Live Blog – 29 January 2010

Friday 29 January 2010

(There were two evidence sessions today, scheduled for 09:30 – 12:30 and 14:00 – 17:00.)

Topic: (The inquiry now only lists witnesses by relevant role, rather than by topic area.)

Tony Blair, Prime Minister, 2001 – June 2007

This afternoon’s hearing, as it happened

Chairman closes session.

17.10 Chairman asks for a final sum up and about any regrets. Blair says he reflects on the responsibility every day. Believes that we will be able to look back and be proud. (Interjection from audience). Believes the world will be better without Saddam and his sons.

17.05 Coming towards end. Blair – too early to say Iraq democracy will take root. Electricity – Income per head etc. Still talking about Al Q/Iran. States Iraqis believe things are getting better. Refers to death rates under Saddam.

17.00 BP: About delivery. Blair speaks about meetings. BP: Re Tim Cross (no-one was driving this). TB accepts point about minister in charge. BP: quickfire qns TB: refers to ISG – states Saddam never intended to comply with UN. Qn on machinery of govt etc.

16.53 JC: Asks about policy objective approaches. TB: Legal advice was asked from from Mar 2002 and was part of framework. JC: Policy could have been blocked at a late stage – was this avoidable? TB: answers about Kosovo (??)

16.49 BP: Goldsmith – if Attorney could discuss issues in Cabinet would this have prevented qns? TB: People had basic legal framework. He felt confident to give his opinion. Cabinet did not want to become part of the legal debate. No discussion on 17 March advice? I think Andrew Turnbull explained Goldsmith was there to answer questions. We were focused on political as well as legal questions.

16.44 JC – states doesn’t want to re-cover Butler issues but cabinet discussions enough? TB: Cabinet members were involved and could challenge. JC: Hindsight – was there enough ‘space’? No-one was unaware about what this was about.

16.40 Chairman – other questions. Baroness Prashar – Back to planning – why Treasury and DiFD not involved? TB: Diplomacy and planning were the most important issues. Main bulk of this was to be done by the military.

16.37 Lyne – Discussion moves to Afghanistan. Were you concerned this was stretching resources to the limits? Concern was to build up Iraqi capability and then be able to draw down.

16.34 LF: Our responsibility to provide basics of security? (refers to “cycle of insecurity”). TB: We built up the Iraqi forces, otherwise the ‘Charge of the Knights’ would never have worked. LF: A heavy price for the lack of preparation? TB: However much you plan, with AQ and Iran there, it was going to be difficult. You must be prepared for the long haul, and stay to the end.

16.29 LF: Things were not getting better for the Iraqi people. Seeming to get worse. TB: Coalition forces were not doing the killing. Our response was to see it through, things today are better.

16.25 TB: The surge worked for four reasons. Debated a lot about Al Sadr. Bound to take time to win conflict. Different conflict in 04/05/06. Abu Ghraib? Shocked and angry. Vital propaganda for our enemies. Activities of a few should not detract from the good work of others.

16.19 Freedman – Fallujah. TB: Discussions with Bush and Alawi. Worried about US going in too hard and heavy. We were reaching out to the Sunni. The purpose was not to replace Sunni with Shia, the point was to introduce an inclusive govt. Risk of alienating Sunni? Was going to be tough. Terrorists shouldn’t deter us. Had to carry on in this endeavour.

16.15 TB: Every time we tried reconstruction it was blown up/ destroyed. Surge had political direction but cost even greater casualties. No easy in these circumstance, because you can’t move directly to peacekeeping.

16.11 Freedman – When did you realise no WMD was going to be found? TB: At the beginning we were told about sites etc but by ’04 it was very difficult to sustain this. We you aware of assessment of 500K troops being needed to secure Iraq? Issue is for post-war period. Difficult to answer. Force to remove Saddam is one function, but nation building may need more/different forces.

16.06 Lyne – De- Ba’athification and disbandment of Iraqi army – were we consulted? No official talks but J Sawers was on the case when this happened. The Iraqi people detested the Ba’athists.
It would have been sensible if there had been a debate about this. US corrected ‘pinching’ problem pretty quickly.

16.02 Lyne – risk assessment – could and should this have been better? TB: Convention wisdom was that Iraq would a have watching brief. Please to see Saddam gone and be more amenable. In retrospect this was difficult. At the time US linked AQ and Saddam and we were trying to separate these issues. If Saddam had remained Iran and Iraq would today be competing for nuclear capability.

15.57 TB: People did not believe Al Qaeda would come in, and Iran. No warnings? Consensus was about Sunni/Shia violence. Straw went to talk to reach out to Iranians. Disappointing but telling aspect that Iran was de-stabilising.

15.53 MG: UOR’s? TB: Not really involved, these didn’t come to me. Funding? It did come to me. £27m because we had to ramp up pretty quickly. Iraq was key for DfID. Not so much lack of resource, more of security. Major problem was Shia/Sunni/Kurd divide. UN needed to bring them together.

15.48 TB: Situation was different to expected. More or less under control. Assumption was Iran was not going to be provocative. Input? Feedback as quickly as we could. Went out May 2003. Met Bremer. Progress was being made.

15.45 Back for last session. MG: Discussing military stretch beyond the initial invasion. TB: Was going to be difficult but concerned that we wouldn’t overstretch. Affect on ability to constrain violence? Gave more troops but violence was low level in the south. Affected reconstruction.

