There is "absolutely" a link between the invasion of Iraq and the rise of terror group Isis, for which Tony Blair bears "total responsibility", says a leading academic who advised the then prime minister in the run-up to the war.
Speaking exclusively to The Huffington Post UK, Professor George Joffe of Cambridge University said Tony Blair had a "shallow mind" and had refused to heed his warnings of post-war chaos and sectarianism in Iraq.
In November 2002, Joffe was one of three Iraq experts invited into Downing Street to brief Blair on the potential fallout from an Anglo-American attack on Baghdad.
"We were not allowed to talk about whether or not it was a good idea to invade, but only about what the aftermath would be," he told HuffPost UK, adding: "It was clear that the decision had already been made.. to invade Iraq”.
Joffe says Blair wasn't interested in listening. In response to warnings from the Cambridge academic and the two other Iraq experts, Dr Toby Dodge and Dr Charles Tripp, that the country could descend into civil war and a Sunni-led insurgency, Blair merely responded, in reference to Saddam Hussein, "But the man's evil, isn't he?"
According to Joffe, Blair "personalised" the whole issue in the form of Hussein and thus "the whole structure of Iraq was utterly irrelevant.. It was very two-dimensional."
On Sunday, Blair denied he was to blame for the Isis takeover of huge swathes of Iraq, including the country's second biggest city, Mosul. He wrote on his website: "We have to liberate ourselves from the notion that ‘we’ have caused this. We haven't." In a later interview with BBC1's Andrew Marr show, the former prime minister would only admit to having “underestimated” the "depth and the complexity of the problem".
Joffe says he told Blair in Downing Street in 2002 that if he was going to invade Iraq he "had to be aware that you might remove Saddam but you left behind a whole structure of power.. of people who would resent being displaced, disadvantaged and would react."
Blair, he recalls, "was completely uninterested in any of these complexities... he said virtually nothing for an hour and a half [and] we had the sense we were talking to a stone wall."
Asked if a line could be drawn between the decision to invade and occupy Iraq in March 2003 and the current Isis-led insurgency against the Nouri al-Maliki government in Baghdad, Joffe replied: "Absolutely."
Joffe says Blair and George W. Bush bear "total responsibility" for the current situation, including the disastrous decision to disband the Iraqi army in May 2003.
The former prime minister's most recent comments, Joffe added, "show an inability to understand politics and geopolitics. They're shameful."