Monday 18 November 2019

Tony Blair set to be criticised in Iraq report

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair

Christopher Hope

Tony Blair expects to be warned this month that he will be criticised by the inquiry into the Iraq war.

Sir John Chilcot, the chairman of the inquiry, wrote to David Cameron this week to inform him that “individuals” had been identified who would be criticised in his report.

It is the first confirmation that individuals have been found at fault in their decisions and actions in the run-up to the Iraq war and during the aftermath. These people, thought to include the former prime minister, will be told “this month” and given an opportunity to respond before the final report is published next year.

Mr Blair, who has repeatedly denied misleading Parliament and the public over the case for war in 2003, is likely to make strong representations to Sir John in an attempt to stop any criticism. He is likely to be wary of potential comparisons with Anthony Eden who lied to Parliament over the invasion of Suez.

Sir John has said he wishes to highlight private handwritten letters from Mr Blair to President George W Bush in 2002, in which Mr Blair gave assurances that Britain would support an invasion of Iraq.

The letters gave assurances to the US before the Cabinet had established the case for war against Saddam Hussein’s regime, so may call into question the official explanations given for the invasion.

Sir John also wishes to highlight previously unknown correspondence between Mr Blair and Gordon Brown and other communications with US presidents. The Prime Minister said Sir Jeremy Heywood, the Cabinet Secretary, was aiding the inquiry on releasing this information.

Sir John wrote to Mr Cameron this week confirming that individuals would be criticised following his four-year inquiry. “The inquiry intends to write to the relevant individuals at the end of this month informing them that the committee has concluded that there are areas in which some aspect of the part they played means the inquiry is likely to make a criticism,” he said. “The inquiry recognises the seriousness with which any criticism of an individual is likely to be regarded by that individual and it is determined to adopt an approach which is balanced, considered and fair.”

In his response, dated Wednesday, Mr Cameron said the release of this information was crucial before the individuals to be criticised could respond, apparently confirming that Mr Blair would be censured. He wrote: “I agree that it is important to ensure that those who the inquiry intends to criticise are informed … clearly the complex declassification discussions must be completed before this can take place.”

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