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Brexit had 'silver lining' of distracting media from Iraq inquiry: Jack Straw

The former British foreign secretary said a 'silver lining' of Brexit was that it would reduce media attention on the Chilcot report
Colin Powell and Jack Straw talk during a Security Council meeting (AFP)

Former British foreign secretary Jack Straw privately expressed relief that Brexit distracted media attention away from Sir John Chilcot’s damning report into the Iraq war, according to emails leaked on Tuesday.

Emails between Straw and former US secretary of state Colin Powell were obtained by DC Leaks – a website that reportedly has links with Russian intelligence.

Straw and Powell were in office during and in the run up to the 2003 Iraq invasion, and both men played a key role in the launching of a war that led to the violent deaths of more than 250,000 people.

More than 10 years after it was first commissioned, on 6 July this year Chilcot published his 2.6 million-word report into the war, which damned former prime minister Tony Blair for leading Britain into an unnecessary war based on flawed intelligence and without proper planning for its aftermath.

Two days before the Chilcot report was published Straw wrote to Powell and asked him to check over a draft statement he was planning to release in response to the report.

Referring to Britain’s vote on 23 June to leave the European Union, known as Brexit, Straw wrote British politics was “in the most extraordinary phase” he has ever known.

Straw, who campaigned to remain in the European Union, added that the “only silver lining of the Brexit vote is that it will reduce medium term attention on Chilcot”.

Despite this, he wrote that on the day publication it would be “uncomfortable”.

Powell responded to Straw and suggested he share his proposed statement with his successor as secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice.

He wrote that he couldn’t “agree or disagree” with Straw’s assessment that war would “probably” have been avoided if a second United Nations resolution had been obtained prior to the 2003 invasion.

Powell added that the Chilcot report was “not discussed in our (American) media”.

The former secretary of state followed up his 4 July email with another message on 3 August in which he said Straw had been "quiet" since Brexit and that the Chilcot report “didn’t amount to anything over here (in the United States)”.

Straw replied to Powell and wrote that the report had “faded altogether here (in Britain) too”.

“It was unpleasant on the day but almost all the focus was on Tony [Blair],” the wrote.

Straw wrote that he was sceptical about the prospect of legal action being brought against Blair for his role in the war, as campaigned for by family members of British soldiers killed in Iraq.

“There is some stuff about some relatives of soldiers killed in Iraq trying to get a legal action against Tony on its feet buy [sic] it’s hard to see how that could work,” he wrote.

Straw went on to discuss other matters with Powell, including praising the former American politician as a speaker who wows his audience.

Straw did not respond to a request for comment on the emails. 

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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