Iraq Inquiry: What's at stake?

  • Tony Blair's role expected to be scrutinised.
  • Lawyers for relatives of 179 soldiers killed will be looking for basis for legal action
  • Inquiry to examine possible failures of military operation; officials could be singled out
  • Opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who was strongly opposed to the war, expected to use report to bolster position

An official report into Britain's involvement in the Iraq war will be published on Wednesday, seven years after the inquiry opened, with the role of former Prime Minister Tony Blair expected to be scrutinised.

Relatives of some of the 179 British troops who died will gather in London for the publication of the Iraq Inquiry, which runs to 2.6 million words - more than four times the length of Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace.

The report will be launched at 11am UK time (10:00GMT) after which it will be available online.

The inquiry, launched in 2009 as the bulk of British troops withdrew from Iraq, was tasked with investigating the run-up to the 2003 US-led invasion and the subsequent occupation.

Anti-war protesters are converging on the conference centre near the Houses of Parliament where civil servant John Chilcot will present his report, to repeat calls for Blair to be prosecuted for war crimes.

Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were killed during the war and in the violence that followed.

The country has remained plagued by violence. On Sunday, a car bomb in Baghdad killed 250 people in the worst single attack since the US-led invasion in 2003.

The invasion was deeply controversial at the time as it did not have explicit approval from the UN Security Council, while claims that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction proved unfounded.

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Chilcot was not asked to rule on the legality of the invasion, but some leaks have suggested Blair will be criticised over the decision-making process.

His critics are already lining up against him, with former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond gathering cross-party support to bring legal action or symbolically impeach him.

Blair apologised last year for the fact the intelligence was wrong, and for mistakes in the planning, but said he did not regret removing Saddam Hussein.

'Unprecedented scale'

"We haven't set out to criticise individuals or institutions," Chilcot said ahead of the report launch.

"However, I made very clear right at the start of the inquiry that if we came across decisions or behaviour which deserved criticism then we wouldn't shy away from making it."

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More than 120 witnesses gave evidence during months of public hearings, including Blair, his successor Gordon Brown, spy and military chiefs and ministers.

The inquiry panel - one of whom has since died - trawled through 150,000 government documents in an investigation Chilcot said was on "an unprecedented scale".

Their report was delayed by wrangling over what could be published, from diplomatic notes to records of cabinet meetings, as well as the need to give key figures prior warning.

Among the documents to be published are reportedly 29 letters sent by Blair to US president George W Bush, and some record of conversations between the two.

Bereaved relatives had pressed for the inquiry after criticism of the planning and management of the conflict, and accusations that troops were not properly equipped.

Source: AFP