29 Jan 2010

Blair uses Chilcot to call for tougher Iran sanctions

More implied criticism from Tony Blair of current (I assume UK and US) political leadership for not being tougher on Iran now as he was tough on Iraq back in 2003.

No doubt Gordon Brown has heard this argument direct from his predecessor. Lord Butler’s inquiry (members included Sir John Chilcot) has already gone round the block on WMD intelligence and I’m not sure today’s evidence session added much to that.

Tony Blair was asked about the size of the British force deployed in Iraq – he said the military wanted to go big and he said if you abandon or go against America it is “a long way back.”

On the dossier Tony Blair said if he’d directly quoted the JIC and said “it was clear that” Saddam had WMD rather than “beyond doubt” would’ve been much the same but got him off the critics’ hook.

Mr Blair’s been asked about the January 2003 meeting at the White House which Channel 4 News revealed was recorded as a moment when President Bush named the date for invasion and Mr Blair assured him he’d be with him.

The inquiry will come back to this point this afternoon when Sir Roderic Lyne questions Tony Blair about legal issues because at that point Tony Blair’s advice from the attorney general was that going to war without a second resolution at the UN was not lawful.

Mr Blair knows this question is coming and has said his commitment given at the White House was subject to political and legal considerations.

The biggest surprise here is not Tony Blair’s still brilliant advocacy skills (what limbs would Gordon Brown yield up to have them?) but the fact that the former Prime Minister, who has worked very hard to stay away from political controversy – domestic or foreign – ever since leaving No.10, has used this inquiry as a platform to call for much tougher action against Iran.

PS: Not sure this evidence session has been sexed up enough for AA Gill.

AA Gill at the Iraq inquiry
AA Gill at the Iraq inquiry

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