Former British PM admits ‘mistakes’ and conflict’s role in rise of Islamic State but defends armed intervention in 2003 during his interview at CNN.
Tony Blair has moved to prepare the ground for the publication of the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war by offering a qualified apology for the use of misleading intelligence and the failure to prepare for the aftermath of the invasion, as the Guardian mentions.
In an interview with Fareed Zakaria on CNN, the former British prime minister declined to apologise for the war itself and defended armed intervention in 2003, pointing to the current civil war in Syria to highlight the dangers of inaction.
Blair, who will be aware of what Sir John Chilcot is planning to say about him in the long-awaited report into the Iraq war, moved to pre-empt its criticisms in an interview with CNN. He told Zakaria: “I apologise for the fact that the intelligence we received was wrong.
“I also apologise for some of the mistakes in planning and, certainly, our mistake in our understanding of what would happen once you removed the regime.”
But Blair made clear that he still felt he made the right decision in backing the US invasion of Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein. He said: “I find it hard to apologise for removing Saddam.”
Blair also made light of the claims that he should stand trial on war crimes charges and defended his policy of what he used to describe as liberal interventionism. He contrasted what he described as “my ‘crime’” – the removal of Saddam – and the civil war in Syria.
“We have stood back and we, in the west, bear responsibility for this – Europe most of all. We’ve done nothing. That’s a judgment of history I’m prepared to have.”
Blair indicated that he saw merit in the argument that the Iraq war was to blame for the rise of Islamic State (Isis). “I think there are elements of truth in that,” he said when asked whether the Iraq invasion had been the “principal cause” of the rise of Isis.
He added: “Of course you can’t say those of us who removed Saddam in 2003 bear no responsibility for the situation in 2015.”