Tony Blair has made apologies about aspects of the Iraq War for the first time and has said there are ‘elements of truth’ in the theory that the invasion helped feed the rise of Isis.
In a TV interview with CNN, the former Prime Minister said he was sorry that the intelligence behind the decision to attack Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003 was wrong, and admitted there had been mistakes in the planning of the operation.
He had been asked how he felt about the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq as he took questions from American political broadcaster Fareed Zakaria in an interview due to be broadcast by CNN Europe on Sunday.
It is as part of a longer documentary, Long Road To Hell: America In Iraq, set to be screened on Tueday.
With the cameras rolling, Mr Zakaria asked Mr Blair: “Given that Saddam had no WMDs, was the war a mistake?”
He replied: “I apologise for the fact that the intelligence we received was wrong. I also apologise, by the way, for some of the mistakes in planning, and certainly, our mistake in our understanding of what would happen once you removed the regime. But I find it hard to apologise for removing Saddam.”
Mr Blair’s comments led to questions as to why he had chosen to be so candid to a US network before making such comments to British broadcasters or newspapers. The timing of the interview has been noted by critics, with the long-awaited findings of the Chilcot inquiry into the conflict due to be made public in the coming weeks.
The war led to large scale public protests and rebellions against Mr Blair in the Labour Party. Saddam Hussein was toppled but up to 500,000 people are said to have been killed in war-related deaths from 2003.
In his CNN interview, Mr Blair, who resigned as Prime Minister in 2007, was asked how he felt about being sometimes branded a “war criminal” by his opponents, and how it had changed the way people viewed his time in Downing Street. He responded by comparing the invasion with inaction in Syria, claiming the West and Europe had stood back while hundreds of thousands of people had been killed.
He added: “By the way, I always point out to people, I did actually win an election after Iraq. But I agree it’s been a huge political problem.”
In another segment, Mr Blair is asked whether the war provoked the growth of Isis, the group which now controls swathes of Iraq and Syria and which is being hit with air strikes from a US-led coalition that includes the UK.
“I think there are elements of truth in that,” Mr Blair said. “Of course, you can’t say those of us who removed Saddam in 2003 bear no responsibility for the situation in 2015.”
In the past, Mr Blair has been less candid about what went wrong. In 2007, he insisted: “I don’t think we should be apologising at all for what we are doing in Iraq.”
'Fareed Zakaria: GPS' is on CNN Europe at 11am and 7pm on Sunday. 'Long Road To Hell: America In Iraq' is on CNN Europe at 1am on Tuesday
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