Chilcot Inquiry: Tony Blair exaggerated need to invade Iraq; peaceful options ignored

LONDON, July 6 (UPI) — Britain followed the United States into the Iraq War without exhausting all peaceful options, the seven-year Chilcot inquiry concluded Wednesday.

The investigation chaired by former civil servant Sir John Chilcot found the 2003 invasion was not an action of “last resort” as it was then presented to the British politicians and public, adding that former Prime Minister Tony Blair underestimated the invasion’s impact on Iraq and the region despite “explicit warnings.”

“The U.K. chose to join the invasion of Iraq before peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted,” Chilcot said Wednesday.

Chilcot said military action against former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein may have been necessary “at some point” but that when Britain joined the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003, Hussein posed “no imminent threat.” The inquiry found that Blair deliberately exaggerated the threat posed by Hussein’s regime.

In a response to the release of the report, Blair said the inquiry’s conclusions “should lay to rest allegations of bad faith, lies or deceit.”

“Whether people agree or disagree with my decision to take military action against Saddam Hussein; I took it in good faith and in what I believed to be the best interests of the country,” Blair wrote in a statement. “The report does make real and material criticisms of preparation, planning, process and of the relationship with the United States … I will take full responsibility for any mistakes without exception or excuse.

“I will at the same time say why, nonetheless, I believe that it was better to remove Saddam Hussein and why I do not believe this is the cause of the terrorism we see today whether in the Middle East or elsewhere in the world,” Blair added.

At least 179 British service personnel and civilians were killed in Iraq between 2003 and 2009. At least 4,487 U.S. service personnel have been killed since the invasion. Estimates on Iraqi deaths vary from 90,000 killed to more than 600,000 killed.

Former First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond said Blair should face “political or legal consequences.”

Caroline Lucas, former leader of the Britain’s Green party who serves as a member of Parliament for the Brighton Pavilion constituency, called Blair a “war criminal.”

The Russian Embassy in Britain offered a cheeky reaction to the Chilcot conclusions by tweeting an image of a tea kettle along with the text “Keep calm but I told you so.”

“No real [weapon of mass destruction] in Baghdad, unjust highly dangerous war. The entire region on the receiving end,” the Russian Embassy wrote on Twitter.

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