002, Sir Richard Dearlove, the Chief of the Secret Intelligence
Service, advised that the US Administration had concluded that containment would
not work, was drawing up plans for a military campaign later in the year, and was
considering presenting Saddam Hussein with an ultimatum for the return of inspectors
while setting the bar “so high that Saddam Hussein would be unable to comply”.19
69. The following day, the JIC assessed that Saddam Hussein feared a US military
attack on the scale of the 1991 military campaign to liberate Kuwait but did not regard
such an attack as inevitable; and that Iraqi opposition groups would not act without
“visible and sustained US military support on the ground”.20
70. At Cabinet on 7 March, Mr Blair and Mr Straw emphasised that no decisions
to launch further military action had been taken and any action taken would be in
accordance with international law.
18 The White House, 29 January 2002, The President’s State of the Union Address.
19 Letter C to Manning, 26 February 2002, ‘US Policy on Iraq’.
20 JIC Assessment, 27 February 2002, ‘Iraq: Saddam Under the Spotlight’.
71. The discussion in Cabinet was couched in terms of Iraq’s need to comply with its
obligations, and future choices by the international community on how to respond to the
threat which Iraq represented.
72. Cabinet endorsed the conclusion that Iraq’s WMD programmes posed a threat to
peace, and endorsed a strategy of engaging closely with the US Government in order to
shape policy and its presentation. It did not discuss how that might be achieved.
73. Mr Blair sought and was given information on a range of issues before his
meeting with President Bush at Crawford on 5 and 6 April. But no formal and agreed
analysis of the issues and options was sought or produced, and there was no collective
consideration of such advice.
74. Mr Straw’s advice of 25 March proposed that the US and UK should seek an
ultimatum to Saddam Hussein to re-admit weapons inspectors.21 That would provide a
route for the UK to align itself with the US without adopting the US objective of regime
change. This reflected advice that regime change would be unlawful.
75. At Crawford, Mr Blair offered President Bush a partnership in dealing urgently
with the threat posed by Saddam Hussein. He proposed that the UK and the US should
pursue a strategy based on an ultimatum calling on Iraq to permit the return of weapons
inspectors or face the consequences.22
76. President Bush agreed to consider the idea but there was no decision until
77. In the subsequent press conference on 6 April, Mr Blair stated that “doing nothing”
was not an option: the threat of WMD was real and had to be dealt with.23 The lesson
of 11 September was to ensure that “groups” were not allowed to develop a capability
they might use.
78. In his memoir, Mr Blair characterised the message that he and President Bush had
delivered to Saddam Hussein as “change the regime attitude on WMD inspections or
face the prospect of changing regime”.24
79. Documents written between April and July 2002 reported that, in the discussion
with President Bush at Crawford, Mr Blair had set out a number of considerations
in relation to the development of policy on Iraq. These were variously described as:
• The UN inspectors needed to be given every chance of success.
• The US should take action within a multilateral framework with international
support, not unilateral action.
21 Minute Straw to Prime Minister, 25 March 2002, ‘Crawford/Iraq’.
22 Letter Manning to McDonald, 8 April 2002, ‘Prime Minister’s Visit to the United States: 5‑7 April’.
23 The White House, 6 April 2002, President Bush, Prime Minister Blair Hold Press Conference.
24 Blair T. A Journey. Hutchinson, 2010.
The Report of the Iraq Inquiry
• A public information campaign should be mounted to explain the nature
of Saddam Hussein’s regime and the threat he posed.
• Any military action would need to be within the framework of international law.
• The military strategy would need to ensure Saddam Hussein could be removed
quickly and successfully.
• A convincing “blueprint” was needed for a post‑Saddam Hussein Iraq which
would be acceptable to both Iraq’s population and its neighbours.
• The US should advance the Middle East Peace Process in order to improve the chances of gaining broad support in the Middle East for military action against Iraq; and to pre‑empt accusations of double standards.
• Action should enhance rather than diminish regional stability. [bold added by me AJL]
• Success would be needed in Afghanistan to demonstrate the benefits of
80. Mr Blair considered that he was seeking to influence US policy by describing the key
elements for a successful strategy to secure international support for any military action
81. Key Ministers and some of their most senior advisers thought these were
the conditions that would need to be met if the UK was to participate in US‑led
82. By July, no progress had been made on the ultimatum strategy and Iraq was still
refusing to admit weapons inspectors as required by resolution 1284 (1999).
83. The UK Government was concerned that the US Administration was contemplating
military action in circumstances where it would be very difficult for the UK to participate
in or, conceivably, to support that action.
84. To provide the basis for a discussion with the US, a Cabinet Office paper of 19 July,
‘Iraq: Conditions for Military Action’, identified the conditions which would be necessary
before military action would be justified and the UK could participate in such action.25
85. The Cabinet Office paper stated that Mr Blair had said at Crawford:
“… that the UK would support military action to bring about regime change, provided
that certain conditions were met:
• efforts had been made to construct a coalition/shape public opinion,
• the Israel‑Palestine Crisis was quiescent, and
• the options for action to eliminate Iraq’s WMD through the UN weapons
inspectors had been exhausted.”
25 Paper Cabinet Office, 19 July 2002, ‘Iraq: Conditions for Military Action’.
86. The Cabinet Office paper also identified the need to address the issue of whether
the benefits of military action would outweigh the risks.
87. The potential mismatch between the timetable and work programme for UNMOVIC
stipulated in resolution 1284 (1999) and the US plans for military action was recognised
by officials during the preparation of the Cabinet Office paper.26
88. The issue was not addressed in the final paper submitted to Ministers on 19 July.27
89. Sir Richard Dearlove reported that he had been told that the US had already taken
a decision on action – “the question was only how and when”; and that he had been told
it intended to set the threshold on weapons inspections so high that Iraq would not be
able to hold up US policy.28
90. Mr Blair’s meeting with Ministerial colleagues and senior officials on 23 July was
not seen by those involved as having taken decisions.29
91. Further advice and background material were commissioned, including on the
possibility of a UN ultimatum to Iraq and the legal basis for action. The record stated:
“We should work on the assumption that the UK would take part in any military
action. But we needed a fuller picture of US planning before we could take any firm
decisions. CDS [the Chief of the Defence Staff, Admiral Sir Michael Boyce] should
tell the US military that we were considering a range of options.”
92. Mr Blair was advised that there would be “formidable obstacles” to securing a new
UN resolution incorporating an ultimatum without convincing evidence of a greatly
increased threat from Iraq.30 A great deal more work would be needed to clarify what the
UK was seeking and how its objective might best be achieved.
93. Mr Blair’s Note to President Bush of 28 July sought to persuade President Bush to
use the UN to build a coalition for action by seeking a partnership between the UK and
the US and setting out a framework for action.31
94. The Note began:
“I will be with you, whatever. But this is the moment to assess bluntly the difficulties.
The planning on this and the strategy are the toughest yet. This is not Kosovo.
This is not Afghanistan. It is not even the Gulf War.
26 Paper [Draft] Cabinet Office, ‘Iraq: Conditions for Military Action’ attached to Minute McKane to Bowen, 16 July 2002, ‘Iraq’.
27 Paper Cabinet Office, 19 July 2002, ‘Iraq: Conditions for Military Action’.
28 Report, 22 July 2002, ‘Iraq [C’s account of discussions with Dr Rice]’.
29 Minute Rycroft to Manning, 23 July 2002, ‘Iraq: Prime Minister’s Meeting, 23 July’.
30 Letter McDonald to Rycroft, 26 July 2002, ‘Iraq: Ultimatum’ attaching Paper ‘Elements which might be incorporated in an SCR embodying an ultimatum to Iraq’.
31 Note Blair [to Bush], 28 July 2002, ‘Note on Iraq’.
The Report of the Iraq Inquiry
“The military part of this is hazardous but I will concentrate mainly on the political
context for success.”
95. Mr Blair stated that getting rid of Saddam Hussein was:
“… the right thing to do. He is a potential threat. He could be contained.
But containment … is always risky. His departure would free up the region.
And his regime is … brutal and inhumane …”
96. Mr Blair told President Bush that the UN was the simplest way to encapsulate a
“casus belli” in some defining way, with an ultimatum to Iraq once military forces started
to build up in October. That might be backed by a UN resolution.
97. Mr Blair thought it unlikely that Saddam Hussein intended to allow inspectors to
return. If he did, the JIC had advised that Iraq would obstruct the work of the inspectors.
That could result in a material breach of the obligations imposed by the UN.
98. A workable military plan to ensure the collapse of the regime would be required.
99. The Note reflected Mr Blair’s own views. The proposals had not been discussed
or agreed with his colleagues.
Decision to take the UN route
100. Sir David Manning, Mr Blair’s Foreign Policy Adviser, told President Bush that it
would be impossible for the UK to take part in any action against Iraq unless it went
through the UN.
101. When Mr Blair spoke to President Bush on 31 July the “central issue of a casus
belli” and the need for further work on the optimal route to achieve that was discussed.32
Mr Blair said that he wanted to explore whether the UN was the right route to set an
ultimatum or whether it would be an obstacle.
102. In late August, the FCO proposed a strategy of coercion, using a UN resolution
to issue an ultimatum to Iraq to admit the weapons inspectors and disarm. The UK
was seeking a commitment from the Security Council to take action in the event that
Saddam Hussein refused or subsequently obstructed the inspectors.
103. Reflecting the level of public debate and concern, Mr Blair decided in early
September that an explanation of why action was needed to deal with Iraq should
32 Rycroft to McDonald, 31 July 2002, ‘Iraq: Prime Minister’s Phone Call with President Bush, 31 July’.
104. In his press conference at Sedgefield on 3 September, Mr Blair indicated that time
and patience were running out and that there were difficulties with the existing policy of
containment.33 He also announced the publication of the Iraq dossier, stating that:
“… people will see that there is no doubt at all the United Nations resolutions that
Saddam is in breach of are there for a purpose. He [Saddam Hussein] is without any
question, still trying to develop that chemical, biological, potentially nuclear capability
and to allow him to do so without any let or hindrance, just to say, we [sic] can carry
on and do it, I think would be irresponsible.”
105. President Bush decided in the meeting of the National Security Council on
7 September to take the issue of Iraq back to the UN.
106. The UK was a key ally whose support was highly desirable for the US. The US
Administration had been left in no doubt that the UK Government needed the issue
of Iraq to be taken back to the Security Council before it would be able to participate
in military action in Iraq.
107. The objective of the subsequent discussions between President Bush and Mr Blair
at Camp David was, as Mr Blair stated in the press conference before the discussions,
to work out the strategy.34
108. Mr Blair told President Bush that he was in no doubt about the need to deal with
109. Although at that stage no decision had been taken on which military package might
be offered to the US for planning purposes, Mr Blair also told President Bush that, if it
came to war, the UK would take a significant military role.
110. In his speech to the General Assembly on 12 September, President Bush set out
his view of the “grave and gathering danger” posed by Saddam Hussein and challenged
the UN to act to address Iraq’s failure to meet the obligations imposed by the Security
Council since 1990.36 He made clear that, if Iraq defied the UN, the world must hold
Iraq to account and the US would “work with the UN Security Council for the necessary
resolutions”. But the US would not stand by and do nothing in the face of the threat.
111. Statements made by China, France and Russia in the General Assembly debate
after President Bush’s speech highlighted the different positions of the five Permanent
Members of the Security Council, in particular about the role of the Council in deciding
whether military action was justified.
33 The National Archives, 3 September 2002, PM press conference [at Sedgefield].
34 The White House, 7 September 2002, President Bush, Prime Minister Blair Discuss Keeping the Peace.
35 Minute Manning to Prime Minister, 8 September 2002, ‘Your Visit to Camp David on 7 September: Conversation with President Bush’.
36 The White House, 12 September 2002, President’s Remarks to the United Nations General Assembly.
The Report of the Iraq Inquiry
112. The Government dossier on Iraq was published on 24 September.37 It was
designed to “make the case” and secure Parliamentary (and public) support for the
Government’s policy that action was urgently required to secure Iraq’s disarmament.
113. In his statement to Parliament on 24 September and in his answers to subsequent
questions, Mr Blair presented Iraq’s past, current and potential future capabilities as
evidence of the severity of the potential threat from Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.
He said that at some point in the future that threat would become a reality.38
114. Mr Blair wrote his statement to the House of Commons himself and chose the
arguments to make clear his perception of the threat and why he believed that there
was an “overwhelming” case for action to disarm Iraq.
115. Addressing the question of why Saddam Hussein had decided in mid‑September,
but not before, to admit the weapons inspectors, Mr Blair stated that the answer was in
the dossier, and it was because:
“… his chemical, biological and nuclear programme is not an historic left‑over from
1998. The inspectors are not needed to clean up the old remains. His weapons
of mass destruction programme is active detailed and growing. The policy of
containment is not working. The weapons of mass destruction programme is not
shut down; it is up and running now.”
116. Mr Blair posed, and addressed, three questions: “Why Saddam?”; “Why now?”;
and “Why should Britain care?”
117. On the question “Why Saddam?”, Mr Blair said that two things about Saddam
Hussein stood out: “He had used these weapons in Iraq” and thousands had died, and
he had used them during the war with Iran “in which one million people died”; and the
regime had “no moderate elements to appeal to”.
118. On the question “Why now?”, Mr Blair stated:
“I agree I cannot say that this month or next, even this year or next, Saddam will
use his weapons. But I can say that if the international community, having made
the call for his disarmament, now, at this moment, at the point of decision, shrugs
its shoulders and walks away, he will draw the conclusion dictators faced with a
weakening will always draw: that the international community will talk but not act,
will use diplomacy but not force. We know, again from our history, that diplomacy
not backed by the threat of force has never worked with dictators and never will.”
37 Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction. The Assessment of the British Government, 24 September 2002.
38 House of Commons, Official Report, 24 September 2002, columns 1‑23.
Negotiation of resolution 1441
119. There were significant differences between the US and UK positions, and between
them and China, France and Russia about the substance of the strategy to be adopted,
including the role of the Security Council in determining whether peaceful means had
been exhausted and the use of force to secure disarmament was justified.
120. Those differences resulted in difficult negotiations over more than eight weeks
before the unanimous adoption of resolution 1441 on 8 November 2002.
121. When President Bush made his speech on 12 September, the US and UK had
agreed the broad approach, but not the substance of the proposals to be put to the
UN Security Council or the tactics.
122. Dr Naji Sabri, the Iraqi Foreign Minister, wrote to Mr Kofi Annan, the
UN Secretary‑General, on 16 September to inform him that, following the series of talks
between Iraq and the UN in New York and Vienna between March and July 2002 and the
latest round in New York on 14 and 15 September, Iraq had decided “to allow the return
of United Nations inspectors to Iraq without conditions”.39
123. The US and UK immediately expressed scepticism. They had agreed that the
provisions of resolution 1284 (1999) were no longer sufficient to secure the disarmament
of Iraq and a strengthened inspections regime would be required.
124. A new resolution would be needed both to maintain the pressure on Iraq and to
define a more intrusive inspections regime allowing the inspectors unconditional and
unrestricted access to all Iraqi facilities.
125. The UK’s stated objective for the negotiation of resolution 1441 was to
give Saddam Hussein “one final chance to comply” with his obligations to disarm.
The UK initially formulated the objective in terms of:
• a resolution setting out an ultimatum to Iraq to re-admit the UN weapons
inspectors and to disarm in accordance with its obligations; and
• a threat to resort to the use of force to secure disarmament if Iraq failed
126. Lord Goldsmith, the Attorney General, informed Mr Blair on 22 October that,
although he would not be able to give a final view until the resolution was adopted, the
draft of the resolution of 19 October would not on its own authorise military action.41
39 UN Security Council, 16 September 2002, ‘Letter dated 16 September from the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iraq addressed to the Secretary-General’, attached to ‘Letter dated 16 September from the Secretary-General addressed to the President of the Security Council’ (S/2002/1034).
40 Minute Straw to Prime Minister, 14 September 2002, ‘Iraq: Pursuing the UN Route’.
41 Minute Adams to Attorney General, 22 October 2002, ‘Iraq: Meeting with the Prime Minister, 22 October’ attaching Briefing, ‘Lines to take’.
The Report of the Iraq Inquiry
127. Mr Blair decided on 31 October to offer significant forces for ground operations
to the US for planning purposes.42
128. During the negotiations, France and Russia made clear their opposition to the use
of force, without firm evidence of a further material breach and a further decision in the
129. The UK was successful in changing some aspects of the US position during the
negotiations, in particular ensuring that the Security Council resolution was based on
the disarmament of Iraq rather than wider issues as originally proposed by the US.
130. To secure consensus in the Security Council despite the different positions of the
US and France and Russia (described by Sir Jeremy Greenstock, the UK Permanent
Representative to the UN in New York, as “irreconcilable”), resolution 1441 was a
compromise containing drafting “fixes”. That created deliberate ambiguities on a number
of key issues including:
• the level of non‑compliance with resolution 1441 which would constitute
a material breach;
• by whom that determination would be made; and
• whether there would be a second resolution explicitly authorising the use
131. As the Explanations of Vote demonstrated, there were significant differences
between the positions of the members of the Security Council about the circumstances
and timing of recourse to military action. There were also differences about whether
Member States should be entitled to report Iraqi non‑compliance to the Council.
132. Mr Blair, Mr Straw and other senior UK participants in the negotiation of resolution
1441 envisaged that, in the event of a material breach of Iraq’s obligations, a second
resolution determining that a breach existed and authorising the use of force was likely
to be tabled in the Security Council.
133. Iraq announced on 13 November that it would comply with resolution 1441.43
134. Iraq also restated its position that it had neither produced nor was in possession
of weapons of mass destruction since the inspectors left in December 1998. It explicitly
challenged the UK statement on 8 November that Iraq had “decided to keep possession”
of its WMD.
42 Letter Wechsberg to Watkins, 31 October 2002, ‘Iraq: Military Options’.
43 UN Security Council, 13 November 2002, ‘Letter dated 13 November 2002 from the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iraq addressed to the Secretary-General’ (S/2002/1242).
The prospect of military action
135. Following Iraq’s submission of the declaration on its chemical, biological, nuclear
and ballistic missile programmes to the UN on 7 December, and before the inspectors
had properly begun their task, the US concluded that Saddam Hussein was not going
to take the final opportunity offered by resolution 1441 to comply with his obligations.
136. Mr Blair was advised on 11 December that there was impatience in the US
Administration and it was looking at military action as early as mid‑February 2003.44
137. Mr Blair told President Bush on 16 December that the Iraqi declaration was
“patently false”.45 He was “cautiously optimistic” that the inspectors would find proof.
138. In a statement issued on 18 December, Mr Straw said that Saddam Hussein had
decided to continue the pretence that Iraq had no WMD programme. If he persisted
“in this obvious falsehood” it would become clear that he had “rejected the pathway
139. The JIC’s initial Assessment of the Iraqi declaration on 18 December stated
that there had been “No serious attempt” to answer any of the unresolved questions
highlighted by the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) or to refute any of the points
made in the UK dossier on Iraq’s WMD programme.47
140. President Bush is reported to have told a meeting of the US National Security
Council on 18 December 2002, at which the US response to Iraq’s declaration
was discussed, that the point of the 7 December declaration was to test whether
Saddam Hussein would accept the “final opportunity” for peace offered by the Security
Council.48 He had summed up the discussion by stating:
“We’ve got what we need now, to show America that Saddam won’t disarm himself.”
141. Mr Colin Powell, the US Secretary of State, stated on 19 December that Iraq was
“well on its way to losing its last chance”, and that there was a “practical limit” to how
long the inspectors could be given to complete their work.49
142. Mr Straw told Secretary Powell on 30 December that the US and UK should
develop a clear “plan B” postponing military action on the basis that inspections plus
the threat of force were containing Saddam Hussein.50
44 Minute Manning to Prime Minister, 11 December 2002, ‘Iraq’.
45 Letter Rycroft to McDonald, 16 December 2002, ‘Prime Minister’s Telephone Call with President Bush, 16 December’.
46 The National Archives, 18 December 2002, Statement by Foreign Secretary on Iraq Declaration.
47 JIC Assessment, 18 December 2002, ‘An Initial Assessment of Iraq’s WMD Declaration’.
48 Feith DJ. War and Decision: Inside the Pentagon at the Dawn of the War on Terrorism. HarperCollins, 2008.
49 US Department of State Press Release, Press Conference Secretary of State Colin L Powell, Washington, 19 December 2002.
50 Letter Straw to Manning, 30 December 2002, ‘Iraq: Conversation with Colin Powell, 30 December’.
The Report of the Iraq Inquiry
143. In early 2003, Mr Straw still thought a peaceful solution was more likely than
military action. Mr Straw advised Mr Blair on 3 January that he had concluded that, in
the potential absence of a “smoking gun”, there was a need to consider a “Plan B”.51 The
UK should emphasise to the US that the preferred strategy was peaceful disarmament.
144. Mr Blair took a different view. By the time he returned to the office on 4 January
2003, he had concluded that the “likelihood was war” and, if conflict could not be
avoided, the right thing to do was fully to support the US.52 He was focused on the
need to establish evidence of an Iraqi breach, to persuade opinion of the case for
action and to finalise the strategy with President Bush at the end of January.
145. The UK objectives were published in a Written Ministerial Statement by Mr Straw
on 7 January.53 The “prime objective” was:
“… to rid Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and their associated
programmes and means of delivery, including prohibited ballistic missiles … as set
out in UNSCRs [UN Security Council resolutions]. This would reduce Iraq’s ability
to threaten its neighbours and the region, and prevent Iraq using WMD against its
own people. UNSCRs also require Iraq to renounce terrorism, and return captured
Kuwaitis and property taken from Kuwait.”
146. Lord Goldsmith gave Mr Blair his draft advice on 14 January that resolution 1441
would not by itself authorise the use of military force.54
147. Mr Blair agreed on 17 January to deploy a UK division with three combat brigades
for possible operations in southern Iraq.55
148. There was no collective discussion of the decision by senior Ministers.
149. In January 2003, there was a clear divergence between the UK and US
Government positions over the timetable for military action, and the UK became
increasingly concerned that US impatience with the inspections process would lead
to a decision to take unilateral military action in the absence of support for such action
in the Security Council.
150. On 23 January, Mr Blair was advised that the US military would be ready for action
151. In a Note to President Bush on 24 January, Mr Blair wrote that the arguments
for proceeding with a second Security Council resolution, “or at the very least a
51 Minute Straw to Prime Minister, 3 January 2003, ‘Iraq – Plan B’.
52 Note Blair [to No.10 officials], 4 January 2003, [extract ‘Iraq’].
53 House of Commons, Official Report, 7 January 2003, columns 4‑6WS.
54 Minute [Draft] [Goldsmith to Prime Minister], 14 January 2003, ‘Iraq: Interpretation of Resolution 1441’.
55 Letter Manning to Watkins, 17 January 2003, ‘Iraq: UK Land Contribution’.
56 Letter PS/C to Manning, 23 January 2003, [untitled].
clear statement” from Dr Blix which allowed the US and UK to argue that a failure
to pass a second resolution was in breach of the spirit of 1441, remained in his view,
overwhelming; and that inspectors should be given until the end of March or early April
to carry out their task.57
152. Mr Blair suggested that, in the absence of a “smoking gun”, Dr Blix would be able
to harden up his findings on the basis of a pattern of non‑co‑operation from Iraq and that
that would be sufficient for support for military action in the Security Council.
153. The US and UK should seek to persuade others, including Dr Blix, that that was
the “true view” of resolution 1441.
154. Mr Blair used an interview on Breakfast with Frost on 26 January to set out the
position that the inspections should be given sufficient time to determine whether or
not Saddam Hussein was co‑operating fully.58 If he was not, that would be a sufficient
reason for military action. A find of WMD was not required.
155. Mr Blair’s proposed approach to his meeting with President Bush was discussed
in a meeting of Ministers before Cabinet on 30 January and then discussed in general
terms in Cabinet itself.
156. In a Note prepared before his meeting with President Bush on 31 January, Mr Blair
proposed seeking a UN resolution on 5 March followed by an attempt to “mobilise Arab
opinion to try to force Saddam out” before military action on 15 March.59
157. When Mr Blair met President Bush on 31 January, it was clear that the window of
opportunity before the US took military action would be very short. The military campaign
could begin “around 10 March”.60
158. President Bush agreed to seek a second resolution to help Mr Blair, but there were
major reservations within the US Administration about the wisdom of that approach.
159. Mr Blair confirmed that he was “solidly with the President and ready to do whatever
it took to disarm Saddam” Hussein.
160. Reporting on his visit to Washington, Mr Blair told Parliament on 3 February 2003
that Saddam Hussein was not co‑operating as required by resolution 1441 and, if that
continued, a second resolution should be passed to confirm such a material breach.61
161. Mr Blair continued to set the need for action against Iraq in the context of the need
to be seen to enforce the will of the UN and to deter future threats.
57 Letter Manning to Rice, 24 January 2003, [untitled], attaching Note [Blair to Bush], [undated], ‘Note’.
58 BBC News, 26 January 2003, Breakfast with Frost.
59 Note [Blair to Bush], [undated], ‘Countdown’.
60 Letter Manning to McDonald, 31 January 2003, ‘Iraq: Prime Minister’s Conversation with President Bush on 31 January’.
61 House of Commons, Official Report, 3 February 2003, columns 21‑38.
The Report of the Iraq Inquiry
The gap between the Permanent Members of the Security Council widens
162. In their reports to the Security Council on 14 February:
• Dr Blix reported that UNMOVIC had not found any weapons of mass destruction
and the items that were not accounted for might not exist, but Iraq needed to
provide the evidence to answer the questions, not belittle them.
• Dr Mohamed ElBaradei, Director General of the International Atomic Energy
Agency (IAEA), reported that the IAEA had found no evidence of ongoing
prohibited nuclear or nuclear‑related activities in Iraq although a number
of issues were still under investigation.62
163. In the subsequent debate, members of the Security Council voiced widely
164. Mr Annan concluded that there were real differences on strategy and timing in
the Security Council. Iraq’s non‑co‑operation was insufficient to bring members to agree
that war was justified; they would only move if they came to their own judgement that
inspections were pointless.63
165. On 19 February, Mr Blair sent President Bush a six‑page Note. He proposed
focusing on the absence of full co‑operation and a “simple” resolution stating that Iraq
had failed to take the final opportunity, with a side statement defining tough tests of
co‑operation and a vote on 14 March to provide a deadline for action.64
166. President Bush and Mr Blair agreed to introduce a draft resolution at the UN the
following week but its terms were subject to further discussion.65
167. On 20 February, Mr Blair told Dr Blix that he wanted to offer the US an alternative
strategy which included a deadline and tests for compliance.66 He did not think Saddam
Hussein would co‑operate but he would try to get Dr Blix as much time as possible. Iraq
could have signalled a change of heart in the December declaration. The Americans did
not think that Saddam was going to co‑operate: “Nor did he. But we needed to keep the
international community together.”
168. Dr Blix stated that full co‑operation was a nebulous concept; and a deadline of
15 April would be too early. Dr Blix commented that “perhaps there was not much WMD
in Iraq after all”. Mr Blair responded that “even German and French intelligence were
sure that there was WMD in Iraq”. Dr Blix said they seemed “unsure” about “mobile BW
62 UN Security Council, ‘4707th Meeting Friday 14 February 2003’ (S/PV.4707).
63 Telegram 268 UKMIS New York to FCO London, 15 February 2003, ‘Foreign Secretary’s Meeting with the UN Secretary‑General: 14 February’.
64 Letter Manning to Rice, 19 February 2003, ‘Iraq’ attaching Note [Blair to Bush], [undated], ‘Note’.
65 Letter Rycroft to McDonald, 19 February 2003, ‘Iraq and MEPP: Prime Minister’s Telephone Conversation with Bush, 19 February’.
66 Letter Cannon to Owen, 20 February 2003, ‘Iraq: Prime Minister’s Conversation with Blix’.
production facilities”: “It would be paradoxical and absurd if 250,000 men were to invade
Iraq and find very little.”
169. Mr Blair responded that “our intelligence was clear that Saddam had reconstituted
his WMD programme”.
170. On 24 February, the UK, US and Spain tabled a draft resolution stating that Iraq
had failed to take the final opportunity offered by resolution 1441 and that the Security
Council had decided to remain seized of the matter.67 The draft failed to attract support.
171. France, Germany and Russia responded by tabling a memorandum, building on
their tripartite declaration of 10 February, stating that “full and effective disarmament”
remained “the imperative objective of the international community”.68 That “should be
achieved peacefully through the inspection regime”. The “conditions for using force” had
“not been fulfilled”. The Security Council “must step up its efforts to give a real chance
to the peaceful settlement of the crisis”.
172. On 25 February, Mr Blair told the House of Commons that the intelligence was
“clear” that Saddam Hussein continued “to believe that his weapons of mass destruction
programme is essential both for internal repression and for external aggression”.69
It was also “essential to his regional power”. “Prior to the inspectors coming back in”,
Saddam Hussein “was engaged in a systematic exercise in concealment of those
weapons”. The inspectors had reported some co‑operation on process, but had
“denied progress on substance”.
173. The House of Commons was asked on 26 February to reaffirm its endorsement of
resolution 1441, support the Government’s continuing efforts to disarm Iraq, and to call
upon Iraq to recognise that this was its final opportunity to comply with its obligations.70
174. The Government motion was approved by 434 votes to 124; 199 MPs voted for
an amendment which invited the House to “find the case for military action against Iraq
as yet unproven”.71
175. In a speech on 26 February, President Bush stated that the safety of the American
people depended on ending the direct and growing threat from Iraq.72
176. President Bush also set out his hopes for the future of Iraq.
67 Telegram 302 UKMIS New York to FCO London, 25 February 2003, ‘Iraq: Tabling of US/UK/Spanish Draft Resolution: Draft Resolution’.
68 UN Security Council, 24 February 2003, ‘Letter dated 24 February 2003 from the Permanent Representatives of France, Germany and the Russian Federation to the United Nations addressed to the President of the Security Council’ (S/2003/214).
69 House of Commons, Official Report, 25 February 2003, columns 123‑126.
70 House of Commons, Official Report, 26 February 2003, column 265.
71 House of Commons, Official Report, 26 February 2003, columns 367‑371.
72 The White House, 26 February 2003, President discusses the future of Iraq.
The Report of the Iraq Inquiry
177. Reporting discussions in New York on 26 February, Sir Jeremy Greenstock wrote
that there was “a general antipathy to having now to take decisions on this issue, and
a wariness about what our underlying motives are behind the resolution”.73 Sir Jeremy
concluded that the US was focused on preserving its room for manoeuvre while he
was “concentrating on trying to win votes”. It was the “middle ground” that mattered.
Mexico and Chile were the “pivotal sceptics”.
178. Lord Goldsmith told No.10 officials on 27 February that the safest legal course for
future military action would be to secure a further Security Council resolution.74 He had,
however, reached the view that a “reasonable case” could be made that resolution 1441
was capable of reviving the authorisation to use force in resolution 678 (1990) without a
further resolution, if there were strong factual grounds for concluding that Iraq had failed
to take the final opportunity offered by resolution 1441.
179. Lord Goldsmith advised that, to avoid undermining the case for reliance on
resolution 1441, it would be important to avoid giving any impression that the UK
believed a second resolution was legally required.
180. Informal consultations in the Security Council on 27 February showed there was
little support for the UK/US/Spanish draft resolution.75
181. An Arab League Summit on 1 March concluded that the crisis in Iraq must be
resolved by peaceful means and in the framework of international legitimacy.76
182. Following his visit to Mexico, Sir David Manning concluded that Mexican support
for a second resolution was “not impossible, but would not be easy and would almost
certainly require some movement”.77
183. During Sir David’s visit to Chile, President Ricardo Lagos repeated his concerns,
including the difficulty of securing nine votes or winning the presentational battle
without further clarification of Iraq’s non‑compliance. He also suggested identifying
184. Mr Blair wrote in his memoir that, during February, “despite his best endeavours”,
divisions in the Security Council had grown not reduced; and that the “dynamics of
disagreement” were producing new alliances.79 France, Germany and Russia were
moving to create an alternative pole of power and influence.
73 Telegram 314 UKMIS New York to FCO London, 27 February 2003, ‘Iraq: 26 February’.
74 Minute Brummell, 27 February 2003, ‘Iraq: Attorney General’s Meeting at No. 10 on 27th February 2003’.
75 Telegram 318 UKMIS New York to FCO London, 28 February 2003, ‘Iraq: 27 February Consultations and Missiles’.
76 Telegram 68 Cairo to FCO London, 2 March 2003, ‘Arab League Summit: Final Communique’.
77 Telegram 1 Mexico City to Cabinet Office, 1 March 2003, ‘Iraq: Mexico’.
78 Telegram 34 Santiago to FCO London, 2 March 2003, ‘Chile/Iraq: Visit by Manning and Scarlett’.
79 Blair T. A Journey. Hutchinson, 2010.
185. Mr Blair thought that was “highly damaging” but “inevitable”: “They felt as strongly
as I did; and they weren’t prepared to indulge the US, as they saw it.”
186. Mr Blair concluded that for moral and strategic reasons the UK should be with
the US and that:
“… [W]e should make a last ditch attempt for a peaceful solution. First to make
the moral case for removing Saddam … Second, to try one more time to reunite
the international community behind a clear base for action in the event of a
187. On 3 March, Mr Blair proposed an approach focused on setting a deadline of
17 March for Iraq to disclose evidence relating to the destruction of prohibited items
and permit interviews; and an amnesty if Saddam Hussein left Iraq by 21 March.80
188. Mr Straw told Secretary Powell that the level of support in the UK for military action
without a second resolution was palpably “very low”. In that circumstance, even if a
majority in the Security Council had voted for the resolution with only France exercising
its veto, he was “increasingly pessimistic” about support within the Labour Party for
military action.81 The debate in the UK was:
“… significantly defined by the tone of the debate in Washington and particularly
remarks made by the President and others to the right of him, which suggested that
the US would go to war whatever and was not bothered about a second resolution
one way or another.”
189. Following a discussion with Mr Blair, Mr Straw told Secretary Powell that Mr Blair:
“… was concerned that, having shifted world (and British) public opinion over the
months, it had now been seriously set back in recent days. We were not in the right
position. The Prime Minister was considering a number of ideas which he might well
put to the President.”82
190. Mr Straw recorded that Secretary Powell had advised that, if Mr Blair wanted
to make proposals, he should do so quickly. The US was not enthusiastic about the
inclusion of an immunity clause for Saddam Hussein in the resolution.
191. Mr Straw reported that Secretary Powell had told President Bush that he judged
a vetoed resolution would no longer be possible for the UK. Mr Straw said that without
a second resolution approval for military action could be “beyond reach”.
80 Note (handwritten) [Blair], 3 March 2003, [untitled].
81 Minute Straw to Prime Minister, 3 March 2003, ‘Iraq: Second Resolution’.
82 Letter Straw to Manning, 4 March 2003, ‘Iraq: Conversation with Colin Powell, 3 March’.
The Report of the Iraq Inquiry
192. Mr Straw told the Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) on 4 March that it was “a matter
of fact” that Iraq had been in material breach “for some weeks” and resolution 1441
provided sufficient legal authority to justify military action against Iraq if it was “in further
193. Mr Straw also stated that a majority of members of the Security Council had been
opposed to the suggestion that resolution 1441 should state explicitly that military action
could be taken only if there were a second resolution.
