Iraq Inquiry: Timeline of key moments since 2009

  • Published
Sir John ChilcotImage source, PA

The UK inquiry into the 2003 Iraq war will publish its long-awaited report on Wednesday.

The report has been looking at the run-up to the conflict, whether troops were properly prepared, how the war was conducted and what planning there was for its aftermath.

Here's a timeline of the main developments since the inquiry, under Sir John Chilcot's leadership, began in July 2009.


The report will be published on Wednesday 6 July, it is announced. Sir John Chilcot says national security vetting has been completed and that no sections of the report will either be removed or redacted.

He confirms that the report will be 2.6 million words long and that families of the 179 British service personnel and civilians killed in Iraq will have the chance to read it before it is published.

It later emerges that the full report will cost £787 to purchase while the 150-page executive summary will cost £30.


Sir John Chilcot says, in a letter written to Prime Minister David Cameron, that he expects to finish the report - which will be more than two million words long - by April 2016.

He says that allowing for National Security checking the PM should be in a position to publish the report in "June or July 2016".


In his latest update, Sir John Chilcot said the process of giving witnesses subject to criticisms in the report the right to reply had yet to be completed, with some individuals yet to respond.

Until this happened, he said he could not set out a "realistic timetable" for when the report would be completed but hoped to do so as soon as possible.

In response, David Cameron expressed his "disappointment" and said he was "fast losing patience" over the time being taken. He has asked the cabinet secretary Sir Jeremy Heyward to meet with Sir John to discuss the issues involved.

Media caption,

Sir John Chilcot told MPs he did not want to raise false hopes or expectations by naming a date


Appearing before the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, Sir John Chilcot says he will not give any timetable for publication as he does not want to "arouse false hopes".

He says the process of giving witnesses criticised in the draft report the right to respond is the primary obstacle standing in the way of completing its work.

He says he is not aware of any individuals holding up the process by taking an undue length of time to respond to his findings.

He also informs MPs that one of the panel members, historian Martin Gilbert, has died.


Sir John Chilcot says he will agree to appear before the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee in early February to answer questions about the inquiry's progress. However, he insists he will not comment on the substance of its work or its likely publication date.


The inquiry will not be published until after the election, Sir John Chilcot confirms. David Cameron says he would have liked the report to have been published already and criticises the previous government for not establishing it earlier.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg says the public would find the latest development "incomprehensible".


Government minister Lord Wallace says the report is "largely finished" and the process of contacting people who have been criticised to give them a right to respond is taking place. He suggests the inquiry should have more staff at the outset to deal with the documents and confirms the report will be "held back" until after May's election if it is not ready for publication by the end of February.


William Hague, the leader of the House of Commons, says he hopes the report will be published before the general election on May 7 2015. David Cameron says the same but both men say they are "not in control" of the timing of the report's conclusion.


The UK's top civil servant said the inquiry will "not be a cover-up in any shape or form". Sir Jeremy Heywood told MPs that the report would be "more transparent" than people were expecting and would include material that would not normally be disclosed "in a million years". The cabinet secretary said the inquiry was "happy" with the documents it could publish after a "delay of sorts".


Details of the "gist" of talks between Tony Blair and George Bush before the Iraq war are to be published, the inquiry disclosed, but transcripts and full notes of conversations will remain secret at the request of the Cabinet Office.


Tony Blair has said he wants the Iraq Inquiry report to be published as soon as possible and "resents" claims he is to blame for its slow progress. The former Labour prime minister said he was not blocking any documents and publication would allow him "restate" the case for the 2003 invasion.


The US has no veto over the disclosure of communications between Tony Blair and George W Bush regarding war with Iraq, the UK Cabinet Office said in response to media reports suggesting Washington was behind delays to declassification of documents.


The inquiry says it cannot proceed with the next phase of its work because key information, including correspondence between Tony Blair and George W Bush, has yet to be released. Sir John Chilcot said it had not yet agreed with the government over the publication of the most "difficult documents".


The inquiry announces a further delay to the publication of its report. In a letter to the prime minister, Sir John Chilcot says he will not report before the middle of 2013 at the earliest - a decade after the war. The report is "unprecedented in scope" and will be about a million words long, he adds. He also confirms the inquiry is seeking a "dialogue" with government officials over further access to secret documents, such as notes of Cabinet meetings and correspondence with foreign governments.


