Hans Blix on Blair, the Chilcot report and the state of play before the Iraq war

In the months preceding the invasion, the UN inspection force that I headed had carried out some 700 inspections without finding any WMD, and in the months that followed investigators from the US came to the same conclusion. If the aim was to eradicate WMD the bloodshed, death and destruction has been meaningless. How convinced were the leaders in the US and UK of the existence of the weapons in the days and weeks before the war?

In a telephone conversation with Tony Blair on 20 February 2003, I suggested it would prove absurd if 200,000 troops were to invade Iraq and find very little. I spoke at that time after many hundreds of inspections ? including dozens to sites recommended by US and UK intelligence ? had yielded no evidence of a WMD programme.

Blair responded that the intelligence was clear: Saddam had revived his WMD programme. However, the French president, Jacques Chirac, had a different view. He told me and the International Atomic Energy Agency chief, Mohamed ElBaradei, that he thought there were no WMD and that the various national intelligence agencies had ?intoxicated? each other when sharing information. They had. In addition, the cautionary question marks they sometimes provided had been replaced by exclamation marks at the political level.

The Chilcot report noted that the objectives set for the war were not attained. Weapons of mass destruction were not eradicated, as they did not exist; al-Qaida groups were not eliminated, as they were not in Iraq at the time; Iraq was not made into a model of democracy for the Middle East, as members of the US administration had predicted. Saddam was removed but Iraq evolved from tyranny to anarchy, with various alienated Sunni groups later forming a core of Isis. Thirteen years after the US- and UK-led invasion of Iraq, many questions linked to the war remain. Above all, what lessons should we draw?

One lesson relates to the value of international inspection. In the case of Iraq, the US and UK went ahead with the invasion on the basis of their own faulty intelligence. Nevertheless, the broader membership of the security council kept faith with the professional UN inspectors and helped prevent the council from endorsing a war that should never have been waged. That was significant, as independent and competent international inspections remain indispensable, for example in defusing the controversy over Iran?s nuclear programme.

Another lesson concerns the readiness of states to resort to armed intervention. The Bush administration was not particularly bothered about UN charter restrictions on the use of armed force. Iraq under Saddam was seen as a part of the ?axis of evil?, and as such a legitimate target. Liberated from Saddam, Iraq would become a democracy with friendly ties to the US. Blair, as he had explained in a speech in Chicago in 1999, clearly sympathised with the thought that states capable of acting against odious tyrants could assume the role of global sheriffs and intervene with armed force when other options failed.

However, respecting established UK readings of the UN charter, he made an effort to get a specific security council resolution that might justify armed action in Iraq. The efforts failed and the American train moved on to invasion with the UK on board.

Nothing new really.? But it has now been made official that Blair went in having over-egged the pudding about WMDs.? And people who are kind say he believed his own rhetoric.? Others aren’t so charitable.? They think him a liar and a war criminal who was nothing more than Bush’s lapdog.

I suspect Blair wishes he was Kim Young-Il right now.? (Caution: extreme swearing)



– The Guardian