Chilcot report on Iraq War is released, stops short of saying Blair lied

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Military action in Iraq in 2003 was not last resort: Chilcot

LONDON — The long-awaited report on Britain's role in the Iraq War released Wednesday stopped short of accusing then-Prime Minister Tony Blair of lying, reserving its strongest criticism for U.K. intelligence agencies.

The Iraq Inquiry — also known as the Chilcot report — was launched in 2009 to look at what lessons Britain could learn from its involvement in the Iraq War. After seven years, it was released on Wednesday.

More from NBC News: Everything You Need to Know About Britain's Iraq Inquiry

It criticized the British government for misrepresenting the "severity of the threat posed" by Saddam Hussein, but put blame for its Iraq policy on "flawed intelligence" that "should have been" challenged.

U.K. intelligence agencies did not make clear to Blair that they hadn't established "beyond doubt" that Saddam had chemical weapons, the report found.

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A demonstrator wearing a mask to impersonate Tony Blair protests before the release of the John Chilcot report into the Iraq war, at the Queen Elizabeth II centre in London, Britain July 6, 2016. REUTERS/Paul Hackett
Demonstrators protest before the release of the John Chilcot report into the Iraq war, at the Queen Elizabeth II centre in London, Britain July 6, 2016. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) campaigner Bruce Kent speaks during a protest before the release of the John Chilcot report into the Iraq war, at the Queen Elizabeth II centre in London, Britain July 6, 2016. REUTERS/Paul Hackett
A demonstrator wearing a mask to impersonate Tony Blair holds bundles of fake money during a protest before the release of the John Chilcot report into the Iraq war, at the Queen Elizabeth II centre in London, Britain July 6, 2016. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
Demonstrators protest before the release of the John Chilcot report into the Iraq war, at the Queen Elizabeth II centre in London, Britain July 6, 2016. REUTERS/Paul Hackett
Demonstrators protest before the release of the John Chilcot report into the Iraq war, at the Queen Elizabeth II centre in London, Britain July 6, 2016. REUTERS/Paul Hackett
Demonstrators protest before the release of the John Chilcot report into the Iraq war, at the Queen Elizabeth II centre in London, Britain July 6, 2016. REUTERS/Paul Hackett
Demonstrators protest before the release of the John Chilcot report into the Iraq war, at the Queen Elizabeth II centre in London, Britain July 6, 2016. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
Demonstrators protest before the release of the John Chilcot report into the Iraq war, at the Queen Elizabeth II centre in London, Britain July 6, 2016. REUTERS/Paul Hackett
A man wears a placard as he cycles past the Queen Elizabeth II centre, before the release of the John Chilcot report into the Iraq war, in London, Britain July 6, 2016. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
Demonstrators protest before the release of the John Chilcot report into the Iraq war, at the Queen Elizabeth II centre in London, Britain July 6, 2016. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
Demonstrators protest before the release of the John Chilcot report into the Iraq war, at the Queen Elizabeth II centre in London, Britain July 6, 2016. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
Satirical artist Kaya Mar poses with an artwork depicting former British Prime Minister Tony Blair draped in a US flag during a protest near to the venue of the publication of the Iraq Inquiry report in London on July 6, 2016. Former British prime minister Tony Blair took his country into a badly planned, woefully executed and legally questionable war in Iraq in 2003, according to the findings of a long-delayed inquiry into Britain's role in the conflict. The Chilcot report found the decision to join the US-led invasion was taken before all other options had been exhausted and on the basis of false intelligence. / AFP / BEN STANSALL (Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 06: Demonstrators talk on a podium outside the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre on July 6, 2016 in London, England. The Iraq Inquiry Report into the UK government's involvement in the 2003 Iraq War under the leadership of Tony Blair is published today. The inquiry, which concluded in February 2011, was announced by then Prime Minister Gordon Brown in 2009 and is published more than seven years later. (Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)
Demonstrators wearing masks depicting former British Prime Minister Tony Blair (L) and former US President George W. Bush protest outside QEII Centre in London on July 6, 2016, as they wait to hear the outcome of the Iraq Inquiry. The official inquiry into Britain's role in the Iraq war finally reports on Wednesday, seven years after it launched, with former prime minister Tony Blair expected to face severe criticism. Relatives of some of the 179 British troops who died were gathering in London for the publication of the Chilcot report, which runs to 2.6 million words -- more than four times the length of 'War and Peace'. / AFP / DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 06: Protestors outside the auditorium where the Iraq Inquiry Report is due to be presented by Sir John Chilcot at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in Westminster on July 6, 2016 in London, England. The Iraq Inquiry Report into the UK government's involvement in the 2003 Iraq War under the leadership of Tony Blair is published today. The inquiry, which concluded in February 2011, was announced by then Prime Minister Gordon Brown in 2009 and is published more than seven years later. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 06: Protestors outside the auditorium where the Iraq Inquiry Report is due to be presented by Sir John Chilcot at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in Westminster on July 6, 2016 in London, England. The Iraq Inquiry Report into the UK government's involvement in the 2003 Iraq War under the leadership of Tony Blair is published today. The inquiry, which concluded in February 2011, was announced by then Prime Minister Gordon Brown in 2009 and is published more than seven years later. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 06: Protestors outside the auditorium where the Iraq Inquiry Report is due to be presented by Sir John Chilcot at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in Westminster on July 6, 2016 in London, England. The Iraq Inquiry Report into the UK government's involvement in the 2003 Iraq War under the leadership of Tony Blair is published today. The inquiry, which concluded in February 2011, was announced by then Prime Minister Gordon Brown in 2009 and is published more than seven years later. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
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Blair's "certainty" about Saddam's alleged weapons of mass destruction did not match the realities of Iraqi capabilities, according to the report.