194. Mr Blair was informed on the evening of 4 March that US military planners were
looking at 12 March as the possible start date for the military campaign; and that
Mr Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, was concerned about the apparent disconnect
with activity in the UN.84
195. Baroness Amos, Minister of State, Department for International Development
(DFID), advised on 4 March that Angola, Cameroon and Guinea were not yet ready
to commit to a “yes vote” and had emphasised the need for P5 unity.85
196. Sir Christopher Hum, British Ambassador to China, advised on 4 March that,
if the resolution was put to a vote that day, China would abstain.86
197. Sir John Holmes, British Ambassador to France, advised on 4 March that
France’s main aim was to “avoid being put on the spot” by influencing the undecided,
preventing the US and UK mustering nine votes, and keeping alongside the Russians
and Chinese; and that there was “nothing that we can now do to dissuade them from
this course”.87 Sir John also advised that “nothing the French say at this stage, even
privately, should be taken at face value”.
198. Mr Igor Ivanov, the Russian Foreign Minister, told Mr Straw on 4 March that Russia
had failed in an attempt to persuade Saddam Hussein to leave and it would veto a
resolution based on the draft circulated on 24 February.88
199. France, Germany and Russia stated on 5 March that they would not let a resolution
pass that authorised the use of force.89 Russia and France, “as Permanent Members of
the Security Council, will assume all their responsibilities on this point”.
83 Minutes, Foreign Affairs Committee (House of Commons), 4 March 2003, [Evidence Session], Qs 151 and 154.
84 Letter Watkins to Manning, 4 March 2003, ‘Iraq: Timing of Military Action’.
85 Minute Amos to Foreign Secretary, 4 March 2003, [untitled].
86 Telegram 90 Beijing to FCO London, 4 March 2003, ‘Iraq: Lobbying the Chinese’.
87 Telegram 110 Paris to FCO London, 4 March 2003, ‘Iraq: Avoiding a French Veto’.
88 Telegram 37 FCO London to Moscow, 3 [sic] March 2003, ‘Iraq: Foreign Secretary’s Meetings with Russian Foreign Minister, 4 March’.
89 The Guardian, 5 March 2003, UN war doubters unite against resolution; The Guardian, 6 March 2003, Full text of Joint declaration.
200. The British Embassy Washington reported overnight on 5/6 March that “barring
a highly improbable volte face by Saddam”, the US was now firmly on track for military
action and would deal firmly with any efforts in the UN to slow down the timetable.90
201. The Embassy reported that the only event which might significantly affect the US
timetable would be problems for the UK. That had been described as “huge – like trying
to play football without the quarterback”. The US was “therefore pulling out all the stops
at the UN”. The US fully understood the importance of the second resolution for the UK.
202. Sir Jeremy Greenstock advised that the US would not countenance the use of
benchmarks. That risked delaying the military timetable.91
203. Mr Blair told Cabinet on 6 March that the argument boiled down to the question of
whether Saddam Hussein would ever voluntarily co‑operate with the UN to disarm Iraq.92
204. Mr Blair concluded that it was for the Security Council to determine whether Iraq
was co‑operating fully.
205. In his discussions with President Lagos on 6 March, Mr Blair stated that the US
would go ahead without the UN if asked to delay military action until April or May.93
206. In his report to the Security Council on 7 March, Dr Blix stated that there had
been an acceleration of initiatives from Iraq since the end of January, but they could
not be said to constitute immediate co‑operation.94 Nor did they necessarily cover all
areas of relevance; but they were nevertheless welcome. UNMOVIC was drawing up a
work programme of key disarmament tasks, which would be ready later that month, for
approval by the Security Council. It would take “months” to complete the programme.
207. Dr ElBaradei reported that there were no indications that Iraq had resumed nuclear
activities since the inspectors left in December 1998 and the recently increased level
of Iraqi co‑operation should allow the IAEA to provide the Security Council with an
assessment of Iraq’s nuclear capabilities in the near future.
208. There was unanimity in calls for Iraq to increase its co‑operation. But there was a
clear division between the US, UK, Spain and Bulgaria who spoke in favour of a further
resolution and France, Germany, Russia and China and most other Member States
who spoke in favour of continuing to pursuing disarmament through strengthened
209. The UK, US and Spain circulated a revised draft resolution deciding that Iraq
would have failed to take the final opportunity offered by resolution 1441 (2002) unless
90 Telegram 294 Washington to FCO London, 6 March 2003, ‘Personal Iraq: UN Endgame’.
91 Telegram 353 UKMIS New York to FCO London, 6 March 2003, ‘Iraq: 5 March’.
92 Cabinet Conclusions, 6 March 2003.
93 Letter Cannon to Owen, 6 March 2003, ‘Iraq: Prime Minister’s Conversation with President of Chile, 6 March’.
94 UN Security Council, ‘4714th Meeting Friday 7 March 2003’ (S/PV.4714).
The Report of the Iraq Inquiry
the Council concluded, on or before 17 March 2003, that Iraq had demonstrated full,
unconditional, immediate and active co‑operation in accordance with its disarmament
obligations and was yielding possession of all weapons and proscribed material to
UNMOVIC and the IAEA.
210. President Putin told Mr Blair on 7 March that Russia would oppose military action.95
211. Mr Straw told Mr Annan that military considerations could not be allowed “to dictate
policy”, but the military build‑up “could not be maintained for ever”, and:
“… the more he had looked into the Iraq dossier [issue] the more convinced he
had become of the need for action. Reading the clusters document [a report
of outstanding issues produced by UNMOVIC on 7 March] made his hair stand
212. Mr Straw set out the UK thinking on a deadline, stating that this was “Iraq’s last
chance”, but the objective was disarmament and, if Saddam Hussein did what was
demanded, “he could stay”. In those circumstances, a “permanent and toughened
inspections regime” would be needed, possibly “picking up some earlier ideas for
an all‑Iraq NFZ”.
213. Lord Goldsmith sent his formal advice to Mr Blair on 7 March.97
The end of the UN route
214. When Mr Blair spoke to President Bush at 6pm on 7 March he emphasised the
importance of securing nine positive votes98 in the Security Council for Parliamentary
approval for UK military action.99
215. Mr Blair argued that while the 17 March deadline in the draft resolution was not
sufficient for Iraq to disarm fully, it was sufficient to make a judgement on whether
Saddam Hussein had had a change of heart. If Iraq started to co‑operate, the inspectors
could have as much time as they liked.
216. In a last attempt to move opinion and secure the support of nine members of
the Security Council, Mr Blair decided on 8 March to propose a short extension of
the timetable beyond 17 March and to revive the idea of producing a “side statement”
setting out a series of tests which would provide the basis for a judgement on
Saddam Hussein’s intentions.
95 Letter Rycroft to McDonald, 7 March 2003, ‘Iraq: Prime Minister’s Conversation with President Putin, 7 March’.
96 Telegram 366 UKMIS New York to FCO London, 7 March 2003, ‘Iraq: Foreign Secretary’s Meeting with UN Secretary‑General, New York, 6 March’.
97 Minute Goldsmith to Prime Minister, 7 March 2003, ‘Iraq: Resolution 1441’.
98 The number of votes required, in the absence of a veto from one or more of the five Permanent Members, for a decision to take action with the authority of the Security Council.
99 Letter Rycroft to McDonald, 7 March 2003, ‘Iraq: Prime Minister’s Conversation with Bush, 7 March’.
217. The initiative was pursued through intensive diplomatic activity to lobby for support
between London and the capitals of Security Council Member States.
218. Mr Blair told the Inquiry:
“It was worth having one last‑ditch chance to see if you could bring people back
together on the same page … [W]hat President Bush had to do was agree to
table a fresh resolution. What the French had to agree was you couldn’t have
another resolution and another breach and no action. So my idea was define the
circumstances of breach – that was the tests that we applied with Hans Blix – get
the Americans to agree to the resolution, get the French to agree that you couldn’t
just go back to the same words of 1441 again, you had to take it a stage further.”100
219. In a discussion on 9 March, Mr Blair told President Bush that he needed a second
resolution to secure Parliamentary support for UK involvement in military action.101
He sought President Bush’s support for setting out tests in a side statement, including
that the vote in the Security Council might have to be delayed “by a couple of days”.
220. President Bush was unwilling to countenance delay. He was reported to have told
Mr Blair that, if the second resolution failed, he would find another way to involve the UK.
221. Mr Blair told President Bush the UK would be with the US in taking action if he
(Mr Blair) possibly could be.
222. Sir Jeremy Greenstock reported that Dr Blix was prepared to work with the UK
on identifying tests but had reminded him that UNMOVIC still lacked clear evidence that
Iraq possessed any WMD.102
223. Mr Blair spoke twice to President Lagos on 10 March in an attempt to find a path
that President Lagos and President Vicente Fox of Mexico could support.
224. In the second conversation, Mr Blair said that he thought it “would be possible to find
different wording” on the ultimatum to Iraq. Timing “would be difficult, but he would try
to get some flexibility” if the first two issues “fell into place”.103
225. Mr Straw reported that Secretary Powell thought that there were seven solid votes,
and uncertainty about Mexico, Chile and Pakistan.104 If there were fewer than nine, the
second resolution should not be put to the vote.
100 Public hearing, 29 January 2010, page 127.
101 Letter Rycroft to McDonald, 9 March 2003, ‘Iraq: Prime Minister’s Conversation with Bush, 9 March’.
102 Telegram 391 UKMIS New York to FCO London, 10 March 2003, ‘Iraq: Second Resolution’.
103 Letter Rycroft to McDonald, 10 March 2003, ‘Iraq: Prime Minister’s Phone Calls with Lagos, Bush and Aznar, 10 March’.
104 Letter Straw to Manning, 11 March 2003, ‘Conversation with US Secretary of State, 10 March’.
The Report of the Iraq Inquiry
226. Mr Straw replied that “he was increasingly coming to the view that we should not
push the matter to a vote if we were going to be vetoed”; but that had not yet been
agreed by Mr Blair.
227. By 10 March, President Bush’s position was hardening and he was very reluctant
to delay military action.
228. When Mr Blair spoke to President Bush, they discussed the “seven solid votes”
for the resolution.105
229. Mr Alastair Campbell, Mr Blair’s Director of Communications and Strategy,
wrote that Mr Blair had done most of the talking.106 President Bush thought
President Jacques Chirac of France was “trying to get us to the stage where we would
not put [the resolution] to a vote because we would be so worried about losing”.
230. Mr Blair had argued that if Chile and Mexico could be shifted, that would “change
the weather”. If France and Russia then vetoed the resolution but the “numbers were
right on the UN”, Mr Blair thought that he would “have a fighting chance of getting it
through the Commons”. Subsequently, Mr Blair suggested that a change in Chile and
Mexico’s position might be used to influence President Putin.
231. President Bush was “worried about rolling in more time” but Mr Blair had “held his
ground”, arguing that Chile and Mexico would “need to be able to point to something that
they won last minute that explains why they finally supported us”. President Bush “said
‘Let me be frank. The second resolution is for the benefit of Great Britain. We would
want it so we can go ahead together.’” President Bush’s position was that the US and
UK “must not retreat from 1441 and we cannot keep giving them more time”; it was “time
to do this” and there should be “no more deals”.
232. Sir David Manning sent the UK proposals for a revised deadline, and a side
statement identifying six tests on which Saddam Hussein’s intentions would be
judged, to Dr Condoleezza Rice, President Bush’s National Security Advisor, and to
233. Mr Blair wrote in his memoir that President Bush and his military were concerned
“It [the proposal for tests/more time] was indeed a hard sell to George. His system
was completely against it. His military were, not unreasonably, fearing that delay
gave the enemy time – and time could mean a tougher struggle and more lives lost.
105 Letter Rycroft to McDonald, 10 March 2003, ‘Iraq: Prime Minister’s Phone Calls with Lagos, Bush and Aznar, 10 March’.
106 Campbell A & Hagerty B. The Alastair Campbell Diaries. Volume 4. The Burden of Power: Countdown to Iraq. Hutchinson, 2012.
107 Letter Manning to Rice, 10 March 2003, [untitled].
108 Blair T. A Journey. Hutchinson, 2010.
This was also troubling my military. We had all sorts of contingency plans in place …
There was both UK and US intelligence warning us of the risk.
“Nonetheless I thought it was worth a try …”
234. Mr Blair also wrote:
“Chile and Mexico were prepared to go along, but only up to a point. Ricardo made
it clear that if there was heavy opposition from France, it would be tough for them to
participate in what would then be a token vote, incapable of being passed because
of a veto – and what’s more, a veto not by Russia, but by France.
“Unfortunately, the French position had, if anything, got harder not softer. They were
starting to say they would not support military action in any circumstances,
irrespective of what the inspectors found …”
235. In a press conference on 10 March, Mr Annan reiterated the Security Council’s
determination to disarm Iraq, but said that every avenue for a peaceful resolution of the
crisis had to be exhausted before force should be used.109
236. Mr Annan also warned that, if the Security Council failed to agree on a common
position and action was taken without the authority of the Council, the legitimacy and
support for any such action would be seriously impaired.
237. In an interview on 10 March, President Chirac stated that it was for the inspectors
to advise whether they could complete their task.110 If they reported that they were not
in a position to guarantee Iraq’s disarmament, it would be:
“… for the Security Council alone to decide the right thing to do. But in that case …
regrettably, the war would become inevitable. It isn’t today.”
238. President Chirac stated that he did not consider that the draft resolution tabled by
the US, UK and Spain would attract support from nine members of the Security Council.
In that case, there would be no majority for action, “So there won’t be a veto problem.”
239. But if there were a majority “in favour of the new resolution”, France would
240. In response to a question asking, “And, this evening, this is your position in
principle?”, President Chirac responded:
“My position is that, regardless of the circumstances, France will vote ‘no’ because
she considers this evening that there are no grounds for waging war in order to
achieve the goal we have set ourselves, that is to disarm Iraq.”
109 United Nations, 10 March 2003, Secretary‑General’s press conference (unofficial transcript).
110 The Élysée, Interview télévisée de Jacques Chirac, le 10 mars 2003. A translation for HMG was produced in a Note, [unattributed and undated], ‘Iraq – Interview given by M. Jacques Chirac, President of the Republic, to French TV (10 March 2003)’.
The Report of the Iraq Inquiry
241. By 11 March, it was clear that, in the time available before the US was going to
take military action, it would be difficult to secure nine votes in the Security Council
for a resolution determining that Iraq had failed to take the final opportunity offered by
242. Mr Straw wrote to Mr Blair on 11 March setting out his firm conclusion that:
“If we cannot gain nine votes and be sure of no veto, we should not push our
second resolution to a vote. The political and diplomatic consequences for the UK
would be significantly worse to have our … resolution defeated … than if we camp
on 1441 …”111
243. Mr Straw set out his reasoning in some detail, including that:
• Although in earlier discussion he had “warmed to the idea” that it was worth
pushing the issue to a vote “if we had nine votes and faced only a French veto”,
the more he “thought about this, the worse an idea it becomes”.
• A veto by France only was “in practice less likely than two or even three vetoes”.
• The “best, least risky way to gain a moral majority” was “by the ‘Kosovo route’ –
essentially what I am recommending. The key to our moral legitimacy then was
the matter never went to a vote – but everyone knew the reason for this was that
Russia would have vetoed.”
244. Mr Straw suggested that the UK should adopt a strategy based on the argument
that Iraq had failed to take the final opportunity offered by resolution 1441, and that the
last three meetings of the Security Council met the requirement for Security Council
consideration of reports of non‑compliance.
245. Mr Straw also identified the need for a “Plan B” for the UK not to participate
in military action in the event that the Government failed to secure a majority in the
Parliamentary Labour Party for military action.
246. Mr Straw concluded:
“We will obviously need to discuss all this, but I thought it best to put it in your mind
as event[s] could move fast. And what I propose is a great deal better than the
alternatives. When Bush graciously accepted your offer to be with him all the way,
he wanted you alive not dead!”
247. There was no reference in the minute to President Chirac’s remarks the
111 Minute Straw to Prime Minister, 11 March 2003, ‘Iraq: What if We Cannot Win the Second Resolution?’
248. When Mr Blair and President Bush discussed the position late on 11 March, it was
clear that President Bush was determined not to postpone the start of military action.112
They discussed the impact of President Chirac’s “veto threats”. Mr Blair considered that
President Chirac’s remarks “gave some cover” for ending the UN route.
249. Reporting discussions in New York on 11 March on the draft resolution and details
of a possible “side statement”, Sir Jeremy Greenstock advised that the draft resolution
tabled by the UK, US and Spain on 7 March had “no chance … of adoption”.113
250. In a telephone call with President Bush on 12 March, Mr Blair proposed that the
US and UK should continue to seek a compromise in the UN, while confirming that he
knew it would not happen. He would say publicly that the French had prevented them
from securing a resolution, so there would not be one.114
251. Mr Blair wanted to avoid a gap between the end of the negotiating process and the Parliamentary vote in which France or another member of the Security Council might
table a resolution that attracted the support of a majority of the Council. That could have
undermined the UK (and US) position on its legal basis for action.
252. When he discussed the options with Mr Straw early on 12 March, Mr Blair decided
that the UK would continue to support the US.115
253. During Prime Minister’s Questions on 12 March, Mr Blair stated:
“I hope that even now those countries that are saying they would use their veto no
matter what the circumstances will reconsider and realise that by doing so they put
at risk not just the disarmament of Saddam, but the unity of the United Nations.”116
254. The FCO assessed on 12 March that the votes of the three African states were
reasonably secure but Pakistan’s vote was not so certain. It was hoped that the six tests
plus a short extension of the 17 March deadline might deliver Mexico and Chile.117
255. The UK circulated its draft side statement setting out the six tests to a meeting
of Security Council members in New York on the evening of 12 March.118
256. Sir Jeremy Greenstock told Council members that the UK “non‑paper” responded
to an approach from the “undecided six”119 looking for a way forward, setting out six
112 Letter Cannon to McDonald, 11 March 2003, ‘Iraq: Prime Minister’s Conversations with Bush and Lagos, 11 March’.
113 Telegram 417 UKMIS New York to FCO London, 12 March 2003, ‘Personal Iraq: Side Statement and End Game Options’.
114 Letter Rycroft to McDonald, 12 March 2003, ‘Iraq: Prime Minister’s Telephone Conversation with President Bush, 12 March’.
115 Public hearing, 21 January 2010, page 105.
116 House of Commons, Official Report, 12 March 2003, column 288.
117 Telegram 33 FCO London to Riyadh, 12 March 2003, ‘Personal for Heads of Mission: Iraq: The Endgame’.
118 Telegram 429 UKMIS New York to FCO London, 13 March 2003, ‘Iraq: UK Side‑Statement’.
119 Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Guinea, Mexico, Pakistan.
The Report of the Iraq Inquiry
tasks to be achieved in a 10‑day timeline.120 Sir Jeremy reported that France, Germany
and Russia all said that the draft resolution without operative paragraph 3 would still
authorise force. The UK had not achieved “any kind of breakthrough” and there were
“serious questions about the available time”, which the US would “not help us to satisfy”.
257. Mr Blair told Cabinet on 13 March that work continued in the UN to obtain a second
resolution and, following the French decision to veto, the outcome remained open.121
258. Mr Straw described President Chirac’s position as “irresponsible”.
259. Mr Straw told Cabinet that there was “good progress” in gaining support in the
260. Mr Blair concluded that the French position “looked to be based on a calculation
of strategic benefit”. It was “in contradiction of the Security Council’s earlier view that
military action would follow if Iraq did not fully and unconditionally co‑operate with the
inspectors”. The UK would “continue to show flexibility” in its efforts to achieve a second
resolution and, “if France could be shown to be intransigent, the mood of the Security
Council could change towards support for the British draft”.
261. Mr Blair agreed the military plan later on 13 March.122
262. On 13 March, Mr Blair and President Bush discussed withdrawing the resolution
on 17 March followed by a US ultimatum to Saddam Hussein to leave within 48 hours.
There would be no US military action until after the vote in the House of Commons on
263. Mr Blair continued to press President Bush to publish the Road Map on the Middle
East Peace Process because of its impact on domestic opinion in the UK as well as its
264. Reporting developments in New York on 13 March, Sir Jeremy Greenstock warned
that the UK tests had attracted no support, and that the US might be ready to call a halt
to the UN process on 15 March.124 The main objections had included the “perceived
authorisation of force in the draft resolution” and a desire to wait for UNMOVIC’s own list
of key tasks which would be issued early the following week.
265. President Chirac told Mr Blair on 14 March that France was “content to proceed
‘in the logic of UNSCR 1441’; but it could not accept an ultimatum or any ‘automaticity’
of recourse to force”.125 He proposed looking at a new resolution in line with
120 Telegram 428 UKMIS New York to FCO London, 13 March 2003, ‘Iraq: UK Circulates Side‑Statement’.
121 Cabinet Conclusions, 13 March 2003.
122 Letter Rycroft to Watkins, 13 March 2003, ‘Iraq: Military Planning’.
123 Letter Cannon to McDonald, 13 March 2003, ‘Iraq: Military Timetable’.
124 Telegram 438 UKMIS New York to FCO London, 14 March 2003, ‘Iraq: 13 March’.
125 Letter Cannon to Owen, 14 March 2003, ‘Iraq: Prime Minister’s Conversation with President Chirac, 14 March’.
resolution 1441, “provided that it excluded these options”. President Chirac “suggested
that the UNMOVIC work programme might provide a way forward. France was prepared
to look at reducing the 120 day timeframe it envisaged.”
266. In response to a question from President Chirac about whether it would be the
inspectors or the Security Council who decided whether Saddam had co‑operated,
Mr Blair “insisted that it must be the Security Council”.
267. President Chirac agreed, “although the Security Council should make its
judgement on the basis of the inspectors’ report”. He “wondered whether it would be
worth” Mr Straw and Mr Dominique de Villepin, the French Foreign Minister, “discussing
the situation to see if we could find some flexibility”; or was it “too late”?
268. Mr Blair said, “every avenue must be explored”.
269. In the subsequent conversation with President Bush about the French position and
what to say when the resolution was pulled, Mr Blair proposed that they would need to
show that France would not authorise the use of force in any circumstances.126
270. President Lagos initially informed Mr Blair on 14 March that the UK proposals did
not have Chile’s support and that he was working on other ideas.127 He subsequently
informed Mr Blair that he would not pursue his proposals unless Mr Blair or President
Bush asked him to.
271. Mr Tony Brenton, Chargé d’Affaires, British Embassy Washington, reported that
President Bush was determined to remove Saddam Hussein and to stick to the US
timetable for action. The UK’s “steadfastness” had been “invaluable” in bringing in other
countries in support of action.128
272. In a declaration on 15 March, France, with Germany and Russia, attempted
to secure support in the Security Council for continued inspections.129
273. At the Azores Summit on 16 March, President Bush, Mr Blair and Prime Minister
José María Aznar of Spain agreed that, unless there was a fundamental change in the
next 24 hours, the UN process would end.130
274. In public, the focus was on a “last chance for peace”. The joint communiqué
contained a final appeal to Saddam Hussein to comply with his obligations and to
the Security Council to back a second resolution containing an ultimatum.
126 Letter Rycroft to McDonald, 14 March 2003, ‘Iraq: Prime Minister’s Conversation with Bush, 14 March’.
127 Letter [Francis] Campbell to Owen, 14 March 2003, ‘Iraq: Prime Minister’s Conversation with President Lagos of Chile, 14 March’.
128 Telegram 350 Washington to FCO London, 15 March 2003, ‘Iraq’.
129 UN Security Council, 18 March 2003, ‘Letter dated 15 March 2003 from the Permanent Representative of Germany to the United Nations addressed to the President of the Security Council’ (S/2003/320).
130 Letter Manning to McDonald, 16 March 2013, ‘Iraq: Summit Meeting in the Azores: 16 March’.
The Report of the Iraq Inquiry
275. In his memoir, Mr Blair wrote:
“So when I look back … I know there was never any way Britain was not going to
be with the US at that moment, once we went down the UN route and Saddam was
in breach. Of course such a statement is always subject to in extremis correction.
A crazy act of aggression? No, we would not have supported that. But given the
history, you couldn’t call Saddam a crazy target.
“Personally I have little doubt that at some point we would have to have dealt
with him …”131
276. At “about 3.15pm UK time” on 17 March, Sir Jeremy Greenstock announced that
the resolution would not be put to a vote, stating that the co‑sponsors reserved the right
to take their own steps to secure the disarmament of Iraq.132
277. The subsequent discussion in the Council suggested that only the UK, the US,
and Spain took the view that all options other than the use of military force had been
278. A specially convened Cabinet at 1600 on 17 March 2003 endorsed the decision
that the diplomatic process was now at an end and Saddam Hussein should be given
an ultimatum to leave Iraq; and that the House of Commons would be asked to endorse
the use of military action against Iraq to enforce compliance, if necessary.134
279. In his statement to the House of Commons that evening, Mr Straw said that the
Government had reluctantly concluded that France’s actions had put a consensus in
the Security Council on a further resolution “beyond reach”.135
280. As a result of Saddam Hussein’s persistent refusal to meet the UN’s demands,
the Cabinet had decided to ask the House of Commons to support the UK’s participation
in military action, should that be necessary to achieve the disarmament of Iraq “and
thereby the maintenance of the authority of the United Nations”.
281. Mr Straw stated that Lord Goldsmith’s Written Answer “set out the legal basis
for the use of force”.
282. Mr Straw drew attention to the significance of the fact that no one “in discussions
in the Security Council and outside” had claimed that Iraq was in full compliance with
283. In a statement later that evening, Mr Robin Cook, the Leader of the House of
Commons, set out his doubts about the degree to which Saddam Hussein posed a
131 Blair T. A Journey. Hutchinson, 2010.
132 Telegram 465 UKMIS New York to FCO London, 18 March 2003, ‘Iraq: Resolution: Statement’.
133 Telegram 464 UKMIS New York to FCO London, 18 March 2003, ‘Iraq: Resolution’.
134 Cabinet Conclusions, 17 March 2003.
135 House of Commons, Official Report, 17 March 2003, columns 703‑705.
“clear and present danger” and his concerns that the UK was being “pushed too quickly
into conflict” by the US without the support of the UN and in the face of hostility from
many of the UK’s traditional allies.136
284. On 17 March, President Bush issued an ultimatum giving Saddam Hussein
48 hours to leave Iraq.
285. The French President’s office issued a statement early on 18 March stating that
the US ultimatum was a unilateral decision going against the will of the international
community who wanted to pursue Iraqi disarmament in accordance with resolution
1441.137 It stated:
“… only the Security Council is authorised to legitimise the use of force. France
appeals to the responsibility of all to see that international legality is respected.
To disregard the legitimacy of the UN, to favour force over the law, would be to
take on a heavy responsibility.”
286. On the evening of 18 March, the House of Commons passed by 412 votes to 149
a motion supporting “the decision of Her Majesty’s Government that the United Kingdom
should use all means necessary to ensure the disarmament of Iraq’s weapons of mass
287. President Bush wrote in his memoir that he convened “the entire National Security
Council” on the morning of 19 March where he “gave the order to launch Operation
288. In the Security Council debate on 19 March, the majority of members of the
Security Council, including France, Russia and China, made clear that they thought
the goal of disarming Iraq could be achieved by peaceful means and emphasised the
primary responsibility of the Security Council for the maintenance of international peace
289. UNMOVIC and the IAEA had provided the work programmes required by resolution
1284. They included 12 key tasks identified by UNMOVIC where progress “could have
an impact on the Council’s assessment of co‑operation of Iraq”.
290. Shortly before midnight on 19 March, the US informed Sir David Manning that
there was to be a change to the plan and US airstrikes would be launched at 0300 GMT
on 20 March.140
136 House of Commons, Official Report, 17 March 2003, columns 726‑728.
137 Telegram 135 Paris to FCO London, 18 March 2003, ‘Iraq: Chirac’s Reaction to Ultimatum’.
138 Bush GW. Decision Points. Virgin Books, 2010.
139 UN Security Council, ‘4721st Meeting Wednesday 19 March 2003’ (S/PV.4721).
140 Letter Manning to McDonald, 20 March 2003, ‘Iraq’.
The Report of the Iraq Inquiry
291. Early on the morning of 20 March, US forces crossed into Iraq and seized the port
area of Umm Qasr.141
292. Mr Blair continued to state that France was responsible for the impasse.
293. At Cabinet on 20 March, Mr Blair concluded that the Government:
“… should lose no opportunity to propagate the reason, at every level and as widely
as possible, why we had arrived at a diplomatic impasse, and why it was necessary
to take action against Iraq. France had not been prepared to accept that Iraq’s
failure to comply with its obligations should lead to the use of force to achieve
Why Iraq? Why now?
294. In his memoir, Mr Blair described his speech opening the debate on 18 March
as “the most important speech I had ever made”.143
295. Mr Blair framed the decision for the House of Commons as a “tough” and “stark”
choice between “retreat” and holding firm to the course of action the Government had
set. Mr Blair stated that he believed “passionately” in the latter. He deployed a wide
range of arguments to explain the grounds for military action and to make a persuasive
case for the Government’s policy.144
296. In setting out his position, Mr Blair recognised the gravity of the debate and the
strength of opposition in both the country and Parliament to immediate military action.
In his view, the issue mattered “so much” because the outcome would not just determine
the fate of the Iraqi regime and the Iraqi people but would:
“… determine the way in which Britain and the world confront the central security
threat of the 21st century, the development of the United Nations, the relationship
between Europe and the United States, the relations within the European Union and
the way in which the United States engages with the rest of the world. So it could
hardly be more important. It will determine the pattern of international politics for
the next generation.”
Was Iraq a serious or imminent threat?
297. On 18 March 2003, the House of Commons was asked:
• to recognise that Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles,
and its continuing non‑compliance with Security Council resolutions, posed
a threat to international peace and security; and
141 Ministry of Defence, Operations in Iraq: Lessons for the Future, December 2003, page 12.
142 Cabinet Conclusions, 20 March 2003.
143 Blair T. A Journey. Hutchinson, 2010.
144 House of Commons, Official Report, 18 March 2003, columns 760‑774.
• to support the use of all means necessary to ensure the disarmament of Iraq’s
weapons of mass destruction, on the basis that the United Kingdom must uphold
the authority of the United Nations as set out in resolution 1441 and many
resolutions preceding it.
298. In his statement, Mr Blair addressed both the threat to international peace
and security presented by Iraq’s defiance of the UN and its failure to comply with its
disarmament obligations as set out in resolution 1441 (2002). Iraq was “the test of
whether we treat the threat seriously”.
299. Mr Blair rehearsed the Government’s position on Iraq’s past pursuit and use of
weapons of mass destruction; its failures to comply with the obligations imposed by
the UN Security Council between 1991 and 1998; Iraq’s repeated declarations which
proved to be false; and the “large quantities of weapons of mass destruction” which
were “unaccounted for”. He described UNSCOM’s final report (in January 1999) as
“a withering indictment of Saddam’s lies, deception and obstruction”.
300. Mr Blair cited the UNMOVIC “clusters” document issued on 7 March as “a
remarkable document”, detailing “all the unanswered questions about Iraq’s weapons
of mass destruction”, listing “29 different areas in which the inspectors have been unable
to obtain information”.
301. He stated that, based on Iraq’s false declaration, its failure to co‑operate, the
unanswered questions in the UNMOVIC “clusters” document, and the unaccounted for
material, the Security Council should have convened and condemned Iraq as in material
breach of its obligations. If Saddam Hussein continued to fail to co‑operate, force should
302. Addressing the wider message from the issue of Iraq, Mr Blair asked:
“… what … would any tyrannical regime possessing weapons of mass destruction
think when viewing the history of the world’s diplomatic dance with Saddam over …
12 years? That our capacity to pass firm resolutions has only been matched by our
feebleness in implementing them.”
303. Mr Blair acknowledged that Iraq was “not the only country with weapons of mass
destruction”, but declared: “back away from this confrontation now, and future conflicts
will be infinitely worse and more devastating in their effects”.
304. Mr Blair added:
“The real problem is that … people dispute Iraq is a threat, dispute the link between
terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, and dispute in other words, the whole
basis of our assertion that the two together constitute a fundamental assault on our
way of life.”
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305. Mr Blair also described a “threat of chaos and disorder” arising from “tyrannical
regimes with weapons of mass destruction and extreme terrorist groups” prepared
to use them.
306. Mr Blair set out his concerns about:
• proliferators of nuclear equipment or expertise;
• “dictatorships with highly repressive regimes” who were “desperately trying to
acquire” chemical, biological or, “particularly, nuclear weapons capability” –
some of those were “a short time away from having a serviceable nuclear
weapon”, and that activity was increasing, not diminishing; and
• the possibility of terrorist groups obtaining and using weapons of mass
destruction, including a “radiological bomb”.
307. Those two threats had very different motives and different origins. He accepted
“fully” that the association between the two was:
“… loose – but it is hardening. The possibility of the two coming together – of terrorist
groups in possession of weapons of mass destruction or even of a so called dirty
radiological bomb – is now in my judgement, a real and present danger to Britain
and its national security.”
308. Later in his speech, Mr Blair stated that the threat which Saddam Hussein’s
“… to British citizens at home and abroad cannot simply be contained. Whether
in the hands of his regime or in the hands of the terrorists to whom he would give
his weapons, they pose a clear danger to British citizens …”
309. This fusion of long‑standing concerns about proliferation with the post‑9/11
concerns about mass‑casualty terrorism was at the heart of the Government’s case
for taking action at this time against Iraq.
310. The UK assessment of Iraq’s capabilities set out in Section 4 of the Report shows:
• The proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and their delivery
systems, particularly ballistic missiles, was regarded as a major threat. But Iran,
North Korea and Libya were of greater concern than Iraq in terms of the risk of
nuclear and missile proliferation.
• JIC Assessments, reflected in the September 2002 dossier, had consistently
taken the view that, if sanctions were removed or became ineffective, it would
take Iraq at least five years following the end of sanctions to produce enough
fissile material for a weapon. On 7 March, the IAEA had reported to the Security
Council that there was no indication that Iraq had resumed its nuclear activities.
• The September dossier stated that Iraq could produce a nuclear weapon within
one to two years if it obtained fissile material and other essential components
from a foreign supplier. There was no evidence that Iraq had tried to acquire
fissile material and other components or – were it able to do so – that it had the
technical capabilities to turn these materials into a usable weapon.
• JIC Assessments had identified the possible stocks of chemical and biological
weapons which would largely have been for short‑range, battlefield use by the
Iraqi armed forces. The JIC had also judged in the September dossier that Iraq
was producing chemical and biological agents and that there were development
programmes for longer‑range missiles capable of delivering them.
• Iraq’s proscribed Al Samoud 2 missiles were being destroyed.
311. The UK Government did have significant concerns about the potential risks of all
types of weapons of mass destruction being obtained by Islamist extremists (in particular
Al Qaida) who would be prepared to use such weapons.
312. Saddam Hussein’s regime had the potential to proliferate material and know‑how,
to terrorist groups, but it was not judged likely to do so.
313. On 28 November 2001, the JIC assessed that:
• Saddam Hussein had “refused to permit any Al Qaida presence in Iraq”.
• Evidence of contact between Iraq and Usama Bin Laden (UBL) was
“fragmentary and uncorroborated”; including that Iraq had been in contact
with Al Qaida for exploratory discussions on toxic materials in late 1988.
