News Middle East

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Blair denies UK and US-led invasion sowed seeds for current crisis

Matthew Holehouse

Published 16/06/2014 | 02:30

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Tony Blair: has called for air strikes against ISIS fighters.
Tony Blair: has called for air strikes against ISIS fighters.
Tony Blair: has called for air strikes against ISIS fighters.

FORMER British prime minister Tony Blair was last night criticised over his claim that the current generation of political leaders is to blame for the violence engulfing Iraq.

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He said that the refusal last year to intervene in Syria's civil war had created the conditions for the al-Qa'ida aligned ISIS movement to flourish in that country before advancing into Iraq's major cities.

Mr Blair insisted that his decision to intervene in Iraq in 2003 was not the cause of the fresh wave of bloodshed. The turmoil across the region has been caused by the Arab Spring, Mr Blair said, which would have swept Saddam from power and caused chaos if Britain and the US had not intervened in 2003.

He called for air strikes or drone assaults, saying that the ISIS fighters posed a threat to British national security. "They are going to pull us into this whether we like it or not," he said.

The claims were met with anger and ridicule from former allies and from MPs who voted against last year's proposed strikes against the Syrian regime.

John Prescott, Mr Blair's former deputy prime minister, said: "Put on a white sheet and a red cross and we are back to the Crusades," he said. "It is all about religion. In these countries it has gone on for a thousand years."

Christopher Meyer, Britain's ambassador to the US from 1997 to 2003, said: "We are reaping what we sowed in 2003. This is not hindsight. We knew in the run-up to war that the overthrow of Saddam Hussein would seriously destabilise Iraq after 24 years of his iron rule."

UK prime minister David Cameron pressed for air strikes against Syria after President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons against civilians.

However, the plan was vetoed in the Commons. Asked whether Britain made the "wrong call", Mr Blair said: "In my judgment, as I said at the time, yes."

Mr Blair added that ISIS will attack Britain unless it is stopped as "the people who are causing this instability and this chaos ... they are also prepared to fight us and they will if they are not stopped". (© Daily Telegraph)

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