The Irish Times view: Reaping the whirlwind following the doomed invasion of Iraq
The chilling consequences of failed foreign policy are charted by Chilcot
The Chilcot report on Britain’s invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003 is a devastating criticism of the planning, execution and follow-up to that foreign policy disaster. Its conclusion that the invasion was driven by prime minister Tony Blair based on faulty intelligence, without proper cabinet deliberation and despite advance warnings of the potentially dire regional consequences, is damning and comprehensive. So is the conclusion that this helped undermine the authority and legitimacy of United Nations, the principal guarantor of global collective security.
This huge report is well organised around a basic set of questions about the British government’s Iraq policy. These enable it to conclude that Mr Blair decided to forge a partnership with the US to preserve British influence, telling Mr Bush in July 2002 “I will be with you, whatever”. Having failed to make this support conditional on an Israeli-Palestinian peace process and UN approval he relied on faulty intelligence about Saddam Hussein’s biological and chemical weapons in justifying the war to British parliamentary and public opinion, both of which supported him strongly at the time.
The report finds it was “neither right nor necessary” to invade Iraq, and that happened “before the peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted”. Military action was not a last resort, and the policy of containment could have been continued with robust UN support. The planning, preparation and execution of the UK invasion force fell short, leading on to many avoidable fatalities and casualties among British troops and to 150,000 Iraqi deaths and one million displaced people .
The wider subsequent failure saw Iraq collapse into sectarian conflict between Sunnis and Shias and the regional empowerment of Iran and then Saudi Arabia in competition. Guerrilla war militias resisting the occupation empowered first Al Qaeda and later Islamic State. The Chilcot report’s conclusions should be studied and absorbed as a case study in foreign policy disaster throughout the world to help avoid similar future misjudgements.