Tony Blair, Iraq and Iran

Tony Blair was right about Gordon Brown. Today we have confirmation of the bitterness and disagreements at the top of the Blair government. All that spinning and all those stories turn out to have been well founded.

Tony Blair was wrong about the Middle East. He still thinks there are military solutions to Middle Eastern problems which the US and her allies can impose from without. At a time when both the US and UK administrations are learning the limits to the effects of military power in Afghanistan, Tony Blair tells us to prepare for the even bigger task of stopping Iran having nuclear weapons.

He may well be right that the world will be an even more difficult place if Iran holds nuclear weapons. That does not mean the west has the power or the right to bomb or invade Iran to stop her. The Iranian government may well be speaking for many people in the country in seeking such an armoury. Bombing installations will kill civilians nearby and may not remove all the offending stockpiles and work in progress. Invasion would entail taking on a hostile people as well as a hostile government. Bungling any such pre-emptive strike would intensify the feelings of hostility to the west.

Mr Obama is stressing again the short term nature of his surge in Afghanistan. Presumably the UK Coalition governemnt would agree in private that withdrawal from Afghanistan would be one of the most popular spending cuts they can make. The appetite for military adventure in the Middle East is waning in both the UK and the US. Over borrowed high spending governments need to rein back. They should heed their electors. Mr Blair’s views on this topic come from a different age. His belief in the efficacy of using force is an unhelpful guide to the future.

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34 Comments

  1. Mike Stallard
    Posted September 1, 2010 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    Having let in – and having continued to let in – loads of Muslims who are not settling, for the most part, happily into our wonderful non racist society, we must have been mad to declare war on a harmless (yes – no fly zone) Muslim State in Iraq. Our policy in Afghanistan is mad too – you only have to look at the faces of the men to see that.
    The only person I remember who said this at the time was Ken Clarke – in the debate where Tony Blair told a load of porkies.

  2. NickW
    Posted September 1, 2010 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    Our leaders are not now and never have been free from human weaknesses.
    It may well be that Blair's readiness to throw away the lives of others in foreign wars was a reflection of his impotence to deal with an unstable Chancellor.

  3. nonny mouse
    Posted September 1, 2010 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    >>Mr Blair’s views on this topic come from a different age. His belief in the efficacy of using force is an unhelpful guide to the future.

    Invading Iran would be crazy. Bombing would probably be counter productive politically.

    There is another option. Maybe we should go back to an even earlier age and let Israel do the bombing. They are the ones who have to live with Iran as neighbours. They are the ones who have the most to lose from a nuclear Iran. Should we really be getting in their way?

    Just a thought.

  4. Paul Round
    Posted September 1, 2010 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    The problem is that the supine attitude of the West has allowed Iran to be on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons and the means of delivery.The options are severely limited and bombing of the installations or careful sabotage of them is justified by the doctrine of pre emptive strike tp preserve peace.That the West has botched its policy towards the Middle East previously does not mean it should now bury its head in the sand.

  5. Rob
    Posted September 1, 2010 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    Blair, all his cabinet and military sycophants should be (condemned for their war policy-ed) not listened to. The insanity of attacking Iran that is in full compliance with nuclear treaties (unlike Israel and Pakistan) and has not started a war for hundreds of years is so blatant and obvious that anybody should be able to see it, even an American.

  6. Nick
    Posted September 1, 2010 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    The real problem is that he states

    Gordon Brown will be a disaster as a PM.

    He then goes and stands asside in the full knowledge that he's inflicted Gordon on the UK, so he can make his millions.

  7. Stewart Knight
    Posted September 1, 2010 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    Blair cannot say any less, otherwise his folly and attempts at establishing and enhancing his own profile on the world stage and building a large cash wedge and property portfolio using other peoples lives would be discredited.

    And I do believe that was his driving factors.

  8. English Pensioner
    Posted September 1, 2010 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    But he didn't have the guts to fire Gordon Brown from the job of Chancellor, he must be held fully responsible for the present financial situation (although he's doing very nicely himself with with all his houses!)

  9. forthurst
    Posted September 1, 2010 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    The behaviour of Blair and others in the recent past strongly suggests the urgent need to reinstate laws against treason and to make them capital offences. British foreign policy has been hijacked by a foreign power with our willing traitors as accomplices hiding behind the central lie behind 9/11 and the 'War on Terror with bogey men like Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaida gang are waived at us as though we were still in the nursery.