(Andrew Mason taking over blog)

15.22 Ten minute break.

15.19 Chilcot says there was in terms of planning for aftermath on British side, there was a single set of assumptions on UK side, over optimistic, no real risk analysis. We knew we knew very little about what was inside Iraq. Looking to the future, is it ever set to look at a single set of assumptions unless they can be tested against worst case? Blair says we did focus and try to drill down. Had exchanges with Short. In future you are best to make assumption that these kind of failed states are always going to be tough. Are we prepared to be in for the long term.

15.16 Discussion of Iraq governing council post war. Prashar says that ORHA replaced by CPA without any consultation with us. We were joint occupying power? Blair says we were consulted. But even if we had focussed more we would have focussed on the same things. Learned lessons. Did not think Al Qaeda and Iran would play the role they did.

15.12 Prashar asks about trying to get the US to accept a UN role in post-war Iraq. Turnbull said that Bush was fobbing us off. Discussion of UN role. Was it to be lead or vital role. Discussion of 1443. Prashar says that in Autumn 2002 sensible questions were being asked. Blair says US got it wrong but does not accept that UK reliance on their assurances was a problem.

15.11 Prashar asks why so many witnesses have said the aftermath planning was deficient? Blair say the US got it wrong. We would do differently but thought about what we would face and planned for it.

15.08 Prashar asks if Blair understood that UK would be in Southern Iraq as occupying power. Blair says it was clear from Jan 03 onwards that we were going to be in charge of Basra. The idea was to get an Iraqi resolution in very quickly.

15.06 Prashar asks if Blair had planned adequately for all eventualities. Blair says they did. Planning assumption was functioning civil service. Found a completely broken system.

15.03 Prashar asks about planning for post-war. It didn’t work. Blair said we did an immense amount of planning. The problem was that our focus was on things that did not turn out to be problems. We avoided a humanitarian disaster. Also oilfields were not set on fire and no CBW.

15.02 Prashar asks why they were reluctant to have military preparedness. Blair repeats that UN route was aimed at avoiding war.

14.59 Prashar asked if military were just being can-do? Blair says they are usually very blunt. They said they could do it and they did. Discussion of delay in visible preparedness until end of 02/Jan 03. Blair says on issues to do with logistics, I needed to know from them that they could do it. they said they could and they were. Prashar asks if Blair was ever warned about implications. Blair says he always took the attitude that you have to back the armed forces. Prashar says the formal approval did not come till Jan 03 and they were not ready.

14.55 They have moved on to planning for invasion. Prashar asking the questions. Talking about 1997 strategic defence review. Lead time for large operation six months. Clock would have started ticking autumn 2002. Were you aware of implications of delay? Yes we were worried about visibility of planning. But at end of Oct 02 when Hoon said we have to get on with it, we did. Boyce said that he was fully confident that we were ready.

14.52 Lyne asks about Goldsmith preparing for possibility of legal challenge. Blair had to decide that this was a strong enough legal basis for war. How convinced were you was that you had a strong case? Blair says he just needed Goldsmith to come to a clear view. That’s what he had to do, he did it. Would not have done it if he didn’t believe it.

14.51 Lyne points out that Goldsmith did not have wide support for his view. Blair says that it is pretty obvious you can make a case on it.

14.50 Blair claims that AG changed his mind because Blix reports showed that SH had failed to take final opportunity. Discussion with Christopher Greenwood. Lyne asks if other countries were arguing in favour of revival argument. Blair is a strong believer that 1441 does what he says.

14.48 Blair has just claimed to have had discussion in autumn 02 where Bush acknowledged that if SH complied there would be no war. (There is no evidence for this!)

14.45 Lyne asks what discussions Blair and others had with Goldsmith between 7 and 14 March? Blair cannot recall. Gives a summary of what happened. Goes back to 1441 – hard to argue… whole spirit was on last chance… this is the moment when he takes that chance…that a further resolution was necessary.

14.42 Lyne says that Goldsmith was not offering options. Would it have been a good idea to know earlier that a second resolution was necessary? Blair says he did say it was best to get a second resolution. Further discussion of technicalities of 1441. Lyne keeps having to bring Blair back to February 03, where the lawyers were saying that a further resolution was needed. Blair says it was a disagreement between our lawyers and the US. Discussion of what changed Goldsmith’s mind, last thing was discussion with US.

14.36 Lyne refers to Goldsmith discussion with Powell November 02 after 1441. Not optimistic that 1441 would provide for use of force. Suggested that desirable to provide advice at this point. Not encouraged. Further discouragement later but encouraged to put draft advice to Blair > 14 January. Lyne says that by now armed forces were instructed to prepare for war. Seeking new UN resolution. Should you not have had advice by now? No it was important for him to explain concerns. If Peter had said it could not be justified, we could not have taken action. Lyne asks if it was possible that this would happen you had the troops there. Blair describes Goldsmith’s change of mind. Hasn’t answered question.

14.33 Lyne says AG was not at cabinet and rarely included in other discussions. why had you not thought it right to involve him more closely? He was closely involved, on own initiative. Lyne points out that AG got to the point of nearly going to war only having gone to cabinet once. Blair says AG made clear that if he had advice to give, he would give it. Lyne refers to AG advice of 30 July 2002. Not in public domain. Why was this not welcome? It was not that it was not welcome. It was another issue to deal with. But helpful. Wanted to make it absolutely clear getting right resolution is important.

14.30 Lyne asks going back to first half of 2002. Did you seek legal advice? We got a paper. We had taken action in 1998 on the basis of the revival of 678. One of the most important things was the legal advice. Do you remember where that advice came from? Blair says from FCO. Lyne asks why Blair did not consult AG at this stage? We were a long way from taking action. What I took from the advice was that we needed a fresh resolution.

