The UK was pushed into war “too early” by the US, a former United Nations ambassador has claimed in the wake of the devastating Chilcot report.
Sir Jeremy Greenstock, who was UK ambassador to the UN in 2003, told the BBC that then-prime minister Tony Blair seemed to want to wait longer before going for military intervention.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s The World Tonight, he said: “I felt that at the time, the British felt it at the time, I think the prime minister felt it at the time, that the Americans pushed us into going into military action too early.”
Greenstock added that it would have been “much safer” to give weapons inspectors more time.
Evidence published yesterday as part of the Chilcot inquiry exposed correspondence between Blair and then-US president George Bush.
In one letter, Blair promised Bush that “I will be with you, whatever” on the matter of Iraq.
The British Prime Minister’s pledge - which asw seen by critics as a ‘blank cheque’ for military support for the US-led action - came eight months before the war started in March 2003.
Blair’s words emerged in full for the first time in one of 30 different notes, handwritten letters, emails and memos sent to the US President before, during and after the invasion.
The missives reveal that soon after the 9/11 terror attack on the twin towers in New York, Blair and Bush were in close, often personal, contact over how to topple Saddam Hussein and remove the threat of his alleged Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD).
Bush’s responses have not been published.
Speaking after the release of Chilcot’s report on Wednesday, Blair claimed that he did not lie about the motives behind his decision to invade Iraq.
He said he could look the country in the eye and affirm categorically that he had not lied to its citizens or Parliament.
He said: “I can look not just the families of this country but the nation in the eye and say: ‘I did not mislead this country’.
“I made the decision in good faith on the information I had at that time, and I believe it is better that we took that decision.”
Some 179 British service personnel were killed in Iraq between 2003 and 2009, when British troops left Iraqi soil.
Tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians were killed, with some estimates that up to 200,000 died in the aftermath as the country descended into chaos and sectarian violence fuelled by groups ranging from al-Qaeda to so-called Islamic State.