Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair apologised for ‘mistakes’ made over the Iraq War and admitted that the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 could have sparked the rise of ISIS.
In a US television interview, Blair was challenged by US political broadcaster Fareed Zakar who accused him of being former US President George W. Bush’s ‘poodle’ over the conflict.
The confession came after 12 years in where Blair refused to apologise for the conflict.
“I apologise for the fact that the intelligence we received was wrong,” Blair said.
“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 I find it hard to apologise for removing Saddam [Hussain].”
When asked if the Iraq War was the main reason of the rise of ISIS, Blair said “I think there are elements of truth in that.”
“Of course you can’t say those of us who removed Saddam in 2003 bear no responsibility for the situation in 2015. But it's important also to realize, one, that the Arab Spring which began in 2011 would also have had its impact on Iraq today, and two, ISIS actually came to prominence from a base in Syria and not in Iraq.”
His apology was related to his attempts to refuse to accept criticism over his handling of the Iraq War, expected to be included in the Chilcot inquiry, which is carried out by Sir John Chilcot regarding the Iraq War.
All the key figures took part in the Iraq conflict, including Blair and other senior Labour politicians, have been given notice of the verdict concerning them in the Chilcot report, expected to be made public next year.
The Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Blair was prepared for the criticisms to come, already apologising for his mistakes before the detailed Chilcot inquiry report concerning UK’s involvement in the Iraq War has even been published.
“The Blair spin operation begins but the country still awaits the truth,” Nicola, the Scottish National Party leader posted on Twitter.
“The delay to Chilcot report is a scandal.”
— Sky News (@SkyNews) October 24, 2015
The war and ousting of Saddam caused chaos in Iraq, resulting in years of deadly sectarian violence and led the rise of al Qaeda in Iraq, spark of ISIS. In the conflict, tens of thousands of Iraqis, more than 4,000 US troops and 179 British service members had died.
Blair, who served as a prime minister of Britain between 1997 and 2007, has repeatedly denied being involved in the Iraq War. During his leadership, Britain was involved in the Iraq invasion with its contribution of sending the second largest troop. British forces were stationed in Iraq until 2011.
Not sorry for ousting Saddam
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said he did not regret his decision to oust Saddam Hussein.
"I find it hard to apologize for removing Saddam. I think, even from today in 2015, it is better that he's not there than that he is there," Blair said.
Despite not apologising for ousting Saddam, Blair admitted he did not realise "what would happen once you removed the regime."
A spokeswoman for the former prime minister later said, “Tony Blair has always apologised for the intelligence being wrong and for mistakes in planning. He has always also said, and says again here, that he does not however think it was wrong to remove Saddam.”
“He did not say the decision to remove Saddam in 2003 ‘caused Isis [ISIS]’ and pointed out that Isis [ISIS] was barely heard of at the end of 2008, when al-Qaida was basically beaten.”
During more than three decades, Saddam oppressed Iraqi citizens, using chemical weapons against Kurdish people in northern Iraq. He launched wars also against Iran and Kuwait.
Iraq is still dealing with bloody chaos because of sectarian violence and the threat of ISIS.