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22nd January 2011
THANK YOU, MR BLAIR, FOR YOUR LEADERSHIP AGAINST WORLD EXTREMISM
I’m back from the ‘hanging’ and a great get-together with fellow Blair supporters. (Oh yes, there ARE such “happy few”!)
It’s very late and I didn’t sleep last night. So off to catch up. Plenty to write tomorrow. In the meantime here’s the report of Friday’s happenings at the Iraq Inquiry, courtesy of Tony Blair’s website:
Friday, Jan 21, 2011 in Office of Tony Blair
Tony Blair told the official inquiry into the conflict that he regretted “deeply and profoundly” the deaths of British troops and Iraqi civilians.
During the four and a half hour session, the former Prime Minister also set out how the policy on Iraq had evolved during his time in office, his view of the lessons to be learnt, and warned of the threat now posed by Iran
Tony Blair said that, while he made clear that he would always stand “shoulder to shoulder” with the Americans, he had also succeeded in persuading the US leader to go down the “UN route” first.
Mr Blair told the inquiry: “Regime change was their policy so regime change was part of the discussion. If it became the only way of dealing with this issue, we were going to be up for that.”
The inquiry also released a note from Tony Blair to his chief of staff Jonathan Powell, from April 2002, in which he said that, from “a centre-left perspective”, the case for action against the Iraqi dictator should be “obvious”.
“Saddam’s regime is a brutal, oppressive military dictatorship. He kills his opponents, has wrecked his country’s economy and is a source of instability and danger in the region,” he wrote.
Speaking towards the end of Friday’s hearing, Tony Blair said: “At the conclusion of the last hearing, you asked me whether I had any regrets. I took that as a question about the decision to go to war, and I answered that I took responsibility.
“That was taken as my meaning that I had no regrets about the loss of life and that was never my meaning or my intention. I wanted to make it clear that, of course, 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.”
Tony Blair ended his evidence with a strong defence of his relationship with America, although he said that at times it could be “tough” and that people had to consider whether the “pain gain ratio” was worth it.
“I think you do have to consider that. My view is clear that it is,” he said.
“I believe that it is important that we keep that relationship together. But I think we have to be realistic about it. When we are in a situation like this we are going to have to accept that it is going to be difficult and hard,” he argued.
“I personally think there is an even stronger argument today for the development of both a European defence capability and also a nation-building capacity because I think in both of those areas we can do far more and therefore have more weight and more leverage if we are in alongside others.”
Tony Blair also issued a stark warning that the West must be prepared to use force if necessary to deal with the “looming challenge” of Iran and end its “wretched posture of apology” towards the regime in Tehran.
He said the Iranians would remain a destabilising force in the region – while continuing to develop their nuclear programme – unless they were confronted with the “requisite determination”.
“This is a looming and coming challenge. I am out in the region the whole time, I see the impact and influence of Iran everywhere. It is negative, destabilising, it is supportive of terrorist groups, it is doing everything it can to impede progress in the Middle East process,” he said.
“This is not because we have done something. At some point – and I say this to you with all the passion I possibly can – the West has got to get out of this wretched posture of apology for believing that we are responsible for what the Iranians are doing, or what these extremists are doing.
“We are not. The fact is that they are doing it because they disagree fundamentally with our way of life and they will carry on doing it unless they are met by the requisite determination and if necessary force.”
Tony Blair said US President Barack Obama’s attempts to extend the hand of partnership to the Iranian regime had failed to induce any change in policy.
“What is the response he gets? They carry on with the terrorism, they carry on with the destabilisation, they carry on with the nuclear weapons programme. At some point we have got to get our head out of the sand and understand they are going to carry on with this,” he said.
Tony Blair also tackled the argument that the war in Iraq had emboldened the Iranians. He said it was the former policy of the West to promote Saddam Hussein as a bulwark against Iran that had failed.
“The answer to Iran is not Saddam. That was the policy in the 1980s and all we did was create a monster we couldn’t control.”
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“All countries need a leader who isn’t afraid to fight terrorism. I believe Mr. Blair did a necessary job in helping his allies. Are we all just supposed to lie down and wait for them to come for us, I don’t think so.”
And – “Mr. Blair is one of the finest politicians to have had the privilege of serving the United Kingdom, and Britons are fortunate to have had him as their Prime Minister. Time will show that Mr. Blair’s approach to affairs in the Middle East were and remain correct. From a member of the Commonwealth, thank you, Mr. Blair, for your continued service to legitimate and lasting (and not convenient or politically expedient) freedom.”
AND – “Tony Blair was the greatest Prime Minister since Winston Churchill and the only regret I have he didn’t get my vote as I live in Canada.”
AND – “I am sick and tired of television and radio interviewers asking the same old questions over and over, regarding the decision to go to war in Iraq, presumably they hope Mr Blair will let slip some secret information which they would then use against him. History will show if the decision was the right one, (I believe it was) but people must accept that Tony Blair is an honourable man, and made his decision based on the known facts and not with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight.”