14.29 Blair agrees with summary but points to OP4 further material breach.

14.25 Lyne is still summarising march 03.

14.17 Lyne is still summarising the legal view up to 1441 and beyond. Disagreement after 1441. Blair agrees fair summary so far.

14.16 Lyne moves on to legal issues. He summarises what they have heard and read so far.

14.13 What did Blair make of Straw’s Plan B? Military were in favour of full involvement. Would have been difficult to have been involved in aftermath. Discussion of whether UK involvement in aftermath would have been better or worse without large scale participation in invasion.

14.10 My judgement was that SH was going to remain a threat. We had been down a UN path that I hoped was going to work. Admits not confident.

14.07 Lyne asks about what happened when they reached the stage where there was no clear international consensus, public opinion divided, no progress on ME, warnings from Tim Cross…. At this point you must have had pause for thought. Your preconditions weren’t met. Did Bush allow you a way out? I think he said if it’s too difficult, we understand.

14.06 Lyne asks if Blair had come to a plan a week earlier of presenting an excuse for the diplomatic failure. Does he know something about this? Blair explains his position again.

14.05 Blair says the French were clear that unless there was something dramatic, they were not going to agree to the use of force. Lyne says that Blair may have made the French veto into an excuse? Blair says he was talking to Chilean president, who was saying they needed to loosen French opposition.

14.03 They’re back Lyne is asking Blair if he checked Chirac’s “whatever the circumstances” statement? I believe I spoke to Chirac on 14 March. the French position was clear – they would veto any resolution that authorised force in the even of breach. We needed a tougher resolution than 1441.

Archived Comments

By Ashley Knight

Submitted on 2010/01/29 at 2:12pm

Good on Roderic Lyne. Fantastic line of questioning – he’s got Blair struggling.

By Lee Roberts

Submitted on 2010/01/29 at 2:33pm

Has the webfeed failed for anyone else ? It has for me. Are there alternative locations ?

By John Bone

Submitted on 2010/01/29 at 4:02pm

Did Blair say that Iraq was a failed state (15.19 just before break)? I think this exposes his ignorance. Before the invasion Iraq was not a failed state, but it became one after the invasion.

I suspect that Bush and Blair just don’t appreciate how much heavy lifting is involved in building and maintaining state capacity if you become an occupying power.

By Iain Paton

Submitted on 2010/01/29 at 4:08pm

I am baffled how there could be no int on AQ/Iran and potential for Iranian involvement in insurgency, when there was supposedly ‘int’ (or Blair’s infallible judgement) on AQ/Iraq…and everything else!

Pleased with Lyne’s questioning on legality. Blair put a lot back onto Goldsmith, exposed on the FO opinion. However, much of this is superficial, not really going anywhere.

Blair’s attitude is mostly evangelical self-belief, occasionally rattled. Key is what the media make of this in terms of Blair and the Inquiry…the inconsistencies and unrevealed documents.

By John Bone

Submitted on 2010/01/29 at 5:10pm

One of Blair’s recurrent talking points would appear to be that Iraq would have developed WMD later, after the end of inspections. This throws into doubt what inspections were supposed to achieve: there is no way that weapons’ inspections can verify what is going to happen in the future!

By Lee Roberts

Submitted on 2010/01/29 at 5:42pm

The British establishment, to judge from the BBC, has rallied around Blair, praising him for his fluency (I found his performance grotesque and self-indulgent) and his convictions (which I found as fake as ever). There has so far been no reference to the fact that the entire justification he offered is based on the model of the world he constructed in his own head, a model that comes straight from neo-con America and the Project for the New American Century. But why would the British establishment do that.

Bust passing beyond all that, the major confession Blair made today, was that he and Bush agreed that war against Iraq was not something to pursue in a legal fashion through the UN, but the course they would take, outside the UN, should the UN approach fail. Its not clear what would fail: presumably that the UN would not announce to Blair’s satisfaction (which of course would have been unachievable, that Saddam was disarmed). So what Bush and Blair did is exactly what they planned from the start, and Blair made no apology for it. Saddam had to go. They would use military means. They would try the UN, and when not satisfied with that, they would invade. That means it wasnt even necessary for Blair to argue justification based on 1441, because he and Bush invaded, as planned, when they couldnt get what they wanted from the UN. As far as I am concerned, he has confessed to an act of military aggression outside international law.

The other major point is the clear confirmation of Blair’s poodle subordination and subservience to Bush and complete dedication to the neo-con foreign agenda. He seems very proud of this, and would not, of course employ the word poodle. But after today, I dont think the jury is any longer out.

As for Chilcot, it was a shameless farce with the exception of a few minutes of good questioning from Lyne. Chilcot himself acted as if he were Blair’s coach and mentor. The main thing is that this session screamed with superficiality and triviality. It made the other two enquiries, which we recall as dire, not bad by comparison.

When I see the mainstream comments coming through on today, I have to pinch myself; but fortunately I already know what to expect from the British establishment. By the way, today proved that the classified documents no longer matter, because this enquiry doesnt rise to the level where they even have a part to play.

By Lee Roberts

Submitted on 2010/01/29 at 6:49pm

Reading some insightful comments on CIF, the dots have been joined for me. The game went like this:

2002: Tony, we will remove Saddam. We will use military action. Are you with us

Yes, as long as I can somehow make that politically acceptable

Tony, maybe we could send over a fake UN plane and get Saddam to blow it up

George, too risky. We need to take this through the UN

Tony, the UN isnt going to remove Saddam.

