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Tony Blair was 'not straight with the nation' says head of inquiry into Iraq war

Sir John Chilcot told the BBC that Blair based his evidence to the inquiry on beliefs rather than facts.

Tony Blair infamously sent a note telling then-President Bush he would be with him whatever.
Tony Blair infamously sent a note telling then-President Bush he would be with him whatever.
Image: Stefan Rousseau/PA Images

TONY BLAIR WAS “not straight with the nation” about the decisions he made in the run up to the Iraq war, according to the head of the inquiry into the conflict.

Sir John Chilcot told the BBC that while he believed the evidence the former UK Prime Minister gave to the inquiry was “emotionally truthful”, Blair relied on beliefs rather than facts.

He said that Blair did not base his decision to go to war in Iraq with the US on “what the assessed intelligence said”.

“Any Prime Minister taking a country into war has got to be straight with the nation and carry it, so far as possible, with him or her,” Chilcot said.

I don’t believe that was the case in the Iraq instance.

Blair had initially defended his position, after Chilcot’s long-awaited report on the war said that the UK’s decision to  join the invasion of Iraq was made before all peaceful options were exhausted.

The report has not said, however, if the invasion was illegal or not.

In reaction, Blair expressed his sorrow and regret for the Iraq War, but maintained that his actions were taken in good faith.

He said: “It was the hardest, most momentous, most agonising decision I took in ten years as British Prime Minister… For all of this I express more sorrow, regret and apology than you may ever know or can believe.”

While Chilcot did not say that Blair had misled the inquiry in his interview with the BBC, he was critical of Blair’s relationship with US President George W Bush.

Chilcot Iraq inquiry Sir John Chilcot presenting the findings of the inquiry last year. Source: Jeff J Mitchell/PA Images

When he saw the note sent by Blair to Bush that said “I shall be with you whatever”, Chilcot said his first response “you mustn’t say that”.

He said: “You’re giving away far too much.

You’re making a binding commitment by one sovereign government to another which you can’t fulfil. You’re not in a position to fulfil it. I mean he didn’t even know the legal position at that point.

In a statement to the BBC, Tony Blair’s spokesperson said: “A full reading of the interview shows that Sir John makes clear that Mr Blair had not ‘departed from the truth’.”

The spokesperson then draws attention to a statement made by Chilcot where he said Blair asked the chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee on the eve of the invasion is he could say beyond reasonable doubt that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The reply was yes.

Some 150,000 Iraqi people were killed in the six years after British and American troops invaded, plunging the country into chaos. At one point, there were 46,000 British troops deployed in the country. A total of 179 British soldiers died in that conflict.

With reporting from AFP - © – AFP 2017

Read: ‘Tony, will Brexit bring about a united Ireland?’: Blair is back and has views on Ireland

Read: Tony Blair promises to get ‘hands dirty’ as he re-enters UK politics to fight Brexit

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Sean Murray

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