Leaked Powell Emails Reveal UK-US Reprieve as Brexit Buried Damning Iraq Report

© Photo : AP, Elise Amendola/AP, Dave ThompsonColin Powell and Jack Straw
Colin Powell and Jack Straw - Sputnik International
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Emails between former UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and ex-US Secretary of State Colin Powell have revealed how the Brexit referendum result managed to deflect media attention from a damning report into the 2003 US-UK invasion of Iraq.

In the UK, the invasion of Iraq was deeply controversial, with one of the biggest demonstrations against the war taking place in London during the run-up to the war. Six years after the war, an inquiry was set up by Sir John Chilcot to examine the lessons to be learned from the invasion, which left Iraq in a state of civil war for years.

© REUTERS / Jeff J MitchellSir John Chilcot presents The Iraq Inquiry Report at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in Westminster, London, Britain July 6, 2016.
Sir John Chilcot presents The Iraq Inquiry Report at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in Westminster, London, Britain July 6, 2016.  - Sputnik International
Sir John Chilcot presents The Iraq Inquiry Report at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in Westminster, London, Britain July 6, 2016.

Two days ahead of the publication of the inquiry report, due on July 6, 2016 — which was expected to be critical of former Prime Minister Tony Blair and his foreign secretary — Straw wrote to Powell saying:

"As I'm sure you know, Chilcot is issuing this Wednesday at 1100 BST (0400 ET). I have an idea what is in it — and I'd be happy to talk that through with you if that would be helpful."

The email was sent two weeks after the shock of the UK referendum on its EU membership, which resulted in Brexit, throwing the whole country into political turmoil, as well as leading to the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron and chaos in Brussels.

© Photo : D.C. LeaksEmail exchange between Colin Powell and Jack Straw
Email exchange between Colin Powell and Jack Straw - Sputnik International
Email exchange between Colin Powell and Jack Straw

Straw wrote:

"Meanwhile, as you will have seen, British politics is in the most extraordinary phase I've ever known. The only silver lining of the Brexit vote is that it will reduce medium term attention on Chilcot — though it will not stop the day of publication being uncomfortable."

© Photo : D.C. LeaksEmail exchange between Colin Powell and Jack Straw
Email exchange between Colin Powell and Jack Straw - Sputnik International
Email exchange between Colin Powell and Jack Straw

Damning Report

The report, found that Blair's and Straw's policy on Iraq was based on flawed intelligence and assessments and that the legal case for going to war was "far from satisfactory." Chilcot said Blair's government had not exhausted peaceful means of dealing with Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction — clearly inferring Blair had jumped prematurely into war.

© Photo : D.C. LeaksEmail exchange between Colin Powell and Jack Straw
Email exchange between Colin Powell and Jack Straw - Sputnik International
Email exchange between Colin Powell and Jack Straw

"We have concluded that the UK chose to join the invasion of Iraq before the peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted. Military action at that time was not a last resort," Chilcot said.

He also blamed flawed intelligence for the decision to go to war. "The Joint Intelligence Committee should have made clear to Mr. Blair that the assessed intelligence had not established 'beyond doubt' either that Iraq had continued to produce chemical and biological weapons or that efforts to develop nuclear weapons continued.

US President George W. Bush (R) and Britain’s Prime Minister Tony Blair pose for photographers prior a bilateral meeting 07 June 2007 on the sidelines of the G8 Summit in Heiligendamm, northeastern Germany. - Sputnik International
Blair, Iraq and Chilcot: How Dodgy Dossiers Precipitated War

"It is now clear that policy on Iraq was made on the basis of flawed intelligence and assessments. They were not challenged, and they should have been."

Although Blair was heavily panned in the media for the next few days, the political turmoil caused by the Brexit vote meant that the issue quickly disappeared from the news agenda, with the UK getting a new prime minster, Theresa May, and a vote of no confidence in Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

A month later, August 3, Powell emailed Straw to say the Chilcot report "didn't amount to anything over here" and that he assumed the inquiry simply "faded away."

Straw replied:

"Yes, the Chilcot story has faded altogether here too. It was unpleasant on the day but almost all the focus was on Tony [Blair]. There is some stuff about some relatives of soldiers killed in Iraq trying to get a legal action against Tony on its feet [but] it's hard to see how that could work."

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