Inquiries into misconduct by UK soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan have infuriated former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, Blair said he was “very sorry” for the investigations, asserting they should have never been launched in the first place. “I am very sorry that our soldiers and their families have been put through this ordeal,” he said.
One of the inquiries, the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT), is investigating around 1,500 allegations of mistreatment and unlawful killing of Iraqis while a separate inquiry, Operation Northmoor, is seeing into more than 550 allegations of abuse in Afghanistan. “Our armed forces gave extraordinary service in both Iraq and Afghanistan and this type of investigation simply makes their job harder to do,” added the former premier. Blair himself faces criticism for taking the country into the US-led invasion of Iraq over former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s WMDs. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has meanwhile defended the inquiries, saying they should continue.
“I have spoken to a number of soldiers that have served in Afghanistan and Iraq and I recognise the awful conditions that they were asked to serve under, and the difficulties they had with that,” said Corbyn, who was recently reelected as the party leader. “But I do think there has to be a recognition that we have signed up for international law on the behaviour of troops. America is going through the same experience, as do other European countries even though they’re not signed up to the International Criminal Court. So I think there has to be investigations. Saying never to prosecute I think would be a step too far.”
At a meeting with defense chiefs on Thursday, Prime Minister Theresa May said she would resort to “every effort” to put an end to “vexatious” allegations into the soldiers’ misconduct. “The prime minister spoke of her pride in the UK armed forces, and praised the work they do to keep our nation safe. She said that every effort must be made to prevent any abuse of the legal system, and restated her determination to protect the armed forces against any instances of vexatious complaints,” read a Downing Street statement. “The PM reiterated the UK’s determination to keep Britain’s streets safe by taking the fight to Daesh in Iraq and Syria and noted that we have conducted more than 1000 airstrikes in both countries, second only to the US.” The UK is currently taking part in the US-led coalition to allegedly target Daesh Takfiri terrorists in Iraq and Syria.