The inquiry says it will not publish its report until the summer of 2012 at the earliest, six months later than had been anticipated. It says it needs this extra time to "do justice" to the issues involved. It also suggests it has not yet been given permission to publish or refer to all the classified documents it wants to in order to provide the fullest picture of decisions taken. It says it needs co-operation from the government to do this in a "satisfactory and timely manner".


The inquiry publishes new witness statements and de-classified papers as it gives an update on its work. In one of the new documents, a former senior intelligence official disputes evidence given by former No 10 spokesman Alastair Campbell in 2010. Michael Laurie contradicts claims made by Mr Campbell that the September 2002 dossier on Iraq's weapons threat was not designed to "make the case for war". He said he and others involved in its drafting thought "this was exactly its purpose". Separately, inquiry chairman Sir John Chilcot says the final report will not be published until the autumn at the earliest.


In the last hearing to be held in public, former foreign secretary Jack Straw insisted regime change was "never" the goal of UK policy towards Saddam Hussein. If the former Iraqi leader had complied with UN disarmament demands, he would have remained in power, Mr Straw argued. Mr Straw said he believed the military action was justified but expressed his "deep sorrow" for the loss of life of British troops and Iraqi civilians. Bringing an end to the public part of the inquiry, Sir John Chilcot said he would not set an "artificial deadline" for publishing its final report while indicating it would take "some months".


The UK drew up a list of countries seen as potential threats after 9/11 in a process known as "draining the swamp". The Foreign Office sought to identify countries that could pose "similar risks" as Afghanistan, senior former diplomat Stephen Pattison said. Mr Pattison told the inquiry the process led to Iraq moving up the political agenda after 9/11 although the phrase "draining the swamp" was dropped after it emerged it had been taken from a magazine article.


Tony Blair was "reluctant" to hold Cabinet discussions about Iraq because he thought details would be leaked, the UK's top civil servant told the inquiry. Sir Gus O'Donnell said Mr Blair did not believe Cabinet was "a safe space" in which to debate the issues involved in going to war. The number of informal meetings held under Mr Blair's premiership meant records of discussions were not "as complete" as he would have liked.


The former head of the armed forces said Tony Blair's government had lacked coherence and failed to deliver the equipment needed to fight the Iraq war. Admiral Lord Boyce told the inquiry that the Treasury had to be "beaten over the head" to deliver on the former prime minister's cash promises, adding that "half the cabinet" did not think the country was even at war.


The UK's most senior official in Iraq told ministers that "heavy-handed" US military tactics made security worse in the year after the 2003 invasion. In a de-classified letter released by the Iraq Inquiry, Sir David Richmond said the unpopularity of the coalition and failure to supply electricity was "visible signs" of lack of progress. He told the Inquiry "things had started to go badly wrong" earlier in 2004 but insisted the UK had managed to alter US thinking in some areas.


Tony Blair was warned by the UK's top civil servant in 2002 he was getting into a "dangerous position" on Iraq. Former Cabinet Secretary Lord Wilson said he alerted Mr Blair to the legal issues involved - which he saw as being a brake on military action. In separate evidence, his successor Lord Turnbull said the cabinet "did not know the score" about Iraq when they were asked to back military action in March 2003. Ministers had not seen key material on Iraq policy and were effectively "imprisoned" as they knew opposing the use of force would likely have led to Tony Blair's resignation.


Tony Blair is recalled to give evidence for a second time. He expresses "deep and profound regret" about the loss of life suffered by UK personnel and Iraqi citizens during and after the 2003 war. He addresses questions about the war's legality, admitting Former Attorney General Lord Goldsmith could have been more closely involved in decision making but his final determination was that war was lawful. He also said the West must confront the "looming challenge" posed by Iran, if necessary by military force.


The Iraq inquiry published details of evidence given by former spy chief Sir Richard Dearlove. Sir Richard, head of MI6 in the run-up to the 2003 invasion, said suggestions that he became too close to Tony Blair were "complete rubbish". Assessment of Iraq's weapons threat was "incomplete", he said, and there was a "convincing" case that Saddam Hussein had "weaponised" chemical agents.