• “With common enemies … there was clearly scope for collaboration.”
• There was “no evidence that these contacts led to practical co‑operation;
we judge it unlikely … There is no evidence UBL’s organisation has ever
had a presence in Iraq.”
• Practical co‑operation between Iraq and Al Qaida was “unlikely because
of mutual mistrust”.
• There was “no credible evidence of covert transfers of WMD‑related technology
and expertise to terrorist groups”.145
314. On 29 January 2003, the JIC assessed that, despite the presence of terrorists in
Iraq “with links to Al Qaida”, there was “no intelligence of current co‑operation between
Iraq and Al Qaida”.146
315. On 10 February 2003, the JIC judged that Al Qaida would “not carry out attacks
under Iraqi direction”.147
145 JIC Assessment, 28 November 2001, ‘Iraq after September 11 – The Terrorist Threat’.
146 JIC Assessment, 29 January 2003, ‘Iraq: The Emerging view from Baghdad’.
147 JIC Assessment, 10 February 2003, ‘International Terrorism: War with Iraq’
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316. Sir Richard Dearlove told the Inquiry:
“… I don’t think the Prime Minister ever accepted the link between Iraq and terrorism.
I think it would be fair to say that the Prime Minister was very worried about the
possible conjunction of terrorism and WMD, but not specifically in relation to Iraq …
[I] think, one could say this is one of his primary national security concerns given the
nature of Al Qaida.”148
317. The JIC assessed that Iraq was likely to mount a terrorist attack only in response
to military action and if the existence of the regime was threatened.
318. The JIC Assessment of 10 October 2002 stated that Saddam Hussein’s “overriding
objective” was to “avoid a US attack that would threaten his regime”.149 The JIC judged
that, in the event of US‑led military action against Iraq, Saddam would:
“… aim to use terrorism or the threat of it. Fearing the US response, he is likely to
weigh the costs and benefits carefully in deciding the timing and circumstances in
which terrorism is used. But intelligence on Iraq’s capabilities and intentions in this
field is limited.”
319. The JIC also judged that:
• Saddam’s “capability to conduct effective terrorist attacks” was “very limited”.
• Iraq’s “terrorism capability” was “inadequate to carry out chemical or biological
attacks beyond individual assassination attempts using poisons”.
320. The JIC Assessment of 29 January 2003 sustained its earlier judgements on Iraq’s
ability and intent to conduct terrorist operations.150
321. Sir David Omand, the Security and Intelligence Co‑ordinator in the Cabinet Office
from 2002 to 2005, told the Inquiry that, in March 2002, the Security Service judged that
the “threat from terrorism from Saddam’s own intelligence apparatus in the event of an
intervention in Iraq … was judged to be limited and containable”.151
322. Baroness Manningham‑Buller, the Director General of the Security Service
from 2002 to 2007, confirmed that position, stating that the Security Service felt there
was “a pretty good intelligence picture of a threat from Iraq within the UK and to
148 Private hearing, 16 June 2010, pages 39‑40.
149 JIC Assessment, 10 October 2002, ‘International Terrorism: The Threat from Iraq’.
150 JIC Assessment, 29 January 2003, ‘Iraq: The Emerging view from Baghdad’.
151 Public hearing, 20 January 2010, page 37.
152 Public hearing, 20 July 2010, page 6.
323. Baroness Manningham‑Buller added that subsequent events showed the
judgement that Saddam Hussein did not have the capability to do anything much
in the UK, had “turned out to be the right judgement”.153
324. While it was reasonable for the Government to be concerned about the fusion of
proliferation and terrorism, there was no basis in the JIC Assessments to suggest that
Iraq itself represented such a threat.
325. The UK Government assessed that Iraq had failed to comply with a series of
UN resolutions. Instead of disarming as these resolutions had demanded, Iraq was
assessed to have concealed materials from past inspections and to have taken the
opportunity of the absence of inspections to revive its WMD programmes.
326. In Section 4, the Inquiry has identified the importance of the ingrained belief of
the Government and the intelligence community that Saddam Hussein’s regime retained
chemical and biological warfare capabilities, was determined to preserve and if possible
enhance its capabilities, including at some point in the future a nuclear capability, and
was pursuing an active and successful policy of deception and concealment.
327. This construct remained influential despite the lack of significant finds by inspectors
in the period leading up to military action in March 2003, and even after the Occupation
328. Challenging Saddam Hussein’s “claim” that he had no weapons of mass
destruction, Mr Blair said in his speech on 18 March:
• “… we are asked to believe that after seven years of obstruction and
non‑compliance … he [Saddam Hussein] voluntarily decided to do what he had
consistently refused to do under coercion.”
• “We are asked now seriously to accept that in the last few years – contrary to
all history, contrary to all intelligence – Saddam decided unilaterally to destroy
those weapons. I say that such a claim is palpably absurd.”
• “… Iraq continues to deny that it has any weapons of mass destruction, although
no serious intelligence service anywhere in the world believes it.”
• “What is perfectly clear is that Saddam is playing the same old games in
the same old way. Yes, there are minor concessions, but there has been no
fundamental change of heart or mind.”154
329. At no stage was the proposition that Iraq might no longer have chemical, biological
or nuclear weapons or programmes identified and examined by either the JIC or the
153 Public hearing, 20 July 2010, page 9.
154 House of Commons, Official Report, 18 March 2003, columns 760‑764.
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330. Intelligence and assessments were used to prepare material to be used to support
Government statements in a way which conveyed certainty without acknowledging the
limitations of the intelligence.
331. Mr Blair’s statement to the House of Commons on 18 March was the culmination
of a series of public statements and interviews setting out the urgent need for the
international community to act to bring about Iraq’s disarmament in accordance with
those resolutions, dating back to February 2002, before his meeting with President Bush
at Crawford on 5 and 6 April.
332. As Mr Cook’s resignation statement on 17 March made clear, it was possible for a
Minister to draw different conclusions from the same information.
333. Mr Cook set out his doubts about Saddam Hussein’s ability to deliver a strategic
attack and the degree to which Iraq posed a “clear and present danger” to the UK.
The points Mr Cook made included:
• “… neither the international community nor the British public is persuaded that
there is an urgent and compelling reason for this military action in Iraq.”
• “Over the past decade that strategy [of containment] had destroyed more
weapons than in the Gulf War, dismantled Iraq’s nuclear weapons programme
and halted Saddam’s medium and long range missile programmes.”
• “Iraq probably has no weapons of mass destruction in the commonly understood
sense of the term – namely a credible device capable of being delivered against
a strategic city target. It probably … has biological toxins and battlefield chemical
munitions, but it has had them since the 1980s when US companies sold
Saddam anthrax agents and the then British Government approved chemical and
munitions factories. Why is it now so urgent that we should take military action
to disarm a military capacity that has been there for twenty years, and which we
helped to create? Why is it necessary to resort to war this week, while Saddam’s
ambition to complete his weapons programme is blocked by the presence of
334. On 12 October 2004, announcing the withdrawal of two lines of intelligence
reporting which had contributed to the pre‑conflict judgements on mobile biological
production facilities and the regime’s intentions, Mr Straw stated that he did:
“… not accept, even with hindsight, that we were wrong to act as we did in the
circumstances that we faced at the time. Even after reading all the evidence detailed
by the Iraq Survey Group, it is still hard to believe that any regime could behave
in so self‑destructive a manner as to pretend that it had forbidden weaponry, when
in fact it had not.”156
155 House of Commons, Official Report, 17 March 2003, columns 726‑728.
156 House of Commons, Official Report, 12 October 2004, columns 151‑152.
335. Iraq had acted suspiciously over many years, which led to the inferences drawn
by the Government and the intelligence community that it had been seeking to protect
concealed WMD assets. When Iraq denied that it had retained any WMD capabilities,
the UK Government accused it of lying.
336. This led the Government to emphasise the ability of Iraq successfully to deceive
the inspectors, and cast doubt on the investigative capacity of the inspectors. The role
of the inspectors, however, as was often pointed out, was not to seek out assets that
had been hidden, but rather to validate Iraqi claims.
337. By March 2003, however:
• The Al Samoud 2 missiles which exceeded the range permitted by the UN, were
• The IAEA had concluded that there was no Iraqi nuclear programme of any
• The inspectors believed that they were making progress and expected to
achieve more co‑operation from Iraq.
• The inspectors were preparing to step up their activities with U2 flights and
interviews outside Iraq.
338. When the UK sought a further Security Council resolution in March 2003, the
majority of the Council’s members were not persuaded that the inspections process, and
the diplomatic efforts surrounding it, had reached the end of the road. They did not agree
that the time had come to terminate inspections and resort to force. The UK went to war
without the explicit authorisation which it had sought from the Security Council.
339. At the time of the Parliamentary vote of 18 March, diplomatic options had not been
exhausted. The point had not been reached where military action was the last resort.
The predicted increase in the threat to the UK as a result of military
action in Iraq
340. Mr 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.
341. Asked about the risk that attacking Iraq with cruise missiles would “act as a
recruiting sergeant for a young generation throughout the Islamic and Arab world”,
Mr Blair responded that:
“… what was shocking about 11 September was not just the slaughter of innocent
people but the knowledge that, had the terrorists been able, there would have
been not 3,000 innocent dead, but 30,000 or 300,000 … America did not attack
the Al Qaida terrorist group … [it] attacked America. They did not need to be
The Report of the Iraq Inquiry
recruited … Unless we take action against them, they will grow. That is why we
342. The JIC judged in October 2002 that “the greatest terrorist threat in the event of
military action against Iraq will come from Al Qaida and other Islamic extremists”; and
they would be “pursuing their own agenda”.158
343. The JIC Assessment of 10 February 2003 repeated previous warnings that:
• Al Qaida and associated networks would remain the greatest terrorist threat
to the UK and its activity would increase at the onset of any military action
• In the event of imminent regime collapse, Iraqi chemical and biological material
could be transferred to terrorists, including Al Qaida.159
344. Addressing the prospects for the future, the JIC Assessment concluded:
“… Al Qaida and associated groups will continue to represent by far the
greatest terrorist threat to Western interests, and that threat will be heightened by military action against Iraq. The broader threat from Islamist terrorists will also increase in the event of war, reflecting intensified anti‑US/anti‑Western sentiment in the Muslim world, including among Muslim communities in the West. And there is a risk that the transfer of CB [chemical and biological] material or expertise, during or in the aftermath of conflict, will enhance Al Qaida’s capabilities.” [bold added by me AJL]
345. In response to a call for Muslims everywhere to take up arms in defence of Iraq
issued by Usama Bin Laden on 11 February, and a further call on 16 February for
“compulsory jihad” by Muslims against the West, the JIC Assessment on 19 February
predicted that the upward trend in the reports of threats to the UK was likely to
346. The JIC continued to warn in March that the threat from Al Qaida would increase
at the onset of military action against Iraq.161
347. The JIC also warned that:
• Al Qaida activity in northern Iraq continued.
• Al Qaida might have established sleeper cells in Baghdad, to be activated during
a US occupation.
157 House of Commons, Official Report, 18 March 2003, column 769.
158 JIC Assessment, 10 October 2002, ‘International Terrorism: The Threat from Iraq’.
159 JIC Assessment, 10 February 2003, ‘International Terrorism: War with Iraq’.
160 JIC Assessment, 19 February 2003, ‘International Terrorism: The Current Threat from Islamic Extremists’.
161 JIC Assessment, 12 March 2003, ‘International Terrorism: War with Iraq: Update’.
348. The warning about the risk of chemical and biological weapons becoming available
to extremist groups as a result of military action in Iraq was reiterated on 19 March.162
349. Addressing the JIC Assessment of 10 February 2003, Mr Blair told the Intelligence
and Security Committee (ISC) later that year that:
“One of the most difficult aspects of this is that there was obviously a danger that
in attacking Iraq you ended up provoking the very thing you were trying to avoid.
On the other hand I think you had to ask the question, ‘Could you really, as a
result of that fear, leave the possibility that in time developed into a nexus between
terrorism and WMD in an event?’ This is where you’ve just got to make your
judgement about this. But this is my judgement and it remains my judgement
and I suppose time will tell whether it’s true or it’s not true.”163
350. In its response to the ISC Report, the Government drew:
“… attention to the difficult judgement that had to be made and the factors on both
sides of the argument to be taken into account.”164
351. Baroness Manningham‑Buller told the Inquiry:
“By 2003/2004 we were receiving an increasing number of leads to terrorist activity
from within the UK … our involvement in Iraq radicalised, for want of a better word …
a few among a generation … [who] saw our involvement in Iraq, on top of our
involvement in Afghanistan, as being an attack on Islam.”165
352. Asked about the proposition that it was right to remove Saddam Hussein’s regime
to forestall a fusion of weapons of mass destruction and international terrorism at
some point in the future, and if it had eliminated a threat of terrorism from his regime,
Baroness Manningham‑Buller replied:
“It eliminated the threat of terrorism from his direct regime; it didn’t eliminate the
threat of terrorism using unconventional methods … So using weapons of mass
destruction as a terrorist weapon is still a potential threat.
“After all Usama Bin Laden said it was the duty of members of his organisation
or those in sympathy with it to acquire and use these weapons. It is interesting
that … such efforts as we have seen to get access to these sort of materials have
been low‑grade and not very professional, but it must be a cause of concern to my
former colleagues that at some stage terrorist groups will resort to these methods.
162 Note JIC, 19 March 2003, ‘Saddam: The Beginning of the End’.
163 Intelligence and Security Committee, Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction – Intelligence and Assessments, September 2003, Cm5972, paragraph 128.
164 Government Response to the Intelligence and Security Committee Report on Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction – Intelligence and Assessments, 11 September 2003, February 2004, Cm6118, paragraph 22.
165 Public hearing, 20 July 2010, page 19.
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In that respect, I don’t think toppling Saddam Hussein is germane to the long‑term
ambitions of some terrorist groups to use them.”166
353. Asked specifically about the theory that at some point in the future Saddam
Hussein would probably have brought together international terrorism and weapons
of mass destruction in a threat to Western interests, Baroness Manningham‑Buller
“It is a hypothetical theory. It certainly wasn’t of concern in either the short‑term
or the medium‑term to my colleagues and myself.”167
354. Asked if “a war in Iraq would aggravate the threat from whatever source to
the United Kingdom”, Baroness Manningham‑Buller stated that that was the view
communicated by the JIC Assessments.168
355. Baroness Manningham‑Buller subsequently added that if Ministers had read the
JIC Assessments they could “have had no doubt” about that risk.169 She said that by the
time of the July 2005 attacks in London:
“… an increasing number of British‑born individuals … were attracted to the ideology
of Usama Bin Laden and saw the West’s activities in Iraq and Afghanistan as
threatening their fellow religionists and the Muslim world.”
356. Asked whether the judgement that the effect of the invasion of Iraq had increased
the terrorist threat to the UK was based on hard evidence or a broader assessment,
Baroness Manningham‑Buller replied:
“I think we can produce evidence because of the numerical evidence of the number
of plots, the number of leads, the number of people identified, and the correlation of
that to Iraq and statements of people as to why they were involved … So I think the
answer to your … question: yes.”170
357. In its request for a statement, the Inquiry asked Mr Blair if he had read the JIC
Assessment of 10 February 2002, and what weight he had given to it when he decided
to take military action.171
358. In his statement Mr Blair wrote:
“I was aware of the JIC Assessment of 10 February that the Al Qaida threat to the
UK would increase. But I took the view then and take the same view now that to
have backed down because of the threat of terrorism would be completely wrong.
166 Public hearing, 20 July 2010, pages 23‑24.
167 Public hearing, 20 July 2010, page 24.
168 Public hearing, 20 July 2010, page 31.
169 Public hearing, 20 July 2010, page 33.
170 Public hearing, 20 July 2010, pages 33‑34.
171 Inquiry request for a witness statement, 13 December 2010, Qs 11c and 11d page 7.
In any event, following 9/11 and Afghanistan we were a terrorist target and, as recent
events in Europe and the US show, irrespective of Iraq, there are ample justifications
such terrorists will use as excuses for terrorism.”172
The UK’s relationship with the US
359. The UK’s relationship with the US was a determining factor in the Government’s
decisions over Iraq.
360. It was the US Administration which decided in late 2001 to make dealing with the
problem of Saddam Hussein’s regime the second priority, after the ousting of the Taliban
in Afghanistan, in the “Global War on Terror”. In that period, the US Administration turned against a strategy of continued containment of Iraq, which it was pursuing before the 9/11 attacks.
361. This was not, initially, the view of the UK Government. Its stated view at that time
was that containment had been broadly effective, and that it could be adapted in order
to remain sustainable. Containment continued to be the declared policy of the UK
throughout the first half of 2002.
362. The declared objectives of the UK and the US towards Iraq up to the time of the
invasion differed. The US was explicitly seeking to achieve a change of regime; the UK
to achieve the disarmament of Iraq, as required by UN Security Council resolutions.
363. Most crucially, the US Administration committed itself to a timetable for military
action which did not align with, and eventually overrode, the timetable and processes
for inspections in Iraq which had been set by the UN Security Council. The UK wanted
UNMOVIC and the IAEA to have time to complete their work, and wanted the support
of the Security Council, and of the international community more widely, before any
further steps were taken. This option was foreclosed by the US decision.
364. On these and other important points, including the planning for the post‑conflict
period and the functioning of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), the UK
Government decided that it was right or necessary to defer to its close ally and senior
partner, the US.
365. It did so essentially for two reasons:
• Concern that vital areas of co‑operation between the UK and the US could
be damaged if the UK did not give the US its full support over Iraq.
• The belief that the best way to influence US policy towards the direction
preferred by the UK was to commit full and unqualified support, and seek
to persuade from the inside.
172 Statement, 14 January 2011, page 16.
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366. The UK Government was right to think very carefully about both of those points.
367. First, the close strategic alliance with the US has been a cornerstone of the UK’s
foreign and security policy under successive governments since the Second World War.
Mr Blair rightly attached great importance to preserving and strengthening it.
368. After the attacks on the US on 11 September 2001, that relationship was reinforced
when Mr Blair declared that the UK would stand “shoulder to shoulder” with the US to
defeat and eradicate international terrorism.173 The action that followed in Afghanistan
to bring about the fall of the Taliban served to strengthen and deepen the sense of
369. When the US Administration turned its attention to regime change in Iraq as part
of the second phase of the “Global War on Terror”, Mr Blair’s immediate response was
to seek to offer a partnership and to work with it to build international support for the
position that Iraq was a threat which had to be dealt with.
370. In Mr Blair’s view, the decision to stand alongside the US was in the UK’s long‑term
national interests. In his speech of 18 March 2003, he argued that the handling of Iraq
“… determine the way in which Britain and the world confront the central security
threat of the 21st century, the development of the United Nations, the relationship
between Europe and the United States, the relations within the European Union and
the way in which the United States engages with the rest of the world. So it could
hardly be more important. It will determine the pattern of international politics for
the next generation.”
371. In his memoir in 2010, Mr Blair wrote:
“I knew in the final analysis I would be with the US, because it was right morally
and strategically. But we should make a last ditch attempt for a peaceful solution.
First to make the moral case for removing Saddam … Second, to try one more time
to reunite the international community behind a clear base for action in the event of
a continuing breach.”174
372. Concern about the consequences, were the UK not to give full support to the
US, featured prominently in policy calculations across Whitehall. Mr Hoon, for example,
sought advice from Sir Kevin Tebbit, MOD Permanent Under Secretary, on the
implications for the alliance of the UK’s approach to Iraq.175
373. Although there has historically been a very close relationship between the British
and American peoples and a close identity of values between our democracies, it is an
173 The National Archives, 11 September 2001, September 11 attacks: Prime Minister’s statement.
174 Blair T. A Journey. Hutchinson, 2010.
175 Minute Tebbit to Secretary of State [MOD], 14 January 2003, ‘Iraq: What If?’.
alliance founded not on emotion, but on a hard‑headed appreciation of mutual benefit.
The benefits do not by any means flow only in one direction.
374. In his memoir, Mr Blair wrote:
“… I agreed with the basic US analysis of Saddam as a threat; I thought he was a
monster; and to break the US partnership in such circumstances, when America’s
key allies were all rallying round, would in my view, then (and now) have done major
long‑term damage to that relationship.”
375. The Government was right to weigh the possible consequences for the wider
alliance with the US very carefully, as previous Governments have done. A policy
of direct opposition to the US would have done serious short‑term damage to the
relationship, but it is questionable whether it would have broken the partnership.
376. Over the past seven decades, the UK and US have adopted differing, and
sometimes conflicting, positions on major issues, for example Suez, the Vietnam War, the
Falklands, Grenada, Bosnia, the Arab/Israel dispute and, at times, Northern Ireland. Those differences did not fundamentally call into question the practice of close co-operation, to mutual advantage, on the overall relationship, including defence and intelligence.
377. The opposition of Germany and France to US policy in 2002 to 2003 does not
appear to have had a lasting impact on the relationships of those countries with the
US, despite the bitterness at the time.
378. However, a decision not to oppose does not have to be translated into unqualified
support. Throughout the post‑Second World War period (and, notably, during the
wartime alliance), the UK’s relationship with the US and the commonality of interests
therein have proved strong enough to bear the weight of different approaches to
international problems and not infrequent disagreements.
379. Had the UK stood by its differing position on Iraq – which was not an opposed
position, but one in which the UK had identified conditions seen as vital by the UK
Government – the Inquiry does not consider that this would have led to a fundamental
or lasting change in the UK’s relationship with the US.
380. This is a matter of judgement, and one on which Mr Blair, bearing the responsibility
of leadership, took a different view.
381. The second reason for committing unqualified support was, by standing alongside
and taking part in the planning, the UK would be able to influence US policy.
382. Mr Blair’s stalwart support for the US after 9/11 had a significant impact in that
country. Mr Blair developed a close working relationship with President Bush. He used
this to compare notes and inject his views on the major issues of the day, and it is clear
from the records of the discussions that President Bush encouraged that dialogue and
listened to Mr Blair’s opinions.
The Report of the Iraq Inquiry
383. Mr Blair expressed his views in frequent telephone calls and in meetings with the
President. There was also a very active channel between his Foreign Affairs Adviser and
the President’s National Security Advisor. Mr Blair also sent detailed written Notes to the
384. Mr Jonathan Powell, Mr Blair’s Chief of Staff, told the Inquiry:
“… the Prime Minister had a habit of writing notes, both internally and to President
Clinton and to President Bush, on all sorts of subjects, because he found it better
to put something in writing rather than to simply talk about it orally and get it much
more concretely … in focused terms.”176
385. Mr Blair drew on information and briefing received from Whitehall departments,
but evidently drafted many or most of his Notes to the President himself, showing
the drafts to his close advisers in No.10 but not (ahead of despatch) to the relevant
386. How best to exercise influence with the President of the United States is a matter
for the tactical judgement of the Prime Minister, and will vary between Prime Ministers
and Presidents. In relation to Iraq, Mr Blair’s judgement, as he and others have
explained, was that objectives the UK identified for a successful strategy should not
be expressed as conditions for its support.
387. Mr Powell told the Inquiry that Mr Blair was offering the US a “partnership to try
to get to a wide coalition” and “setting out a framework” and to try to persuade the US
to move in a particular direction.177
388. Mr Blair undoubtedly influenced the President’s decision to go to the UN Security
Council in the autumn of 2002. On other critical decisions set out in the Report, he did
not succeed in changing the approach determined in Washington.
389. This issue is addressed in the Lessons section of this Executive Summary, under
the heading “The decision to go to war”.
390. The way in which the policy on Iraq was developed and decisions were taken and
implemented within the UK Government has been at the heart of the Inquiry’s work and
fundamental to its conclusions.
391. The Inquiry has set out in Section 2 of the Report the roles and responsibilities
of key individuals and bodies in order to assist the reader. It is also publishing with the
Report many of the documents which illuminate who took the key decisions and on what
176 Public hearing, 18 January 2010, page 38.
177 Public hearing, 18 January 2010, pages 77‑78.
basis, including the full record of the discussion on Iraq in Cabinet on five key occasions
pre‑conflict, and policy advice to Ministers which is not normally disclosed.
392. Under UK constitutional conventions – in which the Prime Minister leads the
Government – Cabinet is the main mechanism by which the most senior members
of the Government take collective responsibility for its most important decisions.
Cabinet is supported by a system of Ministerial Committees whose role is to identify,
test and develop policy options; analyse and mitigate risks; and debate and hone policy
proposals until they are endorsed across the Government.178
393. The Ministerial Code in place in 2003 said:
“The Cabinet is supported by Ministerial Committees (both standing and ad hoc)
which have a two‑fold purpose. First, they relieve the pressure on the Cabinet
itself by settling as much business as possible at a lower level or, failing that,
by clarifying the issues and defining the points of disagreement. Second, they
support the principle of collective responsibility by ensuring that, even though an
important question may never reach the Cabinet itself, the decision will be fully
considered and the final judgement will be sufficiently authoritative to ensure that the
Government as a whole can properly be expected to accept responsibility for it.”179
394. The Code also said:
“The business of the Cabinet and Ministerial Committees consists in the main of:
a. questions which significantly engage the collective responsibility of the
Government because they raise major issues of policy or because they
are of critical importance to the public;
b. questions on which there is an unresolved argument between
395. Lord Wilson of Dinton told the Inquiry that between January 1998 and January
1999, in the run‑up to and immediate aftermath of Operation Desert Fox in December
1998 (see Section 1.1), as Cabinet Secretary, he had attended and noted 21 Ministerial
discussions on Iraq: 10 in Cabinet, of which seven had “some substance”; five in DOP;
and six ad hoc meetings, including one JIC briefing.180 Discussions in Cabinet or a
Cabinet Committee would have been supported by the relevant part of the Cabinet
Secretariat, the Overseas and Defence Secretariat (OD Sec).
178 Ministerial Code, 2001, page 3.
179 Ministerial Code, 2001, page 3.
180 Public hearing, 25 January 2011, page 11.
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396. Similarly, Lord Wilson stated that, between 11 September 2001 and January 2002,
the Government’s response to international terrorism and the subsequent military action
against the Taliban in Afghanistan had been managed through 46 Ministerial meetings.181
397. The last meeting of DOP on Iraq before the 2003 conflict, however, took place
in March 1999.182
398. In April 2002, the MOD clearly expected consideration of military options to be
addressed through DOP. Mr Simon Webb, the MOD Policy Director, advised Mr Hoon
“Even these preparatory steps would properly need a Cabinet Committee decision,
based on a minute from the Defence Secretary …”183
399. Most decisions on Iraq pre‑conflict were taken either bilaterally between Mr Blair
and the relevant Secretary of State or in meetings between Mr Blair, Mr Straw and
Mr Hoon, with No.10 officials and, as appropriate, Mr John Scarlett (Chairman of the
JIC), Sir Richard Dearlove and Adm Boyce. Some of those meetings were minuted;
some were not.
400. As the guidance for the Cabinet Secretariat makes clear, the purpose of the minute
of a meeting is to set out the conclusions reached so that those who have to take
action know precisely what to do; the second purpose is to “give the reasons why the
conclusions were reached”.184
401. Lord Turnbull, Cabinet Secretary from 2002 to 2005, described Mr Blair’s
characteristic way of working with his Cabinet colleagues as:
“… ‘I like to move fast. I don’t want to spend a lot of time in kind of conflict resolution,
and, therefore, I will get the people who will make this thing move quickly and
efficiently.’ That was his sort of characteristic style, but it has drawbacks.”185
402. Lord Turnbull subsequently told the Inquiry that the group described above was
“a professional forum … they had … with one possible exception [Ms Clare Short, the
International Development Secretary], the right people in the room. It wasn’t the kind
of sofa government in the sense of the Prime Minister and his special advisers and
181 Public hearing, 25 January 2011, page 11.
182 Email Cabinet Office to Secretary Iraq Inquiry, 5 July 2011, ‘FOI request for joint MOD/FCO memo on Iraq Policy 1999’.
183 Minute Webb to PS/Secretary of State, 12 April 2002, ‘Bush and the War on Terrorism’.
184 Cabinet Office, June 2001, Guide to Minute Taking.
185 Public hearing, 13 January 2010, page 28.
186 Public hearing, 13 January 2010, pages 45‑46.
403. In July 2004, Lord Butler’s Report stated that his Committee was:
“… concerned that the informality and circumscribed character of the Government’s
procedures which we saw in the context of policy‑making towards Iraq risks reducing
the scope for informed collective political judgement. Such risks are particularly
significant in a field like the subject of our Review, where hard facts are inherently
difficult to come by and the quality of judgement is accordingly all the more
404. In response, Mr Blair agreed that:
“… where a small group is brought together to work on operational military planning
and developing the diplomatic strategy, in future such a group will operate formally
as an ad hoc Cabinet Committee.”188
405. The Inquiry considers that where policy options include significant military
deployments, particularly where they will have implications for the responsibilities of
more than one Cabinet Minister, are likely to be controversial, and/or are likely to give
rise to significant risks, the options should be considered by a group of Ministers meeting
regularly, whether or not they are formally designated as a Cabinet Committee, so that
Cabinet as a whole can be enabled to take informed collective decisions.
406. Describing the important function a Cabinet Committee can play, Mr Powell wrote:
“Most of the important decisions of the Blair Government were taken either in
informal meetings of Ministers and officials or by Cabinet Committees … Unlike
the full Cabinet, a Cabinet Committee has the right people present, including,
for example, the military Chiefs of Staff or scientific advisers, its members are
well briefed, it can take as long as it likes over its discussion on the basis of
well‑prepared papers, and it is independently chaired by a senior Minister with
no departmental vested interest.”189
407. The Inquiry concurs with this description of the function of a Cabinet Committee
when it is working well. In particular, it recognises the important function which a
Minister without departmental responsibilities for the issues under consideration can
play. This can provide some external challenge from experienced members of the
government and mitigate any tendency towards group‑think. In the case of Iraq, for
example, the inclusion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer or Deputy Prime Minister,
as senior members of the Cabinet, or of Mr Cook, as a former Foreign Secretary known
to have concerns about the policy, could have provided an element of challenge.
187 Review of Intelligence on Weapons of Mass Destruction [“The Butler Report”], 14 July 2004, HC 898.
188 Cabinet Office, Review on Intelligence on Weapons of Mass Destruction: Implementation of its Conclusions, March 2005, Cm6492.
189 Powell J. The New Machiavelli: How to wield power in the modern world. The Bodley Head, 2010.
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408. Mr Powell likewise recognises the importance of having written advice which can
be seen before a meeting, allowing all those present to have shared information and
the opportunity to digest it and seek further advice if necessary. This allows the time in
meetings to be used productively.
409. The Inquiry considers that there should have been collective discussion by a
Cabinet Committee or small group of Ministers on the basis of inter‑departmental advice
agreed at a senior level between officials at a number of decision points which had a
major impact on the development of UK policy before the invasion of Iraq. Those were:
• The decision at the beginning of December 2001 to offer to work with President
Bush on a strategy to deal with Iraq as part of Phase 2 of the “War on Terror”,
despite the fact that there was no evidence of any Iraqi involvement with the
attacks on the US or active links to Al Qaida.
• The adoption of the position at the end of February 2002 that Iraq was a threat
which had to be dealt with, together with the assumption that the only certain
means to remove Saddam Hussein and his regime was to invade Iraq and
impose a new government.
• The position Mr Blair should adopt in discussions with President Bush at
Crawford in April 2002. The meeting at Chequers on 2 April was given a
presentation on the military options and did not explore the political and legal
implications of a conflict with Iraq. There was no FCO representative at the
Chequers meeting and no subsequent meeting with Mr Straw and Mr Hoon.
• The position Mr Blair should adopt in his discussion with President Bush at
Camp David on 5 and 6 September 2002. Mr Blair’s long Note of 28 July, telling
President Bush “I will be with you, whatever”, was seen, before it was sent, only
by No.10 officials. A copy was sent afterwards to Mr Straw, but not to Mr Hoon.
While the Note was marked “Personal” (to signal that it should have a restricted
circulation), it represented an extensive statement of the UK Government’s
position by the Prime Minister to the President of the United States. The Foreign
and Defence Secretaries should certainly have been given an opportunity to
comment on the draft in advance.
• A discussion in mid‑September 2002 on the need for robust post‑conflict
• The decision on 31 October 2002 to offer ground forces to the US for planning
• The decision on 17 January 2003 to deploy large scale ground forces for
operations in southern Iraq.
• The position Mr Blair should adopt in his discussion with President Bush
in Washington on 31 January 2003.
• The proposals in Mr Blair’s Note to President Bush of 19 February suggesting
a deadline for a vote in the Security Council of 14 March.
• A review of UK policy at the end of February 2003 when the inspectors had
found no evidence of WMD and there was only limited support for the second
resolution in the Security Council.
• The question of whether Iraq had committed further material breaches as
specified in operative paragraph 4 of resolution 1441 (2002), as posed in
Mr Brummell’s letter of 14 March to Mr Rycroft.
410. In addition to providing a mechanism to probe and challenge the implications
of proposals before decisions were taken, a Cabinet Committee or a more structured
process might have identified some of the wider implications and risks associated
with the deployment of military forces to Iraq. It might also have offered the opportunity
to remedy some of the deficiencies in planning which are identified in Section 6 of
the Report. There will, of course, be other policy issues which would benefit from
the same approach.
411. Cabinet has a different role to that of a Cabinet Committee.
412. Mr Powell has written that:
“… Cabinet is the right place to ratify decisions, the right place for people to raise
concerns if they have not done so before, the right place for briefings by the Prime
Minister and other Ministers on strategic issues, the right place to ensure political
unity; but it is categorically not the right place for an informed decision on difficult
and detailed policy issues.”190
413. In 2009, in a statement explaining a Cabinet decision to veto the release of
minutes of one of its meetings under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, Mr Straw
explained the need for frank discussion at Cabinet very cogently:
“Serious and controversial decisions must be taken with free, frank – even blunt
deliberations between colleagues. Dialogue must be fearless. Ministers must have
the confidence to challenge each other in private. They must ensure that decisions
have been properly thought through, sounding out all possibilities before committing
themselves to a course of action. They must not feel inhibited from advancing
options that may be unpopular or controversial. They must not be deflected from
expressing dissent by the fear that they may be held personally to account for views
that are later cast aside.”191
190 Powell J. The New Machiavelli: How to wield power in the modern world. The Bodley Head, 2010.
191 Statement J Straw, 23 February 2009, ‘Exercise of the Executive Override under section 53 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 in respect of the decision of the Information Commissioner dated 18 February 2008 (Ref: FS50165372) as upheld by the decision of the Information Tribunal of 27 January 2009 (Ref: EA/2008/0024 and EA/2008/0029): Statement of Reasons’.
The Report of the Iraq Inquiry
414. Mr Blair told the Inquiry that:
“… the discussion that we had in Cabinet was substantive discussion. We had it
again and again and again, and the options were very simple. The options were:
a sanctions framework that was effective; alternatively, the UN inspectors doing
the job; alternatively, you have to remove Saddam. Those were the options.”192
415. Mr Blair added:
“Nobody in the Cabinet was unaware of … what the whole issue was about. It was
the thing running throughout the whole of the political mainstream at the time.
There were members of the Cabinet who would challenge and disagree, but most
of them agreed.”193
416. The Inquiry has seen the minutes of 26 meetings of Cabinet between 28 February
2002 and 17 March 2003 at which Iraq was mentioned and Cabinet Secretariat
notebooks. Cabinet was certainly given updates on diplomatic developments and
had opportunities to discuss the general issues. The number of occasions on which
there was a substantive discussion of the policy was very much more limited.