The report noted it was "not questioning Mr. Blair's belief" that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction but rather that "the firmness of those beliefs" went against the "underlying uncertainties."

On the matter of Britain's role in post-invasion Iraq, the report was far more damning.

"Blair told the inquiry that the difficulties encountered in Iraq after the invasion could not have been known in advance. We do not agree," it said.

In a press conference, Chilcot said "the consequences of the invasion were underestimated" and the planning and preparations for Iraq had been "wholly inadequate."

"The U.K. chose to join the invasion of Iraq before the peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted," Chilcot noted. "Military action at that time was not a last resort."

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Ultimately the Iraq war ended "a very long way from success" and in humiliating fashion for Britain — "an intervention which went badly wrong, with consequences to this day," according to the report.

The Iraq war has been a sore point for lawmakers and the British public after it was revealed that some of the intelligence the government used to justify its involvement was wrong.

Blair said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction that could be launched in 45 minutes — claims that were unfounded according to United Nations weapons inspectors.

While the report did not judge whether military action against Iraq was legal, it did set out recommendations for any future engagements.

It said that going forward "all aspects... need to be calculated, debated and challenged with the utmost rigor" before Britain goes to war.

How hard the "Chilcot" Report — an homage to the inquiry's chair Sir John Chilcot — came down on Blair was of intense interest in a country grappling with anti-establishment anger and political uncertainty.

