Just like old times: Blair and Campbell talk Iraq

Just like old times: Blair and Campbell talk Iraq
Three-term Prime Minister Tony Blair sat with his former spin doctor Alistair Campbell to discuss all things Middle East, Corbyn, and Brexit.
2 min read
12 May, 2017
Tony Blair is remembered by many for his decision to invade Iraq in 2003. [Getty]

Former Labour communications chief Alastair Campbell sat down with three-term Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair recently to discuss all things Middle East, Corbyn, and Brexit.

The interview was conducted for British GQ before Prime Minister Theresa May called a general election, with Blair having said recently that he will return to British politics and "get his hands dirty" in a bid to fight against Britain's exit from the EU.

Campbell quickly persuaded Blair to revisit the Iraq war, likely a familiar conversation for the pair who primed the public and readied the press in spearheading the UK's participation in the 2003 US-led invasion of the country.

"Whatever the difficulties and mistakes we wouldn't be in a better place today if we'd left Saddam there," Blair said.

"Do you ever sit down and think: Oh my god, why did we do that?" Campbell responded.

"No, I don't think that," Blair stated.

Still undeterred he accepted responsibility for the failures on intelligence but backing his decision, which ultimately devastated the country and destabilised the region.

"What I can never do, which is what people want me to do, is say it would be better if it never had happened."

The conversation moved quickly the Arab Spring, with Blair suggesting that the wave of popular protests which uprooted dictators across the region would have inevitably reached Iraq.

In both Syria and Libya, he said he would have urged a better transitional process, rather than insisting Assad goes without taking concrete action to make that demand a reality.

"What has happened in Syria, in my view, is a hideous blot on Western foreign policy," he said. Blair believes that if Saddam Hussein had remained in power, Iraq would have faced a similar predicament today. Indeed, he added, it would have likely been much worse.

Despite offering commentary on the Middle East, the former Labour leader's record in the region since leaving office is ambiguous.

In 2007, despite his widespread unpopularity in the Arab world, Blair was appointed by the Quartet as the Middle East peace envoy to mediate the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

After rarely being seen in Jerusalem by 2011, President Mahmoud Abbas reportedly asked; "What's Blair's value?"

His poor relationship with the Palestinian leadership led the US and EU to push for his resignation, which eventually took place in 2015.

With peace efforts stalled, the spokesman for the PLO at the time scornfully summed up his role: "Useless, useless, useless."