June 15 - The 2003 Iraq invasion, in which the UK was a lead protagonist, is not a causal factor in the current crisis there, says former British prime minister Tony Blair. Rough Cut (no reporter narration)
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) Former British prime minister Tony Blair said on Sunday (June 15) it was "profoundly wrong" to think that the 2003 Anglo-U.S. invasion of Iraq helped stoke the current crisis and urged the West to take targeted military action there. In comments likely to anger his detractors at home and abroad who believe his decisions to intervene militarily in Iraq and Afghanistan made things worse, Blair told British TV that the Iraq crisis would have happened regardless of his actions. Asked by BBC TV's Andrew Marr if he regretted the war in Iraq that started with the 2003 invasion, Blair said that he didn't believe that the region would be safer today if Saddam Hussein had been left in place. "My point is very simple, even if you left Saddam in place in 2003 then when 2011 happened and you had the Arab revolutions going through Tunisia and Libya and Yemen and Bahrain and Egypt and Syria you would still have had a major problem in Iraq. Indeed you can see what happens when you leave the dictator in place as has happened with Assad now," Blair said. He also weighed in on U.S. President Barack Obama's recent announcement regarding Iraq. "President Obama, I think very rightly, is saying all the options are on the table. He will be debating with his military commanders what the best form of assistance to the Iraqi government is. Whether that's through drones or through fighters or whatever is the right and appropriate response. The key thing is that they [Sunni insurgents] need to know that they're not going to be able to continue their push unhindered," added Blair. As leader of Britain's Labour party, Blair won three elections and was in office from 1997 to 2007. But the way he handled the Iraq war and the unfounded claims he and the United States made about the existence of weapons of mass destruction there proved to be his political undoing.