RELATED: U.S. troops in Iraq

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TAJI, IRAQ - APRIL 12: A U.S. Army trainer (L), instructs Iraqi Army recruits at a military base on April 12, 2015 in Taji, Iraq. U.S. forces, currently operating in 5 large bases throught Iraq, are training thousands of Iraqi Army combat troops, trying to rebuild a force they had origninally trained before the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq in 2010. Members of the U.S. Army's 5-73 CAV, 3BCT, 82nd Airborne Division are teaching members of the newly-formed 15th Division of the Iraqi Army, as the Iraqi government launches offensives to try to recover territory lost to ISIS last year. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
TAJI, IRAQ - APRIL 12: Iraqi Army recruits listen to a U.S. Army trainer (R), at a military base on April 12, 2015 in Taji, Iraq. U.S. forces, currently operating in 5 large bases throught the country, are training thousands of Iraqi Army combat troops, trying to rebuild a force they had origninally trained before the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq in 2010. Members of the U.S. Army's 5-73 CAV, 3BCT, 82nd Airborne Division are teaching members of the newly-formed 15th Division of the Iraqi Army, as the Iraqi government launches offensives to try to recover territory lost to ISIS last year. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
TAJI, IRAQ - APRIL 12: A U.S. Army trainer (R), instructs an Iraqi Army recruit at a military base on April 12, 2015 in Taji, Iraq. U.S. forces, currently operating in 5 large bases throught the country, are training thousands of Iraqi Army combat troops, trying to rebuild a force they had origninally trained before the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq in 2010. Members of the U.S. Army's 5-73 CAV, 3BCT, 82nd Airborne Division are teaching members of the newly-formed 15th Division of the Iraqi Army, as the Iraqi government launches offensives to try to recover territory lost to ISIS last year. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
American military trainers show Iraqi soldiers how to use American weapons during a training session at the Taji base complex, which hosts Iraqi and US troops, located 30 kilometres north of the capital Baghdad on January 7, 2015. American and allied soldiers are aiming to rapidly train thousands of Iraqi security personnel in the 'bare minimum basics' needed to join the fight against militants who swept Baghdad's troops aside. The first round of training is just getting underway at the massive Taji base complex north of Baghdad, one of five planned training sites. AFP PHOTO/ AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
CAMP BUEHRING, KUWAIT - DECEMBER 08: U.S. troops stand at attention next to a Abrams tank waiting for the arrival of Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, December 8, 2014 at Camp Buehring, Kuwait. Secretary Hagel visited the camp which once was a staging post for troops headed to Iraq. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
TAJI, IRAQ - APRIL 12: A U.S. Army trainer (L), speaks with an Iraqi Army officer at a military base on April 12, 2015 in Taji, Iraq. U.S. forces, currently operating in 5 large bases throught Iraq, are training thousands of Iraqi Army combat troops, trying to rebuild a force they had origninally trained before the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq in 2010. Members of the U.S. Army's 5-73 CAV, 3BCT, 82nd Airborne Division are teaching members of the newly-formed 15th Division of the Iraqi Army, as the Iraqi government launches offensives to try to recover territory lost to ISIS last year. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
American trainers take a break as they train Iraqi soldier on approaching and clearing buildings at the Taji base complex, which hosts Iraqi and US troops and is located north of the capital Baghdad, on January 7, 2015. Taji is one of an eventual five sites from which the US and allied countries aim to train 5,000 Iraqi military personnel every six to eight weeks for combat against the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group. AFP/ PHOTO/AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
American and Iraqi trainers watch on as an Iraqi soldier rebuilds his weapon at the Taji base complex, which hosts Iraqi and US troops and is located north of the capital Baghdad, on January 7, 2015. Taji is one of an eventual five sites from which the US and allied countries aim to train 5,000 Iraqi military personnel every six to eight weeks for combat against the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group. AFP/ PHOTO/AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
An American military trainer instructs Iraqi soldier during an exercise on approaching and clearing buildings at the Taji base complex, which hosts Iraqi and US troops and is located north of the capital Baghdad, on January 7, 2015. Taji is one of an eventual five sites from which the US and allied countries aim to train 5,000 Iraqi military personnel every six to eight weeks for combat against the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group. AFP PHOTO/ AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
An American military trainer instructs an Iraqi soldier during an exercise on approaching and clearing buildings at the Taji base complex, which hosts Iraqi and US troops and is located north of the capital Baghdad, on January 7, 2015. Taji is one of an eventual five sites from which the US and allied countries aim to train 5,000 Iraqi military personnel every six to eight weeks for combat against the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group. AFP PHOTO/ AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