Sir John Chilcot says he is "disappointed" the government has chosen not to make public details of correspondence and conversations between Tony Blair and President Bush about Iraq. The panel - which has seen the material - said disclosure of key extracts would serve to "illuminate Mr Blair's position at critical points" in the run-up to war. But Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell said publishing the information was not in the "public interest" as it could "prejudice relations" between countries in future and "inhibit exchanges" between leaders.


It emerges that former attorney general Lord Goldsmith was "uncomfortable" with statements made by Tony Blair about the legal basis for war in early 2003. In fresh written evidence, Lord Goldsmith - who ultimately concluded that the military action was lawful - said he was concerned about remarks by Mr Blair about the need for a further UN mandate and suggested they were not compatible with advice given. Mr Blair's spokesman said he would deal with the issue when giving evidence on Friday.


Tony Blair will be recalled to give evidence a second time, the inquiry confirms. It says it wants "more detail" from a number of witnesses including the former prime minister, former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and former Chief of the Defence Staff Lord Boyce. A number of other prominent figures, including Cabinet Secretary Gus O'Donnell, have been called to give evidence for the first time.


Sir John Chilcot reports on a recent visit to Northern Iraq where he and one other panel member spoke to senior figures within the Kurdish regional government about their perspective on the war and its aftermath.


Details emerge of how much the inquiry has cost to stage so far. Between July 2009 and March 2010, the inquiry cost an estimated £2.2m. Nearly £800,000 was spent on staff costs while nearly £600,000 was spent on the public hearings, including room hire and broadcasting.


The committee gives an update of its work over the summer: It says it met with 80 serving officers who took part in the Iraq campaign and also visited the defence medical rehabilitation centre at Headley Court to learn about the treatment and rehabilitation of those injured during the war. It also gives details of its visit to Iraq where, during meetings in Baghdad and Basra, it spoke to government officials including former prime ministers Ayad Allawi and Ibrahim Al-Jaafari.


The intelligence on Iraq's weapons threat was not "very substantial", former deputy prime minister Lord Prescott said. He told the inquiry he was "nervous" about the intelligence being presented in 2002 - some of which he said was based on "tittle-tattle". Nevertheless, he defended the military action taken as "legal" and said he would take the same decision again. Closing public hearings for the summer, inquiry chairman Sir John Chilcot said the committee may choose to recall some witnesses in the autumn and also planned to visit Iraq in the autumn to hear "Iraqi perspectives".


Troop commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan created the "perfect storm" for an overstretched army, a former Army chief said. Gen Sir Richard Dannatt said the Ministry of Defence's projections of required troop commitments differed from Army estimates and the Army had come close to "seizing up" in 2006. His predecessor Gen Sir Mike Jackson, in his evidence, said there were too few troops to cope with the aftermath of the invasion.


The UN's former chief weapons inspector Hans Blix said it is his "firm view" that the Iraq war was illegal. Dr Blix said the UK had sought to go down the "UN route" to deal with Saddam Hussein but failed. Ex-Attorney General Lord Goldsmith, who advised the war was lawful on the basis of existing UN resolutions, "wriggled about" in his arguments, he suggested. Dr Blix also said his inspectors had visited 500 sites in Iraq but found no evidence of weapons of mass destruction.


The inquiry has been "too easygoing" in grilling witnesses about the lead-up to the war, a former UK diplomat said. Carne Ross told the BBC that chairman Sir John Chilcot was running a "narrow" investigation, with the standard of questioning "pretty low". Mr Ross alleges that the Foreign Office withheld key documents before he gave evidence to the inquiry recently.


Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg had to clarify the government's position on the Iraq war after telling MPs the conflict had been "illegal". At prime minister's questions, Mr Clegg said Labour's former foreign secretary Jack Straw would have to account for his role in the "disastrous" decision to invade. Mr Clegg later stressed his opinion was a "long-held" personal one and the government awaited the outcome of the Chilcot inquiry.


The invasion of Iraq "substantially" increased the terrorist threat to the UK, the former head of MI5 said. Baroness Manningham-Buller told the inquiry the action "radicalised" a generation of young people, including UK citizens, and she was not "surprised" that UK nationals were involved in the 7/7 bombings in London. The intelligence on Iraq's threat was not "substantial enough" to justify the action, she argued.


Helping British troops seriously wounded in Iraq was a "real challenge" but welfare support has improved as a result, defence officials said. Improved battlefield care saved more lives but more soldiers were left with multiple injuries, senior personnel officers told the inquiry. Air Marshall David Pocock said the military had "learnt a lot [of lessons]" about helping casualties. But he accepted support for bereaved families was often not good enough.


