Tony Blair is likely to be criticised by a major probe into the Iraq war, it has been reported.
Sir John Chilcot, the chairman of the Iraq inquiry, wrote to David Cameron this week, informing him that his report has identified “individuals” that would be found to be at fault for their decisions in weeks before war, and during its aftermath.
The Daily Telegraph reported that one of those individuals is thought to include the former Labour prime minister, who will be given the chance to respond.
Tony Blair and George Bush
Sir John said he particularly wished to highlight the private handwritten letters from Blair to President George W Bush in 2002, pledging support an invasion of Iraq, before the Cabinet had even established a case for war.
The notes have never been published. Sir John has also been studying how much detail he can go into about cabinet discussions and negotiations between Blair and Bush, but also those involved Gordon Brown and Barack Obama.
“The inquiry intends to write to the relevant individuals at the end of this month informing them that the committee has concluded that there are areas in which some aspect of the part they played means the inquiry is likely to make a criticism,” he said.
“The inquiry recognises the seriousness with which any criticism of an individual is likely to be regarded by that individual and it is determined to adopt an approach which is balanced, considered and fair.”
Cameron wrote back: “I agree that it is important to ensure that those who the inquiry intends to criticise are informed … clearly the complex declassification discussions must be completed before this can take place.”
Earlier this month, the Guardian reported that fierce opposition in Whitehall to the disclosure of records of discussions between Tony Blair and George Bush, has meant the Chilcot inquiry will not now be able to publish its report for well over a year.
The former cabinet secretary Lord O'Donnell told Chilcot that releasing Blair's notes would damage Britain's relations with the US and are of no public interest.
"We have attached particular importance to protecting the privacy of the channel between the prime minister and president," he said.
The government are demonstrably keen to avoid criticism of the performance of the Armed Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
On Friday it was alleged that that the Ministry of Defence banned the new head of the Armed Forces from contributing to a book, which probes the competence of British military performance in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Times reported that officials ordered the suppression of six chapters written by serving generals to appear in British Generals in Blair’s Wars, including one written by the new Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir Nick Houghton.