Tony Blair was misled by the US into backing 2003 Iraq War: Former UK PM Brown

Gordon Brown, who was Chancellor of the Exchequer when the decision to go to war was made in 2003, said that a top secret US intelligence report was not shared with Britain.

world Updated: Nov 05, 2017 17:36 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar, Hindustan Times, London
Tony Blair,George Bush,2003 Iraq War
Britain's former Prime Minister Gordon Brown.(Reuters )

Britain’s decision to join the US-led 20013 Iraq war permanently stained former prime minister Tony Blair’s legacy in office, but the last word has not yet been said. His close ally at the time, Gordon Brown, now says the US misled them on a key issue.

Brown, who was chancellor during the war, writes in his memoir to be published this week that the US knew that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction (WMD), but did not share the crucial information with London.

In an extract from the memoir titled My Life, Our Times, Brown writes that as the chancellor he had access to more intelligence reports than his cabinet colleagues, but was reassured by British intelligence agency MI6 that evidence about WMDs was well-founded.

However, he now believes “we were all misled on the existence of WMDs”, and referred to leaked reports from the US defence department last year showing that evidence of “the existence of WMDs was weak, even negligible and in key areas, non-existent”.

Brown writes: “It is astonishing that none of us in the British government ever saw this American report. It is now clear how forcibly this report challenged the official view: ‘We’ve struggled to estimate the unknown…We range from 0% to about 75% knowledge on various aspects of their (Iraq’s WMD) programme’,” the report had stated.

“It conceded that US knowledge of the Iraqi nuclear weapons programme was based largely – perhaps 90% of it – on analysis of imprecise intelligence. These assessments, the report said, relied ‘heavily on analytic assumptions and judgment rather than hard evidence. The evidentiary base is particularly sparse for Iraqi nuclear programmes.’

“This highly confidential US evidence was a refutation not only of the claim that Iraq was producing WMDs but also of their current capability to do so.”

Brown goes on to write: “The question is whether it required war in March 2003. If I am right that somewhere within the American system the truth about Iraq’s lack of weapons was known, then we were not just misinformed but misled on the critical issue of WMDs”.

The Iraq war deeply divided British public opinion and claimed the lives of 179 UK troops.

A seven-year inquiry report (Chilcot report) into the UK’s involvement in the war found that Saddam Hussein posed “no imminent threat” when the US and UK invaded. It also concluded that “flawed” intelligence started the war.

First Published: Nov 05, 2017 15:25 IST