BAGHDAD, IRAQ - DECEMBER 09: U.S. troops are silhouetted as they listen to U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel speak during a visit to Baghdad International Airport, December 9, 2014 in Baghdad, Iraq. Secretary Hagel later met with Iraqi military officials and Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY W.G. DUNLOP An American soldier stands guard at the Taji base complex which hosts Iraqi and US troops and is located thirty kilometres north of the capital Baghdad on December 29, 2014. Taji is one of an eventual five sites where the US and allied countries aim to train 5,000 Iraqi military personnel every six to eight weeks for combat against the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group. AFP PHOTO / ALI AL-SAADI (Photo credit should read ALI AL-SAADI/AFP/Getty Images)
An American trainer instructs an Iraqi soldier on approaching and clearing buildings at the Taji base complex, which hosts Iraqi and US troops and is located north of the capital Baghdad, on January 7, 2015. Taji is one of an eventual five sites from which the US and allied countries aim to train 5,000 Iraqi military personnel every six to eight weeks for combat against the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group. AFP/ PHOTO/AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
CAMP BUEHRING, KUWAIT - DECEMBER 08: U.S. troops listen to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel speak during a visit, December 8, 2014 at Camp Buehring, Kuwait. Secretary Hagel visited the camp which once was a staging post for troops headed to Iraq. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY W.G DUNLOP A US soldier stands in front of graffiti painted on concrete blast walls at the Taji base complex which hosts Iraqi and US troops and is located thirty kilometres north of the capital Baghdad, on December 29, 2014. Taji is one of an eventual five sites where the US and allied countries aim to train 5,000 Iraqi military personnel every six to eight weeks for combat against the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group. AFP PHOTO / ALI AL-SAADI (Photo credit should read ALI AL-SAADI/AFP/Getty Images)
BAGHDAD, IRAQ - DECEMBER 09: U.S. troops listen to U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel speak during a visit to Baghdad International Airport, December 9, 2014 in Baghdad, Iraq. Secretary Hagel later met with Iraqi military officials and Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
BAGHDAD, IRAQ - DECEMBER 09: U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel speaks to troops stationed at Baghdad International Airport, December 9, 2014 in Baghdad, Iraq. Secretary Hagel later met with Iraqi military officials and Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
An F/A-18C hornet pilot poses on the flight deck of the US navy aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush on August 15, 2014 in the Gulf. The US aircraft carrier is supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the US 5th Fleet area of responsibility. AFP PHOTO/MOHAMMED AL-SHAIKH (Photo credit should read MOHAMMED AL-SHAIKH/AFP/Getty Images)
KHAZIR FRONTLINE, KRG, IRAQ - 2014/08/26: An American Humvee is potionned on the Khazir Frontline. It was captured from ISIS militants by Peshmerga soldiers. Khazir refugee camp is located outside Kalak, a town halfway on the road between Erbil and Mosul. It was overrun by ISIS militants on the 7th of August following an unprecedented push of the Caliphate into Kurdish territory. Its thousands of Iraqi and Arab refugees were forced to flee again as the now deserted camp has become the new frontline between the Peshmerga and ISIS. It is the theatre of frequent U.S. airstrikes that have helped halt the ISIS advance into a stalemate situation. (Photo by Vianney Le Caer/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
A Kurdish Peshmerga fighter, with an image of the US flag sewn onto his shirt sleeve, stands next to an ambulance destroyed due to an improvised explosive device (IED) in Hossein, during the clashes on the road to Jalawla, on August 23, 2014. The United States launched an air campaign against IS in Iraq on April 8, and has since carried out more than 90 strikes that have largely been in support of Kurdish forces in the north, drawing calls for operations elsewhere in the country. AFP PHOTO / JM LOPEZ (Photo credit should read JM LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
MAKHMOUR, KRG, IRAQ - 2014/08/18: A Peshmerga soldier looks away from the top of an American MRAP vehicle while the Kurdish flags floats. Makhmour is a town 50 kilometers South of Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Regional Government. After an ISIS offensive, the town fell to the Caliphate on the 8th of August but taken back by the Peshmerga and PKK fighters on August 10. All people deserted the town and only 10% decided to return. (Photo by Vianney Le Caer/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
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Its findings are unlikely to satisfy critics of Blair, who allege he lied about what he knew to lead Britain into war — allegations he has denied — and have gone so far as to suggest he be convicted of war crimes.

Nor is its criticism of flaws in Britain's military preparation and equipment expected to fully satisfy the families of the 179 British servicemen and women who died in the conflict.

Controversy around the inquiry grew as the lengthy process dragged on. It initially was meant to take one year but instead took seven, and ended up costing the taxpayer around £10,375,000 ($13.56 million).

Its repeated delays drew criticism from all sides. One of the inquiry's committee members died during the lengthy process.

The final publication was 12 volumes long and ran for around 2.6 million words — around 33 times longer than the first "Harry Potter" novel.

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