Chilcot report: A timeline of the Iraq War and the disasters that ensued

Every key event from 11 September 2001 to the publication of the Chilcot Inquiry this week

Andy McSmith
Wednesday 06 July 2016 17:11 BST
The Chilcot Inquiry - A timeline of the Iraq War

11 September 2001

Terrorists belonging to al-Qaeda use hijacked aeroplanes to kill 2,996 people in attacks on the east coast of the US.

12 September 2001

Tony Blair promises George W Bush that the UK will support the US, whatever the President decides to do.

14 September 2001

Congress authorises President Bush to use all “necessary and appropriate force” against terrorists.

What is the Chilcot Inquiry?

7 October 2001

A US-led coalition begins its aerial attacks on Afghanistan. By the time combat operations come to a formal end on 28 December, the Taliban has been overthrown; but Osama bin Laden remains at large.

25 March 2002

Jack Straw, Foreign Secretary, warns Blair that invading Iraq would be legally dubious.

4 April 2002

An MI6 briefing appears to convince Blair that the WMD threat from Libya is far more serious than that from Iraq.

6 April 2002

Tony Blair visits President Bush at his ranch in Crawford, Texas. Some witnesses report that, following a private meeting between the two, Blair's stance on Iraq “tightened”; but Blair himself has disputed claims that he gave an “undertaking in blood” to go to war in Iraq.

7 April 2002

Blair explicitly mentions the possibility of “regime change” in a speech.

May 2002

General Tommy Franks, commander of US forces, tells Air Chief Marshal Sir Brian Burridge that he hopes the UK would be “alongside” the US in attacking Iraq.

June 2002

Tony Blair asks defence officials to outline options for UK participation in military action against Iraq.

16 July 2002

Blair tells MP “no decisions... have been taken about military action.”

23 July 2002

Senior members of the government meet with senior defence and intelligence figures to discuss the build-up to war. A note of the meeting, known as the “Downing Street memo”, was later published, appearing to confirm that military action was now considered inevitable.

24 September 2002

The government publishes a dossier about the threat from Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. A foreword by Tony Blair states that Saddam Hussein's “military planning allows for some of the WMD to be ready within 45 minutes of an order to use them”. It is subsequently alleged that this dossier was “sexed up” for political reasons.

2 October 2002

Congress authorises President Bush to use military force against Iraq.

8 November 2002

UN Security Council passes resolution 1441, insisting that weapons inspectors be allowed back into Iraq and calling on the regime to give up its WMD or face the consequences.

18 November 2002

UN weapons inspectors arrive in Baghdad.

7 December 2002

Iraqi officials present the UN with a 12,000-page dossier, supposedly disclosing all details of Iraq's WMD programmes; the White House insists that it is insufficient.

24 January 2003

Sir Michael Wood, legal adviser at the Foreign Office, writes to the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, to warn that “to use force without Security Council authority would amount to the crime of aggression”. Mr Straw replied that he “noted” Sir Michael's advice but did “not accept it”.

30 January 2003

Lord Goldsmith, Attorney General, writes to the Prime Minister to reiterate his view “that the correct legal interpretation of resolution 1441 is that it does not authorise the use of military force without a further determination by the Security Council”. The Government publishes a fresh dossier on Iraq's secret weapons programmes. Within a week, this has been exposed as a “dodgy” dossier, much of it copied from the internet.

5 February 2003

US Secretary of State Colin Powell makes an audiovisual presentation at the UN in the hope of persuading the world that Iraq is in breach of its obligations on WMD.

15 February 2003

More than a million people demonstrate in London and other cities against the proposed invasion of Iraq.

7 March 2003

In a secret memo to the Prime Minister, Lord Goldsmith restates his concern that UN resolution 1441 is insufficient to justify an attack on Iraq.

17 March 2003

Robin Cook, Leader of the Commons and former Foreign Secretary, resigns in protest at the Government's plans to invade Iraq with “neither international authority nor domestic support”. Lord Goldsmith issues revised legal advice, to the effect that UN resolution 1441 provides sufficient legal justification for military action.

Tony Blair meets with British soldiers on duty in Basra on December 17, 2006 in Iraq (Getty)

18 March 2003

In a televised address, President Bush gives Saddam Hussein 48 hours to leave Iraq. The UN's weapons inspectors leave Baghdad. Two Government ministers, John Denham and Lord Hunt, resign. The Commons votes by 412 to 149 to support an invasion, despite a rebellion by 139 Labour MPs.

20 March 2003

At 2:30am, the first US air strikes signal the start of the invasion. Elizabeth Wilmshurst, deputy legal adviser at the Foreign Office, resigns.

