LONDON – Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was partly responsible for the emergence of the Islamic State militant group in the Middle East.
Mr. Blair told CNN that “there are elements of truth” in the assertion that the war caused the rise of Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.
Blair’s decision to take Britain into the Iraq war — based on what turned out to be false claims about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction — remains hugely divisive, and contributed to his Labour Party’s loss of power in 2010.
Blair insisted that removing Saddam was the right thing to do, but apologized, as he has before, for failures in post-war planning.
“I also apologize for some of the mistakes in planning and, certainly, our mistake in our understanding of what would happen once you removed the regime.”
Some 179 British personnel died in Iraq between 2003 and 2009. A public inquiry into decisions and mistakes in Britain’s planning and execution of the war began in 2009 but has yet to issue its findings. The process has been held up while people criticized in the report are given a chance to respond.
Critics of the war hope the inquiry will conclude that Blair was determined to back President George W. Bush in his invasion plans, whether or not it was supported by the public, Parliament or legal opinion.