Blair ‘restrained Bush from attacking Iraq after September 11’
By Anton La Guardia
LONDON: Tony Blair played a key role in stopping President George W Bush from ordering military action against Iraq immediately after the September 11 attacks, and convincing him to take a longer diplomatic road to war, British sources disclosed on Thursday.
The Prime Minister also urged caution and delay on at least two later occasions. At one point America and Britain seriously considered the possibility of postponing the war until next September. But officials said they decided on a spring campaign because of fears that prolonged uncertainty would undermine the global economy and destabilise Arab countries ready to help.
British officials are unrepentant about trying to secure a UN resolution authorising war, saying it had provided months of political “cover” for the military build-up.
Senior officials familiar with the dialogue between Mr Blair and Mr Bush disclosed fascinating glimpses of the in-fighting within the Bush administration, and of the Prime Minister’s struggle to steer Washington away from the idea of going to war alone.
After the September 11 attacks, hardline members of the administration, such as Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary, called for Iraq to be included immediately as a target of the “war on terrorism”. But Mr Blair backed more cautious figures, such as Colin Powell, the secretary of state, who said that uprooting al-Qa’eda from Afghanistan should be the first priority.
Days after saying that Britain stood “should to shoulder” with America, Mr Blair went to the United States to meet Mr Bush. —LDT