417. There were substantive discussions of the policy on Iraq, although not necessarily
of all the issues (as the Report sets out), in Cabinet on 7 March and 23 September 2002
and 16 January, 13 March and 17 March 2003. Those are the records which are being
published with the Report.
418. At the Cabinet meeting on 7 March 2002, Mr Blair concluded:
“… the concerns expressed in discussion were justified. It was important that the
United States did not appear to be acting unilaterally. It was critically important
to reinvigorate the Middle East Peace Process. Any military action taken against
President Saddam Hussein’s regime had to be effective. On the other hand, the
Iraqi regime was in clear breach of its obligations under several United Nations
Security Council resolutions. Its WMD programmes posed a threat to peace.
Iraq’s neighbours regarded President Saddam Hussein as a danger. The right
strategy was to engage closely with the Government of the United States in order
to be in a position to shape policy and its presentation. The international community
should proceed in a measured but determined way to decide how to respond to the
real threat represented by the Iraqi regime. No decisions to launch military action
had been taken and any action taken would be in accordance with international law.
“The Cabinet, ‘Took note, with approval.’”194
192 Public hearing, 29 January 2010, page 22.
193 Public hearing, 29 January 2010, pages 228‑229.
194 Cabinet Conclusions, 7 March 2002.
419. Cabinet on 17 March 2003 noted Mr Blair’s conclusion that “the diplomatic process
was at an end; Saddam Hussein would be given an ultimatum to leave Iraq; and the
House of Commons would be asked to endorse the use of military action against Iraq to
enforce compliance, if necessary”.
420. In Section 5 of the Report, the Inquiry concludes that Lord Goldsmith should have
been asked to provide written advice which fully reflected the position on 17 March and
explained the legal basis on which the UK could take military action and set out the risks
of legal challenge.
421. There was no substantive discussion of the military options, despite promises
by Mr Blair, before the meeting on 17 March.
422. In his statement for the Inquiry, Mr Hoon wrote that by the time he joined Cabinet,
“… the pattern of the organisation and format of Cabinet meetings was … well
established. Tony Blair was well known to be extremely concerned about leaks
from Cabinet discussions … It was my perception that, largely as a consequence
of this, he did not normally expect key decisions to be made in the course of
Cabinet meetings. Papers were submitted to the Cabinet Office, and in turn by
the Cabinet Office to appropriate Cabinet Committees for decisions.”195
423. Mr Hoon wrote:
“At no time when I was serving in the Ministry of Defence were other Cabinet
Ministers involved in discussions about the deployment of specific forces and
the nature of their operations. Relevant details would have been circulated to
10 Downing Street or other Government departments as necessary … I do not
recall a single Cabinet level discussion of specific troop deployments and the
nature of their operations.”196
424. The Inquiry recognises that there will be operational constraints on discussion
of the details of military deployments, but that would not preclude the discussion of
the principles and the implications of military options.
425. In January 2006, the Cabinet discussed the proposal to deploy military forces
to Helmand later that year.
426. The Inquiry also recognises that the nature of foreign policy, as the Report vividly
demonstrates, requires the Prime Minister of the UK, the Foreign Secretary and their
most senior officials to be involved in negotiating and agreeing policy on a day‑by‑day,
and sometimes hour‑by‑hour basis.
195 Statement, 2 April 2015, page 1.
196 Statement, 2 April 2015, page 2.
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427. It would neither be necessary nor feasible to seek a mandate from Cabinet at
each stage of a discussion. That reinforces the importance of ensuring Cabinet is kept
informed as strategy evolves, is given the opportunity to raise questions and is asked to
endorse key decisions. Cabinet Ministers need more information than will be available
from the media, especially on sensitive issues of foreign and security policy.
428. In 2009, three former Cabinet Secretaries197 told the House of Lords Select
Committee on the Constitution:
“… each of us, as Secretary of the Cabinet, has been constantly conscious of his
responsibility to the Cabinet collectively and of the need to have regard to the needs
and responsibilities of the other members of the Cabinet (and indeed of other
Ministers) as well of those of the Prime Minister. That has coloured our relationships
with Number 10 as well as those with other Ministers and their departments.”198
429. Lord Turnbull told the Inquiry that Mr Blair:
“… wanted a step change in the work on delivery and reform, which I hope
I managed to give him. Now … how does the Cabinet Secretary work? You come
in and you are – even with the two roles that you have, head of an organisation of
half a million civil servants and in some sense co‑ordinating a public sector of about
five million people. You have to make choices as to where you make your effort, and
I think the policy I followed was not to take an issue over from someone to whom
it was delegated simply because it was big and important, but you have to make a
judgement as to whether it is being handled competently, whether that particular part
is, in a sense, under pressure, whether you think they are getting it wrong in some
sense, or they are missing certain important things.”199
430. The responsibility of the Cabinet Secretary to ensure that members of Cabinet are
fully engaged in ways that allow them to accept collective responsibility and to meet their
departmental obligations nevertheless remains.
Advice on the legal basis for military action
431. The Inquiry has reviewed the debate that took place within the Government and
how it reached its decision.
432. The circumstances in which it was ultimately decided that there was a legal basis
for UK participation were far from satisfactory.
433. It was not until 13 March 2003 that Lord Goldsmith advised that there was,
on balance, a secure legal basis for military action.
197 Lord Armstrong of Ilminster, Lord Butler of Brockwell and Lord Wilson of Dinton.
198 Fourth Report from the House of Lords Select Committee on the Constitution, Session 2009‑10,The Cabinet Office and the Centre of Government, HL Paper 30.
199 Public hearing, 13 January 2010, page 3.
434. In the letter of 14 March 2003 from Lord Goldsmith’s office to No.10, which is
addressed in Section 5 of the Report, Mr Blair was told that an essential ingredient of
the legal basis was that he, himself, should be satisfied of the fact that Iraq was in breach
of resolution 1441.
435. In accordance with that advice, it was Mr Blair who decided that, so far as the
UK was concerned, Iraq was and remained in breach of resolution 1441.
436. Apart from No.10’s response to the letter of 14 March, sent the following day,
in terms that can only be described as perfunctory, no formal record was made of that
decision and the precise grounds on which it was made remain unclear.
437. The Inquiry was told, and it accepts, that it would have been possible at that stage
for the UK Government to have decided not to go ahead with military action if it had
been necessary to make a decision to do so; or if the House of Commons on 18 March
had voted against the Government.
438. Although, when resolution 1441 was adopted, there was unanimous support for a
rigorous inspections and monitoring regime backed by the threat of military force as the
means to disarm Iraq, there was no such consensus in the Security Council in March
2003. If the matter had been left to the Security Council to decide, military action might
have been postponed and, possibly, avoided.
439. The Charter of the United Nations vests responsibility for the maintenance
of peace and security in the Security Council. The UK Government was claiming
to act on behalf of the international community “to uphold the authority of the Security
Council”, knowing that it did not have a majority in the Security Council in support of
its actions. In those circumstances, the UK’s actions undermined the authority of the
440. A determination by the Security Council on whether Iraq was in fact in material
breach of resolution 1441 would have furthered the UK’s aspiration to uphold the
authority of the Council.
The timing of Lord Goldsmith’s advice on the interpretation of resolution 1441
441. Following the adoption of resolution 1441, a decision was taken to delay the
receipt of formal advice from Lord Goldsmith.
442. On 11 November 2002, Mr Powell told Lord Goldsmith that there should be
a meeting some time before Christmas to discuss the legal position.
443. On 9 December, formal “instructions” to provide advice were sent to Lord
Goldsmith. They were sent by the FCO on behalf of the FCO and the MOD as
well as No.10.
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444. The instructions made it clear that Lord Goldsmith should not provide an immediate
445. When Lord Goldsmith met Mr Powell, Sir David Manning and Baroness Morgan
(Director of Political and Government Relations to the Prime Minister) on 19 December,
he was told that he was not, at that stage, being asked for his advice; and that, when
he was, it would be helpful for him to discuss a draft with Mr Blair in the first instance.
446. Until 7 March 2003, Mr Blair and Mr Powell asked that Lord Goldsmith’s views on
the legal effect of resolution 1441 should be tightly held and not shared with Ministerial
colleagues without No.10’s permission.
447. Lord Goldsmith agreed that approach.
448. Lord Goldsmith provided draft advice to Mr Blair on 14 January 2003. As instructed
he did not, at that time, provide a copy of his advice to Mr Straw or to Mr Hoon.
449. Although Lord Goldsmith was invited to attend Cabinet on 16 January, there was
no discussion of Lord Goldsmith’s views.
450. Mr Straw was aware, in general terms, of Lord Goldsmith’s position but he was
not provided with a copy of Lord Goldsmith’s draft advice before Cabinet on 16 January.
He did not read it until at least two weeks later.
451. The draft advice of 14 January should have been provided to Mr Straw, Mr Hoon
and the Cabinet Secretary, all of whose responsibilities were directly engaged.
452. Lord Goldsmith provided Mr Blair with further advice on 30 January. It was not
seen by anyone outside No.10.
453. Lord Goldsmith discussed the negotiating history of resolution 1441 with Mr Straw,
Sir Jeremy Greenstock, with White House officials and the State Department’s Legal
Advisers. They argued that resolution 1441 could be interpreted as not requiring a
second resolution. The US Government’s position was that it would not have agreed
to resolution 1441 had its terms required one.
454. When Lord Goldsmith met No.10 officials on 27 February, he told them that he
had reached the view that a “reasonable case” could be made that resolution 1441 was
capable of reviving the authorisation to use force in resolution 678 (1990) without a
further resolution, if there were strong factual grounds for concluding that Iraq had failed
to take the final opportunity offered by resolution 1441.
455. Until that time, No.10 could not have been sure that Lord Goldsmith would advise
that there was a basis on which military action against Iraq could be taken in the
absence of a further decision of the Security Council.
456. In the absence of Lord Goldsmith’s formal advice, uncertainties about the
circumstances in which the UK would be able to participate in military action continued,
although the possibility of a second resolution remained.
457. Lord Goldsmith provided formal written advice on 7 March.
Lord Goldsmith’s advice of 7 March 2003
458. Lord Goldsmith’s formal advice of 7 March set out alternative interpretations of
the legal effect of resolution 1441. He concluded that the safer route would be to seek
a second resolution, and he set out the ways in which, in the absence of a second
resolution, the matter might be brought before a court. Lord Goldsmith identified a key
question to be whether or not there was a need for an assessment of whether Iraq’s
conduct constituted a failure to take the final opportunity or a failure fully to co‑operate
within the meaning of operative paragraph 4, such that the basis of the cease‑fire
459. Lord Goldsmith wrote (paragraph 26): “A narrow textual reading of the resolution
suggested no such assessment was needed because the Security Council had
pre‑determined the issue. Public statements, on the other hand, say otherwise.”
460. While Lord Goldsmith remained “of the opinion that the safest legal course would
be to secure a second resolution”, he concluded (paragraph 28) that “a reasonable case
can be made that resolution 1441 was capable of reviving the authorisation in resolution
678 without a further resolution”.
461. Lord Goldsmith wrote that a reasonable case did not mean that, if the matter
ever came to court, he would be confident that the court would agree with this view.
He judged a court might well conclude that OPs 4 and 12 required a further Security
Council decision in order to revive the authorisation in resolution 678.
462. Lord Goldsmith noted that on a number of previous occasions, including in
relation to Operation Desert Fox in Iraq in 1998 and Kosovo in 1999, UK forces had
participated in military action on the basis of advice from previous Attorneys General
that (paragraph 30) “the legality of the action under international law was no more than
463. Lord Goldsmith warned Mr Blair (paragraph 29):
“… the argument that resolution 1441 alone has revived the authorisation to use
force in resolution 678 will only be sustainable if there are strong factual grounds
for concluding that Iraq failed to take the final opportunity. In other words, we
would need to be able to demonstrate hard evidence of non‑compliance and
non‑co-operation … the views of UNMOVIC and the IAEA will be highly significant
in this respect.”
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464. Lord Goldsmith added:
“In the light of the latest reporting by UNMOVIC, you will need to consider extremely
carefully whether the evidence of non‑co-operation and non‑compliance by Iraq is
sufficiently compelling to justify the conclusion that Iraq has failed to take its final
465. Mr Straw, Mr Hoon, Dr John Reid (Minister without Portfolio and Labour Party
Chair) and the Chiefs of Staff had all seen Lord Goldsmith’s advice of 7 March before
the No.10 meeting on 11 March, but it is not clear how and when it reached them.
466. Other Ministers whose responsibilities were directly engaged, including
Mr Gordon Brown (Chancellor of the Exchequer) and Ms Short, and their senior officials,
did not see the advice.
Lord Goldsmith’s arrival at a “better view”
467. At the meeting on 11 March, Mr Blair stated that Lord Goldsmith’s “advice made
it clear that a reasonable case could be made” that resolution 1441 was “capable of
reviving” the authorisation of resolution 678, “although of course a second resolution
would be preferable”. There was concern, however, that the advice did not offer a clear
indication that military action would be lawful.
468. Lord Goldsmith was asked, after the meeting, by Adm Boyce on behalf of the
Armed Forces, and by the Treasury Solicitor, Ms Juliet Wheldon, in respect of the Civil
Service, to give a clear‑cut answer on whether military action would be lawful rather
469. On 12 March, Mr Blair and Mr Straw reached the view that there was no chance
of securing a majority in the Security Council in support of the draft resolution of 7 March
and there was a risk of one or more vetoes if the resolution was put to a vote.
470. There is no evidence to indicate that Lord Goldsmith was informed of their
471. Lord Goldsmith concluded on 13 March that, on balance, the “better view” was that
the conditions for the operation of the revival argument were met in this case, meaning
that there was a lawful basis for the use of force without a further resolution beyond
The exchange of letters on 14 and 15 March 2003
472. Mr David Brummell (Legal Secretary to the Law Officers) wrote to Mr Matthew
Rycroft (Mr Blair’s Private Secretary for Foreign Affairs) on 14 March:
“It is an essential part of the legal basis for military action without a further resolution
of the Security Council that there is strong evidence that Iraq has failed to comply
with and co‑operate fully in the implementation of resolution 1441 and has thus
failed to take the final opportunity offered by the Security Council in that resolution.
The Attorney General understands that it is unequivocally the Prime Minister’s
view that Iraq has committed further material breaches as specified in [operative]
paragraph 4 of resolution 1441, but as this is a judgement for the Prime Minister,
the Attorney would be grateful for confirmation that this is the case.”
473. Mr Rycroft replied to Mr Brummell on 15 March:
“This is to confirm that it is indeed the Prime Minister’s unequivocal view that Iraq
is in further material breach of its obligations, as in OP4 of UNSCR 1441, because
of ‘false statements or omissions in the declarations submitted by Iraq pursuant to
this resolution and failure to comply with, and co‑operate fully in the interpretation of,
474. It is unclear what specific grounds Mr Blair relied upon in reaching his view.
475. In his advice of 7 March, Lord Goldsmith had said that the views of UNMOVIC and
the IAEA would be highly significant in demonstrating hard evidence of non‑compliance
and non‑co‑operation. In the exchange of letters on 14 and 15 March between
Mr Brummell and No.10, there is no reference to their views; the only view referred
to was that of Mr Blair.
476. Following receipt of Mr Brummell’s letter of 14 March, Mr Blair neither requested
nor received considered advice addressing the evidence on which he expressed his
“unequivocal view” that Iraq was “in further material breach of its obligations”.
477. Senior Ministers should have considered the question posed in Mr Brummell’s
letter of 14 March, either in the Defence and Overseas Policy Committee or a
“War Cabinet”, on the basis of formal advice. Such a Committee should then have
reported its conclusions to Cabinet before its members were asked to endorse the
Lord Goldsmith’s Written Answer of 17 March 2003
478. In Parliament during the second week of March, and in the media, there were calls
on the Government to make a statement about its legal position.
479. When Lord Goldsmith spoke to Mr Brummell on 13 March, they agreed that a
statement should be prepared “setting out the Attorney’s view of the legal position which
could be deployed at Cabinet and in Parliament the following week”.
480. The message was conveyed to No.10 during the morning of 15 March that Lord
Goldsmith “would make clear during the course of the week that there is a sound legal
basis for action should that prove necessary”.
The Report of the Iraq Inquiry
481. The decision that Lord Goldsmith would take the lead in explaining the
Government’s legal position to Parliament, rather than the Prime Minister or responsible
Secretary of State providing that explanation, was unusual.
482. The normal practice was, and is, that the Minister responsible for the policy, in this
case Mr Blair or Mr Straw, would have made such a statement.
Cabinet, 17 March 2003
483. Cabinet was provided with the text of Lord Goldsmith’s Written Answer to Baroness
Ramsey of Cartvale setting out the legal basis for military action.
484. That document represented a statement of the Government’s legal position –
it did not explain the legal basis of the conclusion that Iraq had failed to take “the final
opportunity” to comply with its disarmament obligations offered by resolution 1441.
485. Lord Goldsmith told Cabinet that it was “plain” that Iraq had failed to comply with
its obligations and continued to be in “material breach” of the relevant Security Council
resolutions. The authority to use force under resolution 678 was, “as a result”, revived.
Lord Goldsmith said that there was no need for a further resolution.
486. Cabinet was not provided with written advice which set out, as the advice of
7 March had done, the conflicting arguments regarding the legal effect of resolution 1441
and whether, in particular, it authorised military action without a further resolution of the
487. Cabinet was not provided with, or informed of, Mr Brummell’s letter to Mr Rycroft
of 14 March; or Mr Rycroft’s response of 15 March. Cabinet was not told how Mr Blair
had reached the view recorded in Mr Rycroft’s letter.
488. The majority of Cabinet members who gave evidence to the Inquiry took the
position that the role of the Attorney General on 17 March was, simply, to tell Cabinet
whether or not there was a legal basis for military action.
489. None of those Ministers who had read Lord Goldsmith’s 7 March advice asked
for an explanation as to why his legal view of resolution 1441 had changed.
490. There was little appetite to question Lord Goldsmith about his advice, and
no substantive discussion of the legal issues was recorded.
491. Cabinet was not misled on 17 March and the exchange of letters between
the Attorney General’s office and No.10 on 14 and 15 March did not constitute,
as suggested to the Inquiry by Ms Short, a “side deal”.
492. Cabinet was, however, being asked to confirm the decision that the diplomatic
process was at an end and that the House of Commons should be asked to endorse
the use of military action to enforce Iraq’s compliance. Given the gravity of this decision,
Cabinet should have been made aware of the legal uncertainties.
493. Lord Goldsmith should have been asked to provide written advice which fully
reflected the position on 17 March, explained the legal basis on which the UK could take
military action and set out the risks of legal challenge.
494. The advice should have addressed the significance of the exchange of letters of
14 and 15 March and how, in the absence of agreement from the majority of members
of the Security Council, the point had been reached that Iraq had failed to take the final
opportunity offered by resolution 1441.
495. The advice should have been provided to Ministers and senior officials whose
responsibilities were directly engaged and should have been made available to Cabinet.
Weapons of mass destruction – Iraq WMD assessments, pre‑July 2002
496. The ingrained belief that Saddam Hussein’s regime retained chemical and
biological warfare capabilities, was determined to preserve and if possible enhance its
capabilities, including at some point in the future a nuclear capability, and was pursuing
an active policy of deception and concealment, had underpinned UK policy towards Iraq
since the Gulf Conflict ended in 1991.
497. While the detail of individual JIC Assessments on Iraq varied, this core construct
remained in place.
498. Security Council resolutions adopted since 1991 demanded Iraq’s disarmament
and the re-admission of inspectors, and imposed sanctions in the absence of Iraqi
compliance with those – and other – obligations. Agreement to those resolutions
indicated that doubts about whether Iraq had disarmed were widely shared.
499. In parallel, by 2000, the wider risk of proliferation was regarded as a major threat.
There was heightened concern about:
• the danger of proliferation, particularly that countries of concern might obtain
nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles; and
• the potential risk that terrorist groups which were willing to use them might gain
access to chemical and biological agents and, possibly, nuclear material, and
the means to deliver them.
500. These concerns were reinforced after 9/11.
501. The view conveyed in JIC Assessments between December 2000 and March
2002 was that, despite the considerable achievements of UNSCOM and the IAEA
between 1991 and December 1998, including dismantling Iraq’s nuclear programme,
The Report of the Iraq Inquiry
the inspectors had been unable to account for some of the ballistic missiles and
chemical and biological weapons and material produced by Iraq; and that it had:
• not totally destroyed all its stockpile of chemical and biological weapons;
• retained up to 360 tonnes of chemical agents and precursor chemicals and
growth media which would allow it to produce more chemical and biological
• hidden a small number of long‑range Al Hussein ballistic missiles; and
• retained the knowledge, documentation and personnel which would allow it to
reconstitute its chemical, biological, nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.
502. The JIC also judged that, since the departure of the weapons inspectors, Iraq:
• was actively pursuing programmes to extend the range of its existing
short‑range ballistic missiles beyond the permitted range of 150km;
• had begun development of a ballistic missile with a range greater than 1,000km;
• was capable of resuming undetected production of “significant quantities” of
chemical and biological agents, and in the case of VX (a nerve agent) might
have already done so; and
• was pursuing activities that could be linked to a nuclear programme.
503. Iraq’s chemical, biological and ballistic missile programmes were seen as a threat
to international peace and security in the Middle East region, but Iraq was viewed as
a less serious proliferation threat than other key countries of concern – Iran, Libya and
North Korea – which had current nuclear programmes. Iraq’s nuclear facilities had been
dismantled by the weapons inspectors. The JIC judged that Iraq would be unable to
obtain a nuclear weapon while sanctions remained effective.
504. The JIC continued to judge that co‑operation between Iraq and Al Qaida was
“unlikely”, and that there was no “credible evidence of Iraqi transfers of WMD‑related
technology and expertise to terrorist groups”.
505. In mid‑February 2002, in preparation for Mr Blair’s planned meeting with President
Bush in early April 2002, No.10 commissioned the preparation of a paper to inform the
public about the dangers of nuclear proliferation and WMD more generally in four key
countries of concern, North Korea, Iran, Libya and Iraq.
506. When the preparation of this document became public knowledge, it was perceived
to be intended to underpin a decision on military action against Iraq. The content and
timing became a sensitive issue.
507. Reflecting the UK position that action was needed to disarm Iraq, Mr Blair and
Mr Straw began, from late February 2002, publicly to argue that Iraq was a threat which
had to be dealt with; that Iraq needed to disarm or be disarmed in accordance with the
obligations imposed by the UN; and that it was important to agree to the return of UN
inspectors to Iraq.
508. The focus on Iraq was not the result of a step change in Iraq’s capabilities
509. When he saw the draft paper on WMD countries of concern on 8 March, Mr Straw
“Good, but should not Iraq be first and also have more text? The paper has to show
why there is an exceptional threat from Iraq. It does not quite do this yet.”200
510. On 18 March, Mr Straw decided that a paper on Iraq should be issued before one
addressing other countries of concern.
511. On 22 March, Mr Straw was advised that the evidence would not convince public
opinion that there was an imminent threat from Iraq. Publication was postponed.
512. No.10 decided that the Cabinet Office Overseas and Defence Secretariat should
co‑ordinate the production of a “public dossier” on Iraq, and that Mr Campbell should
“retain the lead role on the timing/form of its release”.
513. The statements prepared for, and used by, the UK Government in public, from
late 2001 onwards, about Iraq’s proscribed activities and the potential threat they posed
were understandably written in more direct and less nuanced language than the JIC
Assessments on which they drew.
514. The question is whether, in doing so, they conveyed more certainty and knowledge
than was justified, or created tests it would be impossible for Iraq to meet. That is of
particular concern in relation to the evidence in Section 4.1 on two key issues.
515. First, the estimates of the weapons and material related to Iraq’s chemical and
biological warfare programmes for which UNSCOM had been unable to account were
based on extrapolations from UNSCOM records. Officials explicitly advised that it was
“inherently difficult to arrive at precise figures”. In addition, it was acknowledged that
neither UNSCOM nor the UK could be certain about either exactly what had existed
or what Iraq had already destroyed.
516. The revised estimates announced by Mr Straw on 2 May were increasingly
presented in Government statements as the benchmark against which Iraq should
517. Second, the expert MOD examination of issues in late March 2002 exposed the
difficulties Iraq would have to overcome before it could acquire a nuclear weapon.
That included the difficulty of acquiring suitable fissile material from the “black market”.
200 Minute McDonald to Ricketts, 11 March 2002, ‘Iraq’.
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518. In addition, the tendency to refer in public statements only to Iraq’s “weapons
of mass destruction” without addressing their nature (the type of warhead and whether
they were battlefield or strategic weapons systems) or how they might be used (as a
last resort against invading military forces or as a weapon of terror to threaten civilian
populations in other countries) was likely to have created the impression that Iraq posed
a greater threat than the detailed JIC Assessments would have supported.
Iraq WMD assessments, July to September 2002
519. From late February 2002, the UK Government position was that Iraq was a threat
that had to be dealt with; that Iraq needed to disarm in accordance with the obligations
imposed by the UN; and that it was important to agree to the return of UN inspectors
520. The urgency and certainty with which the position was stated reflected both the
ingrained beliefs already described and the wider context in which the policy was being
discussed with the US.
521. But it also served to fuel the demand that the Government should publish the
document it was known to have prepared, setting out the reasons why it was so
concerned about Iraq.
522. In the spring and summer of 2002, senior officials and Ministers took the view that
the Iraq dossier should not be published until the way ahead on the policy was clearer.
523. By late August 2002, the Government was troubled by intense speculation about
whether a decision had already been taken to use military force. In Mr Blair’s words, the
US and UK had been “outed” as having taken a decision when no such decision had
524. Mr Blair’s decision on 3 September to announce that the dossier would be
published was a response to that pressure.
525. The dossier was designed to “make the case” and secure Parliamentary (and
public) support for the Government’s position that action was urgently required to secure
526. The UK Government intended the information and judgements in the Iraq dossier
to be seen to be the product of the JIC in order to carry authority with Parliament and
527. The Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) was commissioned by No.10 on 5 September
to examine whether it had any additional material which could be included.
528. Mr Scarlett, as Chairman of the JIC, was given the responsibility of producing
529. The dossier drew on the 9 September JIC Assessment, ‘Iraqi Use of Chemical and
Biological Weapons – Possible Scenarios’, which had been commissioned to address
scenarios for Iraq’s possible use of chemical and biological weapons in the event of
military action, previous JIC Assessments and the subsequent report issued by SIS
on 11 September.
530. The SIS report should have been shown to the relevant experts in the Defence
Intelligence Staff (DIS) who could have advised their senior managers and the
531. Expert officials in DIS questioned the certainty with which some of the judgements
in the dossier were expressed. Some of their questions were discussed during the
preparation of the dossier. The text was agreed by Air Marshal Joe French, Chief of
Defence Intelligence, at the JIC meeting on 19 September.
532. There is no evidence that other members of the JIC were aware at the time of the
reservations recorded in the minute by Dr Brian Jones (the branch head of the nuclear,
biological and chemical section in the Scientific and Technical Directorate of the Defence
Intelligence Staff) of 19 September and that written by the chemical weapons expert in
his team the following day.
533. The JIC accepted ownership of the dossier and agreed its content. There is
no evidence that intelligence was improperly included in the dossier or that No.10
improperly influenced the text.
534. At issue are the judgements made by the JIC and how they and the intelligence
were presented, including in Mr Blair’s Foreword and in his statement to Parliament
on 24 September 2002.
535. It is unlikely that Parliament and the public would have distinguished between
the ownership and therefore the authority of the judgements in the Foreword and those
in the Executive Summary and the main body of the dossier.
536. In the Foreword, Mr Blair stated that he believed the “assessed intelligence” had
“established beyond doubt” that Saddam Hussein had “continued to produce chemical
and biological weapons, that he continues in his efforts to develop nuclear weapons,
and that he had been able to extend the range of his ballistic missile programme”.
That raises two key questions.
• Did Mr Blair’s statements in whole or in part go further than the assessed
• Did that matter?
537. The Inquiry is not questioning Mr Blair’s belief, which he consistently reiterated
in his evidence to the Inquiry, or his legitimate role in advocating Government policy.
The Report of the Iraq Inquiry
538. But the deliberate selection of a formulation which grounded the statement in what
Mr Blair believed, rather than in the judgements which the JIC had actually reached in its
assessment of the intelligence, indicates a distinction between his beliefs and the JIC’s
539. That is supported by the position taken by the JIC and No.10 officials at the time,
and in the evidence offered to the Inquiry by some of those involved.
540. The assessed intelligence had not established beyond doubt that Saddam Hussein
had continued to produce chemical and biological weapons. The Executive Summary
of the dossier stated that the JIC judged that Iraq had “continued to produce chemical
and biological agents”. The main text of the dossier said that there had been “recent”
production. It also stated that Iraq had the means to deliver chemical and biological
weapons. It did not say that Iraq had continued to produce weapons.
541. Nor had the assessed intelligence established beyond doubt that efforts to develop
nuclear weapons continued. The JIC stated in the Executive Summary of the dossier
that Iraq had:
• made covert attempts “to acquire technology and materials which could be used
in the production of nuclear weapons”;
• “sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa, despite having no active
nuclear programme that would require it”; and
• “recalled specialists to work on its nuclear programme”.
542. But the dossier made clear that, as long as sanctions remained effective, Iraq
could not produce a nuclear weapon.
543. These conclusions draw on the evidence from the JIC Assessments at the time
and the Executive Summary of the dossier, which are set out in Section 4.2. They do
not rely on hindsight.
544. The JIC itself should have made that position clear because its ownership of the
dossier, which was intended to inform a highly controversial policy debate, carried with
it the responsibility to ensure that the JIC’s integrity was protected.
545. The process of seeking the JIC’s views, through Mr Scarlett, on the text of the
Foreword shows that No.10 expected the JIC to raise any concerns it had.
546. The firmness of Mr Blair’s beliefs, despite the underlying uncertainties, is important
in considering how the judgements in the Foreword would have been interpreted by
Cabinet in its discussions on 23 September and by Parliament.
547. In his statement to Parliament on 24 September and in his answers to subsequent
questions, Mr Blair presented Iraq’s past, current and potential future capabilities as
evidence of the severity of the potential threat from Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction;
and that, at some point in the future, that threat would become a reality.
548. By the time the dossier was published, President Bush had announced that
the US was seeking action on Iraq through the UN, and Iraq had agreed to the return
549. Rather than the debate being framed in terms of the answers needed to the
outstanding questions identified by UNSCOM and the IAEA, including the material
for which UNSCOM had been unable to account, the dossier’s description of Iraq’s
capabilities and intent became part of the baseline against which the UK Government
measured Iraq’s future statements and actions and the success of weapons inspections.
550. As Section 4.3 demonstrates, the judgements remained in place without challenge
until the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. Iraq’s denials of the capabilities and intent
attributed to it were not taken seriously.
551. As the flaws in the construct and the intelligence were exposed after the conflict,
the dossier and subsequent statements to Parliament also became the baseline against
which the Government’s good faith and credibility were judged.
Iraq WMD assessments, October 2002 to March 2003
552. From October 2002 onwards, the JIC focused on two main themes:
• Iraq’s attitude to the return of the inspectors and, from 8 November, its
compliance with the specific obligations imposed by resolution 1441; and
• Iraq’s options, diplomatic and military, including the possible use of chemical and
biological weapons and ballistic missiles against Coalition Forces or countries in
the region in either pre‑emptive attacks or in response to a military attack.
553. In its Assessment of 18 December, the JIC made the judgements in the UK
Government September dossier part of the test for Iraq.
554. The judgements about Iraq’s capabilities and intentions relied heavily on Iraq’s past
behaviour being a reliable indicator of its current and future actions.
555. There was no consideration of whether, faced with the prospect of a US‑led
invasion, Saddam Hussein had taken a different position.
556. The absence of evidence of proscribed programmes and materials relating to the
production or delivery of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons was attributed to Iraq’s
ability to conceal its activities and deceive the inspectors and the difficulties which it had
been anticipated the inspectors would encounter.
557. The JIC Assessment of 11 October 2002 stated that a good intelligence flow from
inside Iraq, supporting tougher inspections, would be “central to success”.
558. A key element of the Assessments was the reporting and intelligence on Iraq’s
intentions to conceal its activities, deceive the inspectors and obstruct the conduct of
inspections, particularly Iraq’s attitudes to preventing interviews with officials who were
The Report of the Iraq Inquiry
identified as associated with its proscribed programmes or who had been involved
in Iraq’s unilateral destruction of its weapons and facilities.
559. The large number of intelligence reports about Iraq’s activities were interpreted
from the perspective that Iraq’s objectives were to conceal its programmes.
560. Similarly, Iraq’s actions were consistently interpreted as indicative of deceit.
561. From early 2003, the Government drew heavily on the intelligence reporting of
Iraq’s activities to deceive and obstruct the inspectors to illustrate its conclusion that
Iraq had no intention of complying with the obligations imposed in resolution 1441.
562. The Government also emphasised the reliability of the reporting.
563. The JIC’s judgement from August 2002 until 19 March 2003 remained that Iraq
might use chemical and biological weapons in response to a military attack.
564. Iraq’s statements that it had no weapons or programmes were dismissed as further
evidence of a strategy of denial.
565. In addition, the extent to which the JIC’s judgements depended on inference and
interpretation of Iraq’s previous attitudes and behaviour was not recognised.
566. At no stage was the hypothesis that Iraq might not have chemical, biological
or nuclear weapons or programmes identified and examined by either the JIC or the
567. After its 9 September 2002 Assessment, the JIC was not asked to review its
judgements on Iraq’s capabilities and programmes which underpinned UK thinking.
Nor did the JIC itself suggest such a review.
568. As a result there was no formal reassessment of the JIC judgements, and the
9 September Assessment and the 24 September dossier provided part of the baseline
for the UK Government’s view of Iraq’s capabilities and intentions on its chemical,
biological, nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.
569. Given the weight which rested on the JIC’s judgements about Iraq’s possession
of WMD and its future intent for the decision in March that military action should, if
necessary, be taken to disarm Iraq, a formal reassessment of the JIC’s judgements
should have taken place.
570. This might have been prompted by Dr Blix’s report to the Security Council on
14 February 2003, which demonstrated the developing divergence between the
assessments presented by the US and UK. Dr Blix’s report of 7 March, which changed
the view that Iraqi behaviour was preventing UNMOVIC from carrying out its tasks,
should certainly have prompted a review.
The search for WMD
571. Section 4.4 considers the impact of the failure to find stockpiles of WMD in Iraq
in the months immediately after the invasion, and of the emerging conclusions of the
Iraq Survey Group (ISG), on:
• the Government’s response to demands for an independent judge‑led inquiry
into pre‑conflict intelligence on Iraq; and
• the Government’s public presentation of the nature of the threat from Saddam
Hussein’s regime and the decision to go to war.
572. The Inquiry has not sought to comment in detail on the specific conclusions of the
ISC, FAC, Hutton and Butler Reports, all of which were published before the withdrawal
by SIS in September 2004 of a significant proportion of the intelligence underpinning the
JIC Assessments and September 2002 dossier on which UK policy had rested.