George: I know that…but if we go big claims that Saddam has huge caches of WMDs, which of course no one can find, we can insist that Saddam give them up and he wont be able to meet those requirements. The UN wont know what to do either. Its important that I am seen to use the UN, and to show the UN as useless. Then we will have a right to be impatient and invade as you suggest

Tony, OK, I will try it, but no long-drawn out rubbish, OK ?

OK, George, I will do my best; but I promise you that is we make a really big stink about WMDs and if the UN can be shown as useless, I will get the backing to go to war.

Tony, you’re on, but I cant promise to keep Cheney quiet. He will keep threatening to go it alone

George, that’s par for the course. So I think we have a deal.

By John Bone

Submitted on 2010/01/29 at 8:54pm

What Blair is advocating (removing governments because they might in future have WMD) is outside international law, risky and in most cases unnecessary. In the case of Iraq, he tried to get a fig-leaf of legality, failed, but still claims that it was all legal.

By Anthony

Submitted on 2010/01/30 at 10:26am

The one point in Blair’s favour is that although it’s true that you can’t have government run on the basis of the end justifying the means, nevertheless in reality the end often does justify the means. If the invasion, no matter how illegitimate and illegal, had been a complete success, this blog wouldn’t exist, there would be no Chilcot enquiry and Blair would have been vindicated.

But the main point against Blair is that it wasn’t a success, and he is now a member of a tiny embittered minority clinging to the thought that it was. The saddest thing about his testimony was that he still talked as though the WMD existed and Saddam would have used them if not for the invasion. The poor man has to cling to this fantasy as his only means of excusing his massive misjudgement in backing an invasion that was always going to cause carnage, has lead to a strengthening of Al Qaeda and has left Iran far stronger than ever before and hugely more of a threat to the West than Saddam could ever have been.

Blair was a useless witness, in that this isn’t a trial it is a lessons learned enquiry. As such, he was a hostile witness because he alone doesn’t think any lessons need to be learned (or he won’t admit that he does), he doesn’t think anything went wrong and he can’t understand why the Chilcot enquiry exists. His position would have been so much stronger if he had expressed some kind of regrets yesterday and given himself some kind of basis for moving on. But he couldn’t see it. He used to be a political superstar with a brilliant ability to connect with what middle England wanted to see in a leader. Now he is completely out of touch with reality. Is that not sad? I wonder where his mind is. After being rejected from the European President job, his hope for a future role on the world stage is gone. On the evidence of yesterday’s performance, I wonder whether he is suffering from severe depression. He is certainly in severe denial.

By Lee Roberts

Submitted on 2010/01/30 at 11:07am

Anthony, I dont believe for one moment that Blair was involved in a “massive misjudgment”. It was a premeditated act of self advancement, and that has succeeded, so why should he apologise. He has six houses, millions in the bank, directorships, and is worshipped in America. The stinkier he becomes, the more he earns. I don’t think he has much affiliation with the UK. He is quite happy in Dubai, Tel Aviv, or Crawford Texas where he has adoring admirers

I would be interested in what you would characterise as a “complete success” in Iraq (your first paragraph). What would that have looked like ?

By Anthony

Submitted on 2010/01/30 at 12:16pm

Riches don’t bring happiness Lee. He didn’t look happy to me, he looked profoundly frustrated and I think depressed. If it hadn’t been for the disaster of Iraq, he would now be the President of Europe and he would have loved that. Instead he’s just a sad old qeezer advocating war with Iran and implying that any leader who doesn’t advocate war with Iran isn’t up to the job. Only Cheney, Netanyahu and the neocons agree with him. Who would have thought it would end like that when he embarked on his political career in the Labour Party?

I think you mistake my meaning – his misjudgement over Iraq was in thinking it could be a complete success, which it could never have been. Bush Senior knew that, which may explain why he stopped at the border, but Bush Junior and the neocons didn’t. Blair’s previous forays into foreign policy had been a success. Nobody criticises him over the UK’s part in getting rid of Milosevic, even though he cut corners, because it worked.

Maybe by 2002 he was going slightly bonkers. There was plenty of good advice available to him, but he was so mesmerised by his self-image as a man of destiny that it never seems to have occurred to him that this was a ‘don’t go there’ scenario right from the start.

By Lee Roberts

Submitted on 2010/01/30 at 1:20pm

Anthony, with that explanation, I think we largely agree. I think Blair must recognise that his reputation in the UK and Europe is destroyed, but he still has the Gulf States, Israel, and most of America where he is treated as a hero; maybe even the odd bar in Oz and tapas joint in Madrid, and probably most places in Poland.

Just as a quibble: I was thoroughly opposed to the bombing of Serbia and the establishment of Kosovo, despite the fact that I despised Milosovic. (I worked professionally in the area so maybe I had better knowledge than most). His foreign policy on Lebanon and Palestine was a disaster too, as was Afghanistan, in my view. I would probably give him Sierra Leone.

This morning’s hearing, as it happened

Today’s only witness is Tony Blair, Prime Minister, 2001 – June 2007, speaking in two sessions, from 09.30 to 12.30 and from 14.00 to 17.00. But then you knew that.

12.30 Sorry we had another crash there. Freedman has been asking Blair about what happened in the first months of 2003 and in particular the views of Hans Blix. Blair has said that he needed a resolution that authorised military action in the event of non-compliance.