Legal concerns were partly to blame for the government not being open with the families of troops killed in Iraq, a former minister said. Adam Ingram told the Iraq inquiry lawyers advised caution to officials about their wording in case it was taken as an admission of liability. He said it was "very wearing" for ministers to have to meet bereaved relatives who blamed them for deaths. But he dismissed some reports of equipment shortages as "urban myths". Legal fears 'hit Iraq openess'


The cabinet should have seen all the arguments on the legality of the Iraq war, a former senior minister has said. Lord Boateng said it would have been "helpful" to see then Attorney General Lord Goldsmith's full legal deliberations in the run-up to war. Military action would be lawful, Lord Goldsmith ruled days before the invasion, but critics said his earlier reservations were not made clear. But Lord Boateng said he believed the invasion was "right".


Dealing with Saddam Hussein through sanctions and other methods was a "very available" alternative to military action, a former UK diplomat said. Carne Ross, who resigned over the war, told the Iraq inquiry that the UK did not work hard enough to make its pre-2003 policy of containment work. Officials trying to argue for this approach felt "very beleaguered". There was no "significant intelligence" to back up beliefs Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, he added.


The inquiry said it had taken evidence from 35 people in private. Witnesses who have appeared behind closed doors included Sir Richard Dearlove, a former head of MI6. Individuals to have taken part in private as well as public hearings included Sir John Scarlett, Sir David Manning and Sir Jeremy Greenstock. Inquiry chairman Sir John Chilcot said evidence was taken in private where doing so in public would have damaged national security or international relations. Inquiry hears from 35 witnesses in private.


Tony Blair "misread" Iran's view on efforts to build a democracy in Iraq after the 2003 invasion, a former UK ambassador to Tehran said. Tehran did not wish to "destabilise" efforts to establish a government after Saddam Hussein's overthrow, Sir Richard Dalton told the inquiry. Claims of Iranian support for al-Qaeda and the counter-insurgency in Iraq that began in 2004 were "exaggerated", he argued.


The government "let down" the families of British troops killed in Iraq in terms of the support given to them, ex-Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth said. He told the Iraq inquiry that the Ministry of Defence "simply did not get it right" in terms of the overall "welfare package" given to families. Communication was often inconsistent and inquests into deaths in service took too long. However, he defended government action over pay and compensation for injuries as well as the medical care given to the wounded.


The Blair government should have "sorted out" its plans to rebuild Iraq after the war much sooner, a former minister told the inquiry. Sally Keeble said the Department for International Development's role was still under debate "close to the action" starting in 2003. There was a "problem" with the UK's military and aid roles not being focused enough on one area of Iraq, she added, while "real issues" had arisen over funding.


The inquiry publishes previously secret documents relating to the legality of the war after they were de-classified by the government. Details of former Attorney General Lord Goldsmith's draft legal advice to Tony Blair on 12 February 2003 were published on the inquiry's website, as well as a note he sent to former prime minister on the issue two weeks earlier. The inquiry also heard from the former head of the Diplomatic Service, Lord Jay, who said he was "very uncomfortable" with the idea of military action without the backing of the UN. However, he said he did not "dissent" from Lord Goldsmith's conclusion that the war was lawful.


The inquiry resumed hearings after a four-and-a-half month break for the general election. It heard that former French President Jacques Chirac believed the invasion was a "dangerous venture". Sir John Holmes, the UK's ambassador to France in 2003, said Paris saw efforts to get a further UN resolution to authorise military action as a "trap". Also, the man sent to advise Iraqi officials on building up its police force after the invasion said there was not enough focus or resources given to the task. Douglas Brand said British and US officials had unrealistic expectations about how quickly officers could be trained and believed policing structures could be "imposed" quickly after the war despite the unstable situation in the country.


Foreign Secretary David Miliband said the United Nations had been "feeble" in following up threats made to Saddam Hussein in the run-up to the Iraq war. He added that most Iraqis felt they had been liberated from tyranny since the fall of Saddam Hussein and the situation in the country showed "chaotic potential". Ministry of Defence permanent under-secretary Sir Bill Jeffrey said the expansion of UK involvement in Afghanistan did not mean forces left Iraq at the wrong time. Concluding hearings until after the UK general election, inquiry chairman Sir John Chilcot urged political parties not to use its proceedings as a campaign issue.