9 April 2003

Saddam Hussein's statue is overthrown in Baghdad

1 May 2003

President Bush, addressing troops on board USS Abraham Lincoln, declares the West's mission accomplished, saying that “major combat operations in Iraq have ended”.

12 May 2003

Paul Bremer becomes Administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq.

23 May 2003

Paul Bremer dissolves the Iraqi army, along with other key elements of the Baathist state.

2 June 2003

In a BBC interview, former International Development Secretary Clare Short accuses Tony Blair of having misled the Cabinet on the eve of war.

13 July 2003

Iraqi Governing Council established.

18 July 2003

David Kelly, an expert in biological warfare, is found dead after being named as the source of quotations used by the BBC's Andrew Gilligan to suggest that the dossier of September 2002 had been “sexed up”. Lord Hutton is appointed to chair a judicial inquiry into his death.

3 September 2003

New Iraqi government established.

Dr Mowaffak al-Rubaie with a bust of the deposed dictator from one of his palaces and the rope used to hang him

2 October 2003

Report of Iraq Survey Group reveals absence of evidence of WMD in Iraq.

13 December 2003

Saddam Hussein is captured near Tikrit, after nine months in hiding.

28 January 2004

The report of the Hutton Inquiry is published.

3 February 2004

Lord Butler is appointed to chair an official review of the intelligence on WMD on which the British government reportedly based its decision to take part in the invasion of Iraq.

2 March 2004

Bombings in Baghdad and Karbala kill nearly 200 people: the worst attacks since the fall of Saddam.

28 April 2004

A CBS report brings photographic evidence of the abuse of prisoners by US forces in Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison to worldwide attention.

8 June 2004

UN transfers sovereignty from the Coalition Provisional Authority to the Iraqi Interim Government.

14 July 2004

The Butler Review is published. Its conclusion is that some of the intelligence used to justify attacking Iraq was unreliable and that “more weight was placed on the intelligence than it could bear”.

November 2004

More than 1,350 insurgents are killed when the US uses overwhelming force to recapture the rebel-held city of Fallujah.

14 September 2005

Bombs in Baghdad kill 160 people and injure more than 500.

15 October 2005

Iraq's new constitution is approved in a referendum.

15 December 2005

Iraq's first post-Saddam parliamentary election.

30 December 2005

Saddam Hussein is executed.

Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein shouts as he receives his guilty verdict during his trial in the fortified 'green zone', on November 5, 2006 (Getty)

20 May 2006

New Iraqi government succeeds transitional government.

10 January 2007

In the face of insurrection, the US announces a “surge” of 20,000 extra troops to increase security in Baghdad.

28 May 2009

The last British combat troops leave Iraq.

15 June 2009

Gordon Brown, Tony Blair's successor as Prime Minister, announces that an inquiry will be set up, under Sir John Chilcot, to “learn the lessons” of the conflict.

24 November 2009

The Chilcot inquiry holds its first public hearing.

7 March 2010

Inconclusive parliamentary elections result in the formation of a government in which Nouri al-Maliki continues as Prime Minister.

January 2011

In Syria, protests begin against the Assad regime; the civil war to follow will destabilise the entire region, including Iraq.

2 February 2011

The Chilcot inquiry holds its final public hearing.

Sir John Chilcot, chairman of the Iraq Inquiry, holds a news conference to outline the terms of reference for the inquiry on July 30, 2009 (AFP/Getty)

12 May 2011

Sir John Chilcot says that his report will be published, at the earliest, in the autumn of 2011.

16 November 2011

The Chilcot inquiry announces that it cannot publish report before summer 2012 if it is to “do justice” to the complexities involved.

18 December 2011

The last US troops leave Iraq, after nearly nine years of combat that cost 4,488 US lives and left 32,226 soldiers injured.

16 July 2012

Sir John Chilcot says that he cannot report before mid-2013.

6 November 2013

The Chilcot inquiry announces that it cannot proceed with its work due to an impasse over the release of key documents (including exchanges between Blair and Bush).

29 May 2014

The Chilcot inquiry says that it will publish the “gist” of exchanges between Blair and Bush, but that full transcripts will remain secret.

10 June 2014

The extremist group known as Isis captures Mosul, along with large swathes of northern and western Iraq.

29 June 2014

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of Isis, declares a new “caliphate” over 250,000sq km of Iraq and Syria.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, delivering a sermon at a mosque in Iraq

16 October 2014

William Hague and David Cameron say they hope the report will be published before the 2015 general election.

21 January 2015

Sir John Chilcot confirms that his report will not be published before the general election in May 2015.

6 July 2016

The Chilcot report is published after seven years.

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