Global Independent Analytics

Tony Blair apologized for some Iraq War ‘mistakes’ though removing Saddam was not one of them

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair gave an exclusive interview to Fareed Zakaria for his CNN’s GPS that airs Sunday.

During this interview Blair talked about the consequences and outcomes of the Iraq invasion.

As we all remember, the claim that Saddam's regime possessed weapons of mass destruction was used by the U.S. and British governments to justify launching the invasion. But the intelligence reports the claim was based on turned out to be false.

"I can say that I apologize for the fact that the intelligence we received was wrong because, even though he had used chemical weapons extensively against his own people, against others, the program in the form that we thought it was did not exist in the way that we thought," said Blair.

Probably, this apology became possible because Blair has found his legacy overshadowed by the war, with questions and criticism following him wherever he goes. Having been the most high-profile foreign ally of former U.S. President George W. Bush in the Iraq invasion, Blair also apologizes "for some of the mistakes in planning and, certainly, our mistake in our understanding of what would happen once you removed the regime."

Still, he stopped short of a full apology for the war. "I find it hard to apologize for removing Saddam. I think, even from today in 2015, it is better that he's not there than that he is there," Blair said.

Saddam Hussein was famous for being a cruel dictator oppressing his own citizens during more than thirty years of his rule. He started wars with neighboring Iran and Kuwait and used chemical weapons against Kurds who live in Northern Iraq.

But the outcome of the invasion which had the goal of delivering justice is doubtful. Present day Iraq is no better than it used to be fifteen years ago: sectarian tensions and the threat of ISIS make it hard to create a stable state. And Blair acknowledged that there are "elements of truth" in the view that the 2003 invasion of Iraq was the principal cause of the rise of ISIS.

"Of course, you can't say that those of us who removed Saddam in 2003 bear no responsibility for the situation in 2015," he said. "But it's important also to realize, one, that the Arab Spring which began in 2011 would also have had its impact on Iraq today, and two, ISIS actually came to prominence from a base in Syria and not in Iraq." 

Moreover, Blair’s words about the Western policy in the Middle East can be seen as an explanation of nothing works in this region.

"We have tried intervention and putting down troops in Iraq; we've tried intervention without putting in troops in Libya; and we've tried no intervention at all but demanding regime change in Syria," he said. "It's not clear to me that, even if our policy did not work, subsequent policies have worked better."

Asked how he feels about being branded a "war criminal" for his decision to go into Iraq, Blair said he did what he thought was right at the time.

 

Original: http://edition.cnn.com/2015/10/25/europe/tony-blair-iraq-war/index.html

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