Prime Minister Gordon Brown denied starving UK armed forces of equipment, insisting at the Iraq inquiry that every request made while he was chancellor was met. Making his long-awaited appearance, the prime minister said he fully backed the 2003 war and had been kept "in the loop" by Tony Blair in the build-up. However, he expressed "sadness" for the deaths of British soldiers and Iraqi citizens.


The inquiry says Prime Minister Gordon Brown will give evidence on 5 March. International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander will also appear on that day while Foreign Secretary David Miliband will appear on 8 March.


Sir Kevin Tebbit, a retired permanent secretary to the Ministry of Defence, claimed Gordon Brown had "guillotined" £1bn from defence spending in December 2003, while efforts to rebuild Iraq were ongoing. This created the need for a "very major savings exercise", he said. Mr Brown rejected the allegations later in Parliament. Also giving evidence, former Defence Secretary John Reid said the "failures of Vietnam" haunted the US military during the earlier part of its time in Iraq, hindering reconstruction efforts. And former human rights envoy Ann Clwyd said she believed there was "no other option" than to remove Saddam Hussein to prevent further persecution of a large section of the Iraqi population.


Tony Blair's cabinet was "misled" into thinking the war with Iraq was legal, ex-International Development Secretary Clare Short told the inquiry. She said Attorney General Lord Goldsmith had been "leaned on" to change his advice before the invasion and that the cabinet had not properly discussed events leading up to the war. She also suggested she had been "conned" into remaining in the cabinet despite her misgivings about the war by the promise of a lead role in post-war reconstruction efforts.


Ministers were warned of a "serious risk" the military would not have all the equipment it needed to invade Iraq, the inquiry heard. Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, the head of the armed forces, said defence chiefs "simply didn't have enough time" to source everything they wanted and more time to prepare would have made a "significant difference".


In the most eagerly anticipated moment of the inquiry, Tony Blair insisted he had no regrets in removing Saddam Hussein. During six hours of questioning, the former prime minister mounted a robust defence of his decision to take the UK to war, describing the former Iraqi leader as a "monster" and a threat to the world. There was "no conspiracy, deceit or deception" behind the decisions he took and no "covert" deal with President Bush to back military action. At the time he was convinced the regime possessed weapons of mass destruction while it was clear Saddam planned to step up weapons programmes once he was able to.


Lord Goldsmith told the inquiry he changed his view on the legality of military action but denied this was down to political pressure. While initially believing a second UN resolution was necessary, he concluded otherwise in the middle of February 2003 after consulting with lawyers and diplomats in the US about the meaning of existing UN agreements. He issued a definitive judgement only days before the war because the military said they needed one to go ahead. He made clear he stood by his decision that the invasion was lawful. Inquiry chairman Sir John Chilcot also said he shared Lord Goldsmith's frustration that not all relevant documents had been declassified.


Two former Foreign Office legal advisers told the inquiry that, in their opinion, the invasion of Iraq was unlawful without the express backing of the United Nations. Sir Michael Wood, the department's chief legal adviser, said Foreign Secretary Jack Straw rejected his advice that a further mandate from the Security Council was needed to justify military action. His deputy Elizabeth Wilmshurst, who resigned in protest at the decision to go to war, said the way in which the legal arguments were presented and assessed had been "lamentable".


The inquiry heard from Des Browne and John Hutton, defence secretaries between May 2006 and July 2009. Mr Browne said he found it personally "difficult" to cope with the impact of British fatalities in Iraq. He said he never came under pressure to shift resources from Iraq to Afghanistan but questioned the ability of the UK armed forces to fight two major campaigns at the same time. Mr Hutton said the death toll among Iraqis had been "disastrous" but the invasion was justified as Iraq was now a democracy and not a threat to regional security. But he said a shortage of helicopters was a "factor" in the campaign.


Inquiry chairman Sir John Chilcot confirms that Gordon Brown will appear at the inquiry before the general election. He said Mr Brown had written to the inquiry stating that he would be prepared to give evidence whenever "you see fit" and would be "happy" to do so before the election. Sir John said the hearing was likely to take place in late February or early March at a date to be agreed. Opposition parties, who had criticised the decision to delay Mr Brown's appearance until after the election, welcomed the change of plan.


