[Marxism] Blair: Intervene in Iraq against ISIS, accomodate with Assad

Michael Karadjis mkaradjis at gmail.com
Sun Jun 15 07:57:30 MDT 2014

Tony Blair: west must intervene in Iraq

Ex-PM says allies should consider military options short of sending 
troops after denying 2003 invasion led to Isis crisis

Tony Blair: 'It is in our interests for this jihadist extremist group to 
be stopped in its tracks.' Photograph: ZUMA/REX
Patrick Wintour, Tracy McVeigh and Mark Townsend
Sunday 15 June 2014 20.20 EST
Tony Blair has urged western governments to recognise that they need to 
take an active role in the Middle East, saying the west should consider 
military options short of sending ground troops.
The former prime minister said there was a huge range of options 
available, including air strikes and drones as used in Libya.
Blair was speaking on UK morning TV shows after writing a lengthy essay 
setting out how to respond to the Iraq crisis, including his belief that 
the invasion of Iraq in 2003 was not the cause of the country's 
He said: "It is in our interests for this jihadist extremist group to be 
stopped in its tracks. I understand entirely why people say 'it is 
nothing to do with us and I don't want to hear about it'."
But he said the jihadis "are not simply fighting Iraqis and they are 
also willing to fight us and they will if we don't stop them".
"It is vitally important that we realise what is at stake here and act. 
We are going to have to engage with it or the consequences will come 
back on us as we see in Syria today.
"The best policy for us to realise that whatever form of intervention we 
choose is going to be difficult but it's better than the alternative. 
You do not need to engage as we did in Afghanistan or Iraq, but we do 
have interests in this."
Pointing out that as many people had been killed in Syria as in the 
whole of Iraq since 2003, Blair said he would have supported military 
intervention in Syria some time ago, and suggested that there may have 
to be accommodation with President Assad.
His remarks drew criticism from Labour's former international 
development secretary Clare Short, who accused Blair of behaving like an 
American neocon, adding he had been consistently "wrong, wrong, wrong 
about Iraq".
She said western interventions created more tension, anger and 
bitterness in the Middle East, adding the invasion of Iraq "was done in 
such a deceitful way and with a lack of preparation for what was going 
to happen afterwards".
Short said the extremist views coming out of the Middle East came from 
the Sunni community which was being financed by Saudi Arabia, a friend 
of the west and Tony Blair.
She said: "More bombing will not solve it, it will just exacerbate it".
Alistair Burt, the former Conservative Middle East minister responsible 
for working with Syrian democratic forces, said non-intervention in 
Syria had been a disaster, just as intervention in Iraq had been a 
"There is a great danger to get back to one root cause and blaming what 
happened in the past," he said. "We need to find the states in the area 
that are going to tackle this problem because these states will 
ultimately threaten them and others."
In a passionate essay published on his website, Blair said it was a 
"bizarre" reading of the situation to argue that the US-British invasion 
of Iraq had allowed the growth of Sunni jihadist groups such as the 
Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isis), whose fighters have swept 
through towns and cities north and west of Baghdad over the past week.
"We have to liberate ourselves from the notion that 'we' have caused 
this. We haven't. We can argue as to whether our policies at points have 
helped or not: and whether action or inaction is the best policy. But 
the fundamental cause of the crisis lies within the region not outside 
"We have to put aside the differences of the past and act now to save 
the future," says Blair, adding that force may be necessary. "Where the 
extremists are fighting, they have to be countered hard, with force."
His intervention came as the Pentagon said that the US defence 
secretary, Chuck Hagel, had dispatched the aircraft carrier USS George 
HW Bush and two guided missile ships into the Gulf as a precautionary 
Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said the Bush 
would be accompanied by the guided missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea 
and the guided missile destroyer USS Truxton. The ships were expected to 
arrive in the Gulf on Saturday night. Kirby described the deployment as 
increasing Obama's martial flexibility "should military options be 
required to protect American lives, citizens and interests in Iraq", 
rather than signalling an imminent strike.
In London, government officials confirmed that British military 
personnel could be deployed in Iraq to help tackle the growing threat to 
the stability of the region from Isis.
Although the Foreign Office ruled out full-scale military intervention, 
sources confirmed they had had discussions about sending military and 
police as part of a "counter-terrorism" package.
In a defence of his actions in Iraq, Blair attacked as "extraordinary" 
any notion the country would be stable if Saddam Hussein had stayed in 
"The civil war in Syria with its attendant disintegration is having its 
predictable and malign effect. Iraq is now in mortal danger. The whole 
of the Middle East is under threat."
He said it was inevitable that events across Iraq had raised the 
arguments over the 2003 war. While admitting that no weapons of mass 
destruction had been found in Iraq, he said: "What we now know from 
Syria is that Assad, without any detection from the west, was 
manufacturing chemical weapons. We only discovered this when he used 
them. We also know, from the final weapons inspectors' reports, that 
though it is true that Saddam got rid of the physical weapons, he 
retained the expertise and capability to manufacture them.
"Is it likely, knowing what we now know about Assad, that Saddam, who 
had used chemical weapons both against the Iranians in the 1980s war – 
that resulted in over a million casualties – and against his own people, 
would have refrained from returning to his old ways? Surely it is at 
least as likely that he would have gone back to them?"
Blair said a likely scenario was that during the Arab spring Iraq would 
have been engulfed in civil war which would have blown sectarian 
conflict across the region. "So it is a bizarre reading of the cauldron 
that is the Middle East today, to claim that but for the removal of 
Saddam, we would not have a crisis."
He added that until three years ago al-Qaida had been a "spent force" in 
Iraq and that the country had had a chance to rebuild itself. "It did 
not pose a threat to its neighbours. Indeed, since the removal of 
Saddam, and despite the bloodshed, Iraq had contained its own 
instability mostly within its own borders.
"Though the challenge of terrorism was and is very real, the 
sectarianism of the Maliki government snuffed out what was a genuine 
opportunity to build a cohesive Iraq. This, combined with the failure to 
use the oil money to rebuild the country, and the inadequacy of the 
Iraqi forces, have led to the alienation of the Sunni community and the 
inability of the Iraqi army to repulse the attack on Mosul and the 
earlier loss of Falluja. And there will be debate about whether the 
withdrawal of US forces happened too soon."
He said that the rise of Isis was partly a consequence of the Syrian 
war. "To argue otherwise is wilful. The operation in Mosul was planned 
and organised from Raqqa, across the Syria border. The fighters were 
trained and battle-hardened in the Syrian war.
"At its simplest, the jihadist groups are never going to leave us alone. 
9/11 happened for a reason. That reason and the ideology behind it have 
not disappeared."
He added: "This is, in part, our struggle, whether we like it or not." 

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