    Iran with or without a nuclear device does not pose a military threat to us as neither Iraq nor the Taliban did previously, provided we kept out of their countries. That does not mean to say that Islam itself which has been propagandised as the litmus test for detecting entities hostile to the West, is, of itself, in anyway compatible or to be be welcomed into the West, but that is an entirely different matter.

  10. waramess
    Posted September 1, 2010 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    Whatever Tony Blair says should be treated with great caution including his offerings on Brown.

    The man is deluded and like Bush thinks he was guided by God. Can you, whatever your prejudices might be, take this man seriously when he has clearly dumped good judgment in favour of religion?

    Interestingly he takes no responsibility for the blowing up of one of the biggest financial bubbles this century

  11. StevenL
    Posted September 1, 2010 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    The West can't stop Iran getting nukes. The US voter will never stomach such a war. Iran can put 10 million troops including reservists on the ground and it is not flat like the road from Kuwait to Baghdad. They would use guerilla tactics against a US invading force and kill loads of them.

    And yes, the US would have to go in on the ground because the enrichment facilities are deep enough to render airstrikes useless.

    It's Blair that has gone mad, and I'm surprised anyone believes a word he says.

  12. Bryan
    Posted September 1, 2010 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    Military option must always remain on the table, especially with crackpot dictatorships like Iran. Sanctions don't work just look at Iraq.

    • StevenL
      Posted September 2, 2010 at 11:57 pm | Permalink

      OK, so the US attacks Iran, Iran retaliates by attacking commercial oil tankers in the Gulf and filling the water with mines. A horrible war breaks out and oil prices surge. The inflation causes US T Bills to crash, Gilts crash and Bunds crash and interest rates surge across the West. Millions of Westerners lose their jobs, they can't pay their mortgages, their homes are reposessed and the banks all crash again too. All central banks can do is print more money, then their currencies crash – hyperinflation sets in.

      What a wonderful idea!

  13. Mark
    Posted September 1, 2010 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    Dealing with Iran's nuclear capabilities will certainly be much more difficult than the Israeli Osirak raid, which put paid to Saddam's ambitions and highlighted the potential of the French and Russian aid. The only reason to get involved would be if Iran were to become a direct threat. Absent a long range missile capability, that presupposes a "Fourth Protocol" bomb smuggling scenario. The indirect threat would be attempts at trying to cut off oil supplies from other nearby countries through making threats. Such matters would be of international concern, producing a coalition of several Asian nuclear powers as well as the US with interests to defend. Obliteration of Israel would come at the price of high collateral damage in neighbouring countries. The direct threat is best countered by having a nuclear deterrent.

    We could with advantage withdraw from Afghanistan, although it is more readily arguable that neighbouring Pakistan represents a greater nuclear threat than Iran. Again the risk to the UK comes mainly from "Fourth Protocol" scenarios. Since the Cuban missile crisis, the greatest risks of nuclear conflict have been between Pakistan and India. Having our troops on the ground nearby doesn't do anything to prevent that.

    The Cold War was ended by internal revolution in Russia. The same will eventually befall Iran.

  14. gac
    Posted September 1, 2010 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    History teaches that you cannot beat the Afghan warlords or Taliban by the weight of force.

    They just nibble away causing enough deaths to maintain their presence – then wait. To them it is a war of attrition which they never lose.

    Just ask the Russians!!

  15. Michael Read
    Posted September 1, 2010 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    Doing nothing about Iran isn't an option.

    If Iran gets nuclear weapons it will threaten Israel and everyone else in the region including us. The sooner we destroy its nuclear capability the better.

    You seem to be suggesting we board planes to Tehran and bring back white bits of paper announcing "Peace in our Time". We should have acted then sometime before we were forced to. We should act now before we're forced to.

    • Stuart Fairney
      Posted September 2, 2010 at 10:28 am | Permalink

      First look what the Iranians have actually said ~ the 'wipe Israel of the map' comment is a mis-translation happily egged-on by some news agencies. check this
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4mScWWtRfGQ&fe

      As for the Iranian threat to Israel if they do get a nuke, what do you imagine Israel might do if they were nuked by Iran? Don't you think the Iranians know this?

      Don't be conned into more killing.

    • Epigenes
      Posted September 2, 2010 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

      Michael, that is Israel's problem. It has nothing to do with the UK.

      Iran has never threatened the UK. Not now or in the past.

      • Paddy
        Posted September 2, 2010 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

        Yes it has, such as kidnapping our naval patrols and arming rebels in Iraq.

