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The UK's Iraq War dirty laundry will today be aired in a very public way

Former PM Tony Blair is in for a hard day, but a trial is some way off.

A protester in a Tony Blair mask as the former Prime Minister gave evidence before the inquiry.
A protester in a Tony Blair mask as the former Prime Minister gave evidence before the inquiry.
Image: PA Archive/Press Association Images

WILL TONY BLAIR be accused of war crimes? Was evidence against Saddam Hussein ‘sexed up’? Was the British public lied to? What can be learnt from the course of the Iraq War?

These are the questions that are set to be answered as the seven-year, £10 million (€11.9 million) Iraq Inquiry is finally published today.

Led by veteran UK civil servant John Chilcot, today’s published report runs to 2.6 million words. To put that in context, the entire Harry Potter series is about 1 million words.

Even though it’s been running for seven years, the timeline it is examining is even longer. The period being looked at runs from the summer of 2001, when a potential invasion was being publicly discussed, up to July 2009 when British troops left Iraq.

The number of deaths resulting from the conflict is widely disputed, but the independent Iraq Body Count project puts the number of violent deaths at 251,000.

The vast majority of these deaths, close to 180,000, are classified as civilian casualties.

In total, 179 British soldiers also lost their lives in the conflict with many relatives hoping that Chilcot will provide them with answers about why their family members died.

9 TLR Medal Parade in Malmesbury Soldiers from 9 Theatre Logistic Regiment upon their return from Iraq. Source: Tim Ireland/PA Archive

The invasion was controversial at the time as it did not have explicit approval from the UN Security Council. Claims that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction were later proven unfounded.

Although he stepped down as UK Prime Minister in 2007, Blair remains reviled by much of Britain for the conflict, which is viewed as at best misguided and at worst a war crime.

A 2004 official report into the intelligence case found he exaggerated the evidence when he presented it to MPs, although author Robin Butler said on Monday that Blair “really believed” what he was doing was right.

In recent years, Blair has expressed regret about the extremism the Iraq War caused but has repeatedly said that removing Saddam Hussein was the right thing to do.

Other than this, Blair has not commented on the report or possible ramifications for himself personally.

(Click here if you can’t play the video)

The Chilcot inquiry was not asked to rule on the legality of the invasion, but leaks suggest Blair will be heavily criticised over the decision-making process.

His critics are already lining up against him, with former Scottish first minister Alex Salmond even gathering cross-party support for an impeachment or possible legal challenge.

Lawyers representing relatives of 29 British troops that died said they would scrutinise the report for evidence of neglect of duty or misconduct in public office.

This could form the basis of legal action against Blair, his ministers or the government in general.

The International Criminal Court, which was petitioned at the time to examine possible evidence of war crimes, said on Monday that it will consider the report for a possible investigation.

The court, however, only tries war crimes that took place on the battlefield and does not question the legality of a war.

It means that, whatever Chilcot finds, Blair will not be brought before a war crimes tribunal.

Chilcot Iraq inquiry Source: PA Archive/Press Association Images

‘Coffins on wheels’

The inquiry was meant to take a year but took seven, longer than the war itself, and was delayed by wrangling over what could be published.

This included correspondence between Blair and the US president George W. Bush, as well as the need to give key figures prior warning.

Detail about discussions between Bush and Blair are expected to be looked at in the report. Blair has previously denied that he had agreed with Bush at the president’s ranch in 2001 that they would overthrow Saddam Hussein.

Blair claims that they discussed the need to confront the Iraqi dictator but did not deal in specifics.

The final report will be published today and will go live on The Iraq Inquiry website once Chilcot concludes his public statement later this morning.

With reporting by © – AFP 2016

Read: Tony Blair (kind of) says sorry for Iraq War and admits it (maybe) led to Islamic State >

Read: Tony Blair: Syrian war to blame for Iraq violence, not 2003 invasion >

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Rónán Duffy

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