UK Politics

Iraq inquiry: The ten key moments from public hearings

The Iraq inquiry has concluded its public hearings. More than a hundred sessions have been held since November 2009. BBC correspondent Peter Biles has covered them all. Here he selects the 10 key moments.

TONY BLAIR'S VISIT TO CRAWFORD

In the first week of public hearings, Britain's former ambassador to the US, Sir Christopher Meyer, attempted to shed light on the private meeting between Tony Blair and George Bush at the then president's Texas ranch. Sir Christopher said he was not sure if anything was "signed in blood" between the two leaders, but immediately afterwards, he said Tony Blair had publicly used the term "regime change" for the first time. The diplomat's version of events at Crawford was later disputed by Jonathan Powell, Tony Blair's former chief of staff. Dateline: 26 November 2009

THE FAILURE OF POST WAR PLANNING

This evidence amounted to some of the strongest criticism of the post-invasion planning in the United States where the Pentagon had seized the lead role. Tim Cross said the planning for the aftermath had been "woefully thin", and he also expressed concern about the lack of clarity over policy direction in Britain. He said he left Iraq in June 2003 "frankly dog tired and glad to be away". Dateline: 7 December 2009

THE DEFENCE OF TONY BLAIR

In an extended evidence session, the former Downing Street spin doctor, Alastair Campbell, mounted a robust defence of Tony Blair's premiership and the decision to take Britain to war in Iraq. He defended the government's controversial 2002 dossier to the hilt. He played down the importance of the 45-minutes claim on weapons of mass destruction and he denied "sexing up" the intelligence. He also claimed not to be worried about newspaper headlines. He revealed that Tony Blair wrote to President Bush in 2002, saying that "Britain would be there" to support Washington militarily, if the diplomatic efforts on Iraq failed. Dateline: 12 January 2010

PUBLIC CHEERS FOR AN INTERNATIONAL LAWYER

The former Foreign Office legal adviser, Elizabeth Wilmshurst, had not previously spoken publicly about her decision to resign over the Iraq War. She had thought the war was illegal and found herself at odds with Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. It also emerged that she was not a lone voice in the Foreign Office. Her boss, Sir Michael Wood, also believed the conflict was illegal but he chose not to resign. For once, there was a real sense of unpredictability about the proceedings. When Ms Wilmshurst finished giving evidence and the cameras were switched off, members of the public in the hearing room burst into spontaneous applause. Dateline: 26 January 2010

THE ATTORNEY GENERAL'S CHANGE OF HEART

Lord Goldsmith's performance was confident and precise. During six hours of questioning, he went to great lengths to lay out the full sequence of events that ultimately led to his final legal advice in March 2003. He did not feel there were inconsistencies in his evolving views, nor did he believe that the political pressure on the government was weighing on him. He was keen to emphasise that he was a law officer, one step removed from political decision-making, even if he was a member of Tony Blair's cabinet. In reaching a decision on the legality of the Iraq war, Lord Goldsmith remained the lawyer and the prime minister was "the client". Dateline: 27 January 2010

THE INQUIRY'S KEY WITNESS

Tony Blair remained firm in his belief that what he did in Iraq was right. In what has come to be a defining moment of this inquiry, he was asked by chairman Sir John Chilcot whether he had any regrets about the Iraq war. The former prime minister replied: "Responsibility but not a regret for removing Saddam Hussein. I think that he was a monster. I believe he threatened, not just the region, but the world." Dateline: 29 January 2010

GORDON BROWN'S APPEARANCE

Gordon Brown had initially wanted the Iraq Inquiry to be held in private. However, the former prime minister had no choice but to appear before Sir John Chilcot's committee in front of members of the public and families of service personnel killed in Iraq. He expressed "sadness" for the deaths of British soldiers and Iraqi civilians, but denied starving the UK armed forces of equipment while he was chancellor. Dateline: 5 March 2010

THE WEAPONS INSPECTOR CALLS

The UN's former chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix, declared he was of the firm view that the invasion of Iraq had been "an illegal war". "I think the vast majority of international lawyers feel that way," he said. Crucially, he had serious doubts about the intelligence that lay behind the move to go to war. The panel wanted to know what this mild-mannered ex-Swedish diplomat had thought of Saddam Hussein's behaviour. "I never met him," replied Blix."But I saw him as someone who wanted to be like Emperor Nebuchadnezzar... utterly ruthless... and he misjudged it at the end." Dateline: 27 July 2010

TONY BLAIR EXPRESSES REGRET

Recalled for a marathon four and a half hour session, Tony Blair said he wanted to clarify what he had said to the inquiry a year earlier. He regretted "deeply and profoundly" the loss of life in Iraq. From the public seating area, there were cries of "too late". His closing remarks contained a warning to Iran. Tony Blair said its regime would carry on unless met with "requisite determination, and if necessary, force". Dateline: 21 January 2011

THE BLAIR CABINET LEFT IN THE DARK

The former Cabinet Secretary, Lord Turnbull, provided fascinating insight into the informal way Tony Blair ran his government. He did not accept Mr Blair's claim that the cabinet "knew the score" about Iraq. He revealed that the cabinet was not asked to make a decision about military action in Iraq until as late as 17 March, 2003, just before the invasion. The cabinet was "pretty much captive" and had little choice but to go along with it. However, former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw later said ministers must have been "deaf, dumb and blind" not to have been aware during the build-up that Britain might support the US militarily. Dateline: 25 January 2011

More on this story