573. In addition to the conclusions of those reports, the Inquiry notes the forthright
statement in March 2005 of the US Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the
United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction. Reporting to President Bush,
the Commission stated that “the [US] Intelligence Community was dead wrong in almost
all of its pre‑war judgments about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. This was a major
574. The evidence in Section 4.4 shows that, after the invasion, the UK Government,
including the intelligence community, was reluctant to admit, and to recognise publicly,
the mounting evidence that there had been failings in the UK’s pre‑conflict collection,
validation, analysis and presentation of intelligence on Iraq’s WMD.
575. Despite the failure to identify any evidence of WMD programmes during pre‑conflict
inspections, the UK Government remained confident that evidence would be found after
the Iraqi regime had been removed.
576. Almost immediately after the start of the invasion, UK Ministers and officials sought
to lower public expectations of immediate or significant finds of WMD in Iraq.
577. The lack of evidence to support pre‑conflict claims about Iraq’s WMD challenged
the credibility of the Government and the intelligence community, and the legitimacy
of the war.
578. The Government and the intelligence community were both concerned about
the consequences of the presentational aspects of their pre‑war assessments
579. By June, the Government had acknowledged the need for a review of the UK’s
pre‑conflict intelligence on Iraq. It responded to demands for an independent, judge‑led
inquiry by expressing support for the reviews initiated by the ISC and the FAC.
The Report of the Iraq Inquiry
580. The announcement of the Hutton Inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the
death of Dr David Kelly on 18 July, reinforced the Government’s position that additional
reviews were not needed.
581. The Government maintained that position until January 2004, backed by three
votes in the House of Commons (on 4 June, 15 July and 22 October 2003) rejecting
a succession of Opposition motions calling for an independent inquiry into the use of
582. Mr Blair’s initial response to growing criticism of the failure to find WMD was
to counsel patience.
583. After the publication of the ISG Interim Report, the Government’s focus shifted
from finding stockpiles of weapons to emphasising evidence of the Iraqi regime’s
584. Once President Bush made clear his decision to set up an independent inquiry,
Mr Blair’s resistance to a public inquiry became untenable.
585. After the announcement of the Butler Review, the UK Government’s focus shifted
to the content of the next ISG report, the Status Report.
586. The Government, still concerned about the nature of the public debate on WMD
in the UK, sought to ensure that the Status Report included existing ISG material
highlighting the strategic intentions of Saddam Hussein’s regime and breaches of
Security Council resolutions.
587. Mr Blair remained concerned about continuing public and Parliamentary criticism
of the pre‑conflict intelligence, the failure to find WMD and the decision to invade Iraq.
After the reports from the Hutton Inquiry, the ISG and the US Commission, he sought
to demonstrate that, although “the exact basis for action was not as we thought”, the
invasion had still been justified.
588. The ISG’s findings were significant, but did not support past statements by the UK
and US Governments, which had focused on Iraq’s current capabilities and an urgent
and growing threat.
589. The explanation for military action put forward by Mr Blair in October 2004 was
not the one given before the conflict.
Planning for a post‑Saddam Hussein Iraq – The failure to plan or prepare for known risks
590. The information on Iraq available to the UK Government before the invasion
provided a clear indication of the potential scale of the post‑conflict task.
591. It showed that, in order to achieve the UK’s desired end state, any post‑conflict
administration would need to:
• restore infrastructure that had deteriorated significantly in the decade since
1991, to the point where it was not capable of meeting the needs of the Iraqi
• administer a state where the upper echelons of a regime that had been in power
since 1968 had been abruptly removed and in which the capabilities of the wider
civil administration, many of whose employees were members of the ruling party,
were difficult to assess; and
• provide security in a country faced with a number of potential threats, including:
592. In December 2002, the MOD described the post‑conflict phase of operations as
“strategically decisive”.201 But when the invasion began, the UK Government was not
in a position to conclude that satisfactory plans had been drawn up and preparations
made to meet known post‑conflict challenges and risks in Iraq and to mitigate the risk
of strategic failure.
593. Throughout the planning process, the UK assumed that the US would be
responsible for preparing the post‑conflict plan, that post‑conflict activity would be
authorised by the UN Security Council, that agreement would be reached on a
significant post‑conflict role for the UN and that international partners would step forward to share the post‑conflict burden.
594. On that basis, the UK planned to reduce its military contribution in Iraq to medium
scale within four months of the start of the invasion202 and expected not to have to make
a substantial commitment to post‑conflict administration.203
595. Achieving that outcome depended on the UK’s ability to persuade the US of the
merits of a significant post‑conflict role for the UN.
596. The UK could not be certain at any stage in the year before the invasion that
it would succeed in that aim.
597. In January 2003, the UK sought to persuade the US of the benefits of UN
leadership of Iraq’s interim post‑conflict civil administration.204 Officials warned that,
201 Paper [SPG], 13 December 2002, ‘UK Military Strategic Thinking on Iraq’.
202 Minute CDS to CJO, 18 March 2003, ‘Op TELIC: Authorisation for Military Operations in Iraq’ attaching Paper CDS, ‘Chief of Defence Staff Execute Directive to the Joint Commander for Operation TELIC (Phases 3 and 4)’.
203 Minute Straw and Hoon to Prime Minister, 19 March 2003, ‘Iraq: UK Military Contribution to post‑conflict Iraq’.
204 Minute Ricketts to Private Secretary [FCO], 7 February 2003, ‘Iraq Strategy’.
The Report of the Iraq Inquiry
if the UK failed to persuade the US, it risked “being drawn into a huge commitment
of UK resources for a highly complex task of administration and law and order for
an uncertain period”.
598. By March 2003, having failed to persuade the US of the advantages of a UN‑led
interim administration, the UK had set the less ambitious goal of persuading the US to
accept UN authorisation of a Coalition‑led interim administration and an international
presence that would include the UN.205
599. On 19 March, Mr Blair stated in Parliament that discussions were taking place with
the US, UN and others on the role of the UN and post‑conflict issues.206
600. Discussions continued, but, as the invasion began:
• The UK had not secured US agreement to a Security Council resolution
authorising post‑conflict administration and could not be sure when, or on what terms, agreement would be possible.
• The extent of the UN’s preparations, which had been hindered by the absence of agreement on post‑conflict arrangements, remained uncertain. Mr Annan emphasised to Ms Short the need for clarity on US thinking so that UN planning could proceed207 and told Sir Jeremy Greenstock that he “would not wish to see any arrangement subjugating UN activity to Coalition activity”.208
• Potential international partners for reconstruction and additional Coalition
partners to provide security continued to make their post‑conflict contributions conditional on UN authorisation for Phase IV (the military term for post‑conflict operations).209
601. Despite being aware of the shortcomings of the US plan,210 strong US resistance to a leading role for the UN,211 indications that the UN did not want the administration of Iraq to become its responsibility212 and a warning about the tainted image of the UN in Iraq,213 at no stage did the UK Government formally consider other policy options, including the possibility of making participation in military action conditional on a satisfactory plan for the post‑conflict period, or how to mitigate the known risk that the UK could find itself drawn into a “huge commitment of UK resources” for which
no contingency preparations had been made. [bold added by me, AJL]
205 Paper Iraq Planning Unit, 25 March 2003, ‘Iraq: Phase IV: Authorising UNSCR’.
206 House of Commons, Official Report, 19 March 2003, columns 931‑932.
207 Telegram 501 UKMIS New York to FCO London, 21 March 2003, ‘Iraq Humanitarian/Reconstruction: Clare Short’s Visit to New York’.
208 Telegram 526 UKMIS New York to FCO London, 25 March 2003, ‘Iraq Phase IV: UN Dynamics’.
209 Paper FCO, 25 March 2003, ‘Iraq: Phase IV Issues’.
210 Minute Drummond to Rycroft, 19 March 2003, ‘Iraq Ministerial Meeting’.
211 Minute Ricketts to Private Secretary [FCO], 7 February 2003, ‘Iraq Strategy’.
212 Public hearing, 15 December 2009, page 5.
213 Paper Middle East Department, 12 December 2002, ‘Interim Administrations in Iraq: Why a UN‑led Interim Administration would be in the US interest’.
The planning process and decision‑making
602. As a junior partner in the Coalition, the UK worked within a planning framework
established by the US. It had limited influence over a process dominated increasingly
by the US military.
603. The creation of the Ad Hoc Group on Iraq in September 2002 and the Iraq Planning
Unit in February 2003 improved co‑ordination across government at official level, but
neither body carried sufficient authority to establish a unified planning process across
the four principal departments involved – the FCO, the MOD, DFID and the Treasury –
or between military and civilian planners.
604. Important material, including in the DFID reviews of northern and southern Iraq,
and significant pieces of analysis, including the series of MOD Strategic Planning
Group (SPG) papers on military strategic thinking, were either not shared outside the
originating department, or, as appears to have been the case with the SPG papers, were
not routinely available to all those with a direct interest in the contents.
605. Some risks were identified, but departmental ownership of those risks, and
responsibility for analysis and mitigation, were not clearly established.
606. When the need to plan and prepare for the worst case was raised, including by
MOD officials in advice to Mr Hoon on 6 March 2003,214 Lieutenant General John Reith,
Chief of Joint Operations, in his paper for the Chiefs of Staff on 21 March215 and in
Treasury advice to Mr Brown on 24 March,216 there is no evidence that any department
or individual assumed ownership or was assigned responsibility for analysis or
mitigation. No action ensued.
607. In April 2003, Mr Blair set up the Ad Hoc Ministerial Group on Iraq Rehabilitation
(AHMGIR), chaired by Mr Straw, to oversee the UK contribution to post‑conflict
608. Until the creation of the AHMGIR, Mr Straw, Mr Hoon and Ms Short remained
jointly responsible for directing post‑conflict planning and preparation.
609. In the absence of a single person responsible for overseeing all aspects
of planning and preparation, departments pursued complementary, but separate,
objectives. Gaps in UK capabilities were overlooked.
610. The FCO, which focused on policy‑making and negotiation, was not equipped by
past experience or practice, or by its limited human and financial resources, to prepare
for nation‑building of the scale required in Iraq, and did not expect to do so.
214 Minute Sec(O)4 to PS/Secretary of State [MOD], 6 March 2003, ‘Iraq: Aftermath – Medium to Long Term UK Military Commitment’.
215 Minute Reith to COSSEC, 21 March 2003, ‘Phase IV Planning – Taking Stock’.
216 Minute Dodds to Chancellor, 24 March 2003, ‘Iraq: UK Military Contribution to Post‑Conflict Iraq’.
The Report of the Iraq Inquiry
611. DFID’s focus on poverty reduction and the channelling of assistance through
multilateral institutions instilled a reluctance, before the invasion, to engage on anything
other than the immediate humanitarian response to conflict.
612. When military planners advised of the need to consider the civilian component as
an integral part of the UK’s post‑conflict deployment, the Government was not equipped
to respond. Neither the FCO nor DFID took responsibility for the issue.
613. The shortage of expertise in reconstruction and stabilisation was a constraint
on the planning process and on the contribution the UK was able to make to the
administration and reconstruction of post‑conflict Iraq.
614. The UK Government’s post‑invasion response to the shortage of deployable
experts in stabilisation and post‑conflict reconstruction is addressed in Section 10.3.
615. Constraints on UK military capacity are addressed in Sections 6.1 and 6.2.
616. The UK contribution to the post‑conflict humanitarian response is assessed
in Section 10.1.
617. At no stage did Ministers or senior officials commission the systematic evaluation
of different options, incorporating detailed analysis of risk and UK capabilities, military
and civilian, which should have been required before the UK committed to any course
of action in Iraq.
618. Where policy recommendations were supported by untested assumptions, those
assumptions were seldom challenged. When they were, the issue was not always
619. It was the responsibility of officials to identify, analyse and advise on risk and
Ministers’ responsibility to ensure that measures to mitigate identifiable risks, including
a range of policy options, had been considered before significant decisions were taken
on the direction of UK policy.
620. Occasions when that would have been appropriate included:
• after Mr Blair’s meeting with Mr Hoon, Mr Straw and others on 23 July 2002;
• after the adoption of resolution 1441;
• before or immediately after the decision to deploy troops in January 2003;
• after the Rock Drill (a US inter‑agency rehearsal for post‑conflict administration)
in February 2003; and
• after Mr Blair’s meeting on post‑conflict issues on 6 March 2003.
621. There is no indication of formal risk analysis or formal consideration of options
associated with any of those events.
622. In his statement to the Inquiry, Mr Blair said:
“… with hindsight, we now see that the military campaign to defeat Saddam was
relatively easy; it was the aftermath that was hard. At the time, of course, we could
not know that and a prime focus throughout was the military campaign itself …”217
623. The conclusions reached by Mr Blair after the invasion did not require the benefit
624. Mr Blair’s long‑standing conviction that successful international intervention
required long‑term commitment had been clearly expressed in his Chicago speech
625. That conviction was echoed, in the context of Iraq, in frequent advice to Mr Blair
from Ministers and officials.
626. Between early 2002 and the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, Mr Blair received
• the significance of the post‑conflict phase as the “strategically decisive”
phase of the engagement in Iraq (in the SPG paper of 13 December 2002218)
and the risk that a badly handled aftermath would make intervention a “net
failure” (in the letter from Mr Hoon’s Private Office to Sir David Manning of
19 November 2002219);
• the likelihood of internal conflict in Iraq (including from Mr Powell on
26 September 2002, who warned of the need to stop “a terrible bloodletting
of revenge after Saddam goes. Traditional in Iraq after conflict”220);
• the potential scale of the political, social, economic and security challenge
(including from Sir Christopher Meyer (British Ambassador to the US) on
6 September 2002: “it will probably make pacifying Afghanistan look like
• the need for an analysis of whether the benefits of military action outweighed the
risk of a protracted and costly nation‑building exercise (including from Mr Straw
on 8 July 2002: the US “must also understand that we are serious about our
conditions for UK involvement”222);
• the absence of credible US plans for the immediate post‑conflict period and
the subsequent reconstruction of Iraq (including from the British Embassy
217 Statement Blair, 14 January 2011, page 14.
218 Paper [SPG], 13 December 2002, ‘UK Military Strategic Thinking on Iraq’.
219 Letter Watkins to Manning, 19 November 2002, ‘Iraq: Military Planning after UNSCR 1441’.
220 Manuscript comment Powell to Manning on Letter McDonald to Manning, 26 September 2002, ‘Scenarios for the future of Iraq after Saddam’.
221 Telegram 1140 Washington to FCO London, 6 September 2002, ‘PM’s visit to Camp David: Iraq’.
222 Letter Straw to Prime Minister, 8 July 2002, ‘Iraq: Contingency Planning’.
The Report of the Iraq Inquiry
Washington after the Rock Drill on 21 and 22 February 2003: “The inter‑agency
rehearsal for Phase IV … exposes the enormous scale of the task … Overall,
planning is at a very rudimentary stage”223);
• the need to agree with the US the nature of the UK contribution to those plans
(including in the letter from Mr Hoon’s Private Office to Sir David Manning on
28 February 2003: it was “absolutely clear” that the US expected the UK to take
leadership of the South‑East sector. The UK was “currently at risk of taking on
a very substantial commitment that we will have great difficulty in sustaining
beyond the immediate conclusion of conflict”224); and
• the importance (including in the ‘UK overall plan for Phase IV’, shown to Mr Blair
on 7 March 2003225) of:
UN authorisation for the military occupation of Iraq, without which there
would be no legal cover for certain post‑conflict tasks;
a UN framework for the administration and reconstruction of Iraq during the
transition to Iraqi self‑government.
627. Mr Blair told the Chiefs of Staff on 15 January 2003 that “the ‘Issue’ was aftermath
– the Coalition must prevent anarchy and internecine fighting breaking out”.226
628. In his evidence to the House of Commons Liaison Committee on 21 January 2003,
Mr Blair emphasised the importance of the post‑conflict phase:
“You do not engage in military conflict that may produce regime change unless you
are prepared to follow through and work in the aftermath of that regime change to
ensure the country is stable and the people are properly looked after.”227
629. On 24 January 2003, Mr Blair told President Bush that the biggest risk they faced
was internecine fighting, and that delay would allow time for working up more coherent
630. Yet when Mr Blair set out the UK’s vision for the future of Iraq in the House of
Commons on 18 March 2003, no assessment had been made of whether that vision
was achievable, no agreement had been reached with the US on a workable post‑conflict
plan, UN authorisation had not yet been secured, and there had been no decision on
the UN’s role in post‑conflict Iraq.
223 Telegram 235 Washington to FCO London, 24 February 2003, ‘Iraq: Day After: Rehearsal of Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance’.
224 Letter Williams to Manning, 28 February 2003, ‘Iraq: Military Planning and Preparation’ attaching Paper [unattributed], 28 February 2003, ‘Iraq: Military Planning Update – 28 February 2003’.
225 Paper Iraq Planning Unit, 7 March 2003, ‘The UK overall plan for Phase IV’.
226 Minute MA/DCJO to MA/CJO, 15 January 2003, ‘Briefing to Prime Minister’.
227 Liaison Committee, Session 2002‑2003, Minutes of Evidence Taken Before the Liaison Committee Tuesday 21 January 2003, Q 117.
228 Letter Manning to Rice, 24 January 2003, [untitled] attaching ‘Note’.
631. UK policy rested on the assumption that:
• the US would provide effective leadership of the immediate post‑conflict effort
• the conditions would soon be in place for UK military withdrawal;
• after a short period of US‑led, UN‑authorised military occupation, the UN would
administer and provide a framework for the reconstruction of post‑conflict Iraq;
• substantial international support would follow UN authorisation; and
• reconstruction and the political transition to Iraqi rule would proceed in a secure
632. Mr Blair was already aware that those assumptions concealed significant risks:
• UK officials assessed that the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian
Assistance (ORHA), the US body that would assume responsibility for the
immediate post‑invasion administration of Iraq, was not up to the task.
• Significant differences remained between UK and US positions on UN
involvement, and between the UK and the UN.
• International partners were scarce and thought to be unlikely to come forward
in the absence of UN authorisation.
• UK officials recognised that occupying forces would not remain welcome for long
and threats to security could quickly escalate.
633. In the year before the invasion, Mr Blair:
• stated his belief in the importance of post‑conflict planning on several occasions,
including in Cabinet, in Parliament and with President Bush;
• requested advice on aspects of post‑conflict Iraq (including for his summer
reading pack in July 2002, for his meeting with President Bush on 31 January
2003, and twice in February 2003 after reading the JIC Assessment of southern
Iraq and the Adelphi Paper Iraq at the Crossroads);
• at the meeting with Mr Hoon and the Chiefs of Staff on 15 January 2003,
asked the MOD to consider the “big ‘what ifs’” in the specific context of the
UK military plan;
• convened a Ministerial meeting on post‑conflict issues on 6 March 2003;
• raised concerns about the state of planning with President Bush; and
• succeeded in the narrow goal of securing President Bush’s agreement that
the UN should be “heavily involved” in “the post‑conflict situation”, a loose
formulation that appeared to bridge the gap between US and UK positions
on UN authorisation and the post‑conflict role of the UN, but did not address
the substantive issues.
The Report of the Iraq Inquiry
634. Mr Blair did not:
• establish clear Ministerial oversight of post‑conflict strategy, planning and
• ensure that Ministers took the decisions needed to prepare a flexible, realistic
and fully resourced plan integrating UK military and civilian contributions;
• seek adequate assurances that the UK was in a position to meet its likely
obligations in Iraq;
• insist that the UK’s strategic objectives for Iraq were tested against
anything other than the best case: a well‑planned and executed US‑led and
UN‑authorised post‑conflict operation in a relatively benign security environment;
• press President Bush for definitive assurances about US post‑conflict plans
or set out clearly to him the strategic risk in underestimating the post‑conflict
challenge and failing adequately to prepare for the task; or
• consider, or seek advice on, whether the absence of a satisfactory plan was
a sufficient threat to UK strategic objectives to require a reassessment of the
terms of the UK engagement in Iraq. Despite concerns about the state of US
planning, he did not make agreement on a satisfactory post‑conflict plan a
condition of UK participation in military action.
635. In the weeks immediately following the invasion, Mr Blair’s omissions made it more
difficult for the UK Government to take an informed decision on the establishment of
the UK’s post‑conflict Area of Responsibility (AOR) in southern Iraq (addressed in more
detail in Section 8).
636. In the short to medium term, his omissions increased the risk that the UK would
be unable to respond to the unexpected in Iraq.
637. In the longer term, they reduced the likelihood of achieving the UK’s strategic
objectives in Iraq.
The post‑conflict period – Occupation – LOOTING IN BASRA
638. As described in Section 8, UK forces entered Basra City on the night of 6/7 April
2003 and rapidly gained control, meeting less resistance than anticipated. Once
the city was under its control, the UK was responsible, as the Occupying Power, for
maintenance of law and order. Within its predominantly Shia Area of Operations, the
UK assumed that risks to Coalition Forces would be lower than in the so‑called “Sunni
triangle” controlled by the US.
639. Before the invasion, the JIC and the DIS had each identified that there was a risk
of lawlessness breaking out in Iraq, and that it would be important to deal with it swiftly.
Others, including Mr Blair, Sir Kevin Tebbit and the Iraq Policy Unit, had recognised the
seriousness of that risk.
640. However, the formal authorisation for action in Iraq issued by Adm Boyce on
18 March contained no instruction on how to establish a safe and secure environment if
lawlessness broke out as anticipated. Although it was known that Phase IV would begin
quickly, no Rules of Engagement for that phase, including for dealing with lawlessness,
were created and promulgated before UK troops entered the country.
641. Both before and during the invasion Lt Gen Reith made the absence of instructions
to UK forces covering what to do if faced with lawless behaviour by the Iraqi population
in Basra explicit to the Chiefs of Staff.
642. Faced with widespread looting after the invasion, and without instructions, UK
commanders had to make their own judgements about what to do. Brigadier Graham
Binns, commanding the 7 Armoured Brigade which had taken Basra City, told the Inquiry
that he had concluded that “the best way to stop looting was just to get to a point where
there was nothing left to loot”.229
643. Although the implementation of tactical plans to deal with lawlessness was properly
the responsibility of in‑theatre commanders, it was the responsibility of the Chief of the
Defence Staff and the Chief of Joint Operations to ensure that appropriate Rules of
Engagement were set, and preparations made, to equip commanders on the ground to
deal with it effectively. They should have ensured that those steps were taken.
644. The impact of looting was felt primarily by the Iraqi population rather than by
Coalition Forces. The latter initially experienced a “honeymoon period”,230 although
the situation was far from stabilised.
645. Lt Gen Reith anticipated that UK forces could be reduced to a medium scale
effort by the autumn, when he expected the campaign to have reached “some form
646. The JIC correctly judged on 16 April that the local population had high hopes that
the Coalition would rapidly improve their lives and that “resentment of the Coalition …
could grow quickly if it is seen to be ineffective, either politically or militarily. Such
resentment could lead to violence.”232
229 Private hearing, 2 June 2010, page 11.
230 Public hearing Walker, 1 February 2010, page 16.
231 Minute Reith to SECCOS, 14 April 2003, ‘Phase 4: Roulement/Recovery of UK Forces’ attaching Paper CJO, 14 April 2003, ‘Phase 4 ‑ Roulement/Recovery of UK Land Forces’.
232 JIC Assessment, 16 April 2003, ‘Iraq: The Initial Landscape Post‑Saddam’.
The Report of the Iraq Inquiry
647. By the end of April, Mr Hoon had announced that UK troop levels would fall to
between 25,000 and 30,000 by the middle of May, from an initial peak of around 46,000.
648. Consequently, by the start of May there was a clearly articulated expectation of a
rapid drawdown of UK forces by the autumn despite the identified risk that the consent
of the local population was built on potentially vulnerable foundations, which could be
undermined rapidly and with serious consequences.
LOOTING IN BAGHDAD
649. In the absence of a functioning Iraqi police force and criminal justice system,
and without a clear Coalition Phase IV plan, looting and score‑settling became a
serious problem in Baghdad soon after the regime fell. The looting of ministry buildings
and damage to state‑owned infrastructure in particular added to the challenges
of the Occupation.
650. Reflecting in June 2004, Mr David Richmond, the Prime Minister’s Special
Representative on Iraq from March to June 2004, judged that the failure to crack down
on looting in Baghdad in April 2003 released “a crime wave which the Coalition has
never been able to bring fully under control”.233
651. After visiting Iraq in early May 2003, General Sir Mike Jackson, Chief of the
General Staff, observed:
“A security vacuum still exists [in Baghdad] … particularly at night. Looting,
revenge killing and subversive activities are rife … Should a bloody and protracted
insurgency establish itself in Baghdad, then a ripple effect is likely to occur.”234
652. Gen Jackson recognised that the UK’s ability to maintain the consent of the
population in the South depended on a stable and secure Baghdad, and advised:
“The bottom line is that if we choose not to influence Baghdad we must be confident
of the US ability to improve [its tactics] before tolerance is lost and insurgency
653. Gen Jackson, Major General David Richards (Assistant Chief of the General
Staff) and Lieutenant General Sir Anthony Pigott (Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff
(Commitments)) all offered advice in favour of deploying the UK’s 16 Air Assault Brigade
to Baghdad to support Coalition efforts to retrain Iraqi police officers and get them back
654. However, the Chiefs of Staff collectively considered that the benefits of making
a contribution to the security of Baghdad were outweighed by the risk that UK troops
would be “tied down” outside the UK’s Area of Responsibility, with adverse impact, and
233 Telegram 359 IraqRep to FCO London, 28 June 2004, ‘Iraq: Valedictory: The End of Occupation’.
234 Minute CGS to CDS, 13 May 2003, ‘CGS Visit to Op. TELIC 7‑10 May 2003’.
advised on 21 May against deploying 16 Air Assault Brigade. The Chiefs of Staff did not
conclude that the tasks it was proposed that 16 Air Assault Brigade should undertake
were unnecessary, but rather that US troops would complete them.
UK INFLUENCE ON POST‑INVASION STRATEGY: RESOLUTION 1483
655. On 21 March 2003, the day after the start of the invasion, Mr Powell and Sir David
Manning, two of Mr Blair’s closest advisers, offered him advice on how to influence the
post‑invasion US agenda. Key among their concerns was the need for post‑conflict
administrative arrangements to have the legitimacy conferred by UN endorsement. Such
UK plans for the post‑conflict period as had been developed relied on the deployment of
an international reconstruction effort to Iraq. Controversy surrounding the launch of the
invasion made that challenging to deliver; the absence of UN endorsement would make
it close to impossible.
656. Discussion between the US and UK on the content of a new UN Security Council
resolution began the same day. Resolution 1483 (2003) was eventually adopted on
657. US and UK objectives for the resolution were different, and in several substantive
respects the text of resolution 1483 differed from the UK’s preferred position.
658. The UK wanted oil revenues to be controlled by an Iraqi body, or failing that by the
UN or World Bank, in line with the pre‑invasion promise to use them exclusively for the
benefit of Iraq. Instead, resolution 1483 placed the power to spend the Development
Fund for Iraq into the hands of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), overseen by a
monitoring board. That was in line with US objectives, but did not address UK concerns.
659. The UK considered that an Interim Iraqi Administration should have real powers,
and not be subordinate to the CPA. Resolution 1483 said that the CPA would retain
its responsibilities until an internationally recognised representative government was
established. The text did not go so far as to require an interim administration to report
formally to the CPA, as the US wished, but that was in effect how the relationship
between the CPA and the Governing Council established by resolution 1483 operated.
660. The UK’s policy position was that the UN should take the lead in establishing the
Interim Iraqi Administration. Resolution 1483 gave the UN a role working with the people
of Iraq and the CPA, but did not give it the lead. Evidence considered by the Inquiry
suggests that there was consistent reluctance on the part of the UN to take on such a
role and the UK position was therefore not wholly realistic.
661. Resolution 1483 formally designated the UK and US as joint Occupying Powers
in Iraq. It also set the conditions for the CPA’s dominance over post‑invasion strategy
and policy by handing it control of funding for reconstruction and influence on political
development at least equal to that of the UN.
The Report of the Iraq Inquiry
UK INFLUENCE ON THE COALITION PROVISIONAL AUTHORITY
662. By the time resolution 1483 was adopted, the CPA was already operating in Iraq
under the leadership of Ambassador L Paul Bremer, reporting to Mr Donald Rumsfeld,
the US Defense Secretary. There was no reporting line from the CPA to the UK.
663. The resolution’s designation of the US and UK as joint Occupying Powers did not
reflect the reality of the Occupation. The UK contribution to the CPA’s effort was much
smaller than that of the US and was particularly concerned with Basra.
664. The UK took an early decision to concentrate its effort in one geographical area
rather than accept a national lead for a particular element of the Coalition effort (such
as police reform). However, it was inevitable that Iraq’s future would be determined
in Baghdad, as both the administrative centre and the place where the power shift
from minority Sunni rule to majority Shia rule was going to be most keenly felt. Having
decided to concentrate its effort on an area some distance removed from the capital,
the UK’s ability to influence policy under debate in Baghdad was curtailed.
665. In Baghdad itself, the UK provided only a small proportion of the staff for the
military and civilian headquarters. The low numbers were influenced in part by
reasonable concerns about the personal legal liabilities of UK staff working initially
in ORHA and then in the CPA, and what their deployment might imply about the UK’s
responsibility for decisions made by those organisations, in the absence of formal
consultation or the right of veto.
666. The pre‑invasion focus on a leading UN role in Iraq meant that little thought
had been given to the status of UK personnel during an occupation which followed
an invasion without Security Council authorisation. Better planning, including proper
assessment of a variety of different possible scenarios, would have allowed such issues
to be worked through at a much earlier stage.
667. There was an urgent need for suitably experienced UK officials ready to deploy
to Baghdad, but they had not been identified (see Section 15).
668. No governance arrangements were designed before the invasion which might
have enabled officials and Ministers based in London and Washington to manage the
implications of a joint occupation involving separate resources of a very different scale.
Such arrangements would have provided a means to identify and resolve different
perspectives on policy, and to facilitate joint decisions.
669. Once the CPA had been established, policy decisions were made largely
in Baghdad, where there was also no formal US/UK governance structure.
This created a risk described to the Inquiry by Sir Michael Wood, FCO Legal Adviser
from 2001 to 2006, as “the UK being held jointly responsible for acts or omissions
of the CPA, without a right to consult and a right of joint decision”.235
235 Statement, 15 March 2011, page 22.
670. To manage that risk, the UK proposed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)
with the US to establish procedures for working together on issues related to the
Occupation, but it could not be agreed. Having supplied the overwhelming majority of the
CPA’s resources, the US had little incentive to give the UK an influential role in deciding
how those resources were to be used, and the UK lacked the will and leverage to insist.
671. In the absence of formal arrangements, there was a clear risk that the UK would
be inadequately involved in important decisions, and the UK struggled from the start
to have a significant effect on the CPA’s policies. This was a source of concern to both
Ministers and officials in 2003, but the issue was never resolved.
672. Senior individuals deployed to Iraq by the UK at this time saw themselves either
as working for the CPA in support of its objectives and as part of its chain of command,
or as UK representatives within the CPA with a remit to seek to influence CPA decisions.
No‑one formally represented the UK position within the CPA decision‑making process,
a serious weakness which should have been addressed at an early stage.
673. Managing a joint occupation of such size and complexity effectively and coherently
required regular formal and informal discussion and clear decision‑making at all levels,
both between capitals and in‑country. Once attempts to agree an MOU had failed, the
chances of constructing such mechanisms were slim.
674. In the absence of an MOU with the US, the UK’s influence in Baghdad
depended heavily on the personal impact of successive Special Representatives and
British Ambassadors to Iraq and the relationships they were able to build with senior
675. Some instances of important CPA decisions in which the UK played little
or no formal part were:
• The decision to issue CPA Order No.2, which “dissolved” (or disbanded) a
number of military and other security entities that had operated as part of
Saddam Hussein’s regime, including the armed forces (see Section 12). This
was raised informally by Ambassador Bremer in his first meeting with Mr John
Sawers, Mr Blair’s Special Representative on Iraq, who – unbriefed – did not at
that point take a contrary position. The concept of creating a new army had also
been raised by Mr Walt Slocombe, CPA Senior Adviser on National Security and
Defense, in discussion with Mr Hoon. Dissolution was a key decision which was
to have a significant effect on the alienation of the Sunni community and the
development of an insurgency in Iraq, and the terms and timing of this important
Order should have been approved by both Washington and London.
The Report of the Iraq Inquiry
• Decisions on how to spend the Development Fund for Iraq, which resolution
1483 gave the CPA the power to make. CPA Regulation No.2 subsequently
vested Ambassador Bremer with control of the Fund, effectively placing it
under US control. This exacerbated concerns about the under‑resourcing
of CPA(South) as expressed in Mr Straw’s letter to Mr Blair of 5 June 2003
(see Section 10.1).
• The creation of the Iraqi Central Bank as an independent body in July 2003
(see Sections 9.2 and 10.1). This came as a surprise to the UK despite the
close involvement of officials from the Treasury in arrangements for Iraq’s
new currency and budget.
• The creation of a new Iraqi Central Criminal Court (see Section 9.2), the
announcement of which UK officials could not delay for long enough to
enable the Attorney General to give his view on its legality under the terms
of resolution 1483.
• Production of the CPA’s ‘Vision for Iraq’ and ‘Achieving the Vision’ (see
Sections 9.2 and 10.1). Mr Sawers alerted the FCO to the first document on
6 July when it was already at an advanced stage of drafting, and by 18 July it
had been signed off by the Pentagon. No formal UK approval was sought for
a document which was intended to provide strategic direction to the Coalition’s
non‑military effort in Iraq.
676. UK involvement in CPA decisions about the scope and implementation of
de‑Ba’athification policy is considered in Section 11.2.
677. In some areas, the UK was able to affect CPA policy through the influence that
Mr Sawers or his successor Sir Jeremy Greenstock exerted on senior US officials. Both
used their diplomatic experience to build connections with Iraqi politicians and contribute
to the political development of Iraq. Instances of UK influence included:
• Mr Sawers’ involvement in the plans for an Interim Iraqi Administration,
in respect of which he considered that “much of the thinking is ours”.236
• Sir Jeremy Greenstock’s “two chickens, two eggs” plan, which overcame political
stalemate between the CPA and Grand Ayatollah al‑Sistani on how the new Iraqi
Constitution should be created. The plan led to the 15 November Agreement
which set the timetable for transfer of sovereignty to a transitional administration
by 30 June 2004.
• Ensuring that negotiations on the content of the Transitional Administrative Law
reached a successful conclusion. Sir Jeremy Greenstock told the Inquiry that
he had prevented the Kurdish delegation from leaving, “which Bremer wasn’t
236 Telegram 028 IraqRep to FCO London, 1 June 2003, ‘Iraq: Political Process’.
237 Private hearing, 26 May 2010, page 64.
• The level of female representation in Iraq’s new political structures, including the
25 percent “goal” for members of the National Assembly set by the Transitional
Administrative Law, which the UK pursued with some success.
678. In the absence of decision‑making arrangements in which the UK had a formal
role, too much reliance was placed on communication between Mr Blair and President
Bush, one of the very small number of ways of influencing US policy. Some issues were
addressed by this route: for instance, using his regular conversations with President
Bush, Mr Blair was able, with some success, to urge caution in relation to the US
operation in Fallujah in April 2004.
