Tony Blair on Iran and Al Qaeda
4:00 PM, Jan 21, 2011 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
For the second time in less than a year, former British prime minister Tony Blair testified before the Iraq Inquiry today. The Inquiry is investigating the circumstances that led up to the Iraq war and its aftermath. For the second time, Blair warned of collusion between Iran and al Qaeda.
Blair said that the problems post-Saddam Iraq faced would have been manageable had it not been for the nefarious influence of external actors such al Qaeda and Iran. No one foresaw their collusion on the eve of the Iraq war, Blair testified. But al Qaeda’s spectacular suicide bombings and Iran’s extensive sponsorship of terrorists and extremists were the main drivers of the violence that engulfed Iraq in violence.
Towards the end of his testimony, Blair described the two biggest lessons he learned from the Iraq War. He began by saying that “one of those lessons has to do with the link between AQ and Iran.” Blair added (emphasis added):
Earlier in the day, Blair also told the Inquiry that he did not think the West could deal with al Qaeda without dealing with Iran.
Blair addressed the relationship between Iran and al Qaeda in his written testimony submitted to the Inquiry as well. In a section entitled, “The Role of AQ and Iran,” Blair explains that the British intelligence community drastically underestimated both al Qaeda’s and Iran’s designs on post-Saddam Iraq. Their roles were a “game-changer,” Blair contends, and “the dimension not foreseen, that almost tipped Iraq into the abyss.”
“If anything,” Blair writes, “it was thought that whilst Iran would have a keen interest, naturally, in what happened in Iraq it would be more interested in promoting stability than instability.”
That was clearly wrong, Blair says. And that assessment quickly changed after the March 2003 invasion, when intelligence reports highlighting Iranian sponsored violence began to pour in.
One such British report, dated September 23, 2004, “stated that the Sunni extremist presence in Iran was ‘substantial.’” Blair adds: “This was emphasised in December 2004.”
Blair told the Inquiry that British intelligence officials were more concerned about the possibility of al Qaeda attacks inside the UK and elsewhere than they were about the al Qaeda network already operating inside Iraq. And this was a serious shortcoming in their pre-war analyses.
In his written testimony, Blair explains:
That changed after the war had begun, however, and the roles played by both al Qaeda and Iran became “obvious.” Blair writes:
There is a temptation throughout the West to think of Iran and al Qaeda as separate problems. But Blair has repeatedly rejected that notion. In his testimony before the Inquiry last year, Blair explained:
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