The West should stop its apologetic policy toward Iran and be prepared to use
force if necessary to halt Teheran’s nuclear program as well as its
destabilizing activities and support of terrorist groups, former British prime
minister Tony Blair said on Friday in an impassioned appearance before a British
investigative panel on the Iraq War.
“I say this to you with all the
passion I possibly can,” said Blair, who was making his second appearance before
the panel led by Sir John Chilcot. “The West has to get out of this – what I
think is a wretched policy, or posture of apology, for believing that we are
causing what the Iranians are doing, or what these extremists are doing. We are
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“The fact is that they are doing it because they
disagree fundamentally with our way of life, and they will carry on doing it
unless they are met with the requisite determination and, if necessary,
He spoke a day before Saturday’s failed talks between the
so-called P5+1 – England, France, Germany, the United States, Russia and China –
and Iran in Turkey.
The countries had put offers of confidence-building
steps on the table that they hoped Iran would seize.
These included an
updated deal over a nuclear fuel exchange program agreed between the sides in
2009 but never implemented, and a better means of monitoring Iran’s nuclear
But the two days of negotiations ended Saturday without any
progress. No date was scheduled for a new round of talks.
the Prime Minister’s Office had no response to the breakdown of the talks, or to
But an Israeli official noted that Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu had said on a number of occasions that a military option with
respect to Iran should be on the table.
Netanyahu is of the opinion that
for Iran’s nuclear program to be halted, Teheran must believe there is a
credible military option, the official told The Jerusalem Post.
testimony Friday, Blair, who is the Quartet envoy to the region, said he spends
a great deal of time in the Middle East, where he sees Iran’s impact and
“It is negative [and] destabilizing.
supportive of terrorist groups. It is doing everything it can to impede progress
in the Middle East peace process and to facilitate a situation in which that
region cannot embark on the process of modernization it urgently needs,” he
In March 2009, US President Barack Obama delivered a speech in
Cairo, “in the heart of Islam,” in which he made an overture to Iran, said
Obama told Iran: “I am now offering the hand of friendship. You,
Iran can come into partnership. You are an ancient, proud
We will welcome you in,” recalled Blair.
response he gets? They carry on with the terrorism. They carry on with the
destabilization. They carry on with the nuclear weapons program. At some point
we have to get our heads out of the sand and understand they are going to carry
on with this,” said Blair.
Asked by Sir Roderic Lyne if the West’s
military invasion of Iraq sent a signal to Iran not to develop its own nuclear
weapons, Blairreplied, “Obviously, it sent a signal to everyone.”
“Well, how did the
Iranians react?” asked Lyne.
“Initially they felt that pressure, now they
don’t feel the same pressure,” Blair responded.
The bulk of Blair’s
testimony Friday, however, dealt with Britain’s involvement in the war in
Britain’s inquiry won’t apportion blame, or establish criminal or
civil liability. Its recommendations, expected by the end of the year, will
focus instead on how better to handle situations like the tense runup to the
war, and the bloody attempt at nation-building that followed.
this week, British authorities refused to publish notes – seen by the panel –
detailing discussions between Blair and former US president George W.
Blair insisted the decision had been made because leaders “have to
be able to communicate in confidence,” rather than to hide evidence of any
“I was telling Bush, you can count on us, we’re going to be with
you in tackling this, but here are the difficulties,” Blair said.
largely deflected questions over apparent inconsistencies in his earlier
He acknowledged that in phone calls and messages in 2002 –
months before Parliament approved Britain’s role in the conflict – he had
reassured Bush, telling him: “You can count on us.” Alongside his evidence, the
inquiry published a previously unseen 2002 memo from Blair to his chief of
staff, in which the leader called for a “gung-ho” approach toward Saddam
Critics of the war hope the inquiry will conclude that
Blair had been determined to back the US invasion, whether or not it was
supported by the public, Parliament or legal opinion.
initial hearing, Blair was sharply criticized for suggesting he had no regrets
over the decision to join the 2003 US-led invasion.
“That was taken as my
meaning, that I had no regrets about the loss of life,” Blair said Friday, his
voice faltering with apparent emotion.
“I want to make it clear that of
course I regret deeply and profoundly the loss of life, whether from our own
armed forces, those of other nations, the civilians who helped people in Iraq,
or the Iraqis themselves,” he said.
Some bereaved relatives heckled the
former prime minister as he expressed his remorse.
Members of the
audience shouted: “Too late, too late,” while two women turned their backs on
Blair, then walked out. An official brought tissues into the hearing for another
woman who burst into tears.
“Your lies killed my son – I hope you can
live with yourself!” Rose Gentle, whose 19- year-old son Gordon was killed while
serving in Basra, southern Iraq, in 2006, shouted as Blair completed about four
hours of testimony.
“You’re a disgrace to your office and our country!”
Reg Keys, whose son was killed in 2003, shouted as Blair left.
prepared by a senior adviser in December 2001 – and published Friday – warned
Blair that the legal case for military action would be “threadbare.”
the newly published March 2002 memo to his chief of staff, Jonathan Powell,
Blair – aware that the United States was pushing the case for regime change –
said Britain “should be gungho on Saddam.” But he acknowledged it would be
difficult to convince skeptics, and said that Iraq’s weapons program – later to
become a key justification for military action – didn’t “seem obviously worse
than three years ago.”
“The persuasion job on this seems very tough. My
own side are worried. Public opinion is fragile. International opinion – as I
found at the EU – is pretty skeptical,” Blair wrote.
“People believe we
are only doing it to support the US, and they are only doing it to settle an old
score,” he wrote.
Blair’s administration has been repeatedly criticized
for allegedly overstating the case for war. In his note, the exleader told
Powell: “We have to reorder our story and message,” in order to sway
Hilary Leila Krieger and AP contributed to this report.