12.09 TB: My view was that if Saddam wasn’t complying and if you backed away when he was ‘playing’ with inspectors you send a bad signal. Maintains Saddam was in breach of 1441. Not full and unconditional compliance.

12.06 Freedman moves to diplomacy. Fast forward to meeting with Bush end Jan ’03 (Camp David?). Was purpose of meeting to convince Bush about second resolution? Yes. 1441 was a strong resolution but unresolved issue was because some countries wanted to come back for another res to authorise military action. Maintains this was politically desirable. Bush’s view was that Saddam had been given opportunity and not taken it.

12.01 TB: Discusses difficulty of appearing to be on an irreversible path. Risk of appearance that this was the case. Worry was that people would assume that that had not been decided.

11.58 TB: Nuclear timescale. If he bought in material this would have been shortened. Wasn’t prepared to take risk. Maintains this was a decision I had to take. Could we take that risk? My judgment is you don’t take these risks. MG: did you see intel that was not revealed. TB: can’t think of anything in particular.

11.53 TB: there were opposition claims about not acting fast enough. There were different views and I decided Saddam was a continuing threat and we had to act on it. RL: growing threat? More intel but this turned out to be wrong… Mobile labs were mentioned.

11.48 TB: When you are PM you have to rely on the people who are giving this information. LF: Were you too trusting of some of the material you were getting? It was reasonable for me at the time to say, given what I was being told, that there was this threat. No-one disputed Saddam’s WMD at the time,

11.43 LF: quality of intel was about shared assumption – forward stated “without doubt” – was this wise? TB: I did believe it. JIC stated ‘clear’ – this would have the same impact. Now (with hindsight), I would have published JIC reports.

11.39 LF: Were you concerned that intel was getting exaggerated in the media? TB: Issues were considered dull at the time. Assumed greater importance later on. Doubts you would have found anyone who believed Saddam did not have WMD.

11.36 LF: Specifics of intel more important? TB: More intel March to Sept 2002. LF: Dossier. Short range specificity lost? Yes. TB: Plays down 45 minute issue in parliamentary qns etc. LF: Did you understand the difference between battlefield weapons vs missiles? TB: Did not pay much attention to this.

11.30 MG: Did you feel WMD/terror threat was towards UK? Yes. LF: Follows up. Iran etc nuclear issue greater than Iraq? TB: You start with those who had used WMD and were in breach.

11.26 TB: Would have required quite strong evidence in the other way to disprove the threat. MG: Links about Saddam and Al Q? My fear is that repressive or failed states become porous. Did not have 9-11/Saddam linkage proof. Still believes in threat today.

11.21 MG: On WMD. Information showed little change. Was that your understanding? Yes. Discusses casualties in I/I war etc. Nature of regime affected WMD threat. Was there not a better way of dealing with? Basis about security threat related to nature of regime. Had horrific mindset indicating wicked man.

11.17 TB: US is a vital part of our security and we should play our part fully. Reason was we and US believed there was a threat. Influence not a part of it? Should have your say.

11.15 Back. BP: discussions at Crawford. TB: Arguing for UN route. BP: Military packages. How do you weigh risks of large scale option? TB: Qns are scale and whether you’re right. Military view was they are up for it at the centre of things. Bush left it up to us what we wanted to do. Mattered to have Britain there.

(Andrew Mason taking over for this next session)

10.49 Break till 11.05. As I suspected the questioning has been stymied by the Inquiry’s inability to quote from documents. Blair gave a completely false account of the March 2002 options paper, which had two options, not the three he claimed. He gave his own version of the Crawford meeting, which is contradicted by the July 2002 cabinet office paper. The panel seem to be giving him every chance to tell the truth but he is unable to…

10.43 Lyne says you were arguing strongly throughout 2002 that Israel was not important but was crucial in Arab world if it came to action against Iraq? You have got a point. US system is different. Tendency to see these things separately but I saw them as the same thing? Lyne: you didn’t make it a precondition? No, but my whole construct was to get as broad a coalition as possible. Lyne: but surely you were saying it only had a chance if we get progress on ME. Blair agrees. Refers to Iran. Lyne: was Bush just taking it for granted that we were going to support anyway… even if he didn’t push on ME? Blair says we were wanting to go down UN route. To be fair to Bush, he would say getting Israel to agree to roadmap (2003) was a big step forward. Intifada was going on. Lyne asks, did this disappointing lack of progress… how much did it contribute.? I don’t know if it fundamentally altered things but I was arguing for it. Had we been able to drive forward, that issue would have been taken care of. Arab leaders glad to see back of Saddam. Saudi crown prince was criticised by SH. Would have been better…

10.40 Lyne asks about Arab/Israel problem. Blair was relentless in trying to persuade US to do more. Ultimately, Straw said it was frustrating. Given the support… why didn’t he repay that support by acting more decisively. Blair disagrees with trade-off … it was difficult to persuade Bush/US that this was such a fundamental question. We did eventually get roadmap adopted and it was extremely important. It would have been pretty difficult… I was relentless and frustrated. They were not divisible problems. One problem with different facets.

10.36 Lyne asks if there was total agreement at Crawford over policy. Blair says we were pushing UN route. US agreed with this. Lyne says you equally had said to him that if… you would be with them? If it came to military action… then we dealt with it.

