The Iraq Inquiry, dubbed the Chilcot Inquiry, is set to be published at around 1130 a.m (BST) on Wednesday. It is one of the most highly-anticipated political reports in Britain’s history.
The 2.6 million word document is the culmination of a huge investigation that was launched by former Prime Minister Gordon Brown in 2009 into the United Kingdom’s involvement in the war in Iraq.
The report, which is estimated to have cost over £10 million of taxpayers’ money, has been chaired by former senior civil servant Sir John Chilcot.
Here is everything you need to know about what the Inquiry is and why it is important.
What is it?
The Chilcot Inquiry is a thorough investigation which has taken place for the last seven years into the United Kingdom’s decision to go to war in Iraq in 2003. It will cover political decisions made between 2001 and 2009 relating to the run-up to the UK’s intervention, the military action itself, and the aftermath of the conflict.
Chiefly, the point of Chilcot is to find out what major lessons the country can learn from the Iraq invasion and how these can be applied in the future.
Between 2009 and 2011, the inquiry heard evidence from politicians who were members of the Labour government which took the United Kingdom into war, as well as senior military officials and diplomats. The politicians include former prime minister Tony Blair, who is most closely associated with the invasion, his former foreign secretary Jack Straw, and Gordon Brown.
Why is it happening?
Chilcot was launched because the UK’s decision to invade Iraq alongside the US and other nations is one of the most contentious foreign policy decisions in the country’s history. 217 members of parliament voted against military intervention, including several members of the Labour government who resigned in protest, including former Foreign Secretary Robin Cook. 396 MPs voted for the war.
Over the course of the conflict that followed, a total of 179 British servicemen and women were killed and tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians lost their lives. The intervention was successful in bringing an end to the reign of brutal dictator Saddam Hussein but failed to bring stability to the region once Hussein was removed. Today, Iraq is one of the most troubled nations on Earth.
The main argument Tony Blair cited for going to war was that Iraq possessed chemical and biological weapons. However, this was never proved, which cast an extra layer of doubt over the legitimacy of the invasion.
The conflict in Iraq was followed by a period of diplomacy in which the UK was unable to secure United Nations authorisation for military action. This sequence of events gave rise to debates about whether the war was even legal.
Who has overseen it?
The inquiry was named after Privy Councillor Sir John Chilcot, who has chaired the investigation. The other members of the committee are Sir Lawrence Freedman, Sir Martin Gilbert, Sir Roderic Lyne and Baroness Usha Prashar.
The committee has been paid a lot of money to put the report together. Sir John Chilcot has been paid £790 per day and the other committee members £565 per day, according to the Chilcot Inquiry website.
When and how will it be published?
The twelve volumes, 2.6 million word report will be released online on the Iraq Inquiry website at around 1130 a.m. (BST) on Wednesday once Sir John Chilcott has finished addressing the media. Business Insider will be covering this sequence of events live.
Anyone who plans to buy a full copy will have to pay £767 (around $1,000). A 150-page executive summary is being published separately and will be available for purchase at £30 (around $40).
Why has it taken seven years to be completed?
The time it has taken for the Chilcot Inquiry to be completed has come under intense criticism. It is often pointed out that more time has been spent putting the report time together than UK forces spent fighting in Iraq.
The initial stage was a series of public hearings in which the likes of Blair and Straw, along with military commanders and diplomats, were questioned. This finished in February 2011. However, this was followed by major delays which caused great upset for relatives of personnel who were killed in the conflict.
The delays were caused by a struggle between the Inquiry committee and the government over what classified material should be disclosed with the final report.
What will the consequences be?
Anti-war campaigners have long called for Tony Blair to face trial for war crimes at the International Criminal Court because the UN never confirmed that the Iraq invasion had its authority. However, although the Chilcot Inquiry is expected to strongly condemn Blair’s decisions between the 2001 and 2009, he is not set to face any legal action, according to The Telegraph.
Chilcot’s findings are likely to have major ramifications for the crisis which is currently unfolding in the Labour Party.
Jeremy Corbyn remains the leader despite the vast majority of his own MPs calling for resignation. Corbyn is a staunch opponent of military intervention and voted against the Iraq invasion back in 2003. Angela Eagle, who is expected to launch a leadership challenge if Corbyn does not resign, voted for the UK to invade Iraq.
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