Blair: Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair: Putin cannot use Iraq as justification for Ukraine

London: Britain’s former prime minister Tony Blair is wistful and defiant as he reflects on the upcoming anniversaries of two events that arguably define the best and worst of his decade in power.
Mondays have been 20 years Blair Without orders from the United Nations and in defiance of some of the largest demonstrations ever seen in Britain, Saddam Hussein joined US President George W. Bush in launching the invasion of Iraq.
For many of its critics, the war was exposed as a reckless misadventure when no weapons of mass destruction had been found, and hindered the West’s ability to stand up to the rise of autocracies in Russia and China.
But Blair rejected the notion that Russian President Vladimir Putin took advantage of defying a weakened West with his own aggression against Ukraine in 2014 and expanded to last year’s full-scale invasion.
Britain’s most successful Labor leader, now 69, said in an interview with AFP and fellow European news agencies ANSA, DPA and EFE: “If he didn’t use that excuse (Iraq), he would use another.” Use an excuse.”
Saddam started two regional wars, defied several UN resolutions and used chemical weapons against his own people, Blair said.
In contrast Ukraine has a democratic government and while it poses no threat to its neighbors Putin attacked.
“At least you could say we were removing an autocracy and trying to introduce a democracy,” Blair said, speaking at the offices of his Tony Blair Institute for Global Change in central London.
“Now you can argue about all the results and so on.
“His (Putin’s) intervention in the Middle East (in Syria) was meant to promote an autocracy and deny democracy. So we should respect him all the publicity it deserves.”
After leaving office in 2007, the outcome of the Iraq War arguably hindered Blair’s own efforts as an international envoy for peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
Through his institute, Blair maintains offices in the region and says he is “still very passionate” about promoting peace in the Middle East, even though it may appear “far away”.
But there can be no deal in Ukraine until Russia recognizes that “aggression is wrong”, he says, adding that the Palestinians can learn a lesson from the undeniable high point of his tenure: peace in Northern Ireland.
Under the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, pro-Irish militants agreed to lay down their arms and pro-UK unionists agreed to share power after three decades of sectarian conflict, in which some 3,500 people were killed.
Blair, then-Irish Premier Bertie Ahern and an envoy from US President Bill Clinton spent three days and nights negotiating the final steps before signing the agreement on April 10, 1998.
The region is today caught in a fresh political impasse.
But a recent deal between Britain and the European Union to regulate post-Brexit trade in Northern Ireland has cleared the way for a visit by US President Joe Biden to mark the 25th anniversary of the accord.
Reflecting on the change in tactics by pro-Irish militants from bullet to ballot box, Blair said “It’s something I often say to Palestinians: you should learn from what they did”.
“Change tactics and see the result,” he said, denying that he was biased towards Israel but only recognizing the reality of negotiating peace.
Describing his tumultuous time at 10 Downing Street from 1997 to 2007, he said, “Many things are disputed and uncontested.”
“I think the one uncontested thing is probably the Good Friday Agreement.
“When I came to Belfast the thing had more or less collapsed and we had to rewrite it and agree to it… It’s probably been the only successful peace process in the last period of time in the last 25 years.”

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