10.35 Prashar says that Powell was talking about saying things for tactical reasons. At Crawford you talked about participation in US military planning. What conclusions did Bush draw? He drew the conclusions that he should have. I had always said that force was an option. Prashar asks if the commitment that Blair gave for tactical reasons became an assumptions and reduced leverage? It wasn’t so much for tactical reasons. My strategic thinking was… what i believed we confronted was a new threat based not on politics but religion.. wanted to kill lots of people. What i wanted to set out was what we needed to do to make a strategic assault on that, eg through ME peace process.

10.33 Prashar asks about witnesses saying that there were conditions set for UK support. Blair says it was not like this. The relationship with US is an alliance was not a contract. Refers to Kosovo. Prashar refers to Meyer. Blair says he was not there. At the meeting we were setting out a position that we set out publicly. Blair would rather waffle about US relationship rather than answer the question.

10.31 Quick comment on Inquiry publishing documents. Chilcot said they had not wanted to because they only gave part of the picture. He is clearly signalling that the government is engaging in selective declassification to give a partial picture. they did not want to go along with it but Blair has brought the documents up. The government is manipulating the process

10.30 Prashar asks him to be clear about whether any agreement was made. Blair cannot understood why people think this. What I agreed was set out in a private note from Manning. I was not dissembling. What was agreed was what was said publicly.

10.27 Prashar asks what was decided. Blair says nothing decided but talks about importance of relationship with US president. Discussion was quite general… included Israel. Principal part of of my view was to say to look at all dimensions. Prashar says you were having general discussions. During the course of this discussion, did you give him any commitments? The only commitment I gave was to deal with Saddam. We were agreed on need to confront. Comment: I am absolutely stunned that Blair is denying making a commitment because it is in the July 2002 Cabinet options paper what he said.

10.24 Was Straw at meeting? Not sure. Prashar refers to disagreement with Straw over objectives. Agrees… one of the things that was important at that time was to try to get international community on the same page. US mindset had changed as had mine. Didn’t get the impression that other European leaders had changed. Tried to put together coalition. UN route was not just about Uk politics but not wanting US to go it alone. Prashar asks about what policy was to take to Crawford? We were trying to get sense of what US wanted.

10.21 Prashar asks about what was discussed before meeting at Chequers… advice explored. Following meeting and before I saw Bush there was quite a discussion of smart sanctions. Why was CDS at Chequers meeting? Because I could see military action coming down the track. What advice did he give you? He was laying out options on military side. Got paper from MoD… But you know one of the things that was happening… this was becoming key issue… moving on from Afghanistan. Perfectly good discussion. From defence point of view.

10.20 Prashar quotes from Campbell diaries. “It was regime change…” Blair goes back to US Iraq liberation act. There is a way you can get a sense that US is for regime change and we are for dealing with wmd. Not different positions.

10.19 Prashar asks about change in US policy towards active regime change. What happened when you sensed it. Blair says that shift in policy happened after 9/11. Quotes from what he said at the time about wmd – which wasn’t what he was asked. Not about Bush. Prashar asks about how UK intended to respond to US shift in policy? We have to deal with it.

10.18 There are said to be two new documents declassified on website because Blair referred to them.

10.17 Lyne: so in April 2002 you were not taking the view that need to change regime was main driver of strategy… situation on wmd had not changed? Blair talks about assessment of risk. Changed after Sept 11. In my view we cannot afford the possibility that brutal states can be allowed to develop wmd. Lyne hands over but says we will come back.

10.12 Lyne brings up Fern Britton interview. Blair says he has something to learn. Explains context of interview. Recorded before hearings started in November. I did not use the words regime change did not mean to change basis. All I was saying that you could not describe threat in same way. The position was that the cause was the breach of UN resolutions.

10.11 Another point. I think there is a danger that we end up with a binary distinction between wmd and regime change. A regime that has used wmd is a bigger threat than one that is benign. Problem with Iran is that the nature of regime that might get nuclear weapons.

10.09 When we come to Texas speech, it is not that I say it is regime change rather than wmd. Quotes from speech. Leaving Iraq to develop wmd not an option.

10.05 Lyne says that from documents we have seen you were strongly attracted to the idea of changing the regime. Building on philosophy of humanitarian intervention…. back to 1999.. forward to post Crawford speech. Had you reached the point where you regarded removing SH as a valid objective of government’s policy? No, the absolutely key issue was wmd. Let me make it quite clear… in Chicago speech I was setting out consequences of independent world. Security problems in another part of world cannot be ignored.

10.03 What was the downside advice? Some were against it… you get a range of different views… You had to make a decision. Lyne asks if people were warning that what happened after toppling SH might include sectarian strife. Most advice was about humanitarian. There was advice later about Sunni/Shia issue. Primary consideration was to send clear message regime involved in wmd, you had to stop.

9.58 Lyne asks what other strategic options were? That’s the reason we called for options paper. It could be confronted by a number of things. Containment… SH complying… or in the final analysis by removing SH. Lyne says that options paper talks about containment vs regime change, which it does. Blair has misrepresented it! Lyne asks what happened after the paper? Obviously I was talking closely with Straw, my advisers, MoD, Hoon. we were trying to get an assessment… is this new sanctions framework going to work? No. Lyne: did you have a meeting? We had a meeting before meeting Bush. Lyne says we had a meeting pre-Crawford. Did you have a structured debate? We did have a structured debate at Chequers. When you considered those options, how diverse was the range of debate. Did people challenge the paper? I was never short of people challenging me on it? Who? Cook. Not at Chequers meeting… you didn’t discuss options paper in Cabinet? yes but the discussion we had at Cabinet… options were simple… sanctions… compliance… ultimately removing SH.

