Tony Blair: 9/11 was an attack on the free world

The action commenced on 18 March. In less than two months, American and British armed forces, and those of other nations, successfully deposed Saddam.

Former prime minister Tony Blair. Picture: Getty Images
Former prime minister Tony Blair. Picture: Getty Images

And that part of the campaign, which was after all a major part of our strategic objectives, was brilliantly conducted by our military and we should never forget that.

In June 2003, a UN resolution was agreed, putting the coalition forces in charge of helping the country to a new constitution with UN support and under a UN mandate.

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In August 2003, the UN mission had to withdraw however, following the bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad by al-Qaida. And in 2004 the country slid into chaos and instability, especially following the al-Qaida bombing of the Samarra Shia mosque.

A state of near civil war continued until the surge of American forces began in 2007 which restored the country to relative calm.

In 2010, a largely peaceful election, in which the party with the most votes was a non-sectarian coalition, was held.

And in 2010, al-Qaida in Iraq was effectively defeated. In 2011, the Arab Spring began.

The remnant of al-Qaida Iraq, left for Syria, built its space in Raqqa, and then came back over the border into Iraq renamed as Isis, and helped by the sectarian nature of the Maliki government, exploited the situation in Iraq and created what we see today.

We should never forget that as a result of the removal of Saddam in 2003, Libya agreed to yield up its nuclear and chemical weapons programme. This led to the complete destruction of the programme under international inspection, which turned out to be much more advanced than we knew, which had it remained in the hands of Gaddafi, would have itself posed a serious threat.The AQ Khan network was shut down.

I come to our alliance with America.

Whilst the inquiry accepts it was my prerogative as Prime Minister to be with the United States in military action, the inquiry questions whether this was really necessary and the importance I attached to the alliance.

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9/11 was an event like no other in US history. I considered it an attack on all the free world. I believed that Britain as America’s strongest ally should be with them in tackling this new and unprecedented security challenge.

I believed it important that America was not alone but part of a wider coalition. In the end, even a majority of European Union nations supported action in Iraq. I do not believe that we would have had that coalition, or indeed persuaded the Bush administration to go down the UN path, without our commitment to be alongside them in that fight.