Sir George grills the Prime Minister on Iraq
21 Jan 2003
This is the exchange between Sir George and the Prime Minister at the Liaison Committee on Tuesday 21st January.
(This evidence may be corrected at a later stage by the witnesses)

(Sir George) Prime Minister, I think you recognise that a successful strategy for Iraq involves two stages if we get involved: firstly, military action and, secondly, nation-building. Is it not the case that the first, though fraught with risk, is likely to be over quite quickly because of the scale of resources that are deployed and likely to be heavily dominated by the Americans? Is it not the case that actually the more difficult stage is stage two, and that is the stage at which we might get more involved. To what extent are you confident that the whole strategy will not be undermined because stage two does not follow through the success of stage one?

(Mr Blair) We have got to be clear about that, that is absolutely right. You do not engage in military conflict that may produce regime change unless you are prepared to follow through and work in the aftermath of that regime change to ensure the country is stable and the people are properly looked after.

(Sir George) We will not know whether stage one has been successful for some time.

(Mr Blair) By stage one you mean the military side. Obviously we know, as the military conflict unfolds, if we get to that point, that the test of success does not end with the military conflict. I agree entirely with that.

(Sir George) To what extent do you think you will be successful in getting other countries that are cautious about stage one involved in stage two?

(Mr Blair) I think that if stage one is successful, then you will find that the international community wants to come behind that and make sure that the Iraqi people are given the chance to develop free from the repression of Saddam. I expect that there will be considerable international support for that, and it is important that we do it. I was always saying in relation to Afghanistan, I think it is incidentally extremely important that we do not take our eye off Afghanistan and what is happening there. Getting rid of the Taliban was not the end, for me. The end is Afghanistan reconstituted as a country that has got its own internal system working properly and does not threaten the outside world. In exactly the same way in Iraq, if we come to changing the regime, if we come to removing Saddam as the only way of dealing with the issue of weapons of mass destruction, then I think it is extremely important that we make the most detailed preparations and work within the international community as to what happens afterwards.

(Sir George) I have one final question. Each time we do this we have to leave behind a nation-building exercise - Kosovo, Afghanistan, possibly Iraq. Does it not then become more difficult to deal with some of the other "rogue" states, because you are increasingly tied up with managing the ones that you have already processed?

(Mr Blair) Except that you can then withdraw over time. For example, we have reduced our troop deployments in Bosnia significantly. Obviously we do far less in Afghanistan than we were when we were heading up the security force. So I think in terms of our capability, we can do it, but, you know, you choose what you do very carefully, and we try to.

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