Former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw on Thursday confirmed that the Blair administration was deeply divided at the highest level over invading Iraq in the absence of inconvertible evidence that Saddam Hussein posed a real threat to world peace.
Giving testimony to the Iraq Inquiry, Mr. Straw said that he made his opposition clear to Tony Blair, the then Prime Minister, in no uncertain terms and told him that he regarded regime change as a “foreign policy objective” not only “improper” but also “self-evidently unlawful.”
Asked whether Mr Blair shared his view, he avoided a direct reply and said: “The best way (is) to find out from himself.”
Pressed further he acknowledged that Mr. Blair had a different view but added: “It is no great surprise to know that people at senior levels in government hold different views and debate those. What I had to offer the Prime Minister was my best judgment and my loyalty.”
‘Most difficult decision’
Mr. Straw suggested that his decision to back the invasion was prompted by his loyalty to Mr. Blair but said it was the “most difficult decision” he had ever taken. He also admitted that the failure to find any weapons of mass destruction had “undermined trust” in Britain.
“The question of whether to go to war has… been one of the most divisive, certainly in my political lifetime. It made many people very angry at the time, and subsequently. That and the failure to find any WMD [weapons of mass destruction] has undermined trust,” he said in a 8000-word memorandum to the inquiry.
Mr. Straw appeared to confirm that Mr Blair had committed Britain’s backing to any US military invasion months before a decision was taken.
Alastair Campbell, who was his chief of communications at the time, told the inquiry that he assured the then US President George W. Bush in 2002 that he would support any military attack on Iraq if diplomatic efforts to “disarm” Saddam Hussein failed.
The five-member inquiry, chaired by Sir John Chilcot, a retired senior civil servant, is looking into Britain’s role in the Iraq invasion.
Mr. Blair is to testify on January 29.