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The Iraq Inquiry, also referred to as the Chilcot Inquiry after its chairman, Sir John Chilcot,[1][2] is an ongoing British public inquiry into the United Kingdom's role in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The inquiry was announced on 15 June, 2009 by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, with an initial announcement that proceedings would take place in private, a decision which was subsequently reversed after receiving criticism in the media and the House of Commons.[3][4][5]

The inquiry is currently an ongoing inquiry by a committee of Privy Counsellors with broad terms of reference to consider the UK’s involvement in Iraq from mid-2001 to July 2009. It will cover the run-up to the conflict, the subsequent military action and its aftermath with the purpose to establish the way decisions were made, to determine what happened and to identify lessons to ensure that in a similar situation in future, the UK government is equipped to respond in the most effective manner in the best interests of the country.[6]

The open sessions of the inquiry commenced on 24 November 2009, televised from the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre.

It is expected to report its findings after the 2010 General Election, due before Thursday, 3 June 2010.


Build up

It was initially announced by Prime minister Gordon Brown that The Iraq Inquiry would be held in camera, however, the decision was later deferred to Sir John Chilcot, the inquiry chairman who said that it was "essential to hold as much of the proceedings of the inquiry as possible in public".[7][8] Brown was criticised by opposition politicians, who called the decision "a climb-down of massive proportions".[8]

In July 2009, when the inquiry commenced, it was announced that Sir John Chilcot would be able to request any British document and call any British citizen to give evidence.[9]

In the week before the inquiry began hearing witnesses, a series of documents including military reports were leaked to a newspaper which appeared to show poor post-war planning and lack of provisions.[10]

Committee members

The committee of inquiry, the members of which were chosen by Gordon Brown,[11] comprises:[3][12]

The committee also takes secretarial support during proceedings from Margaret Aldred.[14]


The inquiry commenced in July 2009, with public hearings commencing on 24 November 2009 with Sir Peter Ricketts as the first witness, chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee at the time of the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Opening the proceedings, Sir John Chilcot announced that the inquiry was not seeking to apportion blame, but to "get to the heart of what happened" but that it would not "shy away" from making criticism where it was justified.[15]


29 October Protocol

On 29 October 2009 The UK Government published a Protocol in agreement with the Iraq Inquiry on the treatment of sensitive written and electronic information.[16] Evidence which will not be made available to the public includes anything likely to:

  • a) cause harm or damage to the public interest, guided by the normal and established principles under which the balance of public interest is determined on grounds of Public Interest Immunity in proceedings in England and Wales, including, but not limited to,
    • i) national security, defence interests or international relations;
    • ii) the economic interests of the United Kingdom or of any part of the United Kingdom;
  • b) endanger the life of an individual or otherwise risk serious harm to an individual;
  • c) make public commercially sensitive information;
  • d) breach the principle of legal professional privilege (LPP);
  • e) prejudice, in the case of legal advice (following any voluntary waiver of LPP) rather than material facts, the position of HMG in relation to ongoing legal proceedings;
  • f) breach the rules of law which would apply in proceedings in England and Wales under the provisions of Section 17 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000;
  • g) breach the rules of law applicable to the disclosure of information by the Security Service, SIS or GCHQ, the third party rule governing non-disclosure of intelligence material or other commitments or understandings governing the release of sensitive information;
  • h) breach the Data Protection Act 1998; or
  • i) prejudice the course or outcome of any ongoing statutory or criminal inquiry into matters relating to the information proposed for release.


The inquiry will hear evidence from a variety of witnesses, such as politicians, including several cabinet ministers at the time of the invasion; senior civil servants, including lawyers and intelligence chiefs; diplomats, mostly composed of British ambassadors to Iraq and the United States; and high-ranking military officers including former Chiefs of the General Staff and Chiefs of the Defence Staff as well as senior operational commanders.[15]

The inquiry heard mostly from civil servants, intelligence and security officials, diplomats and military officers from the first public hearings up until it recessed for Christmas. Key witnesses included Sir Christopher Meyer, former ambassador to the United States who gave evidence on November 26; Admiral Lord Boyce, former Chief of the Defence Staff; Sir John Scarlett, Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service; Major-General Tim Cross, the most senior British officer on the ground in the aftermath of the invasion; and Air Chief Marshall Sir Brian Burridge, overall commander of British forces in the invasion.

