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‘Saddam’s Iraq would be worse than Syria:’ Blair defends 2003 invasion

Published: Updated:

Former British prime minister Tony Blair defended on Tuesday the war in Iraq, saying the country’s current political and social scenes would have been far worse if Saddam Hussein was still in power.

“If we hadn’t removed Saddam from power just think, for example, what would be happening if these Arab revolutions were continuing now and Saddam, who’s probably 20 times as bad as Assad in Syria, was trying to suppress an uprising in Iraq. Think of the consequences of leaving that regime in power,” he told the BBC’s Newsnight.

Blair, speaking on the 10th anniversary of the U.S. and British invasion into Iraq, said the price of the war was “very, very high,” resulting in the death of around 162,000 people, almost 80 percent of them civilians from the start of the U.S.-led invasion until the withdrawal of U.S. forces in December 2011, according to British NGO Iraq Body Count.

Attacks continue, with 1,500 people killed in violence in Iraq last year according to an AFP news agency toll.

Blair, who stepped down in 2007 after ten years as prime minister, said he thought constantly about the people who lost their lives in the conflict.

“So when you say ‘do you think of the loss of life since 2003’, of course I do, you would have to be inhumane not to, but think of what would have happened if he had been left there.”

“Sometimes what happens in politics, and unfortunately these things get mixed up with allegations of deceit and lying and so on, in the end sometimes you come to a decision where whichever choice you take the consequences are difficult and the choice is ugly. This was one such case.”

He acknowledged the U.S.-led invasion remained extremely divisive, but said: “I’ve long since given up in trying to persuade people it was the right decision.

“In a sense what I try to persuade people of now is to understand how complex and difficult a decision it was.

“Because I think if we don’t understand that, we won’t take the right decision about what I think will be a series of these types of problems that will arise over the next few years.

“You’ve got one in Syria right now, you’ve got one in Iran to come. The issue is how do you make the world a safer place?