The Slatest

Tony Blair Acknowledges Iraq Invasion Played Role in Rise of Islamic State

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair gives a speech to waiting party members ahead of a visit to the construction site for the new Hitachi Trains Europe factory on April 7, 2015 in Sedgefield, England.  

Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images

Former British prime minister Tony Blair acknowledged that the 2003 U.S.–led invasion of Iraq played a role in the rise of Islamic State in the region. “There are elements of truth” to the assertion that the Iraq War helped give rise to ISIS, he said. “Of course you can’t say those of us who removed Saddam in 2003 bear no responsibility for the situation in 2015,” he added in an interview with CNN that was broadcast on Sunday. “But it’s important also to realize, one, that the Arab Spring which began in 2011 would also have had its impact on Iraq today, and two, ISIS actually came to prominence from a base in Syria and not in Iraq.”

Blair also apologized for failures in the intelligence and postwar planning. “I can say that I apologize for the fact that the intelligence we received was wrong,” Blair said. The former prime minister also apologized “for some of the mistakes in planning and, certainly, our mistake in our understanding of what would happen once you removed the regime.” But Blair, who played a key role in providing foreign support to the U.S.–led invasion, also said he couldn’t apologize for the whole endeavor. “I find it hard to apologize for removing Saddam. I think, even from today in 2015, it is better that he’s not there than that he is there,” Blair said.

In the U.K., many saw Blair’s interview as the first step in trying to frame the narrative at a time when the long-expected Chilcot report, an investigation into the Iraq War, is expected to be released soon. Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish first minister, characterized the CNN interview as part of a “Blair spin operation.” The Guardian notes that the final report is expected to criticize the use of intelligence in the run-up to the war as well as a general failure to prepare for the aftermath of the invasion.