World Bulletin / News Desk
Tony Blair admitted the West “underestimated” the problems in Iraq after Saddam Hussein was toppled, in a fresh defense of his conduct during the 2003 war.
Speaking on Tuesday, just weeks before the report from a long-anticipated judicial inquiry in the conflict is published, the former British prime minister said the mistakes made in postwar planning constituted the lesson he had learned.
Addressing an event organized by the Centre on Religion and Geopolitics, a group connected to his own foundation, he said: “We underestimated profoundly the forces that were at work in the region and that would take advantage of the change once you topple the regime.
“That's the lesson. The lesson is not actually complicated; the lesson is simple -- it's that.
"It's that when you remove a dictator, out come these forces of destabilization -- whether al-Qaeda on the Sunni side or Iran and its militia on the other side."
His comments came two days after the Sunday Times reported the inquiry into the Iraq war by retired Judge John Chilcot would “savage” the conduct of Blair and of senior ministers and military generals at the time of the conflict.
The newspaper cited an unnamed senior source as saying they would face “damage to their reputations” and the report would be “brutal” for Jack Straw, the foreign secretary at the time of the war.
It is due to be published on July 6.
Blair refused to answer questions on the Chilcot inquiry at Tuesday’s event, but he did say a “proper ground war” was needed to defeat ISIL in Syria and Iraq.
“There is no way of defeating these people without defeating them on the ground. Airstrikes are not going to defeat Isis [ISIL], they have got to be tackled on the ground,” he said, according to the BBC.