Blair: 2003 Iraq invasion not to blame for crisis

Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said last week that violence in Iraq show ‘failure’ of the U.S. invasion in 2003

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The UK's former Prime Minister Tony Blair lashed out at critics who linked the U.S.-led 2003 invasion of Iraq with current violence taking place in the country, and instead criticized the country’s sectarian government, and the West’s failed actions towards Syria’s crisis.

The radical Islamist State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group had been effectively gaining control in several cities within Iraq over the last week, mainly seizing Mosul – the country’s second largest city – and eyeing the capital of Baghdad.

The former top official, who led Britain into the war to remove Saddam Hussein from power, and is now a diplomatic envoy in the Middle East, released the statements in a long article published on his website.

According to Blair, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s government “snuffed out what was a genuine opportunity to build a cohesive Iraq,” because of its sectarianism.

He labeled arguments claiming that there wouldn’t be a crisis in the country if Iraq’s dictators remained in power as “bizarre.”

Last week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that the seizure of Iraqi cities by extreme jihadist fighters was a clear sign of the “total failure” of the U.S.-led invasion.

However, the detained U.S. soldier convicted of leaking secret documents to WikiLeaks warned the American people Saturday that they were being lied to about Iraq once more.

"I understand that my actions violated the law. However, the concerns that motivated me have not been resolved," Chelsea Manning, the soldier formerly known as Bradley Manning wrote in a New York Times editorial.

Manning is serving a 35-year prison sentence on espionage charges, among other offenses, for leaking 700,000 diplomatic cables, military intelligence files and other secret documents to anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks.

Manning’s leaks are considered the largest in U.S. history.

"As Iraq erupts in civil war and America again contemplates intervention, that unfinished business should give new urgency to the question of how the United States military controlled the media coverage of its long involvement there and in Afghanistan.

"Military and diplomatic reports coming across my desk detailed a brutal crackdown against political dissidents by the Iraqi Ministry of Interior and federal police, on behalf of Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki. Detainees were often tortured, or even killed."

U.S. President Barack Obama has been under vastly criticized by Republican critics over the collapse Iraq’s security forces, which Washington spent billions of dollars training and equipping before pulling out its own troops in 2011.

Over three-years of a Syrian conflict provided the al-Qaeda-inspired ISIS militants group with battle experience, and a base from which to launch offensives across the border, Blair stated.

While he favored supporting moderate rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad over carrying out another invasion, Blair said extremist groups should be targeted “in coordination and with the agreement of the Arab countries,” and the U.S. should consider military strikes in Iraq.

"By all means argue about the wisdom of earlier decisions. But it is the decisions now that will matter," Blair wrote.

"The choices are all pretty ugly, it is true. But for three years we have watched Syria descend into the abyss and as it is going down, it is slowly but surely wrapping its cords around us pulling us down with it.

"We have to put aside the differences of the past and act now to save the future. Where the extremists are fighting, they have to be countered hard, with force," he added.

Blair was prime minister from 1997 till 2007 and is now representative for the Middle East Quartet, comprised of the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Russia.

(With AFP)

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