679. But the channel of communication between Prime Minister and President
should be reserved for the most strategic and most intractable issues. It is not
the right mechanism for day‑to‑day policy‑making or an effective way of making
680. It is impossible to say whether a greater and more formal UK input to CPA
decisions would have led to better outcomes. But it is clear that the UK’s ability to
influence decisions made by the CPA was not commensurate with its responsibilities
as joint Occupying Power.
A DECLINE IN SECURITY
681. From early June 2003, and throughout the summer, there were signs that security
in both Baghdad and the South was deteriorating. The MOD’s SPG warned that “more
organised opposition to the Coalition may be emerging”238 as discontent about the
Coalition’s failure to deliver a secure environment began to grow in the Iraqi population.
682. The extent of the decline in Baghdad and central Iraq overshadowed the decline
in Multi‑National Division (South‑East) (MND(SE)). Food shortages and the failure
of essential services such as the supply of electricity and water, plus lack of progress
in the political process, however, began to erode the relationship between UK forces
and the local population. The deterioration was exemplified by attacks on UK forces
in Majar al‑Kabir in Maysan province on 22 and 24 June.
683. As the summer wore on, authoritative sources in the UK, such as the JIC, began
to identify issues with the potential to escalate into conflict and to recognise the likelihood
that extremist groups would become more co‑ordinated. The constraint imposed on
reconstruction activities by the lack of security began to be apparent. Mr Sawers and
Sir David Manning expressed concern about whether the UK had sufficient troops
deployed in MND(SE), and about the permeability of Maysan’s substantial border
238 Minute SECCOS to PSO/CDS, 10 June 2003, ‘OP COS Paper: UK Contribution to Iraq: Strategic Intent and Direction’ attaching Paper SPG, 9 June 2003, ‘UK contribution to Iraq: strategic intent and direction’.
The Report of the Iraq Inquiry
684. From early July, security was seen in Whitehall as the key concern and was raised
by Mr Blair with President Bush.
685. A circular analysis began to develop, in which progress on reconstruction required
security to be improved, and improved security required the consent generated by
reconstruction activity. Lieutenant General Robert Fry, Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff
(Commitments), reported “a decline in Iraqi consent to the Coalition in MND(SE) due to
the failure by the Coalition to deliver improvements in essential services” and that Shia
leaders were warning of a short grace period before further significant deterioration.
686. By the autumn of 2003, violence was escalating in Baghdad and attacks were
becoming more sophisticated. Attacks on the UN in August and September, which
injured and killed a number of UN officials including the UN Special Representative for
Iraq, prompted some organisations to withdraw their international staff. Although Basra
was less turbulent than the capital, the risk of a ripple effect from Baghdad – as identified
by Gen Jackson in May – remained.
687. The JIC assessed on 3 September that the security environment would probably
worsen over the year ahead. There had been a number of serious attacks on the
Coalition in MND(SE), and Islamic “extremists/terrorists”239 were expected to remain
a long‑term threat in Iraq. The UK’s military and civilian representatives on the ground
were reporting a growing insurgency in central Iraq.
688. Despite that evidence, military planning under the leadership of General
Sir Michael Walker, Chief of the Defence Staff, proceeded on the basis that the situation
in Basra would remain relatively benign.
689. The Inquiry considers that a deterioration in security could and should have been
identified by Lt Gen Reith by the end of August 2003 and that the cumulative evidence
of a deteriorating security situation should have led him to conclude that the underlying
assumptions on which the UK’s Iraq campaign was based was over‑optimistic, and
to instigate a review of the scale of the UK’s military effort in Iraq.
690. There were a number of issues that might have been examined by such a review,
• whether the UK had sufficient resources in MND(SE) to deal with a worsening
security situation; and
• whether the UK should engage outside MND(SE) in the interests of Iraq’s
overall stability (as had been advocated by Gen Jackson, Maj Gen Richards
and Lt Gen Pigott).
691. No such review took place.
239 JIC Assessment, 3 September 2003, ‘Iraq: Threats to Security’.
692. There was a strong case for reinforcing MND(SE) so that it could handle its
high‑priority tasks (providing essential security for reconstruction projects, protecting
existing infrastructure, guarding key sites and improving border security to inhibit
the import of arms from Iran) effectively in changing circumstances. Those tasks all
demanded a higher level of manpower than was available. Although additional military
personnel were deployed in September 2003, mainly to fill existing gaps in support for
reconstruction activities, their numbers were far too small to have a significant impact.
693. The failure to consider the option of reinforcement at this time was a serious
omission and Lt Gen Reith and Gen Walker should have ensured that UK force levels in
MND(SE) were formally reconsidered in autumn 2003 or at the latest by the end of the
year. Increases in UK force levels in order to address the security situation should have
been recommended to Ministers. Any opportunity to regain the initiative and pre‑empt
further deterioration in the security situation was lost.
694. In October, Sir Jeremy Greenstock reported that Lieutenant General Ricardo
Sanchez, Commander Combined Joint Task Force‑7, had “come to recognise that
Coalition operations are at a standstill and that there is a need to regain momentum”.240
Doubts started to build about the chances of credible elections based on a legitimate
constitution in the course of 2004 and work began to look for alternatives to the plan set
out by Ambassador Bremer. The “bloodiest 48‑hour period in Baghdad since March”,241
including an attack on the al‑Rashid Hotel in Baghdad’s Green Zone, was sufficient
to convince some that a pivotal point in the security situation had been reached.
695. When President Bush visited London in November, Mr Blair provided him with a
paper written by Sir Jeremy Greenstock which argued that security should be the highest
priority in the run‑up to June 2004, when the Iraqi Transitional Government would take
power. Sir Jeremy suggested that troop levels should be looked at again and highlighted
“the dangers we face if we do not get a grip on the security situation” as a topic that
President Bush and Mr Blair needed to discuss in stark terms.
696. The constraints within which the UK was operating as a result of the limited scale
of forces deployed in Iraq were articulated clearly for the Chiefs of Staff in December.
Lt Gen Fry argued that a strategy of “early effect”242 was needed which prioritised
campaign success. Operation TELIC was the UK “Main Effort”, but deploying additional
resources in a way that was compliant with the Defence Planning Assumptions would
require the withdrawal of resources from other operations.
697. On 1 January 2004, Sir Jeremy Greenstock wrote bluntly: “This theatre remains
a security crisis.”243
240 Telegram 230 IraqRep to FCO London, 24 October 2003, ‘Iraq: Security Update’.
241 Telegram 1426 Washington to FCO London, 28 October 2003, ‘Iraq: US Views 28 October’.
242 Minute DCDS(C) to COSSEC, 5 December 2003, ‘Op TELIC – Review of UK Military Strategy for Iraq’.
243 Telegram 337 IraqRep to FCO London, 1 January 2004, ‘Iraq: Six Final Months of Occupation’.
The Report of the Iraq Inquiry
698. Despite mounting evidence of violent insurgency, the UK’s policy of military
drawdown in Iraq continued. After force levels had been reviewed in January, the
rationale for continued drawdown was based on adjusted criteria by which the success
of Security Sector Reform would be judged, meaning that such reform would be
implemented “only to applicable standards for Iraq”.244
THE TURNING POINT
699. February 2004 was the worst month for Coalition casualties since the fall of
Saddam Hussein’s regime. More than 200 people, mainly Iraqi citizens, were killed in
suicide attacks. Attacks on the Iraqi Security Forces were increasing and concerns about
Islamic extremists operating in Iraq began to grow. By the end of March, more than
200 attacks targeting Iraqi citizens were being reported each week.
700. In April, there was a sudden escalation in attacks by the Jaysh al‑Mahdi (JAM) in
Basra, described by the General Officer Commanding MND(SE) as “like a switch had
been flicked”.245 In Fallujah, a US offensive which followed the ambush and murder of
four security contractors provoked an angry response from the Sunni community.
701. The significant worsening of security, coupled with revelations of abuse by members
of the US military of Iraqi detainees held in Abu Ghraib prison, led many of the Inquiry’s
witnesses to conclude that the spring of 2004 had been a turning point.
702. At the end of April, Mr Blair’s analysis was that the key issue in Iraq was not
multi‑faceted, rather it was “simple: security”.246
703. Despite the failing security situation in MND(SE) in spring 2004, Gen Walker
was explicit that no additional troops were required for the tasks currently assigned
to the UK.
704. The Chiefs of Staff maintained the view they had originally reached in November
2003, that HQ Allied Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC) should not be actively considered
for deployment to Iraq, even though:
• Iraq was a higher priority for the UK than Afghanistan;
• security in Iraq was clearly worsening and had been identified by Mr Blair
as the key issue; and
• there had been a specific US request for deployment of HQ ARRC.
244 Minute Reith to PSO/CDS, 29 January 2004, ‘Op TELIC Force Level Review – Jan 04’.
245 Public hearing Lamb, 9 December 2009, pages 67‑68.
246 Letter Rycroft to Owen, 26 April 2004, ‘Iraq: 15 Reports for the Prime Minister’.
Transition – UK INFLUENCE ON US STRATEGY POST‑CPA
705. In June 2004, the US and UK ceased to be Occupying Powers in Iraq and the
CPA was disbanded. Responsibility for day‑to‑day interaction on civil affairs with the
Iraqi Interim Government on civil affairs passed to the newly appointed British and
706. After the handover, the UK’s priorities were to maintain the momentum of the
political process towards elections in January 2005, and to ensure that the conditions
for the drawdown of its forces were achieved.
707. Mr Blair and President Bush continued to discuss Iraq on a regular basis.
It continued to be the case that relatively small issues were raised to this level.
The UK took false comfort that it was involved in US decision‑making from the strength
of that relationship.
708. Themes which Mr Blair emphasised to President Bush included the acceleration
of Security Sector Reform and the Iraqiisation of security, UN engagement, better
outreach to the Sunni community (often referred to as “reconciliation”), provision of direct
support to Prime Minister Ayad Allawi and better use of local media to transmit a positive
message about the coalition’s intentions and actions.
PLANNING FOR WITHDRAWAL
709. By July 2004, the UK envisaged that, providing the necessary criteria were
met, there would be a gradual reduction in troop numbers during 2005 leading
to final withdrawal in 2006, to be followed by a period of “Strategic Overwatch”.
710. The most important of the criteria that would enable coalition troops to withdraw
was the ability of the Iraqi Security Forces to take the lead on security (Iraqiisation).
Having recognised that a stable and secure environment was the key factor on which
progress in Iraq depended, by May 2004 the UK solution was “a better and quicker
plan for building Iraqi capacity in the Police, Civil Defence Corps, the Army and the
Intelligence Service”.247 This made sense in the long term but was unlikely to meet
the requirement to regain control of Iraq rapidly in the face of a mounting insurgency.
Reform of the Iraqi Security Forces is addressed in detail in Section 12.
711. By mid‑August, the level of attacks against coalition forces had matched the
previous peak in April of the same year. In September, Lieutenant General John McColl
(Senior British Military Representative – Iraq) judged that the Iraqi Security Forces would
not be able to take full responsibility for security before 2006.
247 Letter Bowen to Baker, 13 May 2004, ‘Iraq: Security’.
The Report of the Iraq Inquiry
712. In September 2004, Gen Walker received a well‑argued piece of advice from
Lt Gen McColl which made clear that the conditions on which decisions on drawdown
were to be based were unlikely to be met in the near future. Despite the warnings in
Lt Gen McColl’s paper and his advice that “the time is right for the consideration of the
substantive issues”,248 the Chiefs of Staff, chaired by Gen Walker, declined to engage
in a substantive review of UK options.
713. The Inquiry recognises that the scale of the resources which the UK might have
deployed to deal with the issues was substantially less than the US could bring to bear.
It is possible that the UK may not have been able to make a real difference, when the
key strategic change that might have affected the outcome was the deployment of a
much larger force. But proper consideration ought to have been given to what options
were available, including for the deployment of additional personnel. Mr Straw raised
the need for such a debate with Mr Blair in October.
714. The UK had consistently resisted US requests to deploy additional personnel,
which Lt Gen McColl described as having “chipped away at the US/UK relationship”,249
but in October it was agreed that the Black Watch would be deployed to North Babil
for 30 days to backfill US forces needed for operations in Fallujah. Approximately
350 personnel from 1st Battalion, the Royal Highland Fusiliers were also deployed to
Iraq to provide additional security across MND(SE) during the election period in January
and February 2005. The UK remained reluctant to commit any further forces in the longer
term: when Dutch forces withdrew from Muthanna province, the UK instead redeployed
forces from elsewhere in MND(SE) plus a small amount of additional logistic support.
715. In January 2005, Lt Gen Fry produced a thoughtful and realistic assessment of the
prospects for security in Iraq, observing that “we are not on track to deliver the Steady
State Criteria (SSC) before the UN mandate expires, or even shortly thereafter”.250 He
judged that “only additional military effort by the MNF‑I [Multi‑National Force – Iraq] as
a whole” might be able to get the campaign back on track. Lt Gen Fry identified three
possible courses of action for the UK: increasing the UK scale of effort, maintaining the
status quo or, if it were judged that the campaign was irretrievable, accepting failure and
seeking to mitigate UK liability.
716. The Inquiry endorses Lt Gen Fry’s assessment of the options open to the UK
at this point and considers that full and proper consideration should have been given
to each option by DOP.
717. In his advice to Mr Blair on 21 January, Gen Walker did not expose the
assessment made by Lt Gen Fry that only additional military effort by the MNF‑I might
be able to get the campaign back on track.
248 Minute McColl to CDS and CJO, 26 September 2004, ‘Report 130 of 26 Sep 04’.
249 Report McColl to CDS and CJO, 20 October 2004, ‘SBMR‑I Hauldown Report – Lt Gen McColl’.
250 Minute DCDS(C) to APS 2/SofS [MOD], 11 January 2005, ‘Iraq 2005 – a UK MOD perspective’.
718. On 30 January, elections for the Transitional National Assembly and Provincial
Assemblies took place across Iraq. Security arrangements involved 130,000 personnel
from the Iraqi Security Forces, supported by 184,500 troops from the MNF‑I. The JIC
assessed that perhaps fewer than 10 percent of voters had turned out in the Sunni
heartlands and judged that “without Sunni engagement in the political process, it will not
be possible significantly to undermine the insurgency”.
719. In April, the JIC assessed that:
“A significant Sunni insurgency will continue through 2005 and beyond, but the
opportunities for reducing it appear greater than we judged in early February.”251
THE IMPACT OF AFGHANISTAN
720. In June 2004, the UK had made a public commitment to deploy HQ ARRC to
Afghanistan in 2006, based on a recommendation from the Chiefs of Staff and Mr Hoon,
and with Mr Straw’s support. HQ ARRC was a NATO asset for which the UK was the
lead nation and provided 60 percent of its staff.
721. It appears that senior members of the Armed Forces reached the view, throughout
2004 and 2005, that little more would be achieved in MND(SE) and that it would
make more sense to concentrate military effort on Afghanistan where it might have
722. In February 2005, the UK announced that it would switch its existing military effort
in Afghanistan from the north to Helmand province in the south.
723. In 2002, A New Chapter, an MOD review of the 1998 Strategic Defence Review
(SDR), had reaffirmed that the UK’s Armed Forces would be unable to support two
enduring medium scale military operations at the same time:
“Since the SDR we have assumed that we should plan to be able to undertake either
a single major operation (of a similar scale and duration to our contribution to the
Gulf War in 1990‑91), or undertake a more extended overseas deployment on a
lesser scale (as in the mid‑1990s in Bosnia), while retaining the ability to mount a
second substantial deployment … if this were made necessary by a second crisis.
We would not, however, expect both deployments to involve war‑fighting or to
maintain them simultaneously for longer than six months.”252
724. As described in Section 16.1, since 2002 the Armed Forces had been consistently
operating at or above the level of concurrency defined in the 1998 SDR, and the
continuation of Op TELIC had placed additional strain on military personnel.
251 JIC Assessment, 6 April 2005, ‘Iraq: The State of the Insurgency’.
252 Ministry of Defence, Strategic Defence Review: A New Chapter, July 2002, page 14.
The Report of the Iraq Inquiry
725. By May 2005, the UK had been supporting an operation of at least medium scale
in Iraq for more than two years. The Ministerial Committee on Defence and Overseas
Policy Sub-Committee on Iraq (DOP(I)) recognised that future force levels in Iraq would
need to be considered in the context of the requirement to achieve “strategic balance”
with commitments in Afghanistan, to ensure that both were properly resourced.
726. In July 2005, DOP agreed proposals for both the transfer of the four provinces
in MND(SE) to Iraqi control and for the deployment of the UK Provincial Reconstruction
Team then based in northern Afghanistan to Helmand province in the South, along with
an infantry battlegroup and full helicopter support – around 2,500 personnel.
727. As described under the heading ‘Iraqiisation’ below, the proposals to transfer
responsibility for security in the four provinces of MND(SE) to Iraqi control were based
on high‑risk assumptions about the capability of the Iraqi Security Forces to take the
lead for security. If those assumptions proved to be inaccurate and the UK was unable to
withdraw, agreement to the Helmand deployment in Afghanistan effectively constrained
the UK’s ability to respond by increasing troop levels in Iraq.
728. In January 2006, Cabinet approved the decision to deploy to Helmand. Dr Reid,
the Defence Secretary, announced that the UK was “preparing for a deployment to
southern Afghanistan” which included a Provincial Reconstruction Team as “part of
a larger, more than 3,300‑strong British force providing the security framework”.253
729. The impact of that decision was summarised neatly by Gen Walker as:
“Militarily, the UK force structure is already stretched and, with two concurrent
medium scale operations in prospect, will soon become exceptionally so in
730. Niche capabilities such as helicopter support and Intelligence, Surveillance, Target
Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) were essential to the successful conduct
731. From July 2005 onwards, decisions in relation to resources for Iraq were
effectively made under the influence of the demands of the UK effort in Afghanistan.
Although Iraq remained the stated UK main effort, the Government no longer had the
option of a substantial reinforcement of its forces there, should it have considered one
necessary. When the US announced in January 2007 that it would send a surge of
resources to Iraq, the UK was consequently unable to contemplate a parallel surge
of its own.
732. The impact of the decision to deploy to Helmand on the availability of key
equipment capabilities for Iraq, and on the level of stretch felt by military personnel,
is addressed in Sections 14 and 16.
253 House of Commons, Official Report, 26 January 2006, columns 1529‑1533.
254 Letter Walker to Richards, 24 January 2006, [untitled].
733. After becoming Defence Secretary in May 2005, Dr Reid had continued the policy
of reducing UK troop levels based on the transition of lead responsibility for security
to the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). In one of his early acts as Defence Secretary, he
announced the deployment of just over 400 additional personnel to enhance the UK’s
effort in training the ISF, which would “enable them to take on ever greater responsibility
for their own security and so pave the way for UK troops to withdraw”.255
734. The proposals for transfer of the four provinces in MND(SE) to Iraqi control agreed
in July 2005 suggested transition from MNF‑I to ISF primacy in Basra from March 2006,
based on the assumption that the ISF would, by that point, be capable of taking on
responsibility for security in what was likely to remain a very challenging environment.
735. There was sufficient reliable contemporary evidence available, including from the
JIC and in reports from commanders in theatre, to demonstrate that the assumption that
the ISF would be ready to take the lead in Basra by that point was probably unrealistic.
736. In September 2005, Mr Blair expressed his concerns about ISF capability,
following reports of police involvement in attacks on the MNF in Basra. But despite
concerns that had been expressed about the capacity of the ISF, Dr Reid recommended
that a reduction in UK forces should take place in October or November 2005.
737. A few days after Dr Reid made his recommendation, the Jameat incident in Basra
(see Section 12.1) raised questions about the ISF in MND(SE). Officials from the FCO,
the MOD and DFID judged that the incident had highlighted the risks to achieving UK
objectives in MND(SE), and that those risks had implications for military resources.
Nevertheless, assumptions about ISF readiness were not re‑examined by Ministers.
The incident should have prompted a more searching analysis of whether the conditions
necessary for drawdown were likely to be met within the planned timetable. Reluctance
to consider the potential implications of the Jameat incident obscured what it had
revealed about the security situation in MND(SE).
738. The critical importance of ISF capability in assessing readiness for transfer to
Provincial Iraqi Control, on which UK plans to draw down were based, was emphasised
by the ‘Conditions for Provincial Transfer’ published by the Joint Iraqi/MNF Committee
to Transfer Security Responsibility, and by Dr Reid, who told DOP(I) that “successful
Iraqiisation remains the key”.256 DOP(I) decided that Dr Reid should have lead
responsibility for building the capacity of the Iraqi Police Service (IPS) in Basra in
addition to his responsibility for the Iraqi Army.
739. In October 2005, Mr Blair asked for a major and sustained push to make progress
on the ability of the ISF to take the lead on security. Gen Jackson raised concerns about
ISF effectiveness in a minute to Gen Walker, and concluded: “it is not to our credit that
255 House of Commons, Official Report, 25 May 2005, column 15WS.
256 Paper Reid, 11 October 2005, ‘Iraq: Security Update’.
The Report of the Iraq Inquiry
we have known about the inadequacies of the IPS for so long and yet failed to address
them”.257 The Assessments Staff reinforced the lack of progress in reforming the ISF.
740. In October 2005, the Chiefs of Staff made a stark assessment of the insurgency
and coalition strategy in Iraq. They concluded that “Ministers needed to be clear
that the campaign could potentially be heading for ‘strategic failure’, with grave
national and international consequences if the appropriate actions were not taken”.258
Gen Walker judged that only 5 percent of UK military effort in MND(SE) was devoted
to counter‑insurgency operations. But neither Air Marshal Sir Glenn Torpy, Commander
Joint Operations, nor Gen Walker reassessed UK force requirements in Iraq, based
on those two assessments.
741. The security situation at this point should have resulted in a reassessment of the
UK troop levels needed to achieve the UK’s key outcomes in MND(SE). Although the
responsibility for tactical decision‑making rested with commanders on the ground, it was
for Gen Walker to ensure that those commanders had sufficient resources to deliver.
742. The absence of additional resources placed further pressure on the UK’s ability
to deliver the conditions required for transfer. At the end of 2005 and in early 2006
there were further indications that the ISF were not ready to operate alone. The MOD
reported to the final DOP(I) meeting of 2005 that the capacity of the Iraqi administration
and security forces to assume responsibility, acknowledging the challenge of increasing
sectarianism and militia infiltration, was one of the key challenges remaining.
743. In March 2006, the JIC again highlighted doubts about the ability of the Iraqi Army
to operate without MNF support and concerns about the corruption and infiltration of
744. US concerns about UK plans for the transition of Maysan and Muthanna to Iraqi
control in May were such that Dr Reid adapted them to include a small residual team
providing mentoring and support to the Iraqi Army.
745. Dr Reid continued to press ahead with drawdown and announced that troop
levels would reduce in May 2006 from approximately 8,000 to around 7,200 based on
“completion of various security sector reform tasks, a reduction in the support levels for
those tasks, and recent efficiency measures in theatre”.259 That rationale did not include
an assessment of the effect of those tasks on the capability of the ISF.
257 Minute CGS to CDS, 18 October 2005, ‘CGS visit to Iraq: 10‑13 Oct 05’.
258 Minutes, 18 October 2005, Chiefs of Staff meeting.
259 Letter Reid to Blair, 9 March 2006, ‘Iraq: Force Level Review and Announcement’.
Preparation for withdrawal – A MAJOR DIVERGENCE IN STRATEGY
746. US and UK strategies for Iraq had in effect been on different courses since the UK
decision to focus its attention on MND(SE) in 2003. As a result of that decision, the UK
had acquired distinctly different priorities from the US. It was only marginally involved in
the central tasks of stabilising the Iraqi Government in Baghdad and managing sectarian
divisions, while it had come to see its main task in Basra as one of keeping the situation
calm while building the case for drawdown.
747. For some time, there had been indications of tension between the US and
UK regarding assessments of progress, and differing assumptions about whether
plans were needed for long‑term bases in Iraq. In May 2006, Mr Blair was told about
“rumblings from the US system about UK failure to grip the security situation in what they
regard as a strategically vital part of Iraq”.260 Gen Jackson felt compelled to report that:
“The perception, right or wrong, in some – if not all – US military circles is that the
UK is motivated more by the short‑term political gain of early withdrawal than by the
long‑term importance of mission accomplishment; and that, as a result, MND(SE)’s
operational posture is too laissez faire and lacks initiative …”261
748. In January 2007, the divergence between US and UK strategies was thrown into
sharp relief by President Bush’s announcement that the US would adopt a new strategy,
of which a prominent feature would be the deployment of a surge of US forces, primarily
to Baghdad and its environs. UK assessments of the prospects for the new US policy
were bleak, reflecting widespread pessimism about the prospects for Iraq. UK strategy
continued to look towards withdrawal.
749. US concerns about the differences in approach were evident. In February 2007,
Sir David Manning, British Ambassador to the US, reported that Secretary Rice had
asked him “to tell her honestly whether the UK was now making for the exit as fast
750. The divergence in strategies was also illustrated by the conditions‑based process
through which the four provinces in MND(SE) were transferred to Provincial Iraqi Control
(PIC) during 2007. Although each transfer was signed off by senior members of the US
military, there was persistent reporting of US concerns about readiness for PIC, whether
the conditions had actually been met and the wider impact of transfer.
751. The US was also uncomfortable about arrangements made by the UK with a militia
group in Basra which allowed the safe exit of UK troops from their main base in the city.
260 Minute Phillipson to Prime Minister, 2 May 2006, ‘VTC with President Bush, 1615 2 May 2006’.
261 Minute CGS to CDS, 22 May 2006, ‘CGS visit to Iraq: 15‑18 May 06’.
262 Letter Manning to Hayes, 1 February 2007, ‘Conversation with the US Secretary of State, 31 January 2007’.
The Report of the Iraq Inquiry
A POSSIBLE CIVIL WAR
752. By March 2006, senior members of the UK military were considering the possibility
of civil war in Iraq, prompted by rising levels of sectarian violence and concerns that the
Iraqi Government was “not … perceived as even‑handed in security issues”.263 The risk
of civil war had been acknowledged by Prime Minister Ibrahim Ja’afari in the wake of the
bombing of the al‑Askari mosque in February. Although there was general agreement
that the situation in Iraq did not constitute civil war, the risk that one might develop was
considered to be real.
753. At this time, the presence in Iraq of the MNF was authorised by resolution 1637
(2005). The exchange of letters between Prime Minister Ja’afari and the President of the
Security Council which accompanied the resolution clearly identified providing security
for the Iraqi people as the reason why a continued MNF presence was necessary.
754. In late April, FCO officials were concerned that security in Basra was declining
and that a determined and sustained effort, including a more assertive military posture,
would be required to deliver the UK’s objective of transferring Basra to Iraqi control by
late 2006 or early 2007.
755. Accounts from mid‑2006 suggested that security in MND(SE) was a significant
concern, characterised by “steady, if generally unspectacular, decline”264 and increased
militia activity. The UK military’s approach had generated US concern and the security
situation was limiting UK civilian activity.
756. Gen Jackson’s assessment in May of the short‑term security prospects in Iraq
was bleak. He judged that “what we will leave behind will not look much like strategic
success. Ten years hence our strategy may fully bear fruit.”265
757. After visiting Iraq in early May, Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, Chief of the
Defence Staff, advised Dr Reid that there should be no change to the operational
approach and that there were “compelling reasons” why the UK should “press on”
with handing over security to Iraq, including to permit the UK’s continuing build‑up in
Afghanistan.266 ACM Stirrup identified the risk that UK withdrawal from Basra would be
seen as a “strategic failure” and suggested that “astute conditioning of the UK public
may be necessary” to avoid that.
758. ACM Stirrup’s view that the UK should press ahead with drawdown despite the
security challenges in Basra was not consistent with Government policy that withdrawal
should be conditions‑based.
263 Minute Houghton to CDS, 5 March 2006, ‘SBMR‑I Weekly Report (201) 5 March 06’.
264 Minute senior government official specialising in the Middle East to Dowse, 12 May 2006, ‘Situation in Basrah’.
265 Minute CGS to CDS, 22 May 2006, ‘CGS visit to Iraq: 15‑18 May 06’.
266 Minute Stirrup to SofS [MOD], 8 May 2006, ‘CDS Visit to Iraq and Afghanistan – 5‑7 May 06’.
759. ACM Stirrup’s acceptance that the “law of diminishing returns” was “now firmly
in play” and that there was “an increasing risk” that UK forces would “become part of
the problem, rather than the solution” had some validity: it was clear from accounts
of the situation in Basra that UK forces were not preventing a steady decline in
security. ACM Stirrup was also right to advise Dr Reid that the MNF in Iraq faced a
“multifaceted”, sophisticated and dangerous enemy; that serious issues remained
in Basra (militia activity, poor governance, insecurity); and that it was possible the
UK would be accused of strategic failure.
760. The established policy was that UK forces would withdraw as the capabilities of
the ISF increased until responsibility could be handed over to the Iraqi Government.
ACM Stirrup’s proposed remedy of continued drawdown and managing public opinion
did not mitigate the risk of strategic failure he described.
761. In the summer of 2006, in recognition of the need to stabilise Basra and prepare
it for transition to Iraqi control, the UK developed the Basra Security Plan, “a plan to
improve Basra through operations, high impact reconstruction and SSR [Security Sector
Reform] … lasting for up to six months”.267 The military element of the plan became
known as Operation SALAMANCA and included operations against militia groups.
762. In August 2006, ACM Stirrup was asked to give direction on both seeking US help
for Op SALAMANCA and the possibility of deploying UK forces to support US operations
763. While ACM Stirrup stressed the importance of senior Iraqi political support
if Op SALAMANCA was to be a success, Lieutenant General Nicholas Houghton,
the Senior British Military Representative – Iraq, indicated a concern that even with
US support the capabilities available in MND(SE) might not be sufficient successfully
to deliver Op SALAMANCA.
764. ACM Stirrup directed that it was acceptable for the UK to make use of US
enablers, such as aviation, in MND(SE), but that, in general, commitments in MND(SE)
were to be met by existing MND(SE) personnel (including contractors) and any shortfalls
were to be identified and considered appropriately.
765. ACM Stirrup also directed that the deployment of UK troops to Multi‑National
Division (Centre South):
“… crossed a clear policy ‘red line’ and seemed counter‑intuitive, given that
consideration was also being given to obtaining US forces for MND(SE). The UK
needed to draw down its force levels as soon as practicable, both in MND(SE)
267 Minute Burke‑Davies to APS/Secretary of State [MOD], 24 August 2006, ‘Iraq: Op SALAMANCA’.
268 Minutes, 2 August 2006, Chiefs of Staff meeting.
The Report of the Iraq Inquiry
766. The decision not to allow the use of US support in Basra was an important one.
The Inquiry considers that the question of what was needed to make Op SALAMANCA
a success should have been addressed directly by ACM Stirrup, whose response
instead precluded proper consideration of whether additional UK resources would be
767. There was continuing resistance to any suggestion that UK forces should
operate outside MND(SE) and there may have been concern that US participation in
Op SALAMANCA would have led to an obligation on the UK to engage more outside
MND(SE). This might not, as ACM Stirrup observed, be consistent with a commitment
to drawdown, but might have reduced the risk of strategic failure.
768. The nature of Op SALAMANCA was constrained by the Iraqi Government in
September 2006, so that the eventual operation (renamed Operation SINBAD) left
“Basra in the hands of the militant militia and death squads, with the ISF unable to
impose, let alone maintain, the rule of law”.269 This contributed to the conditions which
led the UK into negotiations with JAM in early 2007.
769. Attempts were subsequently made to present Op SINBAD as equivalent to the
2007 US surge. Although there was some resemblance between the “Clear, Hold, Build”
tactics to be used by US surge forces and the UK’s tactics for Op SINBAD, the UK
operation did not deploy sufficient additional resources to conduct “Hold” and “Build”
phases with anything like the same strategic effect. The additional 360 troops deployed
by the UK could not have had the same effect as the more than 20,000 troops surged
into Baghdad and its environs by the US.
770. At the end of 2006, tensions between the military and civilian teams in MND(SE)
became explicit. In a report to Mr Blair, Major General Richard Shirreff, General
Officer Commanding MND(SE), diagnosed that the existing arrangement, in which the
Provincial Reconstruction Team was located in Kuwait, “lacks unity of command and
unity of purpose”270 and proposed the establishment of a “Joint Inter‑Agency Task Force” in Basra led by the General Officer Commanding MND(SE).
771. ACM Stirrup’s advice to Mr Blair was that it was “too late” to implement
Maj Gen Shirreff’s proposal. That may have been the right conclusion, but the
effect was to deter consideration of a real problem and of ways in which military and
civilian operations in MND(SE) could be better aligned.
772. The adequacy of UK force levels in Iraq and the effectiveness of the UK’s efforts in
MND(SE) were explicitly questioned in Maj Gen Shirreff’s end of tour report.
269 Minute Shirreff, 21 September 2006, ‘GOC MND(SE) – Southern Iraq Update – 21 September 2006’.
270 Letter Shirreff to Blair, 29 December 2006, [untitled].
FORCE LEVEL REVIEW
773. The balance of forces between Iraq and Afghanistan was reviewed by DOP in
February 2007 on the basis that the UK could only sustain the enduring operational
deployment of eight battlegroups.
774. ACM Stirrup’s “strong advice”,271 with which DOP agreed, was that the UK should
provide two additional battlegroups to the International Security Assistance Force in
Afghanistan, reducing the Iraq to Afghanistan battlegroup ratio from 6:2 to 5:3 and
775. This advice did not include an assessment of either the actual state of security
in Basra or the impact on the UK’s ability to deliver its objectives (including that
drawdown should be conditions‑based) and responsibilities under resolution 1723 (2006).
The advice did identify US “nervousness” about the UK proposals.
776. In early May, Sir Nigel Sheinwald, Mr Blair’s Foreign Policy Adviser, sought ACM
Stirrup’s advice on the future of the UK military presence in Iraq. ACM Stirrup advised
that the UK should press ahead with drawdown from Iraq on the basis that there was
little more the UK could achieve. There was “no militarily useful mission”.272
777. Mr Blair was concerned about the implications of ACM Stirrup’s position unless
the political circumstances in Basra changed first. He commented: “it will be very hard
to present as anything other than a total withdrawal … it cd be very dangerous for the
stability of Iraq, & the US will, rightly, be v. concerned.”273
778. After visiting Basra again in mid‑May, ACM Stirrup continued to recommend the
drawdown of UK forces. But other contemporary evidence indicated a more negative
picture of circumstances in Basra than ACM Stirrup’s view that:
“… the Iraqis are increasingly in a position to take on responsibility for their own
problems and therefore they might wish to look to propose the south of the country
as a model through which we can recommend a drawdown of forces.”274
779. In July 2007, FCO and MOD officials recognised that leaving Basra Palace would
mean moving to PIC in fact if not in name. Mr Brown, who had become Prime Minister
in June, was keen that the gap between leaving the Palace and transfer to PIC should
be as small as possible, since UK situational awareness and ability to conduct operations
in Basra would be limited once the Palace was no longer in use.
780. During a visit to Iraq at the start of July, ACM Stirrup sought to convince
senior US officers that Basra was ready for transfer to PIC on the basis that it would
not be possible to demonstrate readiness until after the transfer had taken place.
