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Blair sparks backlash after denying invasion link to Iraq bloodshed

By Press Association

Tony Blair has come under fire after claiming the violent insurgency in Iraq is not the result of the 2003 invasion to topple Saddam Hussein.

In a renewed call for military action, the former prime minister said the crisis unfolding in the country was the "predictable" result of the West's failure to intervene in Syria.

But his comments have met with scathing criticism from figures across the political spectrum, including his former deputy prime minister, Lord Prescott, and ex-international development secretary, Clare Short, who resigned from her post over Iraq.

In an eight-page essay on his website, Mr Blair – now a Middle East peace envoy – rejected as "bizarre" arguments that Iraq would be more stable and peaceful today if the US-backed war, which claimed the lives of 179 UK personnel, had not happened.

He added that Iraq was "in mortal danger", pinning the blame on the sectarianism of the Nouri al-Maliki government and the spread of Syria's brutal three-year civil war.

"The choices are all pretty ugly, it is true. But for three years, we have watched Syria descend into the abyss and as it is going down, it is slowly but surely wrapping its cords around us, pulling us down with it," he wrote.

He made clear it did not mean another invasion, insisting there was a whole myriad of responses between troops on the ground and doing nothing at all. Speaking on the Andrew Marr Show, Mr Blair reiterated his regret over the loss of life during the conflict, but insisted removing Saddam had been the right thing to do.

His intervention in the debate comes amid international moves to tackle the bloody insurgency by Islamist extremists and deal with its humanitarian consequences.

Thousands have fled the sweeping advance of fighters from the al-Qaida-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis), and yesterday it was claimed that prisoners were being executed.

US President Barack Obama is considering a range of military options – said to include air strikes – and on Saturday, the US sent an aircraft carrier to the Gulf.

Reacting to the essay, Ms Short said Mr Blair had been "absolutely, consistently wrong, wrong, wrong" on the issue. Speaking on Murnaghan, she criticised the "deceit" over the decision to invade.

Lord Prescott said on the same programme that further intervention risked a return to the Crusades, adding: "I don't agree with Tony, as I didn't then.

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