9.55 Blair says that when smart sanctions were agreed, the tightening of the borders that was part of the framework had been dropped. Lyne says that sanctions were only one element of containment. Was the totality of containment (official policy first half 2002) a strategy which could be sustained over the medium term? I felt it might have worked or not. Trade sanctions part was essential. Accurate summary is that containment through sanctions was eroding. New framework had been watered-down.

9.50 Lyne asks where that left containment? Was it still sustainable? Blair talks about nature of replacement sanctions framework. SH had blamed West for previous regime. Issue was whether new policy. Discussion of march 02 options paper. Not sure if declassified!!!! Lyne says it is on the internet. Blair says it says about containment, it might work or not. Afterwards there was a series of discussions of smart sanctions. Might work but there was no guarantee. A paper has been declassified yesterday 7 March 02 – Iraq, the whole policy framework. One important part of new framework was border monitoring. Where is that document?

9.49 Lyne asks if SH had become more of a threat? The risk had not changed – our perception of the risk had.

9.45 Lyne doesn’t doubt that 9/11 changed things, esp how US saw the world. Quotes from Straw memo “objectively threat has not changed? What about you? Straight after 9/11 i dealt with threat of wmd. Point about 9/11 was over 3,000 people killed. What changed calculus of risk was, if those people could have killed 30,000 they would have. Compared with IRA – you could not take risks. This was not US position. This was my position, UK position.

9.40 Blair says it is right to divide before and after 9/11. Before, SH was a problem. Sanctions, NFZs… Policy was doing best, hoping for best but different calculus of risk assessment. Lyne keeps him to pre-9/11. Was it right that before 9/11 was broadly working, if difficult. Blair has gone back through his pre-9/11 speeches. Their impact is regularly I am saying SH must comply and force is an option. but at the time this was not top priority. At first meeting with Bush Feb 01 we dealt with Iraq but in context of different sanctions framework in place. If 9/11 hadn’t happened our assessment of risk would not have been the same. Afterwards our view changed dramatically.

9.38 Lyne asks about how policy developed 01-02. Containment strategy was in place, which had prevented SH threatening neighbours, getting nukes. But concerns about intentions and capabilities. Leakage of sanctions. enforcement of NFZs. The policy that your govt adopted in 2001 was to reinforce containment. Led way on smart sanctions at UN. Didn’t succeed in 01 but was adopted 02. What was your view before 9/11?

9.37 Main question is why?

9.36 Chilcot give usual statement about documents but no reference to inability to publish/quote.

9.33 Chilcot sets out what the hearing will/will not cover. The war provokes strong emotions. We will try to find out why UK was involved. Recaps remit. The Inquiry is not a trial. Independent Committee. Blair is here for the first time but may be back… Six years of complex and controversial events. Made a decision to centre on specific areas. Come back to other issues later. 1) Strategy up to 2002 including meetings with Bush April Sept 2) look at how policy was prevented. 3)later stages of diplomacy 4) Planning and aftermath 5) deterioration of security situation.

9.32 Chilcot opens with a warning about giving the witness a right to respond. Blair’s not there yet… He is now.

9.19 The Inquiry’s inability to publish or quote from key documents is already overshadowing today’s hearing as it is bound to hamper its questioning. Will Sir John Chilcot make reference to this when the hearing starts?

Archived Comments

By Lee Roberts

Submitted on 2010/01/29 at 10:24am

Having listened to an hour of Blair, I want to be the first to record the perception that this man is not mentally normal. He shows distinct tendencies towards delusional obsessiveness, especially his insistence that HIS changes of perception (as a result of 9/11, nauseously repeated) actually changes the reality. He seems to be incapable of distinguish between his internal world (the one inside his head) and the actual world.

Right now, I would support the view that he is nor capable of standing trial.

By Tony Simpson

Submitted on 2010/01/29 at 11:12am

What changed after 9/11 was that Bush and Blair became more reckless. This can certainly be seen in the push to war in Iraq. But it can also be seen in the expansion of extraordinary rendition and the authorisation of torture by the US administration. 2002 was the year when reckless conduct took hold at the highest levels. The consequences are still being felt.

By barb bishop

Submitted on 2010/01/29 at 11:16am

Bring on the Hannibal Lector mask and strait jacket!

By barb bishop

Submitted on 2010/01/29 at 11:20am

“As I suspected the questioning has been stymied by the Inquiry’s inability to quote from documents. Blair gave a completely false account of the March 2002 options paper, which had two options, not the three he claimed. ”

Froth and foam. What a fiend.

Actually I would have thought Sir Roderick more than capable of finding a way of mentioning that there were only two options? If that is, you are right that Blair Lied.

By Lee Roberts

Submitted on 2010/01/29 at 11:30am

Blair is so obsessed with the inside of his own mind, he seems incapable of understanding the impact he is having….his performance is grotesque. He believes he is still in power. He rants incoherently about his comic strip world view. This performance not only shows that he is somehow unhinged, but that his world view is no more sophisticated than Bush’s. In fact, he may be even more nutty than Bush.

By Lee Roberts

Submitted on 2010/01/29 at 11:34am

The help that Sir Lawrence is giving him is an utter disgrace. Most of the time he is trying to both ask the questions and answer them too. This man should never have been appointed

By Lee Roberts

Submitted on 2010/01/29 at 11:47am

I decided that the intelligence on WMD was beyond doubt because I imagined that if it was the other way around, and I didn’t accept the evidence and Saddam did have WMDs, that would have been a terrible outcome !!!!

