Iraqis respond to former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s recent apology for his country’s involvement in the Iraq war. Blair acknowledged the 2003 toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime played a part in the Islamic State’s rise.
BAGHDAD, IRAQ (OCTOBER 25, 2015) (REUTERS) – Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s recent apology over his country’s involvement in the Iraq war was met with mixed reaction by residents of Baghdad, hours after Blair’s interview aired on television.
Some told Reuters they were glad to see their former president, Saddam Hussein, removed from power, but criticized the United Kingdom and its allies for the deterioration of Iraq’s security situation after his fall.
“Saddam Hussein’s regime was bloody to the Iraqi people and toppling it was a favour. But after that what did they (the British) offer?” asked Ali Almandalawi, an Iraqi civil activist. “A lot of chaos and more destruction. We didn’t see a real intention to build the state. We didn’t see a beneficial cooperation from from the British side to the Iraqi people”
Another man, Ahmed Taher, said Blair’s televised apology should have come years ago.
“Toppling the former regime, that’s right. But after that they (the British) didn’t make desicions that serve the people. They made it easy for other countries, whether western or arab countries, to interfere in Iraq and its politics. So this apology came really late,” Taher said.
In his interview Blair acknowledged the 2003 invasion played a part in the rise of the Islamic State militant group, and apologised for some mistakes in planning the war. Blair’s decision to send troops to back the U.S.-led invasion is still an active political issue in Britain, where a six-year public inquiry into the conflict is yet to publish its findings.
Asked whether the offensive was the principal cause of the rise of Islamic State, which now controls large areas of Iraq and neighbouring Syria, Blair said there were “elements of truth” in that, but defended the decision to go to war.
One Iraqi, journalist Saleh al-Lami, said he believed the deterioration of his country was a deliberate act by the United Kingdom and its allies.
“They admitted after toppling of the regime that we didn’t find weapons of mass destructionin Iraq. That was the excuse he (Blair) used then. And now he appears in public and apologizes about what happened to the Iraqi people and about the destruction, and says, ‘We (the U.K./U.S.) are not supporting Daesh (the Islamic State).’ No, but you are supporting Daesh and all the other calamities before that, like Zarqawi and bin Laden. All these are American and British acts,” he said.
Critics of the U.S. decision to disband Saddam Hussein’s army after the invasion say the move created a security vacuum exploited by al Qaeda, which was itself eventually replaced by the Islamic State.
Meanwhile a number of former Sunni Muslim officers of the Iraqi army officers are now senior strategists for IS. Some Sunni say the western-backed Iraqi government has marginalized their community, an allegation the administration denies.