271 Paper MOD officials, 13 February 2007, ‘Iraq and Afghanistan: Balancing Military Effort in 2007’.
272 Minute Sheinwald to Prime Minister, 3 May 2007, ‘Iraq’.
273 Manuscript comment Blair on Minute Sheinwald to Prime Minister, 3 May 2007, ‘Iraq’.
274 Minute Poffley to PSSC/SofS [MOD], 17 May 2007, ‘CDS visit to Iraq 13‑16 May 07’.
The Report of the Iraq Inquiry
General David Petraeus, Commanding General MNF‑I, and Ambassador Ryan Crocker,
US Ambassador to Iraq, remained “circumspect” on the timing of PIC.275 They considered
that there remained “significant problems” associated with “unstable politics” and “JAM
infiltration” in Basra.
781. As they reached the end of their respective tours of duty, both Major General
Jonathan Shaw, General Officer Commanding MND(SE) from January to August 2007,
and Lieutenant General William Rollo, Senior British Military Representative – Iraq
from July 2007 to March 2008, identified the impact of limited resources on the UK’s
military effort and questioned the drive for continued drawdown in Iraq in order to
prioritise resources for Helmand. Maj Gen Shaw wrote: “We have been hamstrung for
resources throughout the tour, driven by the rising strategic significance of the Afghan
782. During a visit to Iraq in October 2007, ACM Stirrup was briefed by Major General
Graham Binns, General Office Commanding MND(SE) from August 2007 to February
2008, that the ISF might have only limited ability to cope in the event that JAM resumed
combat operations. The JIC and others also identified continued weaknesses in the
ISF. Their “ability and willingness to maintain security in the South remains patchy and
dependent on MNF training, logistic and specialist air support”.277
THE BEGINNING OF THE END
783. On 27 February 2008, the JIC assessed security prospects in the South at the
request of the Permanent Joint Headquarters (PJHQ): security in Basra remained
784. In March 2008, Prime Minister Maliki instigated the Charge of the Knights to
tackle militia groups in Basra. That such an important operation came as a surprise
was an indication of the distance between the UK and Iraqi Governments at this point.
785. When the Charge of the Knights began, the UK found itself to be both
compromised in the eyes of the Iraqi Government and unable to offer significant
operational support, as a result of the tactical decision to negotiate with JAM1 and the
absence of situational awareness in Basra after withdrawing from the Basra Palace site.
786. On 1 April, ACM Stirrup briefed the Overseas and Defence Sub-Committee of the
National Security, International Relations and Development Committee (NSID(OD)) that
the UK military task would be complete by the end of 2008; its timetable would not be
affected by the Charge of the Knights.
275 Minute Kyd to PS/SofS [MOD], 5 July 2007, ‘CDS visit to Iraq 1‑3 Jul 07’.
276 Letter Shaw to Houghton, 14 August 2007, ‘Post operation report Shawforce Jan‑Aug 07’.
277 JIC Assessment, 27 February 2008, ‘Iraq: Security Prospects in the South’.
787. ACM Stirrup’s conclusion that there was no need to review UK drawdown plans
was premature in the light of both the level of uncertainty generated by the Charge of
the Knights and continued questions about the ability of the ISF to take the security
lead in Basra.
Did the UK achieve its objectives in Iraq?
788. From mid‑2005 onwards, various senior individuals – officials, military officers and
Ministers – began to consider whether the UK was heading towards “strategic failure”
789. The term “strategic failure” was variously used to mean:
• the development of a widespread sectarian conflict or civil war in Iraq;
• “victory” for terrorist groups;
• collapse of the democratic process;
• failure to achieve the UK’s objectives;
• failure to achieve a stable and secure environment in Basra;
• the collapse of the UK/Iraq relationship;
• the division of Iraq and the end of its existence as a nation state;
• damage to the UK’s military and political reputation; and
• damage to the relationship between the US and UK. [bold added by me, AJL]
790. None of the contemporary accounts that the Inquiry has considered reached the
conclusion that strategic failure was inevitable, although most recognised that without
some form of corrective action it was a serious risk.
791. Although the UK revisited its Iraq strategy with considerable frequency, no
substantial change in approach was ever implemented: UK troop numbers continued
to reduce; the size of the civilian deployment varied very little; the Iraqiisation of security
and handover of responsibility to the Iraqi Government remained key objectives.
792. The Iraq of 2009 certainly did not meet the UK’s objectives as described in
January 2003: it fell far short of strategic success. Although the borders of Iraq were the
same as they had been in 2003, deep sectarian divisions threatened both stability and
unity. Those divisions were not created by the coalition, but they were exacerbated by
its decisions on de‑Ba’athification and on demobilisation of the Iraqi Army and were not
addressed by an effective programme of reconciliation.
793. In January 2009, the JIC judged “internal political failures that could lead to
renewed violence within and between Iraq’s Sunni, Shia and Kurdish communities”278
to be the greatest strategic threat to Iraq’s stability.
278 JIC Assessment, 28 January 2009, ‘Iraq: Threats to Stability and UK Mission Change in 2009’.
The Report of the Iraq Inquiry
794. The fragility of the situation in Basra, which had been the focus of UK effort in
MND(SE), was clear. The JIC assessed that threats remained from Iranian‑backed
JAM Special Groups, and the Iraqi Security Forces remained reliant on support from
Multi‑National Forces to address weaknesses in leadership and tactical support. Even
as UK troops withdrew from Basra, the US was sufficiently concerned to deploy its own
forces there, to secure the border and protect supply lines.
795. In 2009, Iraq did have a democratically elected Parliament, in which many of
Iraq’s communities were represented. But, as demonstrated by the protracted process
of negotiating agreements on the status of US and then UK forces in Iraq, and the
continued absence of a much‑needed Hydrocarbons Law, representation did not
translate into effective government. In 2008, Transparency International judged Iraq to
be the third most corrupt country in the world, and in mid‑2009 the Assessments Staff
judged that Government ministries were “riddled with” corruption.279
796. By 2009, it had been demonstrated that some elements of the UK’s 2003
objectives for Iraq were misjudged. No evidence had been identified that Iraq possessed
weapons of mass destruction, with which it might threaten its neighbours and the
international community more widely. But in the years between 2003 and 2009, events
in Iraq had undermined regional stability, including by allowing Al Qaida space in which
to operate and unsecured borders across which its members might move.
797. The gap between the ambitious objectives with which the UK entered Iraq and
the resources that the Government was prepared to commit to the task was substantial
from the start. Even with more resources it would have been difficult to achieve those
objectives, as a result of the circumstances of the invasion, the lack of international
support, the inadequacy of planning and preparation, and the inability to deliver law and
order. The lack of security hampered progress at every turn. It is therefore not surprising
that, despite the considerable efforts made by UK civilian and military personnel over
this period, the results were meagre.
798. The Inquiry has not been able to identify alternative approaches that would have
guaranteed greater success in the circumstances of March 2003. What can be said is
that a number of opportunities for the sort of candid reappraisal of policies that would
have better aligned objectives and resources did not take place. There was no serious
consideration of more radical options, such as an early withdrawal or else a substantial
increase in effort. The Inquiry has identified a number of moments, especially during the
first year of the Occupation, when it would have been possible to conduct a substantial
reappraisal. None took place.
279 CIG Assessment, 21 July 2009, ‘How Corrupt is Iraq?’
Development of UK strategy and options, 9/11 to early January 2002
799. The following key findings are from Section 3.1:
• After the attacks on the US on 9/11, Mr Blair declared that the UK would
stand “shoulder to shoulder” with the US to defeat and eradicate international
• Mr Blair took an active and leading role throughout the autumn of 2001 in
building a coalition to act against that threat, including taking military action
against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.
• Mr Blair also emphasised the potential risk of terrorists acquiring and using
a nuclear, biological or chemical weapon, and the dangers of inaction.
• In relation to Iraq, Mr Blair sought to influence US policy and prevent precipitate
military action by the US, which he considered would undermine the success
of the coalition which had been established for action against international
terrorism. He recommended identifying an alternative policy which would
command widespread international support.
• In December 2001, Mr Blair suggested a strategy for regime change in Iraq
that would build over time, including “if necessary” taking military action without
losing international support.
• The tactics chosen by Mr Blair were to emphasise the threat which Iraq might
pose, rather than a more balanced consideration of both Iraq’s capabilities and
intent; and to offer the UK’s support for President Bush in an effort to influence
his decisions on how to proceed.
• That remained Mr Blair’s approach in the months that followed.
Development of UK strategy and options, January to April 2002 – “axis of evil” to Crawford
800. The following key findings are from Section 3.2:
• The UK continued to pursue implementation of the “smarter” economic sanctions
regime in the first months of 2002, but continuing divisions between Permanent
Members of the Security Council meant there was no agreement on the way
• In public statements at the end of February and in the first week of March 2002,
Mr Blair and Mr Straw set out the view that Iraq was a threat which had to be
• At Cabinet on 7 March, Mr Blair and Mr Straw emphasised that no decisions
had been taken and Cabinet was not being asked to take decisions. Cabinet
endorsed the conclusion that Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD)
The Report of the Iraq Inquiry
programmes posed a threat to peace and endorsed a strategy of engaging
closely with the US Government in order to shape policy and its presentation.
• At Crawford, Mr Blair offered President Bush a partnership in dealing urgently
with the threat posed by Saddam Hussein. He proposed that the UK and US
should pursue a strategy based on an ultimatum calling on Iraq to permit the
return of weapons inspectors or face the consequences.
• Following his meeting with President Bush, Mr Blair stated that Saddam Hussein
had to be confronted and brought back into compliance with the UN.
• The acceptance of the possibility that the UK might participate in a military
invasion of Iraq was a profound change in UK thinking. Although no decisions had
been taken, that became the basis for contingency planning in the months ahead.
Development of UK strategy and options, April to July 2002
801. The following key findings are from Section 3.3:
• By July 2002, the UK Government had concluded that President Bush
was impatient to move on Iraq and that the US might take military action
in circumstances that would be difficult for the UK.
• Mr Blair’s Note to President Bush of 28 July sought to persuade President Bush
to use the UN to build a coalition for action by seeking a partnership with the US
and setting out a framework for action.
• Mr Blair told President Bush that the UN was the simplest way to encapsulate a
“casus belli” in some defining way, with an ultimatum to Iraq once military forces
started to build up in October. That might be backed by a UN resolution.
• Mr Blair’s Note, which had not been discussed or agreed with his colleagues,
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.
Development of UK strategy and options, late July to 14 September 2002
802. The following key findings are from Section 3.4:
• In discussions with the US over the summer of 2002, Mr Blair and Mr Straw
sought to persuade the US Administration to secure multilateral support before
taking action on Iraq; and to do so through the UN. They proposed a strategy
in which the first objective was to offer Iraq the opportunity and last chance to
comply with its obligations to disarm.
• If Iraq did not take that opportunity and military action was required, the UK was
seeking to establish conditions whereby such action would command multilateral
support and be taken with the authority of the Security Council.
• Mr Blair also decided to publish an explanation of why action was needed
to deal with Iraq; and to recall Parliament to debate the issue.
• The UK made a significant contribution to President Bush’s decision, announced
on 12 September, to take the issue of Iraq back to the UN.
• Statements made by China, France and Russia after President Bush’s speech
highlighted the different positions of the five Permanent Members of the Security
Council, in particular about the role of the Council in deciding whether military
action was justified. As a result, the negotiation of resolution 1441 was complex
Development of UK strategy and options, September to November 2002 – the negotiation of resolution 1441
803. The following key findings are from Section 3.5:
• The declared objective of the US and UK was to obtain international support
within the framework of the UN for a strategy of coercive diplomacy for the
disarmament of Iraq. For the UK, regime change was a means to achieve
disarmament, not an objective in its own right.
• The negotiation of resolution 1441 reflected a broad consensus in the UN
Security Council on the need to achieve the disarmament of Iraq.
• To secure consensus in the Security Council despite the different positions of
the US and France and Russia, resolution 1441 was a compromise containing
• That created deliberate ambiguities on a number of key issues including: the
level of non‑compliance with resolution 1441 which would constitute a material
breach; by whom that determination would be made; and whether there would
be a second resolution explicitly authorising the use of force.
Development of UK strategy and options, November 2002 to January 2003
804. The following key findings are from Section 3.6:
• Following the adoption of resolution 1441, the UK was pursuing a strategy of
coercive diplomacy to secure the disarmament of Iraq. The hope was that this
might be achieved by peaceful means, but views differed on how likely that
• The UK Government remained convinced that Iraq had retained prohibited
weapons and was pursuing chemical, biological and ballistic missile
programmes in contravention of its obligations to disarm; and that the absence
of evidence of weapons and programmes was the result of a successful policy
The Report of the Iraq Inquiry
• By early January 2003, Mr Blair had concluded that Iraq had had “no change of
heart” and military action to remove Saddam Hussein’s regime was likely to be
required to disarm Iraq.
• The US Administration was planning military action no later than early March.
• Mr Blair and Mr Straw concluded that a second UN resolution would be essential
to secure domestic and international support for military action. In the absence
of a “smoking gun”, that would require more time and a series of reports from
the UN inspectors which established a pattern of Iraqi non‑compliance with
• Mr Blair secured President Bush’s support for a second resolution but did not
secure agreement that the inspections process should continue until the end
of March or early April. That left little time for the inspections process to provide
the evidence that would be needed to achieve international agreement on the
Development of UK strategy and options, 1 February to 7 March 2003
805. The following key findings are from Section 3.7:
• By the time the Security Council met on 7 March 2003 there were deep divisions
within it on the way ahead on Iraq.
• Following President Bush’s agreement to support a second resolution to help
Mr Blair, Mr Blair and Mr Straw continued during February and early March 2003
to develop the position that Saddam Hussein was not co‑operating as required
by resolution 1441 (2002) and, if that situation continued, a second resolution
should be adopted stating that Iraq had failed to take the final opportunity offered
by the Security Council.
• On 6 February, Mr Blair said that the UK would consider military action without
a further resolution only if the inspectors reported that they could not do their
job and a resolution was vetoed unreasonably. The UK would not take military
action without a majority in the Security Council.
• Mr Blair’s proposals, on 19 February, for a side statement defining tough tests
for Iraq’s co‑operation and a deadline of 14 March for a vote by the Security
Council, were not agreed by the US.
• The initial draft of a US, UK and Spanish resolution tabled on 24 February, which
simply invited the Security Council to decide that Iraq had failed to take the final
opportunity offered by resolution 1441, failed to attract support.
• Throughout February, the divisions in the Security Council widened.
• France, Germany and Russia set out their common position on 10 and
24 February. Their joint Memorandum of 24 February called for a programme of
continued and reinforced inspections with a clear timeline and a military build-up
to exert maximum pressure on Iraq to disarm.
• The reports to the Security Council by the IAEA reported increasing indications
of Iraqi co‑operation. On 7 March, Dr ElBaradei reported that there was no
indication that Iraq had resumed nuclear activities and that it should be able
to provide the Security Council with an assessment of Iraq’s activities in the
• Dr Blix reported to the Security Council on 7 March that there had been an
acceleration of initiatives from Iraq and, while they did not constitute immediate
co‑operation, they were welcome. UNMOVIC would be proposing a work
programme for the Security Council’s approval, based on key tasks for Iraq to
address. It would take months to verify sites and items, analyse documents,
interview relevant personnel and draw conclusions.
• A revised draft US, UK and Spanish resolution, tabled after the reports by Dr Blix
and Dr ElBaradei on 7 March and proposing a deadline of 17 March for Iraq to
demonstrate full co‑operation, also failed to attract support.
• China, France and Russia all stated that they did not favour a resolution
authorising the use of force and that the Security Council should maintain its
efforts to find a peaceful solution.
• Sir Jeremy Greenstock advised that a “side statement” with defined benchmarks
for Iraqi co‑operation could be needed to secure support from Mexico and Chile.
• Mr Blair told President Bush that he would need a majority of nine votes in the
Security Council for Parliamentary approval for UK military action.
Iraq WMD assessments, pre‑July 2002
806. The following key findings are from Section 4.1:
• The ingrained belief that Saddam Hussein’s regime retained chemical and
biological warfare capabilities, was determined to preserve and if possible
enhance its capabilities, including at some point in the future a nuclear
capability, and was pursuing an active policy of deception and concealment, had
underpinned the UK Government’s policy towards Iraq since the Gulf Conflict
ended in 1991.
• Iraq’s chemical, biological and ballistic missile programmes were seen as a
threat to international peace and security in the Middle East, but overall, the
threat from Iraq was viewed as less serious than that from other key countries
of concern – Iran, Libya and North Korea.
• The Assessments issued by the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) reflected the
uncertainties within the intelligence community about the detail of Iraq’s activities.
• The statements prepared for, and used by, the UK Government in public from
late 2001 onwards conveyed more certainty than the JIC Assessments about
Iraq’s proscribed activities and the potential threat they posed.
The Report of the Iraq Inquiry
• The tendency to refer in public statements only to Iraq’s “weapons of mass
destruction” was likely to have created the impression that Iraq posed a greater
threat than the detailed JIC Assessments would have supported.
• There was nothing in the JIC Assessments issued before July 2002 that would
have raised any questions in policy‑makers’ minds about the core construct of
Iraq’s capabilities and intent. Indeed, from May 2001 onwards, the perception
conveyed was that Iraqi activity could have increased since the departure of the
weapons inspectors, funded by Iraq’s growing illicit income from circumventing
the sanctions regime.
• In the light of sensitivities about their content and significance, publication of
documents on ‘Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction’, ‘Weapons Inspections’
and ‘Abuse of Human Rights’ was postponed until the policy on Iraq was clearer.
Iraq WMD assessments, July to September 2002
807. The following key findings are from Section 4.2:
• The urgency and certainty with which the Government stated that Iraq was
a threat which had to be dealt with fuelled the demand for publication of the
dossier and led to Mr Blair’s decision to publish it in September, separate from
any decision on the way ahead.
• The dossier was designed to “make the case” and secure Parliamentary and
public support for the Government’s position that action was urgently required
to secure Iraq’s disarmament.
• The JIC accepted ownership of the dossier and agreed its content. There is no
evidence that intelligence was improperly included in the dossier or that No.10
improperly influenced the text.
• The assessed intelligence had not established beyond doubt either that
Saddam Hussein had continued to produce chemical and biological weapons
or that efforts to develop nuclear weapons continued. The JIC should have
made that clear to Mr Blair.
• In his statement to Parliament on 24 September 2002, Mr Blair presented Iraq’s
past, current and potential future capabilities as evidence of the severity of the
potential threat from Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction; and that at some point
in the future that threat would become a reality.
• The dossier’s description of Iraq’s capabilities and intent became part of the
baseline against which the UK Government measured Iraq’s future statements
and actions and the success of weapons inspections.
• The widespread perception that the September 2002 dossier overstated the
firmness of the evidence has produced a damaging legacy which may make it
more difficult to secure support for Government policy, including military action,
where the evidence depends on inferential judgements drawn from intelligence.
• There are lessons which should be implemented in using information from
JIC Assessments to underpin policy decisions. Iraq WMD assessments, October 2002 to March 2003
808. The following key findings are from Section 4.3:
• The ingrained belief already described in this Section underpinned the UK
Government’s position that Iraq was a threat that had to be dealt with and it
needed to disarm or be disarmed. That remained the case up to and beyond
the decision to invade Iraq in March 2003.
• The judgements about Iraq’s capabilities and intentions relied too heavily on
Iraq’s past behaviour being a reliable indicator of its current and future actions.
• There was no consideration of whether, faced with the prospect of a US‑led
invasion, Saddam Hussein had taken a different position.
• The JIC made the judgements in the UK Government September dossier part
of the test for Iraq.
• Iraq’s statements that it had no weapons or programmes were dismissed as
further evidence of a strategy of denial.
• The extent to which the JIC’s judgements depended on inference and
interpretation of Iraq’s previous attitudes and behaviour was not recognised.
• At no stage was the hypothesis that Iraq might no longer have chemical,
biological or nuclear weapons or programmes identified and examined by either
the JIC or the policy community.
• A formal reassessment of the JIC’s judgements should have taken place after
Dr Blix’s report to the Security Council on 14 February 2003 or, at the very latest,
after his report of 7 March.
• Intelligence and assessments made by the JIC about Iraq’s capabilities and
intent continued to be used to prepare briefing material to support Government
statements in a way which conveyed certainty without acknowledging the
limitations of the intelligence.
• The independence and impartiality of the JIC remains of the utmost importance.
• SIS had a responsibility to ensure that key recipients of its reporting were
informed in a timely way when doubts arose about key sources and when,
subsequently, intelligence was withdrawn.
The search for WMD
809. The following key findings are from Section 4.4:
• The search for evidence of WMD in Iraq was started during the military
campaign by Exploitation Task Force‑75 and was carried forward from
June 2003 by the Iraq Survey Group (ISG). The UK participated in both.
The Report of the Iraq Inquiry
• As the insurgency developed, the ISG’s operating conditions became
increasingly difficult. There was competition for resources between
counter‑terrorism operations and the search for WMD evidence, and
some ISG staff were diverted to the former.
• Mr Blair took a close interest in the work of the ISG and the presentation
of its reports and the wider narrative about WMD. He raised the subject
with President Bush.
• The Government was confident that pre‑conflict assessments of Iraq’s WMD
capabilities would be confirmed once Saddam Hussein’s regime had been
• It quickly became apparent that it was unlikely that significant stockpiles would
be found. This led to challenges to the credibility of both the Government and
the intelligence community.
• There were soon demands for an independent judge‑led inquiry into the
• The Government was quick to acknowledge the need for a review, rejecting
an independent inquiry in favour of reviews initiated by the House of Commons
Foreign Affairs Committee and the Intelligence and Security Committee of
• The Government’s reluctance to establish an independent public inquiry became
untenable in January 2004 when President Bush announced his own decision
to set up an independent inquiry in the US.
• Faced with criticism of the pre‑conflict intelligence and the absence of evidence
of a current Iraqi WMD capability, Mr Blair sought to defend the decision to take
military action by emphasising instead:
Saddam Hussein’s strategic intent;
the regime’s breaches of Security Council resolutions; and
the positive impact of military action in Iraq on global counter‑proliferation
• The ISG’s principal findings – that Iraq’s WMD capability had mostly been
destroyed in 1991 but that it had been Saddam Hussein’s strategic intent
to preserve the capability to reconstitute his WMD – were significant, but
did not support statements made by the UK and US Governments before the
invasion, which had focused on Iraq’s current capabilities and an urgent and
• The explanation for military action put forward by Mr Blair in October 2004 drew
on the ISG’s findings, but was not the explanation given before the conflict.
Advice on the legal basis for military action, November 2002 to March 2003
810. The following key findings are from Section 5:
• On 9 December, formal ‘instructions’ to provide advice were sent to Lord
Goldsmith. They were sent by the FCO on behalf of the FCO and the MOD as
well as No.10. The instructions made it clear that Lord Goldsmith should not
provide an immediate response.
• Until 27 February, No.10 could not have been sure that Lord Goldsmith would
advise that there was a basis on which military action against Iraq could be
taken in the absence of a further decision of the Security Council.
• Lord Goldsmith’s formal advice of 7 March set out alternative interpretations
of the legal effect of resolution 1441. While Lord Goldsmith remained “of the
opinion that the safest legal course would be to secure a second resolution”, he
concluded (paragraph 28) that “a reasonable case can be made that resolution
1441 was capable of reviving the authorisation in resolution 678 without a further
• Lord Goldsmith wrote that a reasonable case did not mean that if the matter
ever came to court, he would be confident that the court would agree with this
view. He judged a court might well conclude that OPs 4 and 12 required a further
Security Council decision in order to revive the authorisation in resolution 678.
• At a meeting on 11 March, there was concern that the advice did not offer a
clear indication that military action would be lawful. Lord Goldsmith was asked,
after the meeting, by Admiral Boyce on behalf of the Armed Forces, and by the
Treasury Solicitor, Ms Juliet Wheldon, in respect of the Civil Service, to give a
clear‑cut answer on whether military action would be lawful rather than unlawful.
• Lord Goldsmith concluded on 13 March that, on balance, the “better view” was
that the conditions for the operation of the revival argument were met in this
case, meaning that there was a lawful basis for the use of force without a further
resolution beyond resolution 1441.
• Mr Brummell wrote to Mr Rycroft on 14 March:
“It is an essential part of the legal basis for military action without a further
resolution of the Security Council that there is strong evidence that Iraq has
failed to comply with and co‑operate fully in the implementation of resolution
1441 and has thus failed to take the final opportunity offered by the Security
Council in that resolution. The Attorney General understands that it is
unequivocally the Prime Minister’s view that Iraq has committed further
material breaches as specified in [operative] paragraph 4 of resolution
1441, but as this is a judgment for the Prime Minister, the Attorney would
be grateful for confirmation that this is the case.”
The Report of the Iraq Inquiry
• Mr Rycroft replied to Mr Brummell on 15 March:
“This is to confirm that it is indeed the Prime Minister’s unequivocal view
that Iraq is in further material breach of its obligations, as in OP4 [operative
paragraph 4] of UNSCR 1441, because of ‘false statements or omissions in
the declarations submitted by Iraq pursuant to this resolution and failure to
comply with, and co‑operate fully in the interpretation of, this resolution’.”
• Senior Ministers should have considered the question posed in Mr Brummell’s
letter of 14 March, either in the Defence and Overseas Policy Committee or a
“War Cabinet”, on the basis of formal advice. Such a Committee should then
have reported its conclusions to Cabinet before its Members were asked to
endorse the Government’s policy.
• Cabinet was provided with the text of Lord Goldsmith’s Written Answer to
Baroness Ramsey setting out the legal basis for military action.
• That document represented a statement of the Government’s legal position –
it did not explain the legal basis of the conclusion that Iraq had failed to take
“the final opportunity” to comply with its disarmament obligations offered by
• Cabinet was not provided with written advice which set out, as the advice
of 7 March had done, the conflicting arguments regarding the legal effect of
resolution 1441 and whether, in particular, it authorised military action without
a further resolution of the Security Council.
• The advice should have been provided to Ministers and senior officials whose
responsibilities were directly engaged and should have been made available
Development of the military options for an invasion of Iraq
811. The following key findings are from Section 6.1:
• The size and composition of a UK military contribution to the US‑led invasion of
Iraq was largely discretionary. The US wanted some UK capabilities (including
Special Forces), to use UK bases, and the involvement of the UK military to
avoid the perception of unilateral US military action. The primary impetus to
maximise the size of the UK contribution and the recommendations on its
composition came from the Armed Forces, with the agreement of Mr Hoon.
• From late February 2002, the UK judged that Saddam Hussein’s regime could
only be removed by a US‑led invasion.
• In April 2002, the MOD advised that, if the US mounted a major military
operation, the UK should contribute a division comprising three brigades. That
was perceived to be commensurate with the UK’s capabilities and the demands
of the campaign. Anything smaller risked being compared adversely to the UK’s
contribution to the liberation of Kuwait in 1991.
• The MOD saw a significant military contribution as a means of influencing
• Mr Blair and Mr Hoon wanted to keep open the option of contributing significant
forces for ground operations as long as possible, but between May and
mid‑October consistently pushed back against US assumptions that the UK
would provide a division.
• Air and maritime forces were offered to the US for planning purposes
• The MOD advised in October that the UK was at risk of being excluded from
US plans unless it offered ground forces, “Package 3”, on the same basis as air
and maritime forces. That could also significantly reduce the UK’s vulnerability
to US requests to provide a substantial and costly contribution to post‑conflict
• From August until December 2002, other commitments meant that UK
planning for Package 3 was based on providing a divisional headquarters and
an armoured brigade for operations in northern Iraq. That was seen as the
maximum practicable contribution the UK could generate within the predicted
timescales for US action.
• The deployment was dependent on Turkey’s agreement to the transit of
• Mr Blair agreed to offer Package 3 on 31 October 2002.
• That decision and its potential consequences were not formally considered
by a Cabinet Committee or reported to Cabinet.
• In December 2002, the deployment of 3 Commando Brigade was identified as
a way for the UK to make a valuable contribution in the initial stages of a land
campaign if transit through Turkey was refused. The operational risks were not
• Following a visit to Turkey on 7 to 8 January 2003, Mr Hoon concluded that there
would be no agreement to the deployment of UK ground forces through Turkey.
• By that time, in any case, the US had asked the UK to deploy for operations
in southern Iraq.
Military planning for the invasion, January to March 2003
812. The following key findings are from Section 6.2:
• The decisions taken between mid‑December 2002 and mid‑January 2003 to
increase the combat force deployed to three brigades and bring forward the
date on which UK forces might participate in combat operations compressed
the timescales available for preparation.
The Report of the Iraq Inquiry
• The decision to deploy a large scale force for potential combat operations
was taken without collective Ministerial consideration of the decision and
• The large scale force deployed was a one‑shot capability. It would have been
difficult to sustain the force if combat operations had been delayed until autumn
2003 or longer, and it constrained the capabilities which were available for a UK
military contribution to post‑conflict operations.
Military equipment (pre‑conflict)
813. The following key findings are from Section 6.3:
• The decisions taken between mid‑December 2002 and mid‑January 2003
to increase combat forces and bring forward the date on which UK forces
might participate in combat operations compressed the timescales available
• The achievements made in preparing the forces in the time available were very
considerable, but the deployment of forces more quickly than anticipated in the
Defence Planning Assumptions meant that there were some serious equipment
shortfalls when conflict began.
• Those shortfalls were exacerbated by the lack of an effective asset tracking
system, a lesson from previous operations and exercises that the MOD had
identified but not adequately addressed.
• Ministers were not fully aware of the risks inherent in the decisions and the MOD
and PJHQ were not fully aware of the situation on the ground during the conflict.
Planning for a post‑Saddam Hussein Iraq
814. The following key findings are from Section 6.4, and relate to evidence in
Sections 6.4 and 6.5:
• Before the invasion of Iraq, Ministers, senior officials and the UK military
recognised that post‑conflict civilian and military operations were likely to
be the strategically decisive phase of the Coalition’s engagement in Iraq.
• UK planning and preparation for the post‑conflict phase of operations, which
rested on the assumption that the UK would be able quickly to reduce its military
presence in Iraq and deploy only a minimal number of civilians, were wholly
• The information available to the Government before the invasion provided a
clear indication of the potential scale of the post‑conflict task and the significant
risks associated with the UK’s proposed approach.
• Foreseeable risks included post‑conflict political disintegration and extremist
violence in Iraq, the inadequacy of US plans, the UK’s inability to exert
significant influence on US planning and, in the absence of UN authorisation
for the administration and reconstruction of post‑conflict Iraq, the reluctance
of potential international partners to contribute to the post‑conflict effort.
• The Government, which lacked both clear Ministerial oversight of post‑conflict
strategy, planning and preparation, and effective co‑ordination between
government departments, failed to analyse or manage those risks adequately.
• Mr Blair, who recognised the significance of the post‑conflict phase, did
not press President Bush for definite assurances about US plans, did not
consider or seek advice on whether the absence of a satisfactory plan called
for reassessment of the terms of the UK’s engagement and did not make
agreement on such a plan a condition of UK participation in military action.
815. The following key findings are from Section 8:
• It took less than a month to achieve the departure of Saddam Hussein
and the fall of Baghdad.
• The decision to advance into Basra was made by military commanders
on the ground.
• The UK was unprepared for the media response to the initial difficulties. It had
also underestimated the need for sustained communication of key strategic
messages to inform public opinion about the objectives and progress of the
military campaign, including in Iraq.
• For any future military operations, arrangements to agree and disseminate key
strategic messages need to be put in place, in both London and on the ground,
before operations begin.
• The UK acceded to the post‑invasion US request that it assume leadership of a
military Area of Responsibility (AOR) encompassing four provinces in southern
Iraq, a position it then held for six years, without a formal Ministerial decision and
without carrying out a robust analysis of the strategic implications for the UK or
the military’s capacity to support the UK’s potential obligations in the region.
The post‑conflict period
816. The following key findings are from Section 9.8, and relate to evidence in
Sections 9.1 to 9.7:
• Between 2003 and 2009, the UK’s most consistent strategic objective in relation
to Iraq was to reduce the level of its deployed forces.
• The UK struggled from the start to have a decisive effect on the Coalition
Provisional Authority’s (CPA’s) policies, even though it was fully implicated
in its decisions as joint Occupying Power.
The Report of the Iraq Inquiry
• US and UK strategies for Iraq began to diverge almost immediately after the
conflict. Although the differences were managed, by early 2007 the UK was
finding it difficult to play down the divergence, which was, by that point, striking.
• The UK missed clear opportunities to reconsider its military approach in
Multi‑National Division (South‑East).
• Throughout 2004 and 2005, it appears that senior members of the Armed
Forces reached the view that little more would be achieved in MND(SE) and that
it would make more sense to concentrate military effort on Afghanistan where it
might have greater effect.
• From July 2005 onwards, decisions in relation to resources for Iraq were made
under the influence of the demands of the UK effort in Afghanistan. Although Iraq
remained the stated UK main effort, the Government no longer had the option of
a substantial reinforcement of its forces there.
• The UK’s plans to reduce troop levels depended on the transition of lead
responsibility for security to the Iraqi Security Forces, even as the latter’s ability
to take on that responsibility was in question.
• The UK spent time and energy on rewriting strategies, which tended to describe
a desired end state without setting out how it would be reached.
• UK forces withdrew from Iraq in 2009 in circumstances which did not meet
objectives defined in January 2003.
817. The following key findings are from Section 10.4, and relate to evidence in
Sections 10.1 to 10.3:
• The UK failed to plan or prepare for the major reconstruction programme
required in Iraq.
• Reconstruction was the third pillar in a succession of UK strategies for Iraq.
The Government never resolved how reconstruction would support broader
• Following the resignation of Ms Clare Short, the International Development
Secretary, and the adoption of UN Security Council resolution 1483 in May 2003,
DFID assumed leadership of the UK’s reconstruction effort in Iraq. DFID would
subsequently define, within the framework established by the Government, the
scope and nature of that effort.
• At key points, DFID should have considered strategic questions about the scale,
focus and purpose of the UK’s reconstruction effort in Iraq.
• The US‑led Coalition Provisional Authority excluded the UK from discussions
on oil policy and on disbursements from the Development Fund for Iraq.
• Many of the failures which affected pre‑invasion planning and preparation
persisted throughout the post‑conflict period. They included poor
inter‑departmental co‑ordination, inadequate civilian military co‑operation and
a failure to use resources coherently.
• An unstable and insecure environment made it increasingly difficult to make
progress on reconstruction. Although staff and contractors developed innovative
ways to deliver projects and manage risks, the constraints were never
overcome. Witnesses to the Inquiry identified some successes, in particular in
building the capacity of central Iraqi Government institutions and the provincial
government in Basra.
• Lessons learned through successive reviews of the UK approach to post‑conflict
reconstruction and stabilisation, in Iraq and elsewhere, were not applied in Iraq.
818. The following key findings are from Section 11.2, and relate to evidence in
• Early decisions on the form of de‑Ba’athification and its implementation had
a significant and lasting negative impact on Iraq.
• Limiting de‑Ba’athification to the top three tiers of the party, rather than
extending it to the fourth, would have had the potential to be far less damaging
to Iraq’s post‑invasion recovery and political stability.
• The UK’s ability to influence the CPA decision on the scope of the policy was
limited and informal.
• The UK chose not to act on its well‑founded misgivings about handing over the
implementation of de‑Ba’athification policy to the Governing Council.
Security Sector Reform
819. The following key findings are from Section 12.2, and relate to evidence in
• Between 2003 and 2009, there was no coherent US/UK strategy for Security
Sector Reform (SSR).