By Tony Simpson

Submitted on 2010/01/29 at 11:56am

Who briefed Blair on 12 September 2002 about Iraq’s mobile weapons labs which, in Blair’s words, “turned out to be wrong”? Was it Sir Richard Dearlove, head of MI6? Why hasn’t he yet appeared before the Inquiry? Has he declined to do so?

By Iain Paton

Submitted on 2010/01/29 at 11:56am

Blair mentioned 45 mins in his speech of 24 Sep 2002 so it was obviously important to him.

By Lee Roberts

Submitted on 2010/01/29 at 11:56am

I decided that I wasn’t prepared to run the risk after 9/11 !! Its nothing to do with the facts or the quality of evidence…its Tony decides that he doesn’t want to take the risk based on the loopie world view he formed after 9/11.

By barb bishop

Submitted on 2010/01/29 at 11:59am

If this keeps up for much longer the Inquiry will be recommending the invasion of Iran.

By Lee Roberts

Submitted on 2010/01/29 at 12:01pm

Important point: on a number of occasions, Blair said that military action wasn’t seen as part of the UN route…it was the chosen preference IF the UN route failed. So he saw military action as a course quite outside of and separate from the UN route.

By Lee Roberts

Submitted on 2010/01/29 at 12:25pm

Most used phrases: “This is a point of fundamental importance, that it is absolutely clear……” “It’s incredibly important….”, “After 9/11…”

By Ashley Knight

Submitted on 2010/01/29 at 12:49pm

A very poor morning for the Chilcot panel. They simply asked an opening question and then moved on without taking the opportunity to really push Mr Blair via supplementaries on any of the key points.


By Lee Roberts

Submitted on 2010/01/29 at 1:10pm

Ashley: Its worse: many panelists outlined to Blair what they expected him to say, giving it a markedly positive spin (just as you would expect if the mandate of the panel was to help Blair escape legal accountability), and then asked Blair to agree or disagree. Blair seemed to have such a vague sense of what was happening except inside his own head, that he missed many of these helping efforts and then went on to make a self-incriminating statement. So all in all, this morning was like an 18th century Opéra Bouffon, with various clumsy characters bumping into one another, missing the point, and making total idiots of themselves. Last night, Chris warned that without access to the documents this would be a farce. It never rose to the level at which any documents were even necessary. It was well beyond a farce. The funniest bits for me were Blair ranting on oblivious to reality, in his comic book world, and Baroness Usha Prashar talking right over him, as if he were an out of control inmate in an institution. If the nation saw this today, and I don’t know how many did, Mr Chilcot can bury his reputation himself in his back garden. Neither Butler nor Hutton reached this level of supercilious surrealism.

By Phomesy

Submitted on 2010/01/29 at 1:17pm

Tony Blair is the greatest statesman of our era. Now we’re stuck with Brown and Cameron… Oh well…

By Lee Roberts

Submitted on 2010/01/29 at 2:14pm

I have been puzzling over what the style by which the Chilcot panel reminds me of. Except for Baroness Usha Prashar, who actually asked questions, the rest are operating like the compere of the TV show “This is Your Life”, so wonderfully lampooned by Monty Python. In the MP version of today’s session, the panelists would all be wearing suits (or military costumes)above the waist, and ballerina tutus below. One panelist actually lent forward and said to Tony “I imagine this was a really tough time in your life…”. Just incredible !!

By Lee Roberts

Submitted on 2010/01/29 at 2:32pm

Has the webfeed failed for anyone else ? It has for me. Are there alternative locations ?

By andrewsimon

Submitted on 2010/01/29 at 2:44pm

Lee – Are you viewing from our web-feed page or from the Inquiry’s home page? Try closing out your browser and reopen. We’ve had crashes here several times this week but all seems OK at the moment..

By Alan Pritchard

Submitted on 2010/01/29 at 3:15pm

Maybe I’ve missed something. I’ve only heard the WATO report, but why did no-one ask him about the complete logical disconnect between Iraq and 9/11? The 9/11 people were Islamic extremists inspired by al-Qaeda, mainly from Saudi Arabia. Where was Iraq in all this. I believe that al-Qaeda was opposed to Saddam, as he was too secular.

Iraq had been bombed, embargoed for many years in order to prevent Saddam being a threat to the region. No-one was suggesting that all this should stop – so where did Blair got the idea that Saddam would suddenly have access to oil money (I think he quoted $100/barrel)to fund his WMDs.

No-one queried his statements about mobile labs. Were these the same ones as Colin Powell displayed to the UN, and which were, I believe, found to be weather stations?

By John Bone

Submitted on 2010/01/29 at 3:46pm

The connection between Iraq and 9/11 is supposed to be:-
– 9/11 shows seriousness of terrorism threat
– maybe terrorists will get hold of WMD
– we have been too relaxed about WMD
– unresolved WMD disarmament issues in Iraq
– therefore should do something about these unresolved WMD issues in Iraq
– therefore (in Bush’s worldview) should change the regime in Iraq – new doctrine of preventive self-defence.

There are, of course, many logical leaps in this chain, which leads to expending a lot of energy on a risk that is only a small part of the overall problem. For example Osama Bin Laden was much more likely to be seeking WMD from the Khan network from Pakistan than from Iraq. Even if sanctions on Iraq ended, the UNSC agreed that there should be long-term monitoring of Iraq, and you could do intrusie weapons’ inspections of the whole globe for the same price as the occupation of Iraq.

Blair does himself no favours in repeating this woolly logic.

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