Tony Blair’s recent comments in a BBC interview advocating a military strike against Iran are getting plenty of attention on right wing blogs—such as Commentary’s Contentions–but his September 5th interview with Christiane Amanpour on ABC’s “This Week” — puts perspective into the unique interpretation of history required to conclude there is “no alternative” other than a military strike if Iran continues to pursue its alleged nuclear weapons program.
Blair’s understanding of history, and his harsh words towards Tehran, are particularly relevant since Blair serves as the Middle East envoy for the ‘Quartet’ (UN, EU, Russia and the U.S.), which is involved in multilateral negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program.
The ABC transcript reads:
AMANPOUR: Right after 9/11, all the countries who you were trying to keep on board, people like China, Russia, the French, even the left-winged chatterati, they would much preferred sanctions and containment to invasion.
BLAIR: Absolutely. But if you analyze the resolutions on sanctions and I was involved in all this, what actually happened was that they got watered down.
So my point to you is very simple. If we hadn’t taken out Saddam, there would have still been consequences. Now what they are, we don’t know. I can say I think he would have been a threat competing with Iran and someone else might say to me, well, actually he would have just been contained. We don’t know. But my view was in the circumstances after 9/11, you had to send such a strong signal out on this issue. And incidentally don’t ignore what actually did then happen. Libya gave up its WMD program. You know, Iran went, actually at the time, after 2003, went back into talks. North Korea rejoined six-party talks. You know, there was a lot that happened. And I personally felt, and I still feel, incidentally, that the single biggest threat we face is the prospect of these terrorist groups acquiring some form of nuclear, chemical, biological capability.
Putting aside Blair’s hypothetical assertions about what Saddam would have done had he not been overthrown, his interpretation of the international fallout after the 2003 invasion of Iraq assumes causal relationships which are far from accepted facts.
For instance, there were signs of improvement in US-Iran relations in as early as 2001 when Iranian President Mohammad Khatami played a crucial role in negotiations to convince Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance to make concessions pivotal to the formation of Afghanistan’s interim government.
Former Special Envoy to Afghanistan, Ambassador James Dobbins, has noted that the Bush administration missed several opportunities for outreach with Iran between 2001 and 2003.
In the most recent interview, Blair also claims the invasion of Iraq drove Kim Jong-Il back to the Six Party Talks. Indeed, Kim did join the Six Party Talks in 2003. But in April 2009, the DPRK pulled out of the talks and announced it would move forward with its nuclear enrichment program and then expelled all weapons inspectors from the country. If the invasion of Iraq ever influenced Kim Jong-Il’s longterm strategic thinking, it seems to have ended that April when the benefits of having a nuclear deterrent and outweighed those of participating in the Six Party Talks.
No doubt Blair’s understanding of history plays a role in his recent assertions—as discussed by Ali last week—that a military strike is necessary if Iran continues to pursue its nuclear weapons program. But it also spotlights how those who still laud the invasion of Iraq as a strategic victory for the West — and now call for military strikes on Iran’s nuclear facilities– selectively interpret events post 2003 to justify their positions.