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Report Blair Despaired at Iraq Planning

London Observer | June 17, 2007
JILL LAWLESS

LONDON Prime Minister Tony Blair committed British troops to Iraq even though he despaired at the failure of the United States to plan adequately for the aftermath of the invasion, a newspaper reported Sunday.

The Observer quoted Jeremy Greenstock, a former British envoy to Baghdad, as saying Blair "was tearing his hair over some of the deficiencies" in planning for the stabilization and reconstruction of the country.

"There were moments of throwing his hands in the air," added Greenstock, who was Britain's representative in Iraq in 2003 and 2004.

The newspaper said the remarks were made in a documentary about Blair's decade in power to be shown next week on Britain's Channel 4 television. The documentary is presented by Andrew Rawnsley, who is also The Observer's chief political correspondent.

The newspaper said David Manning, the current British ambassador in Washington, told the Channel 4 documentary that Blair was "very exercised" about postwar planning as early as March 2002, a year before the invasion.

"All these issues needed to be thrashed out," Manning was quoted as saying. "It wasn't to say that they weren't thinking about them, but I didn't see the evidence at that stage that these things had been thoroughly rehearsed and thoroughly thought through."

Manning visited Washington in March 2002 at Blair's request and on his return sent Blair a memo warning that "there is a real risk that the (Bush) administration underestimates the difficulties" in Iraq.

Blair's office declined to comment on the documentary before it was broadcast.

In planning for the aftermath of the war, "we did all we could and were faced with a challenging situation," a Downing Street spokesman said on condition of anonymity because of government policy.

Blair is due to step down June 27. His decision to join the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq is the dominant, and most divisive, event of his 10 years in office. More than 150 British troops have died in Iraq since the invasion.

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