Thursday 23 November 2017

Blair committed UK to Iraq war one year before parliament gave go-ahead

United on Iraq: Tony Blair and George Bush
United on Iraq: Tony Blair and George Bush

Danica Kirka

Former British prime minister Tony Blair supported military operations in Iraq about a year before the British Parliament approved such action, according to a 2002 memo written by then-US Secretary of State Colin Powell.

The memo was written before Mr Blair's April 2002 visit to former US president George W Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas. The once-classified memo was released by the US State Department after a 2012 Freedom of Information request.

"On Iraq, Blair will be with us should military operations be necessary," Powell wrote.

Publication of the memo is likely to increase pressure on John Chilcot, chairman of the UK's Iraq war inquiry, to publish the results of the investigation, which began six years ago.

Families of service personnel killed in Iraq have threatened to go to court to speed up the release, saying the delays are prolonging their suffering as they search for answers.

Mr Blair's office said the memo was consistent with his testimony to Chilcot's panel.

When asked about the meeting in Crawford, Mr Blair told the inquiry that he made no commitment the UK would take part in a war against Iraq and Saddam Hussein.

"The only commitment I gave, and gave openly, was a commitment to deal with Saddam ... There was a general discussion of the possibility of going down the military route, but obviously we were arguing very much for that to be if the UN route failed," Mr Blair said in 2010.

The much-delayed Chilcot inquiry into decisions and mistakes in Britain's planning and execution of the war began in 2009, but the timetable for its eventual release still remains unclear.

Irish Independent

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