        The Iranian government has repeatedly declared its wish for another holocaust and the need to destroy Israel. It is absolutely clear that this rhetoric is dangerous and that this state is a loose cannon.

        With nuclear weapons and revenues from oil, Iran can cause substantial damage to western interests, including terrorism and insurgency, with absolute impunity from attack because of the nuclear option. Furthermore, there is the most dangerous risk of escalation from a regime that relies on hostility to the west to survive internally.

        Quite apart from the doomsday scenario of the Holy Land (and beyond) being transformed into a nuclear wasteland, Iran has a frontier with NATO and the smallest provocation could draw us into action against a nuclear Iran.

        It is overwhelmingly in Britain's strategic national interest to prevent this Iranian regime from obtaining the bomb.

  16. rose
    Posted September 1, 2010 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

    We are told that in the sixties Russia offered to bomb China in a pre-emptive nuclear strike but that America dissuaded her. China is not seen to be a nuclear threat nowadays though she is an economic and environmental one. Perhaps we should wait and see what Iran develops into before starting world war 3.

    As for Mr B, I have never bought the idea that he was the junior partner in all his wars. Had we had a wiser PM, would Messrs Clinton and Bush have been persuaded to embark on all those misadventures? But Mr B still seems to reaching for his toy tanks and jets as the only solution to complex world problems.

  17. Stuart Fairney
    Posted September 1, 2010 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

    The Iranian government is unpleasant in the extreme but not stupid. Following the Israeli strike on Iraqi nukes in 1983 (I think it was?), they have, according to the spectator both diversified their locations for research and production (83 at the last count) and buried them deep underground.

    That said, gas centrifuges are sensitive bits of kit, but you have to wonder whether even bunker busters can cause enough vibration to disable these devices if they are buried deep enough.

    Turning to the more strategic issues, whilst Iranian holding of nukes is not comfortable, it is in truth, not too much of an immediate worry, save for proliferation if they start threatening Arab countires nearby.

  18. Epigenes
    Posted September 1, 2010 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

    "The appetite for military adventure in the Middle East is waning in both the UK and the US."

    Mr Redwood,

    I sincerely hope this is the belief of your colleagues in both Houses of Parliament.

    Mr Blair's worst decision was the war in Iraq.

    No more wars in the Middle East and get our forces out of Afghanistan.

  19. austin
    Posted September 2, 2010 at 12:57 am | Permalink

    How would Mr. Redwood deal with a resurgent Iran filling the vaccuum being left in Iraq and the Persian Gulf region? Does Britain still consider the Persian Gulf a vital interest of the Realm?

    Reply: US/UK actions to date have made rising Iranian power more likely. I think we need to begin by recognising we cannot invade or bomb Iran into the changes you would like. That means trying diplomacy. Not all problems have easy solutions.

    • rose
      Posted September 3, 2010 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

      Yes, there was a reason for the unpalatable balancing act between Iran and Iraq during their cruel war, which Robin Cook and New Labour then ruthlessly misrepresented – to our country's and others' lasting damage.

  20. Robert George
    Posted September 2, 2010 at 1:45 am | Permalink

    On topic comment. Sensible summary John

    Off topic comment Andrew Wilkie an independent has just won the seat of Denison in the Australian election with 21%, yes 21% of the vote. Both Labor and Liberals outpoled him on first preferences. In a hung Parliament this man may have the balance of power. So much for the fairness of AV eh!

  21. lola
    Posted September 2, 2010 at 7:32 am | Permalink

    Yes yes all true. But I'm afraid you've ,issed the point of Blair and his policies and actions. None of it has anything to do with what works for the UK or the world. All of it has all to do with what works for B(lair). It's just one long gout of self promotion promoting B(Lair) Ltd. Y'see Mr R this is where you've gone wrong. Clearly you have misunderstood what the job you do is all about. Is has nothing to do with policies or actions that might actually work for the polity, but all to do with how important and wealthy you can make yourself.

    B(lair) is emblamitic and symptomatic of all that's gone wrong with global politics. He read Oborne's book on the rise of the political elites and used it as a manual, not a caution.

    And he's risen to the top of it all, (abuse left out).

    • THE ESSEX GIRLS
      Posted September 3, 2010 at 3:05 am | Permalink

      Lola – please see our reply to Stewart Knight above
      Best wishes

      Jenny & the Essex Girls

  22. Jer
    Posted September 2, 2010 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    People seem to forget that Iran (as Persia) has been at times the prime civilisation on earth, and the Iranians are proud of that, reasonably enough.

