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Daily Brief: Chilcot Report Criticizes Tony Blair for Iraq War

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July 6, 2016

Daily News Brief

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Chilcot Report Criticizes Tony Blair for Iraq War

An independent inquiry into the UK's role in the Iraq war found that Prime Minister Tony Blair took the country to war in Iraq with the United States on the basis of flawed intelligence, shaky legal justification, and exaggerated public declarations (NYT). The Iraq Inquiry Committee, a 2.6 million-word report led by John Chilcot, was made public Wednesday. The seven-year investigation found that Blair's administration had not exhausted peaceful efforts at disarming the Iraqi regime (France 24) and said that using military action was "not a last resort." The report concludes that Blair committed to the invasion of Iraq nearly eight months before he received parliamentary and legal backing to do so (FT) and includes memos between Blair and then-U.S. President George Bush that show the leaders discussing toppling Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein as early as 2001 (BBC), a month after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.


"So was it worth it? There is no unanimity here. Plenty of Iraqi friends reminisce about the good old days of Saddam Hussein, when terrorist bombings were rare, when there were no blast walls and few checkpoints, when you could travel almost anywhere in Baghdad or Iraq without fear of being shot or kidnapped or beheaded. There was no freedom of speech, there was no democracy. Saddam ruled by fear, but at least there was rule. When you've tasted anarchy—and Iraq has had its fill of it—dictatorship doesn't look so bad," writes CNN’s Ben Wedeman.

"Was the invasion the wrong policy? Yes. Was it as wrong as anything in British foreign policy since Suez in 1956? Yes. Has the Iraq invasion been a disaster? Yes. Did it change modern British politics for the worse? Yes. Will it haunt the reputation of Tony Blair for ever? Absolutely. But the problem on the day of the publication of the Chilcot inquiry is that we have known most of these things since 2003. Some of us warned about them long before the invasion. Not all the disasters of Iraq were easily foreseeable. But lots were both foreseeable and foreseen. Hindsight, as Chilcot quietly but devastatingly put it, was not required," Martin Kettle writes for the Guardian.

"The US, architect of the war, has largely moved on from such events. But in the UK, the aftermath is still unravelling. The war remains a reference point for sceptics of official expertise and critics of the centre left. It has cast a shadow over British foreign policy ever since," Henry Mance writes for the Financial Times.


Severe Flooding in Central China Kills Scores

Chinese President Xi Jinping ordered additional troops to the country's interior after five days of intense rains along the Yangtze River had killed 128 people and forced the evacuation of 1.3 million people (Xinhua). Weather forecasters predicted continued downpours (Reuters).

NORTH KOREA: North Korea has initiated a public health drive to encourage men to stop smoking (AP). An estimated half of North Korea's male population are smokers, including leader Kim Jong-un.


Video Purportedly From ISIS Fighter Praises Dhaka Attack

A Bangladeshi militant who claimed to be with the self-proclaimed Islamic State said Friday's terror attack in Dhaka would be repeated (Reuters); the Bangladeshi government says the attack was carried out by a domestic militant group that pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.

KAZAKHSTAN: U.S. oil giant Chevron announced a $36.8 billion expansion to its operations in Kazakhstan (RFE/RL). The move will raise its crude production from 260,000 barrels per day to one million.


Syrian Military Announces Unilateral Three-Day Cease-Fire During Eid Holiday

The Syrian military declared a seventy-two hour unilateral "regime of calm" on Wednesday (Reuters); there was no indication rebel fighters had agreed to a cease-fire.

CFR's President Richard Haass discusses U.S. diplomats' dissent over U.S. foreign policy in Syria in this article for the Financial Times

LIBYA: The brother of a top Libyan official was taken on as an intern at investment bank Goldman Sachs to help the bank develop ties with Libyan officials despite the fact that he was "unsuitable" for the position, a partner at the bank testified in London (FT). The Libyan Investment Authority is suing the U.S. bank for allegedly taking advantage of its limited experience with financial markets and pressing it into risky trades that led to losses for the country's sovereign wealth fund.


Netanyahu: Israel, Kenya Face 'Same Challenges' of Terrorism

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Kenya on the second leg of his four-country African tour and said that Israeli and African countries share a "common war" against terrorism (VOA). Netanyahu's earlier visit to Uganda was marked by a much-publicized gaffe by President Yoweri Museveni, who repeatedly referred to the Middle Eastern nation as Palestine (VOA).

ZIMBABWE: The cities of Harare and Bulawayo came to a standstill during protests carried out over social media over cash shortages, poor public services, and government corruption and as civil servants go on strike over unpaid salaries (DW)


Spain and Portugal to Face Fines for Breaking Fiscal Rules

Spain and Portugal are on track to become the first eurozone members to face sanctions for breaking EU fiscal rules (FT). The European Commission is expected to approve a recommendation on Thursday that could lead to Brussels imposing penalties on the two nations for their deficits.


Venezuelan Women Break Through Border Guards to Get Food in Colombia

Five hundred women from a Venezuelan border town broke through barriers formed by national guards to cross into Colombia to purchase food and basic goods (Guardian). Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro closed the border with Colombia in 2015 to prevent smugglers from selling subsidized Venezuelan goods in the neighboring country. Venezuela is facing a severe political and economic crisis amid food and energy shortages.  

This CFR Backgrounder looks at Venezuela's political and economic turmoil.

BRAZIL: A judge in Rio de Janeiro warned of civilian casualties amid a police crackdown ahead of the August Summer Olympics. A local research institute said forty people were killed by police in Rio in May, up from seventeen the year before (Al Jazeera).

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