Supporting the invasion was the "most difficult decision" of his life, Jack Straw told the inquiry. The foreign secretary said he was aware the UK could not have gone to war without his backing. He said he had taken the decision "very reluctantly" as he disagreed with the US objective of regime change as the basis for action but he believed Iraq posed a threat. He said the 45-minute claim in the September 2002 dossier on Iraq's weapons threat was an error that "has haunted us ever since".


Including the 45-minute claim in an intelligence dossier on Iraq's weapons was "asking for trouble", Tony Blair's former security co-ordinator Sir David Omand said. He described it as a "bit of local colour" which was used because there was little other detail that the intelligence services were happy to be included in the September 2002 dossier.


Former defence secretary Geoff Hoon - the first cabinet minister from the period to appear before the inquiry - said the first he heard of the controversial "45 minute claim" on Iraq's weapons was when he read about it in the September 2002 dossier. Separately he also said he had opposed the deployment of British troops to Helmand, before forces were reduced in Iraq.


Britain gave "no undertaking in blood to go to war in Iraq" in March 2002, Tony Blair's former chief of staff told the Inquiry. Jonathan Powell dismissed ex-diplomat Sir Christopher Meyer's claim that his stance had hardened after a private meeting with the US president. He said there had been an "assumption" Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, because Saddam had used them before.


It emerges that the inquiry met in private on Friday following a request by General Sir John Reith, the man who ran British operations during the war. He told the inquiry that the Ministry of Defence had been "reluctant" to begin vital logistical planning for a potential invasion as late as December 2002 for fear of alerting the public. Ultimately, he said there were no equipment shortages but some kit could not found once it was sent to Iraq.


UK forces in southern Iraq had to rely on their US allies for helicopters because all UK aircraft were deployed in Afghanistan, a senior military officer told the inquiry. Major General Graham Binns, who commanded coalition forces in Basra from mid-2007 until early 2008, said there was a "major gap" in attack helicopters but those provided by the US were "magnificent".


Ex-No 10 spokesman Alastair Campbell was attacked for suggesting former cabinet minister and war critic Clare Short was barred from key meetings because she could not be trusted. Former head of the civil service, Lord Turnbull, said his remarks were "very poor" and Ms Short's views should have been respected. He also said Tony Blair must explain recent comments that he would have backed the war even if he had known Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction.


Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair's former communications chief, told the inquiry he would defend "every single word" of the 2002 dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, containing the famous claim that Saddam's weapons could be launched within 45 minutes. In a typically combative performance, stretching over nearly five hours, he said the dossier could have been "clearer" - but he insisted the government did not "misrepresent" the threat they posed by Saddam's weapons. He also denied claims Mr Blair "shifted" to back regime change after a US summit, pouring scorn on the evidence given to the inquiry by former UK ambassador to the US Sir Christopher Meyer.


Lt Gen Sir Richard Shirreff said the British Army was effectively providing "no security at all" in the southern Iraqi city of Basra by mid-2006. The former commanding officer of the multi-national division in south-east Iraq told the inquiry that 200 troops were attempting to control a city of 1.3 million people, with militias "filling the gap". He also said troops had not been employed effectively and criticised equipment levels provided for the mission in southern Iraq.


The complexity of negotiating the British exit from Iraqi in 2009 was revealed. Peter Watkins from the Ministry of Defence said that one lesson learnt was that the coalition allies should have sought a single agreement with the Iraqis. "We should have applied the Balkans principle of in together out together". Foreign Office officials described with some optimism how life for the people of Basra had steadily improved, six years after the invasion.


Evidence centred on Operation Charge of the Knights in March 2008 when an Iraqi-led military campaign drove the Mahdi Army militia out of Basra. Lt Gen Barney White-Spunner of the Multi- National Division South East said the Iraqis had asked the British to carry out aerial bombing of areas which had not been "sufficiently vetted", where there could be civilian casualties. UK forces refused to launch these attacks. In the event, the Shia militias "crumbled quickly" in the face of the Iraqi-led operation.


Witnesses described the period leading to the drawdown of British forces in Iraq. Jon Day from the Ministry of Defence confirmed that the UK held talks with the Mahdi Army militia in Basra three months before British troops pulled out of the city and moved to the airport. Lt Gen Sir Peter Wall said young soldiers would complain how bored they had become in Basra in the final months of the operation. Christopher Prentice, the British ambassador to Baghdad (2007-09), said the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al Maliki was "very very keen" on the relationship with Britain.