From the inquiry's resumption in January 2010, it has been hearing predominantly from politicians and former government officials, including Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair's director of communications.

Gordon Brown had to retract his claim that spending on defense rose every year during the Iraq war, as this was found not to have been the case.[17]


The timing and nature of the inquiry generated a certain political controversy as it will not report back until after the general election.[8] Conservative Party leader David Cameron dismissed the inquiry as "an establishment stitch-up", and the Liberal Democrats threatened a boycott.[18]

In a Parliamentary debate over the establishment of the inquiry, MPs from all the major parties criticised the government’s selection of its members.[19] MPs drew attention to the absence of anyone with first hand military expertise, the absence of members with acknowledged or proven inquisitorial skills, and the absence of any elected representatives. Gilbert’s appointment to the enquiry was criticised on the basis that he had once compared George W. Bush and Tony Blair to Roosevelt and Churchill.[20] Several MPs drew attention to the fact that Chilcot would be unable to receive evidence under oath.

The criticism by the Liberal Democrats continued with the start of public hearings, with party leader Nick Clegg accusing the government of "suffocating" the inquiry, referring to the power given to government departments to veto sections of the final report. Meanwhile, a group of anti-war protestors staged a demonstration outside the conference centre.[21][22]

Concerns were also raised about the expertise of the panel, particularly with regard to issues of legality by senior judges.[23]


  1. ^ My alternative to another round of Iraq whitewashing. The Guardian. 31 July 2009
  2. ^ Investigate UK abuses in Iraq. The Guardian. 14 August 2009
  3. ^ a b Iraq war inquiry to be in private. BBC News Online. 15 June 2009
  4. ^ UK PM announces Iraq war inquiry. Al Jazeera. 15 June 2009
  5. ^ "Public Iraq war inquiry 'essential', says chairman | Politics |". Guardian. Retrieved 2009-11-24. 
  6. ^ "The key points of the Iraq war inquiry explained". BBC News. Retrieved 2009-11-24. 
  7. ^ "Chilcot calls for public Iraq inquiry". New Statesman. 23 June 2009. Retrieved 15 February 2010. 
  8. ^ a b c Whitehead, Tom (23 June 2009). "Large parts of Iraq inquiry to be heard in public". The Daily Telegraph (Telegraph Media Group). Retrieved 15 February 2010. 
  9. ^ Chakrabarti, Reeta (30 July 2009). "Will Iraq probe worry ministers?". BBC News (BBC). Retrieved 15 February 2010. 
  10. ^ Gilligan, Andrew (21 November 2009). "Iraq report: Secret papers reveal blunders and concealment". The Daily Telegraph (Telegraph Media Group Limited). Retrieved 15 February 2010. 
  11. ^
  12. ^ "About the Inquiry". The Iraq Inquiry.
  13. ^ Statesmen for these times. The Observer. 26 December 2004
  14. ^ "Sir John Chilcot's opening statement to Iraq Inquiry". The Times (Times Newspapers Ltd). November 24, 2009. Retrieved 12 February 2010. 
  15. ^ a b "Iraq Inquiry: British officials discussed regime change two years before war". The Daily Telegraph (Telegraph Media Group). 25 Nov 2009. Retrieved 12 February 2010. 
  16. ^
  17. ^ BBC News
  18. ^ Anger over 'secret Iraq inquiry'. BBC News Online. 16 June 2009
  19. ^ "Iraq Inquiry". Hansard. 24 June 2009. 
  20. ^ {Martin Gilbert, The Observer, Sunday 26 December 2004}
  21. ^ "Gordon Brown accused of suffocating the Chilcot Iraq Inquiry". The Times (Times Newspapers Ltd). November 25, 2009. Retrieved 12 February 2010. 
  22. ^ "Iraq inquiry being 'suffocated' - Lib Dem leader Clegg". BBC News (BBC). 25 November 2009. Retrieved 12 February 2010. 
  23. ^ Laing, Aislinn (24 Nov 2009). "Iraq inquiry: civil servant Sir John Chilcot 'incapable of addressing legal issues'". The Daily Telegraph (Telegraph Media Group). Retrieved 12 February 2010. 

External links


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