I imagine former British Prime Minsiter Tony Blair’s book tour must be winding down. He’s used almost every major appearance to tout (as we’ve covered) his selective interpretation of history with regard to the latest Iraq War and his bellicose rhetoric on Iran. If this was a ploy to generate publicity for the book, it’s worked — his more controversial comments have elicited more flashy mainstream headlines than the book’s gossipy assertions about such British personalities as Gordon Brown, the Queen, and even Princess Di.
For foreign policy addicts, it’s worth it to put Blair’s latest blustering in context.In their Race for Iran Blog, Hillary Mann Leverett and Flynt Leverett pick up on Blair’s assertion to PBS’s Charlie Rose that “you can’t rule out military action” against Iran”. In comparing Blair’s rhetoric to the rest of Europe, they wonder about the continent’s value as a bulwark against yet more potential U.S. misadventures in the Middle East:
That Blair would say these things about Iran does not really surprise us—this is the same man who says that he “can’t regret” the Iraq war. But we are struck that, while Blair’s position would put him squarely in the middle of the American foreign policy establishment regarding Iran, it is—in principle, at least—quite “un-European”.
Blair seems to advocate—in terms similar to the arguments of John Bolton, Reuel Marc Gerecht, and other Iran “hawks” in the United States—that the United States engage in “preventive war” against Iran because of a perceived risk that it might begin converting its (internationally safeguarded) nuclear activities into a weapons program and, then, give nuclear weapons to terrorists. (Blair says he believes that, if Iran had a nuclear weapon, it would not use it. Why he doubts Iran would be sufficiently rational to refrain from giving a nuclear weapon to others who would use it is not clear. But that’s another issue.) Blair’s “case” for launching a “preventive war” against Iran is certainly not the “mainstream” European declaratory position. Virtually all of the senior “continental” European officials with whom we’ve spoken agree with us that there is only a diplomatic path for addressing issues connected with the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. From their perspective, for the United States or Israel to attack Iran because it is enriching uranium would be profoundly counter-productive, imprudent—and illegal.
That raises a series of questions which, for us, prompt serious doubt about Europe’s capacity to have a genuinely independent foreign policy. (Interestingly, many of our Iranian interlocutors have already given up on this prospect.) What would Europe do if Israel and/or the United States were to initiate military action against Iranian nuclear facilities? Say that the action was illegal? And then? How quickly would Europe seek to “make peace” with America after an attack on Iran?