Sir William Patey, the former UK ambassador to Iraq, told the inquiry some post-war ambitions for the country were "probably higher than the ability to deliver". He talked about the difficulties of drafting a constitution and setting up an effective police force. General Sir Nick Houghton, former chief of joint operations, said that, from 2006, there had been pressure to reduce British force levels in Iraq to concentrate on the new mission in Helmand.


The bombing of the UN headquarters in Iraq in 2003 had "a very serious impact" on UK efforts to rebuild the country, former overseas aid official Jim Drummond told the inquiry.


Britain may have had "second thoughts" about its participation in the Iraq war had it foreseen the mayhem that would occur in the years after the invasion, the inquiry was told. Sir John Sawers, a former adviser to Tony Blair and now head of MI6, said the level of violence in post-war Iraq was "unprecedented". Earlier, top commander Lt Gen Sir Robert Fry said the invasion could have failed without the backing of UK troops.


Key decisions taken in post-war Iraq were examined as Sir Jeremy Greenstock made his second appearance before the inquiry. He said the US thwarted UK efforts to give the UN a "leading political role" in post-war Iraq and US officials did not listen to UK advice or even keep them informed of major developments.


The US refused to accept it was facing an organised counter-insurgency in Iraq, the UK's senior military representative in Baghdad told the inquiry. Lt General John Kiszely quoted former US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld as saying growing attacks in 2004 were the work of a "bunch of no hopers". Lt Gen Jonathon Riley, who commanded forces in the south of Iraq, said the US had "no choice" but to disband the Iraqi army - a decision criticised by many UK officials. He said the force lost the respect of the people and effectively "disbanded itself".


Former Prime Minister Tony Blair has yet to appear before the Chilcot inquiry. However, asked about the decision to go to war in a BBC TV interview, he said he would have done so even if he had known Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. The "notion" that Iraq was a threat to the region had tilted him in favour of the invasion, he added. Reacting to the remarks, Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth said he was "surprised" by them while Sir Ken MacDonald, a former director of public prosecutions, has accused Mr Blair of "alarming subterfuge" in justifying the war.


Tony Blair's ex-foreign policy adviser Sir John Sawers said the US was not talking about war with Iraq in early 2001. Sir John, the current head of MI6, visited Washington in January that year for informal talks with the incoming Bush administration. George W Bush and the then UK prime minister held their first meeting at Camp David in the February. There was agreement that their policy of "containment" of Iraq through sanctions and no-fly zones was "unsustainable", Sir John said. And while there was talk of "regime change", there was no discussion of military intervention.


"Amateurs" were put into key roles in post-invasion Iraq, Britain's senior military representative in Iraq said, claiming lives had been lost as a result. Lt Gen Frederick Viggers said senior officials, including ministers, needed more training to deal with the complexities involved in mounting an invasion. Lessons from Iraq were not being applied in Afghanistan, he added. Sir Hilary Synnott, the Coalition Provisional Authority's (CPA) regional co-ordinator for Southern Iraq from July 2003 until January 2004, said the long-term plan for the governance of Iraq was "deeply flawed". He said bureaucracy, resource and expertise problems had hampered the coalition's mission. Lt Gen Sir Graeme Lamb likened the CPA to "dancing with a broken doll".


Ex-spy chief Sir John Scarlett said there was "no conscious intention" to manipulate information about Iraq's weapons. He denied being under pressure to "firm up" the September 2002 dossier which contained the claim Iraq could use WMD within 45 minutes of Saddam's order. Former permanent secretary at the Department for International Development, Sir Suma Chakrabarti, said UK aid officials had "scanty" evidence of the situation in Iraq in the lead-up to the 2003 invasion. Air Marshall Sir Brian Burridge, who led UK ground forces in Iraq, said he was told by a top US commander 10 months before that it was a "matter of when not if" it went into Iraq.


A senior British officer said he urged Tony Blair to delay the invasion of Iraq two days before the conflict. Maj Gen Tim Cross, who liaised with the US on reconstruction efforts, said planning for after the conflict was "woefully thin". A senior diplomat also told the inquiry the UK government felt "helpless" to deal with the kidnappings of its citizens in following the war. Edward Chaplin, former UK ambassador to Iraq, said the taking hostage and killing of Ken Bigley and Margaret Hassan had been "terrible" events.


