Former British PM Tony Blair testified in front of another Iraq inquiry today and for the second time this year he testified about the very real danger of Iran and al-Qaeda working together. Of course the storyline by the British papers, the biased MSM, and the lefty blogosphere, is regarding the regret offered by Blair over the loss of life:
At the end of his evidence this afternoon he said it had never been his meaning. “Of course I regret deeply and profoundly the loss of life,”
I’m sure everyone else would cheer the loss of life huh? I mean come on, of course he regrets the loss of life. This is news? Some kind of acknowledgment that he screwed up? Please.
In his written testimony (PDF) he gave much needed attention to the collusion between Iran and al-Qaeda:
The Role of AQ and Iran
This, in my view, merits a special section. This was the game-changer, the dimension not foreseen, that almost tipped Iraq into the abyss. There is no analysis of what happened after May 2003 that is anywhere near the mark, without consideration of how and why Al Qaida and Iran played the roles they did. The truth is: without their interventions, the situation would have been manageable. It was AQ that staged the bombing “spectaculars” that killed thousands of innocent people, drove the international community and development organisations and UN out of Iraq, committed the outrage on the Golden Mosque in Samarra in February 2006 to trigger sectarian violence and created a climate of fear in the country and a sense of a slide into chaos abroad. It was Iran that financed and armed militia groups who created the worsening security situation in the south, contributed to the problems in Baghdad, and through EFPs and IEDs killed coalition and in particular UK soldiers.
The pre-war intelligence made mention of AQ. Various JIC assessments alluded to them and to the possibility of AQ in the north attacking coalition forces. But the bulk of the assessments were focussed on the risks of greater AQ attacks on coalition interests elsewhere in the world, in the Gulf, in Britain etc. There was no sense that AQ would mount a full-scale operation in Iraq after the removal of Saddam. In retrospect as I said in my evidence, the intelligence that al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian AQ leader, had been in Baghdad in May 2002 should perhaps have been given more weight. But actually most of the British authorities were at pains to separate Saddam from AQ in 2002 not to link them.
As far as Iran’s involvement, that was specifically assessed as unlikely given the hostility to Saddam. If anything, 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.
And just as many people have taken pains to point out that Saddam and al-Qaeda would not work together because one is secular and one is not (a theory proven wrong) many people thought Iran and al-Qaeda would not work together because one is Shia, the other Sunni. Tony Blair brought this up when he testified last year:
What nobody foresaw was that Iran would actually end up supporting AQ. The conventional wisdom was these two are completely different types of people because Iran is Shia, the Al-Qaeda people are Sunni and therefore, you know, the two would never mix. What happened in the end was that they did because they both had a common interest in destabilising the country, and for Iran I think the reason they were interested in destabilising Iraq was because they worried about having a functioning majority Shia country with a democracy on their doorstep, and for Al-Qaeda they knew perfectly well their whole mission was to try and say the West was oppressing Islam. It is hard to do that if you replace tyrannical governments with functioning democracies.
This sparked some questions from the inquiry members again. This exchange is memorable (PDF) and quite informative:
SIR RODERIC LYNE: By getting rid of Saddam’s nuclear weapons by decapitating the regime send a signal to Iran not to go on developing nuclear weapons?
HE RT. HON. TONY BLAIR: Obviously it sent a signal to everyone which is why Libya —
SIR RODERIC LYNE: Well, how did the Iranians react?
THE RT. HON. TONY BLAIR: Initially they felt that pressure, now they don’t feel the same pressure.
SIR RODERIC LYNE: Don’t they feel they need them more in case the Americans have the same intentions towards them?
THE RT. HON. TONY BLAIR: No, that is not the reason why Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons.
SIR RODERIC LYNE: It was doing it even under the Shah.
THE RT. HON. TONY BLAIR: It is a rather different regime today. People can take two views about Iran today, but I will give you my view very, very strongly indeed, because this is a looming and coming challenge. I am out in that region the whole time. I see the impact and influence of Iran everywhere. It is negative, destabilising. It is supportive of terrorist groups. It is doing everything it can to impede progress in the Middle East peace process and to facilitate a situation in which that region cannot embark on the process of modernisation it urgently needs.
This is not because we have done something. You know, at some point — and I say this to you with all the passion I possibly can — the West has to get out of this what I think is a wretched policy or posture of apology for believing that we are causing what the Iranians are doing or what these extremists are doing. We are not. The fact is they are doing it because they disagree fundamentally with our way of life and they will carry on doing it unless they are met with the requisite determination and if necessary force.
The fact that — look, President Obama, not President Bush — this is an important point — President Obama goes in March 2009 to Cairo in the heart of Islam. He makes a speech where he says effectively “Put aside the Bush era. I am now offering the hand of friendship. You, Iran can come into partnership. You are an ancient proud civilisation. We will welcome you in”.
What’s the response he gets? They carry on with the terrorism. They carry on with the destabilisation. They carry on with the nuclear weapons programme. At some point we have to get our heads out of the sand and understand they are going to carry on with this. Iraq is one part of a far bigger picture and right across that region people are facing that struggle.
Many people still do not understand this point and will keep their head in the sand until the worst happens.