The Chilcot report does not accept that Tony Blair had decided to join the US in invading Iraq as early as the start of 2002. But this appears to be contradicted by some of the evidence in the report.
The report’s executive summary describes how “the US Administration turned its attention to regime change in Iraq” after the Twin Towers attack of 11 September 2001.
But it suggests that Blair was not signed up to backing regime change at this point.
It says, “In Mr Blair’s view, the decision to stand ‘shoulder to shoulder’ with the US was an essential demonstration of solidarity with the UK’s principal ally as well as being in the UK’s long?term national interests.
“To do so required the UK to reconcile its objective of disarming Iraq, if possible by peaceful means, with the US goal of regime change.”
It adds that at the end of 2001, “based on consistent legal advice, the UK could not share the US objective of regime change.”
Yet the summary itself describes how following a discussion in December 2001 Blair sent a paper to US president George Bush that “suggested a strategy for regime change in Iraq”.
And evidence submitted to the inquiry suggests that regime change was very much on the minds of key figures in the British state at that time.
For instance on 19 December 2001 the then head of MI6 Richard Dearlove passed three papers on Iraq to Blair’s policy adviser David Manning.
One of the papers begins, “At our meeting on 30 November, we discussed how we could combine an objective of regime change in Baghdad with the need to protect important regional interest which would be at grave risk, if a bombing campaign against Iraq were launched in the short term.”
It goes on to describe how “the removal of Saddam remains a prize because it could give new security to oil supplies”.
Getting rid of Hussein would also, “open political horizons in the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] states, remove a threat to Jordan/Israel.
“Working for regime change could be a dynamic process of alliance building which could effect climatic change in the Arab-Israeli conflict.”
The paper suggested a “route map” for regime change that focused building support for a coup against Hussein.
It said, “The whole is a policy statement: we want regime change in Baghdad and we are ready to provide air support to coup makers”.
According to Chilcot’s executive summary, the paper that Blair sent to Bush in December that year also suggested, “mounting covert operations in support of those “with the ability to topple Saddam”.
It adds, “Mr Blair did state that, when a rebellion occurred, the US and UK should ‘back it militarily’.
“That was the first step towards a policy of possible intervention in Iraq.”