The US first revealed its military plans at a meeting in June 2002, the UK's chief military adviser to the US Central Army Command told the inquiry. Major General David Wilson said there was no talk of Iraq among top US commanders in Spring 2002 but this "changed suddenly" in June when he said the "curtain was drawn back" on their thinking. Asked to comment on the plans, he said the UK could not back them without political and legal approval. Dominic Asquith, British ambassador to Iraq in 2006-7, said the Treasury refused to provide extra cash for reconstruction projects in Basra which he said was "extremely frustrating".


The US "assumed" the UK would contribute troops to the invasion even if there was no UN backing, the head of UK armed forces at the time told the inquiry. Admiral Lord Boyce said the "shutters came down" in Washington when UK officials pointed out they would not be able to back the war without Parliamentary approval. He also criticised Clare Short, Secretary of State for International Development during the invasion, saying her department had effectively hampered reconstruction efforts and been "particularly uncooperative".


In a session dominated by the aftermath of the war, a senior Foreign Office official said there was a "dire" lack of planning in the Bush administration for a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq. Edward Chaplin, head of the Middle East department in 2003, said the UK raised the issue many times but its concerns had been largely overlooked. His colleague, Sir Peter Ricketts, said the UK could have achieved more in its role in stabilising and rebuilding southern Iraq after the invasion if it had been given more resources.


Tony Blair indicated he would be willing to back "regime change" at a meeting with President Bush in Texas in April 2002, the prime minister's foreign policy adviser at the time told the inquiry. But Sir David Manning stressed that Mr Blair told the President he should get UN support for the move and continued to press for this throughout 2002. According to Sir David, during the Texas meeting, President Bush said there was no "war plan" for Iraq but a "small cell" had been set up in Florida to explore options for removing Saddam Hussein. Sir David also said Mr Blair asked in June 2002 for military options for the UK joining action against Iraq.


The UK's ambassador to the UN in the run-up to the war said he believed the invasion was legal but of "questionable legitimacy" as it was not backed by the majority of UN members or possibly even the British public. Sir Jeremy Greenstock revealed he had not always been kept fully informed of British policy as it developed and had considered resigning at one point. Had weapons inspectors been given more time to do their job, the war could possibly have been prevented, he argued.


Tony Blair's stance on Iraq "tightened" after a private meeting with US President George Bush in April 2002, the inquiry was told. Sir Christopher Meyer, the UK's ambassador to the US in the run-up to war, said a day after the meeting Mr Blair mentioned the possibility of regime change publicly for the first time in a speech. In his evidence, the former ambassador said military preparations for war overrode the diplomatic process and he criticised post-war planning for Iraq as a "black hole".


The UK received intelligence days before invading Iraq that Saddam Hussein may not have been able to use chemical weapons, the inquiry heard. Sir William Ehrman, the Foreign Office's director general for defence and intelligence between 2002 and 2004, also said it was a "surprise" that no weapons of mass destruction were ever found in Iraq. Meanwhile, Gordon Brown rejected claims from Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg that the government could effectively veto aspects of the final report, saying it was up to the inquiry what went into it.


On the first day of public hearings, four senior diplomats and advisers gave evidence on the war's origins. Sir Peter Ricketts, a top intelligence official at the time, said the UK government "distanced itself" from talk of removing Saddam Hussein in early 2001. He said it was assumed it was not "our policy" despite growing talk in the US about the move. Before the hearings began, inquiry chairman Sir John Chilcot said he would not "shy" away from criticising individuals in his final report.

30 JULY 2009

Launching the inquiry, Sir John says he intends to hold as many hearings as possible in public. Over the summer, he and his team begin to wade through thousands of government documents relating to the war. In September, the inquiry team meet relatives of some of the 179 service personnel killed in Iraq between as well as retired and serving members of the armed forces. At a meeting in London, a retired Army officer whose son was killed in Iraq says the government "misled" the country over the reasons for going to war.

15 JUNE 2009

Gordon Brown announces an inquiry will be set up to "learn the lessons" of the Iraq conflict, to be led by former civil servant Sir John Chilcot. He tells MPs it should be held in private but within days and under pressure from the opposition and ex-government officials, he says it will be up to Chilcot to decide how to proceed.

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