Lessons from the Chilcot Report
The U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003 lit the fuse of long-term conflict and chaos not just in Iraq, but also throughout the Middle East. As the Pandora’s Box opened up gradually, ethnic and sectarian strife, radicalism, suicide attacks and all around conflict have become the daily routine for the region as a whole. Iraq has been particularly affected and is still struggling with political instability and existential threats emanating from the possible dismemberment of the country, the Sunni-Shia divide and the presence of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), whose roots are closely related to the prevalent atmosphere of chaos since the U.S. invasion.
In the most recent suicide bombing, the deadliest since 2003, more than 280 people were killed in Baghdad on July 3. The civilian death toll in Iraq has reached 200,000 people since the U.S. invasion. The number is likely to increase in the coming months, with the shift in ISIL’s tactics towards more suicide bombings as it loses territory under its control in both Iraq and Syria. We have already witnessed an array of suicide attacks carried out by ISIL in Turkey, Iraq, Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia.
Even after 13 years and several confessions about the mistakes, legal misrepresentations, reasons and atmosphere that paved the way for the U.S. invasion with the close support of the U.K., they are still being questioned in depth. The final release on July 6 of Sir John Chilcot’s long-awaited 12-volume report on his inquiry about the role of the U.K. during the Iraq War once more brought the issue into the limelight.
According to the Chilcot Report, which took seven years to prepare, the legal basis for the decision to join the war by Tony Blair, the prime minister of the U.K. at the time, was found “far from satisfactory.” Although the report refrained from calling the U.K.’s military involvement in the war “illegal,” it however stressed the “flawed intelligence” behind the decision that resulted in the loss of 200 British citizens’ lives and injured many more. The report also emphasized the importance of calculating all aspects before such a decision is made and implemented, as the U.K., according to the report, did not wait for the exhaustion of all “peaceful operations for disarmament.”
Although several political figures, along with the families of victims, call for legal punishment - at least symbolically - for Blair because of his decision and its consequences, the International Criminal Court has already declared that the U.K.’s decision to go to war remained outside the court’s jurisdiction. Blair has repeatedly expressed his regret over the loss of life, while still reiterating his belief that he did what he thought was the right thing at that time. Few months ago, in an interview with Fareed Zakaria, he apologized for his mistakes due to “wrong intelligence.”
The Chilcot Report is a repetition of the known facts that lead up to the Iraq War, and it is futile to expect any more concrete results for Blair or anyone else. But the report also contains lessons that should be taken seriously. It is possible today to observe the profound effects of miscalculations in Iraq on several countries, including the U.S., which has become extremely hesitant to get involved in anything in the Middle East. It led to U.S. President Barack Obama’s decision to not intervene in Syria, even when his red line on the usage of chemical weapons was disregarded.
As a result, the more or less permanent unstable and unpredictable condition of Iraq, which is most likely to continue to be one of the main sources of instability in the region and beyond for years to come, presents a clear message to anyone who bothers to notice.