The Blair government knew that dealing with post-war Iraq would be a huge challenge. Unlike the United States it had a history with the country and had reporting about what was happening within the nation. Still London suffered from the same lack of planning that the United States did from having too many groups working separately and never coming up with a final product on what to do the day after Saddam Hussein was deposed.
British diplomats regularly went to Iraq in the 1990s-2000s and reported on what they found. The Foreign Office for example had people check on UK property in Iraq including the embassy building in Baghdad. These trips were increased in early 2002. In July 1998 the Foreign Office asked the British embassy in Jordan to make regular reports on Iraq’s economy. Still, several officials told the Chilcot Inquiry the U.K. only had a limited view of what Iraq was like during this period. This was far more than the U.S. which didn’t have any government personnel go to Iraq and only focused upon the military threat Baghdad posed. London failed to use its resources at hand which was only the start of a series of policy failures.
The Chilcot Inquiry noted all the different agencies that were put in charge of post-war planning with no oversight and most importantly coordination between them. In 2001 the U.K. made its first plans for post-war Iraq. It assumed Saddam would be replaced by another strongman and noted that things like the power grid and other services along with the oil industry had all declined under U.N. sanctions. In April 2002 a Defense Ministry group was created to deal with military action against Iraq which the Foreign Office added its postwar ideas to. By June the Defense Ministry said that a larger group was needed to consider the post-war situation but Prime Minister Blair declined. In September a new Ad Hoc Group was put together to work across government agencies but it made no detailed plans. In December a Special Planning Group was added to the bureaucratic mess. Some of the main findings of these different organizations were that the British would have to stay in Iraq long term after the invasion and that this would be very expensive. Some argued that the U.N. should run Iraq after Saddam but noted that would be hard to get the U.S. to sign off on. This was just like the Bush administration. Both London and Washington had too many groups working on Iraq that never worked with each other. Plenty of papers were written but no overall strategy was ever decided upon.
One of the main reasons why the Blair government agreed to join the Iraq War was to gain influence with the United States. British officials constantly warned that the Bush administration was doing no serious postwar planning. On April 1, 2002 the U.K. ambassador to the U.S. Christopher Meyer said that the White House was talking about attacking Iraq in the autumn but had no plans for what happened afterward. On July 2, 2002 Defense Minister Hoon told Blair he had to push Bush to start thinking about post-Saddam Iraq. Blair never did so. The PM was only able to win one victory with the U.S. which was to get it to go to the United Nations for a new round of weapons inspectors. Otherwise, the U.K. consistently failed to get any of its ideas through to Washington. That meant the U.S. and England were going to war with no real plan of what it would do afterward.
The Iraq Inquiry, “The Report of the Iraq Inquiry,” 7/6/16
PREVIOUS CHILCOT REPORTS
Chilcot Inquiry Section 6.2 Military Planning For The Invasion, January to March 2003