Tony Blair has dropped something of a bombshell by admitting that he would have favoured removing Saddam Hussein regardless of any arguments about whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.
The admission, in an interview being broadcast on the BBC on Sunday, will convince cynics of British and American policy that they were right all along to say this was always about regime change.
It might also make those who laboured to produce the evidence suddenly seem rather irrelevant.
The former British prime minister’s statement goes beyond simply saying that he did believe at the time that Saddam had such weapons but feels now that the war was right in any case.
That is the conventional approach used by some people who supported the war and who think it produced a worthwhile result, though at a high price.
Others have now changed their minds and say it was a mistake.
Not Tony Blair. Typically, perhaps, he is not repentant. And more than that – he implies he would have gone to war anyway.
(Update: I have had a couple of e-mails contesting two elements of this story. One says that Mr Blair did not actually say he would have gone to war anyway. However, his words are very close to making such a statement. And he went on to say that different arguments would have had to have been used, indicating that this is no idle thought.
The other, from John Rentoul of the Independent who has followed events in detail points out that Mr Blair said the same thing in March 2006 when asked by Adam Boulton of Sky News if, knowing what he knew now, he would do it again. His answer was: “I most certainly would, yes.” It is fair to point this out. However it is also interesting I think that he is saying it again more than three years later and on the eve of appearing at the Iraq inquiry.)
These were his words when asked if he would have “gone on” if he had known then there were no WMDs: “I would still have thought it right to remove him.”
He even suggests in the interview how he would have justified such a war – “the threat to the region.” The argument would have been that with Saddam in power, there was a threat to the wider Middle East and a block on its democratic development.
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