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Blair ‘knew’ of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal

'One wonders whether Mr. Blair ... is suffering from some sort of prime ministerial false memory syndrome'

Published: Updated:

The former head of the UK’s defense intelligence staff has accused Britain’s former Prime Minister Tony Blair of trying to “rewrite history” about Syria’s chemical weapons

“One wonders whether Mr. Blair read the intelligence assessments we provided him, is consciously trying to rewrite history to his benefit, or is suffering from some sort of prime ministerial false memory syndrome,” John Morrison wrote in a letter to the Observer newspaper titled “Tony Blair's 'untruths' on chemical weapons must be challenged.”

Morrison’s letter, posted Saturday, was a response to a recent article by Blair in which the former leader defended the controversial 2003 invasion of Iraq by the U.S.-led “coalition of the willing.”

In the article, titled “Iraq, Syria and the Middle East – An essay by Tony Blair,” the former premier denied he had any knowledge of President Bashar Assad’s chemical weapons arsenal.

He claimed Western governments did not know the Syrian leader was manufacturing the weapons until the Damascus regime began to use them in 2012, almost a year after the uprising his rule.

Holmes, who served as deputy chief of defense intelligence from 1994 to 1999, head of the defense intelligence analysis staff and a member of the joint intelligence committee (JIC), said the British government was constantly updated about Syria’s chemical weapons capability and that Blair must have been aware of this fact.

“I can assure Mr. Blair that for at least a decade before the second Gulf war (2003) we assessed Syria as possessing chemical weapons, a recurring theme in JIC reports,” Holmes wrote.

“The issue was not whether he [Assad] had them but when and how he might use them,” he added.

Al-Assad agreed last year to hand over the country’s entire chemical weapons stockpile after mounting internation pressure over a sarin gas attack near the Syrian capital.

Last week, inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons overseeing the destruction of Syria's chemical arsenal said they believed there was systematic use of toxic chemicals such as chlorine gas in the war that has raged for more than three years.