    They are also, as Persians, not Arab.

    If we leave Iran well alone (and we can't influence it anyway) then I believe the Arab states will act as a brake on Iranian influence, bomb or no.

  23. THE ESSEX GIRLS
    Posted September 2, 2010 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

    HAD TROUBLE IN POSTING THIS LAST NIGHT SO TRYING 2 HITS!
    We ladies got together this evening to watch the Marr/Blair interview and got just what we expected – a man now uncomfortable in his skin and still in denial. There were signs of frequent editing and perhaps the uncut version should be sent to Chilcot as he attempts to sift fact from fantasy in the scripted version of Blair’s staged performance.
    2 points that we have regularly raised over the years again seemed apparent:

    CONTINUED BELOW…

  24. THE ESSEX GIRLS
    Posted September 2, 2010 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

    ..CONTD:
    1.Blair raised as another justification for invasion Saddam’s use of rising oil profits to develop WMD. We ask still just how much extra profit was earned by influential Americans after the world price rocketed following the invasion and then again later when the White House ‘bigged up’ the possibility of bombing Iran.
    2.Blair 3 times avoided directly answering the Marr question ’Would you invade again if you’d known then what you now?’ – the precise question we urged Michael Howard to ask at PMQs in 2004 and again in 2005.
    We still believe that had he done so and retorted – ‘Well I wouldn’t’ after Blair had said that he would – Howard would have become PM in May 2005 making today's mountain much less steep!

  25. Mike
    Posted September 2, 2010 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

    Mr Redwoood,

    With your comments suggesting appeasement to Iran, you sound quite wet. Tony Blair might not have been any good on domestic policy, but on foreign policy,in particular with the War on Terror and the situation in the middle east, he was quite sound.

  26. Conrad Jones (Cheam)
    Posted September 3, 2010 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

    Déjà vu is a term that comes to mind when Tony Blair starts talking about Middle East threats. Tony Blair has stated that he would still have gone (well sent others to war) to oust Saddam Hassein – the fact that no WMD were found has not diminished his feelings that Iraq was a clear and present danger. I felt at the time that this was the wrong thing to do. It was tandermount to punching a complete stranger in the face whilst walking down the high street of a local town because it was thought that they were about to pull a knife. If I did this, I would rightly be arrested for Grievous bodily harm. A preemptive attack is against the law. So why haven't senior members of the Labour Party been (challenged more-ed) for this – for the(ir decisions have led to the deaths of ed) tens or is it hundreds of thousands of people. They have – in affect; weakened our country and limited our defense. Why (did) Tony Blair s(upport such violence-ed)? We should have concentrated on Afghanistan first.

  27. Conrad Jones (Cheam)
    Posted September 3, 2010 at 11:36 pm | Permalink

    With reference to Mike's comment above I should like to ask – are you a soldier? Have you or your relatives experienced war at close quarters? If not, would you be prepared to let yourself or your son or daughter fight? Until you can answer "Yes" to those questions then (and only then) can you accuse others of being "Wet". My relatives have experienced war at close quarters – on the frontline of Belgium during the First World War and at Dunkirk, and in Africa – as infantrymen and in Artillery. Some died, others were injured and the ones who survived did not enjoy talking about it. There are far more civiliesd ways of fighting "Terror" than killing people. It's very easy to get "Tough" when someone else's son or daughter goes off to risk their life. If you can say to yourself that you have had enough and are prepared to risk your own life then you may criticise others – sometimes it requires more courage to standalone and say that something is wrong. Iraq never attacked us. They were weak and were unlikely to.

  28. Dan H.
    Posted September 10, 2010 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

    There is actually a fairly effective way of destabilising the current Iranian regime which is easy to apply and would be devastatingly effective. The answer is this: trade with them. Buy oil, negotiate fair contracts and do everything in our power to treat them fairly and generally try our damndest to make the entire population there a lot richer.

    What will likely happen is that the mullahs at the top of that society will try to glom onto as much wealth as possible, in effect becoming Persian oil sheiks. This will do their reputations in Iran no good at all, since they were playing the Pious Man Of God card as hard as they could to keep control; that's how you do it in a religious dictatorship.

    Make Iran rich, and it'll likely grow up and stop looking out through the bars of a cage so much. It may acquire nuclear weapons, but I doubt that it would be stupid enough to use them, especially not once the general population has had a taste of what cheap electronics from China and so on are like.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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