February 2, 2011 / 4:57 PM / 7 years ago

Timeline - Britain's inquiry into the Iraq War

LONDON (Reuters) - Here is a timeline of the main events in Britain’s public inquiry into the Iraq war:

June 15, 2009 - Prime Minister Gordon Brown announces an inquiry in a move seen as an attempt to heal the rifts in his Labour Party caused by the decision to join the invasion of Iraq six years previously.

November 24 - The five-member inquiry team, headed by former civil servant John Chilcot, begins its hearings.

November 26 - Christopher Meyer, ambassador to the United States between 1997 and 2003, says that George W. Bush and Blair appeared to have “converged” on “regime change” in Iraq after talks at the U.S. president’s Texas ranch in 2002.

November 27 - The United States followed its own military timetable for the 2003 invasion rather than allowing diplomacy to run its full course, Jeremy Greenstock, former British ambassador to the United Nations, tells the inquiry.

January 12, 2010 - Alastair Campbell, Blair’s spokesman and communications chief, says Blair told Bush in 2002 that Britain would back military action if diplomatic efforts to disarm Saddam Hussein failed.

January 21 - Former Foreign Minister Jack Straw says he deeply regretted the loss of life but defends his decision to back the invasion, in a lengthy statement issued before his appearance.

January 26 - Michael Wood, the Foreign Office’s top legal adviser at the time, says he disagreed with the Attorney General Peter Goldsmith’s final assessment, saying he believed there was no legal basis for war.

-- Elizabeth Wilmshurst, Wood’s deputy who quit over the invasion, says it amounted to a “crime of aggression,” and said it was “lamentable” and “extraordinary” that the government had waited so long before seeking the attorney general’s advice.

January 27 - Goldsmith says he initially believed a second U.N. resolution was necessary to justify invading Iraq, but later changed his mind a month before the war. Goldsmith also said Blair had not pressurised him to alter his view as critics of the war suspected.

January 29 - Blair explains how the 9/11 attacks on the United States had changed “the calculus of risk” about Iraq. He makes a robust defence of his decision to go to war, saying Saddam had posed a threat to the world and had to be disarmed or removed.

February 1 - Jock Stirrup, deputy chief of staff in charge of military equipment in 2003, says Britain was not ready to launch the war and its soldiers went in without adequate equipment.

March 5 - Brown appears at the inquiry and says that going to war was the right decision and that he provided the necessary funding for military action. He says he acknowledges the human cost of the conflict and admits mistakes were made, but distances himself from the most contentious decisions.

-- Brown later says his statements on defence spending at the inquiry had not been entirely accurate, an embarrassing moment in the run-up to the May election.

May 28 - Paul Bremer, who governed Iraq’s Coalition Provisional Authority for 13 months, tells the inquiry planning for the 2003 invasion of Iraq was inadequate and not enough troops were sent to ensure post-conflict security.

June 29 - The public hearings resume. They were suspended during the British election, in which Labour lost power to a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition.

July 27 - Hans Blix, former U.N. chief weapons inspector in Iraq, says that he warned Britain and the United States in the weeks leading to the 2003 Iraq war that their evidence that the country had weapons of mass destruction (WMD) had become weaker.

July 30 - John Prescott, former deputy to Tony Blair, says he had doubts about intelligence that Saddam possessed WMD, describing some of it as “tittle tattle.”

January 17, 2011 - In a written statement released by the inquiry, Lord Goldsmith criticises Blair for publicly suggesting Britain could attack Iraq without further U.N. backing despite having received clear legal advice to the contrary.

January 21 - Blair appears for a second time and says he promised to back the U.S. in taking action against Saddam Hussein almost a year before the 2003 invasion.

January 28 - Britain’s top civil servant, Sir Gus O‘Donnell, says Blair failed properly to discuss plans to join the US-led invasion as he did not trust his cabinet colleagues not to leak discussions.

February 2 - In what is to be a final public hearing before the panel reports to Prime Minister David Cameron, Jack Straw makes a third appearance before the Chilcot committee. He said Bush and Blair did not have a “sinister design” for war.

Writing by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit

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