UK Politics

Tony Blair says world is better as a result of Iraq War

Media captionTony Blair tells John Humphrys he thinks about Iraq every day

Tony Blair says the world would be "in a worse position" had he not taken the decision to invade Iraq.

The former PM said despite the "terrible consequences", removing Saddam Hussein "moved with the grain" of what was to come in the region.

He also said it would be "far better" for him to have challenged the intelligence reports he received.

The official inquiry into the 2003 war made a number of criticisms of Mr Blair's government.

Sir John Chilcot's report, published on Wednesday, said it overstated the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, sent ill-prepared troops into battle and had "wholly inadequate" plans for the aftermath.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Blair defended his pledge in a 2001 memo to then US president George Bush that he was "with you, whatever".

He had not "made some irrevocable decision to go to war" he said.

"We were giving the United States a very clear commitment that we would be alongside them in dealing with this issue."

The report gave a damning assessment of the UK's intelligence in the run-up to the invasion.

Mr Blair said he relied on these reports, but acknowledged: "It would have been far better to have challenged them more clearly."

Media captionSir John Chilcot: "The UK chose to join the invasion of Iraq before peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted"

He added: "It wasn't that I wanted to believe it. I did believe it and one of the reasons for that was because Saddam Hussein had used these weapons against his own people."

The former prime minister said he understood "all the criticisms" of the invasion, but said: "When I look at it today I think still that we moved with where the grain of the future is going to be in these countries and this region."

Image copyright Nick Danziger
Image caption The way decisions were made by the government have been criticised

He added: "I can regret the mistakes and I can regret many things about it but I genuinely believe, not just that we acted out of good motives, and I did what I did out of good faith, but I sincerely believe that we would be in a worse position if we hadn't acted that way. I may be completely wrong about that."

Following the publication of Sir John's report, Mr Blair held a two-hour press conference in which he apologised to the families of those killed in the Iraq War, accepting that they will never "forget or forgive him".

He said he felt sorrow and regret beyond what "people may ever know" at the loss of life.

Shadow health secretary Diane Abbott told Today Mr Blair had "destroyed his own reputation".

She said his Labour government had done some "amazing things", but "their reputation has bled to death in the sands of Iraq".

A spokesman for some of the families of the 179 British service personnel and civilians killed in Iraq between 2003 and 2009 said their loved ones had died "unnecessarily and without just cause and purpose".

The spokesman said all options were being considered, including asking those responsible for the failures identified in the report to "answer for their actions in the courts if such process is found to be viable".

Prime Minister David Cameron, who voted for war in 2003, told MPs it was important to "really learn the lessons for the future" and to improve the workings of government and how it treats legal advice.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn - who voted against military action - apologised on behalf of the party.

He said the report proved the Iraq War had been an "act of military aggression launched on a false pretext", something he said which has "long been regarded as illegal by the overwhelming weight of international opinion".