Chilcot report: Prime Minister Tony Blair says he did not make commitment to US to go to war after "I will be with you, whatever" memo

 
James Nickerson
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(FILES) -- File picture dated 29 May 200...
Blair said the Iraq War was the most difficult decision he ever took (Source: Getty)

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair has said that he did not give any assurances to the US that he would go to war with them come what may, the day after the Chilcot report was released.

In his first interview after the inquiry was published, Blair said that "no decision to go to war had been taken" after a key piece of evidence showed a memo from Blair to President George W. Bush that began "I will be with you, whatever".

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Blair denied that the note committed to UK to military action.

"I took that decision and I stand by the decision that we should stand by America," he said, but claimed: "No decision to go to war had been taken."

He said the purpose of the note was to make sure the Americans went down the United Nations route, "which they did".

Read more: John says UK chose invasion before peaceful options had been exhausted while Blair defends decision

The Chilcot report does later say that Blair tried to get the US to pursue the UN route, but also says that he overestimated his ability to influence the US.

The report read: "Blair’s Note, which had not been discussed or agreed with his colleagues, set the UK on a path leading to diplomatic activity in the UN and the possibility of participation in military action in a way that would make it very difficult for the UK subsequently to withdraw its support for the US."

Blair added that if they had succeeded in the UN there would not have been a war. "But what is true, is we were giving the US a very clear commitment that we were going to be alongside them in dealing with this issue. How we dealt with it is a different matter."

He said the US needed to make sure they understood there was no political issue getting in the way of Blair's support, but how the issue is dealt with was a concern.

The comments by Blair come after a former British ambassador to the UN, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, said Blair wanted a UN resolution and the US pushed the UK into military action in Iraq "too early".

Read more: Chilcot report - What are the key takes?

Moving on to other aspects of the report, Blair accepted that it would have been better to challenge the intelligence report.

When asked if it was the case that the former Prime Minister simply wanted to believe in the intelligence on WMDs, Blair said: "It wasn't that I wanted to believe it - I did believe it."

He added every member of the Cabinet and many in the opposition had full access to the intelligence on Iraq's alleged WMD programme.

And he argues that if Hussein had been left in power he would "have gone back to his [WMD] programmes again".

If Hussein had been in power during the Arab Spring in 2011, Blair said, "I believe he would have tried to keep power" in the way that Syria's President Assad has done.

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