• The UK began work on SSR in Iraq without a proper understanding of what
it entailed and hugely underestimated the magnitude of the task.
• The UK was unable to influence the US or engage it in a way that produced
an Iraq‑wide approach.
• There was no qualitative way for the UK to measure progress. The focus on the
quantity of officers trained for the Iraqi Security Forces, rather than the quality
of officers, was simplistic and gave a misleading sense of comfort.
• After 2006, the UK’s determination to withdraw from Iraq meant that aspirations
for the Iraqi Security Forces were lowered to what would be “good enough” for
Iraq. It was never clear what that meant in practice.
The Report of the Iraq Inquiry
• The development of the Iraqi Army was considerably more successful than
that of the Iraqi Police Service. But the UK was still aware before it withdrew
from Iraq that the Iraqi Army had not been sufficiently tested. The UK was not
confident that the Iraqi Army could maintain security without support.
820. The following key findings are from Section 13.2, and relate to evidence in
• The direct cost of the conflict in Iraq was at least £9.2bn (the equivalent of
£11.83bn in 2016). In total, 89 percent of that was spent on military operations.
• The Government’s decision to take part in military action against Iraq was not
affected by consideration of the potential financial cost to the UK of the invasion
or the post‑conflict period.
• Ministers were not provided with estimates of military conflict and post‑conflict
costs, or with advice on their affordability, when decisions were taken on the
scale of the UK’s military contribution to a US‑led invasion of Iraq, and on the
UK’s role in the post‑conflict period. They should have been.
• There was no articulated need for additional financial resources for military
operations in Iraq that was not met.
• The arrangements for funding military Urgent Operational Requirements and
other military costs worked as intended, and did not constrain the UK military’s
ability to conduct operations in Iraq.
• The controls imposed by the Treasury on the MOD’s budget in September 2003
did not constrain the UK military’s ability to conduct operations in Iraq.
• The Government was slow to recognise that Iraq was an enduring operation,
and to adapt its funding arrangements to support both military operations and
• The arrangements for securing funding for civilian activities could be slow
and unpredictable. Some high‑priority civilian activities were funded late or
only in part.
Military equipment (post‑conflict)
821. The following key findings are from Section 14.2, and relate to evidence in
• Between 2003 and 2009, UK forces in Iraq faced gaps in some key capability
areas, including protected mobility, Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition
and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) and helicopter support.
• It was not sufficiently clear which person or department within the MOD had
responsibility for identifying and articulating capability gaps.
• Delays in providing adequate medium weight Protected Patrol Vehicles (PPVs)
and the failure to meet the needs of UK forces in MND(SE) for ISTAR and
helicopters should not have been tolerated.
• The MOD was slow in responding to the developing threat in Iraq from
Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). The range of protected mobility options
available to commanders in MND(SE) was limited. Although work had begun
before 2002 to source an additional PPV, it was only ordered in July 2006
following Ministerial intervention.
• Funding was not a direct barrier to the identification and deployment of
additional solutions to the medium weight PPV gap. But it appears that the
longer‑term focus of the Executive Committee of the Army Board on the
Future Rapid Effect System programme inhibited it from addressing the more
immediate issue related to medium weight PPV capability.
• The decision to deploy troops to Afghanistan had a material impact on the
availability of key capabilities for deployment to Iraq, particularly helicopters
822. The following key findings are from Section 15.2, and relate to evidence in
• Before the invasion of Iraq, the Government had made only minimal
preparations for the deployment of civilian personnel.
• There was an enduring gap between the Government’s civilian capacity and
the level of its ambition in Iraq.
• There was no overarching consideration by the Government of the extent to
which civilians could be effective in a highly insecure environment, or of the
security assets needed for civilians to do their jobs effectively.
• The evidence seen by the Inquiry indicates that the Government recognised its
duty of care to UK‑based and locally engaged civilians in Iraq. A significant effort
was made to keep civilians safe in a dangerous environment.
823. The following key findings are from Section 16.4, and relate to evidence in
Sections 16.1 to 16.3:
• In 2002, the UK military was already operating at, and in some cases beyond,
the limits of the guidelines agreed in the 1998 Strategic Defence Review. As
a result, the Harmony Guidelines were being breached for some units and
• The Government’s decision to contribute a military force to a US‑led invasion
of Iraq inevitably increased the risk that more Service Personnel would be put
The Report of the Iraq Inquiry
in breach of the Harmony Guidelines. The issue of the potential pressure on
Service Personnel was not a consideration in the decision.
• The MOD planned and prepared effectively to provide medical care in support
of Operation TELIC.
• There were major improvements in the provision of medical care, mental
healthcare and rehabilitative care available to Service Personnel over the course
of Op TELIC.
• Most of the contacts between the MOD and bereaved families were conducted
with sensitivity. In a few cases, they were not. The MOD progressively improved
how it engaged with and supported bereaved families, in part driven by
consistent public and Ministerial pressure.
• The Government’s decision in 2006 to deploy a second medium scale force
to Helmand province in Afghanistan further increased the pressure on Service
Personnel, on elements of the MOD’s welfare, medical and investigative
systems, and the coronial system.
• Much of the MOD’s and the Government’s effort from 2006 was focused on
addressing those pressures.
• The MOD should have planned and prepared to address those pressures, rather
than react to them.
• The Government should have acted sooner to address the backlog of inquests
into the deaths of Service Personnel. The support it did provide, in June 2006,
cleared the backlog.
• The MOD made a number of improvements to the Board of Inquiry process, but
some proposals for more substantive reform (including the introduction of an
independent member) were not fully explored. The MOD significantly improved
the way it communicated with and supported bereaved families in relation to
military investigations and inquests.
• The MOD was less effective at providing support to Service Personnel who were
mobilised individually (a category which included almost all Reservists) and their
families, than to formed units.
824. The following key findings are from Section 17:
• The Inquiry considers that a Government has a responsibility to make every
reasonable effort to understand the likely and actual effects of its military actions
• In the months before the invasion, Mr Blair emphasised the need to minimise
the number of civilian casualties arising from an invasion of Iraq. The MOD’s
responses offered reassurance based on the tight targeting procedures
governing the air campaign.
• The MOD made only a broad estimate of direct civilian casualties arising from
an attack on Iraq, based on previous operations.
• With hindsight, greater efforts should have been made in the post‑conflict
period to determine the number of civilian casualties and the broader effects of
military operations on civilians. More time was devoted to the question of which
department should have responsibility for the issue of civilian casualties than it
was to efforts to determine the actual number.
• The Government’s consideration of the issue of Iraqi civilian casualties was
driven by its concern to rebut accusations that Coalition Forces were responsible
for the deaths of large numbers of civilians, and to sustain domestic support for
operations in Iraq.
825. In a number of Sections of this Report, the Inquiry has set out explicit lessons.
They relate in particular to those elements of the UK’s engagement in Iraq which might
be replicated in future operations.
826. The decision to join the US‑led invasion of Iraq in 2003 was the product of a
particular set of circumstances which are unlikely to be repeated. Unlike other instances
in which military force has been used, the invasion was not prompted by the aggression
of another country or an unfolding humanitarian disaster. The lessons drawn by the
Inquiry on the pre‑conflict element of this Report are therefore largely context‑specific
and embedded in its conclusions. Lessons on collective Ministerial decision‑making,
where the principles identified are enduring ones, are an exception. They, and other
lessons which have general application, are set out below.
The decision to go to war
827. In a democratic system, public support and understanding for a major military
operation are essential. It is therefore important to guard against overstating what
military action might achieve and against any tendency to play down the risks. A realistic
assessment of the possibilities and limitations of armed force, and of the challenges of
intervening in the affairs of other States, should help any future UK Government manage
expectations, including its own.
828. When the potential for military action arises, the Government should not
commit to a firm political objective before it is clear that it can be achieved. Regular
reassessment is essential, to ensure that the assumptions upon which policy is being
made and implemented remain correct.
829. Once an issue becomes a matter for the Security Council, the UK Government
cannot expect to retain control of how it is to be discussed and eventually decided
unless it is able to work with the interests and agendas of other Member States.
In relation to Iraq, the independent role of the inspectors was a further dimension.
The Report of the Iraq Inquiry
830. A military timetable should not be allowed to dictate a diplomatic timetable.
If a strategy of coercive diplomacy is being pursued, forces should be deployed in
such a way that the threat of action can be increased or decreased according to the
diplomatic situation and the policy can be sustained for as long as necessary.
831. The issue of influencing the US, both at the strategic and at the operational level,
was a constant preoccupation at all levels of the UK Government.
832. Prime Ministers will always wish to exercise their own political judgement on
how to handle the relationship with the US. It will depend on personal relationships as
well as on the nature of the issues being addressed. On all these matters of strategy
and diplomacy, the Inquiry recognises that there is no standard formula that will be
appropriate in all cases.
833. Whether or not influence has been exercised can be difficult to ascertain, even
in retrospect. The views of allies are most likely to make a difference when they come
in one side of an internal debate, and there are a number of instances where the UK
arguments did make a difference to the formation and implementation of US policy.
The US and UK are close allies, but the relationship between the two is unequal.
834. The exercise of influence will always involve a combination of identifying the
prerequisites for success in a shared endeavour, and a degree of bargaining to make
sure that the approach meets the national interest. In situations like the run‑up to the
invasion of Iraq:
• If certain measures are identified as prerequisite for success then their
importance should be underlined from the start. There are no prizes for sharing
• Those measures that are most important should be pursued persistently and
• If it is assumed that a consequence of making a contribution in one area is
that a further contribution would not be required in another, then that should be
• Influence should not be set as an objective in itself. The exercise of influence is
a means to an end.
Weapons of mass destruction
835. There will continue to be demands for factual evidence to explain the background
to controversial policy decisions including, where appropriate, the explicit and public use
of assessed intelligence.
836. The Inquiry shares the Butler Review’s conclusions that it was a mistake not to
see the risk of combining in the September dossier the JIC’s assessment of intelligence
and other evidence with the interpretation and presentation of the evidence in order to
make the case for policy action.
837. The nature of the two functions is fundamentally different. As can be seen from
the JIC Assessments quoted in, and published with, this report, they contain careful
language intended to ensure that no more weight is put on the evidence than it can bear.
Organising the evidence in order to present an argument in the language of Ministerial
statements produces a quite different type of document.
838. The widespread perception that the September 2002 dossier overstated the
firmness of the evidence about Iraq’s capabilities and intentions in order to influence
opinion and “make the case” for action to disarm Iraq has produced a damaging legacy,
including undermining trust and confidence in Government statements, particularly those
which rely on intelligence which cannot be independently verified.
839. As a result, in situations where the policy response may involve military action and
the evidence, at least in part, depends on inferential judgements drawn from necessarily
incomplete intelligence, it may be more difficult to secure support for the Government’s
position and agreement to action.
840. The explicit and public use of material from JIC Assessments to underpin policy
decisions will be infrequent. But, from the evidence on the compilation of the September
dossier, the lessons for any similar exercise in future would be:
• The need for clear separation of the responsibility for analysis and assessment
of intelligence from the responsibility for making the argument for a policy.
• The importance of precision in describing the position. In the case of the
September dossier, for instance, the term “programme” was used to describe
disparate activities at very different stages of maturity. There was a “programme”
to extend the range of the Al Samoud missile. There was no “programme”
in any meaningful sense to develop and produce nuclear weapons. Use of
the shorthand CW or BW in relation to Iraq’s capability obscured whether the
reference was to weapons or warfare. Constant use of the term “weapons of
mass destruction” without further clarification obscured the differences between
the potential impact of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons and the
ability to deliver them effectively. For example, there would be a considerable
difference between the effects of an artillery shell filled with mustard gas, which
is a battlefield weapon, and a long‑range ballistic missile with a chemical or
biological warhead, which is a weapon of terror.
• The need to identify and accurately describe the confidence and robustness of
the evidence base. There may be evidence which is “authoritative” or which puts
an issue “beyond doubt”; but there are unlikely to be many circumstances when
those descriptions could properly be applied to inferential judgements relying on
• The need to be explicit about the likelihood of events. The possibility of Iraq
producing and using an improvised nuclear device was, rightly, omitted from the
dossier. But the claim that Iraq could build a nuclear weapon within one to two
The Report of the Iraq Inquiry
years if it obtained fissile material and other essential components from foreign
sources was included without addressing how feasible and likely that would
be. In addition, the Executive Summary gave prominence to the International
Institute of Strategic Studies suggestion that Iraq would be able to assemble
nuclear weapons within months if it could obtain fissile material, without
reference to the material in the main text of the dossier which made clear that
the UK took a very different view.
• The need to be scrupulous in discriminating between facts and knowledge on
the one hand and opinion, judgement or belief on the other.
• The need for vigilance to avoid unwittingly crossing the line from supposition to
certainty, including by constant repetition of received wisdom.
841. When assessed intelligence is explicitly and publicly used to support a policy
decision, there would be benefit in subjecting that assessment and the underpinning
intelligence to subsequent scrutiny, by a suitable, independent body, such as the
Intelligence and Security Committee, with a view to identifying lessons for the future.
842. In the context of the lessons from the preparation of the September 2002 dossier,
the Inquiry identifies in Section 4.2 the benefits of separating the responsibilities for
assessment of intelligence from setting out the arguments in support of a policy.
843. The evidence in Section 4.3 reinforces that lesson. It shows that the intelligence
and assessments made by the JIC about Iraq’s capabilities and intent continued to be
used to prepare briefing material to support Government statements in a way which
conveyed certainty without acknowledging the limitations of the intelligence.
844. The independence and impartiality of the JIC remains of the utmost importance.
845. As the Foreign Affairs Committee report in July 2003 pointed out, the late
Sir Percy Cradock wrote in his history of the JIC that:
“Ideally, intelligence and policy should be close but distinct. Too distinct and
assessments become an in‑growing, self‑regarding activity, producing little or no
work of interest to the decision‑makers … Too close a link and policy begins to play
back on estimates, producing the answers the policy makers would like … The
analysts become courtiers, whereas their proper function is to report their findings
… without fear or favour. The best arrangement is intelligence and policy in separate
but adjoining rooms, with communicating doors and thin partition walls …”280
846. Mr Straw told the FAC in 2003:
“The reason why we have a Joint Intelligence Committee which is separate from the
intelligence agencies is precisely so that those who are obtaining the intelligence are
280 Cradock, Sir Percy. Know your enemy – How the Joint Intelligence Committee saw the World John Murray, 2002.
not then directly making the assessment upon it. That is one of the very important
strengths of our system compared with most other systems around the world.”281
847. The FAC endorsed those sentiments.282 It stated that the JIC has a “vital role
in safeguarding the independence and impartiality of intelligence”; and that the
“independence and impartiality of its own role” was “of the utmost importance”.
It recommended that Ministers should “bear in mind at all times the importance of
ensuring that the JIC is free of all political pressure”.
848. In its response to the FAC, the Government stated:
“We agree. The JIC plays a crucial role in providing the Government with objective
assessments on a range of issues of importance to national interests.”283
The invasion of Iraq
849. The military plan for the invasion of Iraq depended for success on a rapid
advance on Baghdad, including convincing the Iraqi population of the Coalition’s
determination to remove the regime.
850. By the end of March, the Government had recognised the need for sustained
communication of key strategic messages and improved capabilities to reach a range
of audiences in the UK, Iraq and the wider international community. But there was clearly
a need for more robust arrangements to integrate Coalition efforts in the UK, US and the
forces deployed in Iraq.
851. The reaction of the media and the Iraqi population to perceived difficulties
encountered within days of the start of an operation, which was planned to last up to
125 days, might have been anticipated if there had been more rigorous examination
of possible scenarios pre‑conflict and the media had better understood the original
concept of operations and the nature of the Coalition responses to the situations they
encountered once the campaign began.
852. The difficulty and complexity of successfully delivering distinct strategic messages
to each of the audiences a government needs to reach should not be underestimated.
For any future military operations, arrangements tailored to meet the circumstances
of each operation need to be put in place in both London and on the ground before
281 Ninth Report from the Foreign Affairs Committee, Session 2002‑2003, 7 July 2003, The Decision to go to War in Iraq, HC 813‑1, paragraph 153.
282 Ninth Report from the Foreign Affairs Committee, Session 2002‑2003, 7 July 2003, The Decision to go to War in Iraq, HC 813‑1, paragraphs 156‑157.
283 Foreign Secretary, November 2003, The Decision to go to War in Iraq Response of the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, November 2003, Cm6062, paragraph 27.
The Report of the Iraq Inquiry
853. When the UK acceded to the US request that it assume leadership of a military
Area of Responsibility encompassing four provinces in southern Iraq, it did so without a
robust analysis either of the strategic implications for the UK or of the military’s capacity
to support the UK’s potential obligations in the region.
854. A step of such magnitude should be taken deliberately and having considered the
wider strategic and resource implications and contingent liabilities.
855. That requires all government departments whose responsibilities will be engaged
to have been formally involved in providing Ministers with coherent inter‑departmental
advice before decisions are taken; the proper function of the Cabinet Committee system.
The post‑conflict period
856. The UK had not participated in an opposed invasion and full‑scale occupation of
a sovereign State (followed by shared responsibility for security and reconstruction over
a long period) since the end of the Second World War. The particular circumstances of
Op TELIC are unlikely to recur. Nevertheless, there are lessons to be drawn about major
operations abroad and the UK’s approach to armed intervention.
857. The UK did not achieve its objectives, despite the best efforts and acceptance of
risk in a dangerous environment by military and civilian personnel.
858. Although the UK expected to be involved in Iraq for a lengthy period after the
conflict, the Government was unprepared for the role in which the UK found itself from
April 2003. Much of what went wrong stemmed from that lack of preparation.
859. In any undertaking of this kind, certain fundamental elements are of vital
• the best possible appreciation of the theatre of operations, including the political,
cultural and ethnic background, and the state of society, the economy and
• a hard‑headed assessment of risks;
• objectives which are realistic within that context, and if necessary limited – rather
than idealistic and based on optimistic assumptions; and
• allocation of the resources necessary for the task – both military and civil.
860. All of these elements were lacking in the UK’s approach to its role in
861. Where responsibility is to be shared, it is essential to have written agreement
in advance on how decision‑making and governance will operate within an alliance or
coalition. The UK normally acts with allies, as it did in Iraq. Within the NATO Alliance,
the rules and mechanisms for decision‑taking and the sharing of responsibility have
been developed over time and are well understood. The Coalition in Iraq, by contrast,
was an ad hoc alliance. The UK tried to establish some governance principles in
the Memorandum of Understanding proposed to the US, but did not press the point.
This led the UK into the uncomfortable and unsatisfactory situation of accepting
shared responsibility without the ability to make a formal input to the process of
862. As Iraq showed, the pattern set in the initial stage of an intervention is crucial.
The maximum impact needs to be made in the early weeks and months, or opportunities
missed may be lost for ever. It is very difficult to recover from a slow or damaging start.
863. Ground truth is vital. Over‑optimistic assessments lead to bad decisions. Senior
decision‑makers – Ministers, Chiefs of Staff, senior officials – must have a flow of
accurate and frank reporting. A “can do” attitude is laudably ingrained in the UK Armed
Forces – a determination to get on with the job, however difficult the circumstances –
but this can prevent ground truth from reaching senior ears. At times in Iraq, the bearers
of bad tidings were not heard. On several occasions, decision‑makers visiting Iraq
(including the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and the Chief of the General Staff)
found the situation on the ground to be much worse than had been reported to them.
Effective audit mechanisms need to be used to counter optimism bias, whether through
changes in the culture of reporting, use of multiple channels of information – internal
and external – or use of visits.
864. It is important to retain a flexible margin of resources – in personnel, equipment
and financing – and the ability to change tactics to deal with adverse developments
on the ground. In Iraq, that flexibility was lost after the parallel deployment to Helmand
province in Afghanistan, which both constrained the supply of equipment (such as
ISTAR) and took away the option of an effective reinforcement. Any decision to deploy
to the limit of capabilities entails a high level of risk. In relation to Iraq, the risks involved
in the parallel deployment of two enduring medium scale operations were not examined
with sufficient rigour and challenge.
865. The management, in Whitehall, of a cross‑government effort on the scale which
was required in Iraq is a complex task. It needs dedicated leadership by someone with
time, energy and influence. It cannot realistically be done by a Prime Minister alone, but
requires a senior Minister with lead responsibility who has access to the Prime Minister
and is therefore able to call on his or her influence in resolving problems or conflicts.
A coherent inter‑departmental effort, supported by a structure able to hold departments
to account, is required to support such a Minister.
866. The starting point for all discussions of reconstruction in circumstances
comparable to those in Iraq between 2003 and 2009 must be that this is an area where
progress will be extremely difficult.
The Report of the Iraq Inquiry
867. Better planning and preparation for a post‑Saddam Hussein Iraq would not
necessarily have prevented the events that unfolded in Iraq between 2003 and 2009.
It would not have been possible for the UK to prepare for every eventuality. Better
plans and preparation could have mitigated some of the risks to which the UK and Iraq
were exposed between 2003 and 2009 and increased the likelihood of achieving the
outcomes desired by the UK and the Iraqi people.
868. From late 2003, successive reviews of the UK’s approach to post‑conflict
reconstruction, later expanded to include the broader concept of stabilisation, resulted
in a series of changes to the UK’s approach to post‑conflict operations. Despite those
changes, many of the shortcomings that characterised the UK Government’s approach to
pre‑conflict planning and preparation in 2002 and early 2003 persisted after the invasion.
869. The UK Government’s new strategic framework for stabilisation, the new
machinery for inter‑departmental co‑ordination and the enhanced resources now
available for stabilisation operations continue to evolve. If future changes are to increase
the effectiveness of UK operations, they must address the lessons for planning,
preparation and implementation derived from the Iraq experience.
870. The lessons identified by the Inquiry apply to both the planning and preparation
for post‑conflict operations, of which reconstruction is a major but not the sole
component, and to post‑conflict operations themselves.
871. Analysis of the available material must draw on multiple perspectives, reflect
dissenting views, identify risk – including that associated with any gaps in knowledge –
and consider a range of options.
872. Information must be shared as widely across departments as is necessary to
support that approach.
873. Gathering information and analysis of the nature and scale of the potential task
should be systematic and as thorough as possible, and should capture the views and
aspirations of local communities.
874. Plans derived from that analysis should:
• incorporate a range of options appropriate to different contingencies;
• reflect a realistic assessment of UK (and partners’) resources and capabilities;
• integrate civilian and military objectives and capabilities in support of a single
• be exposed to scrutiny and challenge at Ministerial, senior official and expert
• be reviewed regularly and, if the strategic context, risk profile or projected cost
changes significantly, be revised.
875. A government must prepare for a range of scenarios, not just the best case, and
should not assume that it will be able to improvise.
876. Where the UK is the junior partner and is unable during planning or
implementation to secure the outcome it requires, it should take stock of whether to
attach conditions to continued participation and whether further involvement would be
consistent with the UK’s strategic interest.
877. Public statements on the extent of the UK’s ambition should reflect a realistic
assessment of what is achievable. To do otherwise is to risk even greater disillusionment
and a loss of UK credibility.
878. Departmental priorities and interests will inevitably continue to diverge even
where an inter‑departmental body with a cross‑government role, currently the
Stabilisation Unit (SU), is in place. Therefore, co‑operation between departments needs
continual reinforcement at official and Ministerial levels.
879. The Head of the SU must be sufficiently senior and the SU enjoy recognition
inside and outside government as a centre of excellence in its field if the Unit is to have
credibility and influence in No.10, the National Security Council, the Treasury, the FCO,
DFID and the MOD, and with the military.
880. After the fall of a repressive regime, steps inevitably have to be taken to prevent
those closely identified with that regime from continuing to hold positions of influence
in public life. The development of plans which minimise undesired consequences,
which are administered with justice and which are based on a robust understanding
of the social context in which they will be implemented, should be an essential part
of preparation for any post‑conflict phase. This should include measures designed to
address concerns within the wider population, including those of the victims of the old
regime, and to promote reconciliation.
881. It is vital to define carefully the scope of such measures. Bringing too many or too
few individuals within scope of measures like de‑Ba’athification can have far‑reaching
consequences for public sector capacity and for the restoration of public trust in the
institutions of government.
882. It is also important to think through the administrative implications of the
measures to be applied and the process for their implementation.
883. The potential for abuse means that it is essential to have thought‑through forms of
oversight that are as impartial and non‑partisan as possible.
The Report of the Iraq Inquiry
Security Sector Reform
884. An SSR strategy should define the functions of different elements of the relevant
security sector and the structures needed to perform those functions. Considering those
questions should drive a robust debate about how security requirements might change
885. An understanding of the many different models that exist internationally for
internal security, policing and criminal justice is essential. But those models cannot
be considered in isolation because what works in one country will not necessarily
work in another which may have very different traditions. It is therefore critical for the
SSR strategy to take full account of the history, culture and inherited practices of the
country or region in question. The strategy also needs to be informed by the views and
aspirations of the local population.
886. A strategy should set out the desired operating standard for each function and
state how that differs, if at all, from what exists. In doing so, the strategy should specify
where capacity needs to be developed and inform a serious assessment of how the
material resources available could best be deployed.
887. It is essential that the UK has an appropriate way to measure the success of any
SSR plan. If a clear strategy is in place and has taken account of the views of the local
population, the indicators of that success should be obvious. It should rarely concentrate
on a one‑dimensional set of numbers but instead be a more qualitative and rounded
888. The direction in the Ministerial Code that the estimate of a cost of a proposal
should be included in the memorandum submitted to Cabinet or a Ministerial Committee
applies equally to military operations. When evaluating military options it is appropriate
to consider financial risk alongside other forms of risk. While governments will rarely
wish to preclude options solely on the basis of cost, they must also recognise that, over
time, cost may become an issue and make it difficult to sustain a military operation over
the longer term.
889. Strategies and plans must define the resources required to deliver objectives,
identify the budget(s) that will provide those resources, and confirm that those resources
890. In developing strategies and plans for civilian/military operations, a government
should address the impact of the different mechanisms used to fund military operations
and civilian activities and the extent to which those mechanisms provide perverse
incentives for military action by making it easier to secure funding for agreed military
operations than for civilian activities.
891. A government should also address its explicit and implicit financial policy that,
while there should be no constraint on the provision of funding for military operations,
it is reasonable that for the same civilian/military operation, departments should find
funding for new civilian activities from within their existing budgets, which are likely to be
fully allocated to existing departmental priorities.
892. A government is likely to embark on major civilian/military operations such as Iraq
893. A government should recognise that, in such operations, the civilian components
(including diplomatic activity, reconstruction and Security Sector Reform) will be critical
for strategic success, may be very substantial, and must be properly resourced.
894. One arrangement would be to create a budget for the civilian components of the
operation, under the direction of a senior Minister with lead responsibility and in support
of a coherent UK strategy. Once allocations were made from that budget to individual
departments, the allocations would be managed within departments’ legal and policy
constraints. Such an arrangement should:
• ensure that UK strategy was resourced;
• promote joint working;
• minimise the potential for gaming;
• be able to respond to in‑year priorities; and
• reduce the amount of time that Ministers and senior officials need to spend
arguing about funding individual activities.
895. The Inquiry recognises that, since 2003, significant changes have been made to
the UK’s strategic and operational approach to reconstruction and stabilisation, including
to the arrangements for funding such operations.
Military equipment (post‑conflict)
896. In deciding to undertake concurrent operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the UK
knowingly exceeded the Defence Planning Assumptions. All resources from that point
onwards were going to be stretched. Any decision which commits the UK to extended
operations in excess of the Defence Planning Assumptions should be based on the most
rigorous analysis of its potential implications, including for the availability of relevant
capabilities for UK forces.
897. At the start of Op TELIC, the MOD knew that it had capability gaps in relation
to protected mobility and ISTAR and that either could have a significant impact on
operations. Known gaps in such capabilities should always be clearly communicated
898. The MOD should be pro‑active in seeking to understand and articulate new or
additional equipment requirements. The MOD told the Inquiry that there was no simple
The Report of the Iraq Inquiry
answer to the question of where the primary responsibility for identifying capability gaps
lay during Op TELIC. That is unacceptable. The roles and responsibilities for identifying
and articulating capability gaps in enduring operations must be clearly defined,
communicated and understood by those concerned. It is possible that this has been
addressed after the period covered by this Inquiry.
899. Those responsible for making decisions on the investment in military capabilities
should continually evaluate whether the balance between current operational
requirements and long‑term defence programmes is right, particularly to meet an
evolving threat on current operations.
900. During the first four years of Op TELIC, there was no clear statement of policy
setting out the acceptable level of risk to UK forces and who was responsible for
managing that risk. The MOD has suggested to the Inquiry that successive policies
defining risk ownership and governance more clearly have addressed that absence,
and that wider MOD risk management processes have also been revised. In any future
operation the level of force protection required to meet the assessed threat needs to be
901. The Inquiry recognises that, since 2003, significant changes have been made to
the UK’s strategic and operational approach to reconstruction and stabilisation. Some
of those changes, including the establishment of a deployable UK civilian stand‑by
capability, are the direct result of lessons learned from serious shortcomings in the
deployment of civilian personnel in post‑conflict Iraq.
902. The effectiveness of the UK civilian effort in post‑conflict Iraq was compromised
by a range of factors, including the absence of effective cross‑government co‑ordination
on risk, duty of care and the terms and conditions applicable to personnel serving
903. The difficult working conditions for civilians in Iraq were reflected in short
tour lengths and frequent leave breaks. Different departments adopted different
arrangements throughout the Iraq campaign, leading to concerns about breaks
in continuity, loss of momentum, lack of institutional memory and insufficient local
904. Different departments will continue to deploy civilian staff in different roles.
Standardisation of all aspects of those deployments may not be appropriate, but greater
harmonisation of departmental policies should be considered wherever possible.
The same approach should be applied to locally engaged (LE) staff.
905. At all stages, including planning, departments must give full consideration to their
responsibilities and duty of care towards LE staff, who have an essential contribution to
make and will face particular risks in insecure environments.
906. All civilian deployments should be assessed and reviewed against a single,
rigorous, cross‑government framework for risk management. The framework should
provide the means for the Government as a whole to strike an effective balance between
security and operational effectiveness, and to take timely decisions on the provision of
appropriate security measures.
907. Standardising tour lengths for civilians deployed by different departments would
have eased the overall administrative burden and, perhaps, some of the tensions
between individuals from different government departments serving in Iraq. But the
environment was difficult and individuals’ resilience and circumstances varied.
The introduction of the option to extend a tour of duty was an appropriate response.
908. Throughout any operation of this kind, departments should maintain two
procedures for the systematic debriefing of staff returning to the UK: one to meet duty
of care obligations, the other to learn lessons from their experience.
909. In order to identify individuals with the right skills, there must be clarity about the
roles they are to perform. Wherever possible, individuals should be recruited for and
deployed to clearly defined roles appropriate to their skills and seniority. They must be
provided with the equipment needed to perform those roles to a high standard.
910. The Government should consider the introduction of a mechanism for responding
to a surge in demand for a particular language capability.
911. The Inquiry views the inability of the FCO, the MOD and DFID to confirm how
many civilian personnel were deployed to or employed in Iraq, in which locations and
in what roles, as a serious failure. Data management systems must provide accurate
information on the names, roles and locations of all staff for whom departments have
duty of care responsibilities.
Timeline of events
2 August 1990 Saddam Hussein invades Kuwait
29 November 1990 Security Council adopts resolution 678
3 April 1991 Security Council adopts resolution 687
December 1998 Operation Desert Fox
2 June 1999 Ministerial Committee on Defence and Overseas Policy
approves a policy of continuing containment
17 December 1999 Security Council adopts resolution 1284
The Report of the Iraq Inquiry
23 February Mr Blair and President Bush agree on the need for a policy on
Iraq which would be more widely supported in the Middle East
11 September Al Qaida attacks the World Trade Center and the Pentagon
26 November President Bush calls for weapons inspectors to return to Iraq
29 January President Bush makes his “axis of evil” speech
7 March Cabinet discusses Iraq strategy
5‑7 April Mr Blair and President Bush meet in Crawford; Mr Blair makes
his College Station speech
23 July Mr Blair holds a meeting on Iraq policy
28 July Mr Blair sends a Note to President Bush beginning “I will be with
6/7 September Mr Blair and President Bush meet at Camp David
12 September President Bush says he would put Iraqi non‑compliance to the
UN, paving the way for resolution 1441
24 September Parliament recalled; dossier published
10/11 October US Congress authorises use of force in Iraq
31 October Decision to offer “Package 3” for planning purposes
8 November Security Council adopts resolution 1441
13 November Iraq announces it will comply with resolution 1441
14 January Lord Goldsmith gives his draft legal advice to Mr Blair
17 January Decision in principle to deploy UK forces in southern Iraq
27 January Dr Blix and Dr ElBaradei report to the Security Council
31 January Mr Blair and President Bush meet in Washington
5 February Secretary Powell’s presentation to the Security Council
14 February Dr Blix and Dr ElBaradei report to the Security Council
15 February Stop the War protests held
24 February UK/US/Spain table draft second resolution
7 March Lord Goldsmith’s advice on the legality of military action in Iraq;
Dr Blix and Dr ElBaradei report to the Security Council
12 March Recognition that the second resolution would not secure the
support of a majority of the Security Council
13 March Lord Goldsmith reaches his “better view” that invasion is legal
16 March Azores Summit
17 March Last Cabinet meeting before the invasion agrees Parliament
should be asked to endorse the use of military action against
18 March Parliamentary debate and vote on Iraq
Night of 19/20 March: invasion of Iraq begins
7 April UK troops enter Basra
16 April General Franks issues his “Freedom Message to the Iraqi
1 May President Bush declares “Mission Accomplished”
16 May Coalition Provisional Authority Order No.1 (de‑Ba’athification of
22 May Security Council adopts resolution 1483
23 May Coalition Provisional Authority Order No.2 dissolves some Iraqi
military and security structures
13 July Inauguration of the Governing Council
19 August Bomb attack on UN HQ at the Canal Hotel in Baghdad
23/24 October Madrid Donors Conference
15 November Timetable for creation of a transitional Iraqi administration
13 December Capture of Saddam Hussein by US forces
The Report of the Iraq Inquiry
1 March Transitional Administrative Law agreed
31 March Ambush of four US security contractors sparks unrest in Fallujah
Late April Photos of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib published
8 June Security Council adopts resolution 1546
28 June End of Occupation: inauguration of Iraqi Interim Government
(Prime Minister Allawi)
29 June Mr Blair announces HQ ARRC will deploy to Afghanistan
30 January Elections to the Transitional National Assembly
3 May Iraqi Transitional Government takes power (Prime Minister
21 July Decision to deploy Provincial Reconstruction Team and military
support to Helmand province, Afghanistan
15 October Referendum on the Iraqi Constitution
19 October US announces new “Clear‑Hold‑Build” strategy for Iraq
15 December Parliamentary elections in Iraq
26 January Cabinet approves deployment to Helmand province
April to June Formation of Maliki government
1 May UK forces become responsible for Helmand
28 September Op SINBAD begins in Basra
End October Majority of UK civilian staff withdrawn from the Basra Palace site
10 January President Bush announces the US “surge”
27 June Mr Blair leaves office; Mr Brown becomes Prime Minister
13 August Start of reduction of Jaysh al-Mahdi violence against UK forces