Iraq invasion caused rise of ISIS, admits former UK foreign secretary

Britain's former foreign minister Jack Straw © Stefan Wermuth
Former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has admitted the 2003 invasion of Iraq played a hand in destabilizing the country and laid the groundwork for sectarian violence and the rise of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).

“I have a very heavy sense of responsibility because I was one of the senior ministers who made or recommended that decision [to invade Iraq] to the House of Commons,” he said in an interview with Sky News.

Straw, who had also served as home secretary in the late 1990s, stressed he had made the recommendation to go to war in good faith, believing there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

“Had we known then that there was no known WMD there, there would have been no justification for it,” he said.

In particular, Straw condemned US policy as sowing the seeds of instability, calling it a “terrible example of dysfunctionality inside the American system.”

“There were some incompetent decisions made subsequently,” he said.

“The most incompetent, about which we were not consulted… was the way in which the decision to ‘de-Baathify’ the Iraqi Army was taken,” he said, referring to the decision to disband the entire Iraqi Army under the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA). The move was part of the CPA’s sweeping de-Baathification initiative, meant to purge the country of Baath party influence.

“You had over a million people who had weapons and training but had no salary and it was completely crazy,” Straw said.

The Chilcot report on the legality of Iraq War, released in July, slammed the former cabinet minister for failing to press the US on planning for the aftermath of the invasion. The report also found that not all diplomatic options had been exhausted before Britain joined the US-led military action.

At the time, responding to the report, Straw said: “Difficult decisions were made in good faith, based on the evidence available at the time – and only after strenuous efforts had been made by me and many others, across the international community, to pursue a diplomatic resolution and avoid military conflict.”