Dalton on Blair

by Chris Ames

The Inquiry has now published the transcript of this morning’s session, with Britain’s former Ambassadors to Iran Sir Richard Dalton and Sir Geoffrey Adams. Here are the two extracts I referred to earlier:

SIR MARTIN GILBERT: In his evidence to us, Tony Blair said
19 that what nobody foresaw was that Iran would actually
20 end up supporting AQ.
21 Were you aware of any evidence that Iran had
22 actively supported Al-Qaeda in Iraq and what evidence is
23 there that he might have made this statement?
24 SIR RICHARD DALTON: From what I saw of his evidence,
25 I thought he very much exaggerated this factor. Not
1 only was Al-Qaeda but one of the strands of disruption
2 inside Iraq, but that I think Iranian help to them was
3 limited, in the way I have described, to permitting the
4 transit of some foreign fighters from one of the sources
5 of foreign fighters, which was Pakistan/Afghanistan, the
6 other principal source being elsewhere in the world via
7 Syria, of course. But I don’t think their flirtation
8 with Ansar al-Islam was a crucial factor in seriously
9 upsetting coalition calculations, however.
10 SIR MARTIN GILBERT: Do you think there was anything that
11 the United Kingdom could have done to reduce Iranian
12 support for sectarian violence in Iraq?
13 SIR RICHARD DALTON: Well, a factor we haven’t discussed is
14 whether the coalition played Iran’s — played a game
15 with Iran successfully and, on many occasions, we
16 didn’t. There was a kind of spiral that we got into in
17 2003, never really escaped from. The beginning — the
18 start — there were intense suspicions and distrust
19 between the United States, the UK and Iran, fuelled in
20 particular, as far as the United States was concerned,
21 by the monstrous error of the United States in
22 classifying Iran as part of an Axis of Evil, after Iran
23 had helped over Afghanistan.
24 What took place in 2003 was that the Iranians would
25 present what they regarded and which often was
1 a legitimate concern. We were messing in their
2 neighbourhood, a concern arose about their relations
3 with Iraq, could we deal with it?


15 I also felt, at the time of Mr Blair’s testimony to
16 you, that he was seeking to cast a retrospectively
17 benign light on a series of very bad decisions taken
18 about the legality of the attack on Iraq by saying it
19 was not only right to do it, but that we might have to
20 do it again — we, the UK, might have to do it again —
21 and I felt strongly then, and I do now, that a military
22 adventure against Iran pre-emptively, supposedly against
23 its nuclear programmes would be illegal in the absence
24 of an imminent and real threat to any country from Iran
25 and that no such nuclear threat exists at the present,
1 and that it was not a sufficient answer to the doubts
2 about the way in which the decisions in 2003 had been
3 taken to simply say that it is a dangerous world, other
4 countries are dangerous and an action might be
5 conceivable in future against those countries.

I’m still unsure whether Blair went on about the threat from Iran so much in January because he wanted to justify Iraq or because he was using the Iraq Inquiry to make a point. Either way, Dalton was not impressed. My main criticism is for the Inquiry for letting Blair so dominate a session in which he should have been put on the spot.

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