News Brief – January 21, 2011
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair took advantage of his second appearance before the Chilcott Inquiry into the Iraq War to call for action on Iran
Speaking at the London inquiry where he explained his decision to join the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, Blair said the time had now come to “get our heads out of the sand” over Iran.
“I say this with all the passion I possibly can,” said Blair, now an envoy for the Quartet of Middle East peacemakers – the United States, Russia, the EU and the United Nations.
The West had to stop believing it was responsible for the actions of Iran or extremists, he said.
“The fact is they are doing it because they disagree fundamentally with our way of life and they’ll carry on doing it unless they are met by the requisite determination and, if necessary, force.”
Claiming he saw Iran’s negative influence everywhere, Blair said it was instrumental in supporting terrorism and impeding the Middle East peace process. U.S. President Barack Obama’s offer of a hand of friendship in 2009 had also been roundly rejected, he added.
BACKING FOR IRAQ WAR
Earlier, Blair told the inquiry he had promised to back the United States against Saddam Hussein almost a year before the 2003 invasion.
Saying that he had agreed that Saddam had to be dealt with, Blair said he told President Bush in 2002 “you can count on us, we are going to be with you in tackling this”.
The timing of the decision to use military force is important to opponents of the war, who accuse Blair and Bush of having decided to use force regardless of whether it was legal or had United Nations backing.
Observers say Blair gave a generally assured performance in the face of far more rigorous questioning, although he sometimes appeared uncomfortable and stuttered occassionally.
The decision to go to war was one of the most notable episodes of his premiership and certainly the most controversial. Leading to the biggest anti-war protests London has ever seen.
Blair also took advantage of his appearance before the inquiry to try to soothe the anger of relatives of the 179 British soldiers killed in Iraq, after they were incensed by remarks in his first appearance before the inquiry that he had no regrets about the invasion.
“I regret deeply and profoundly the loss of life, whether from our own armed forces, those of other nations, the civilians who helped people in Iraq or the Iraqis themselves,” he said at the end of Friday’s hearing.
“It’s too late,” a woman in the public gallery shouted back.