Tony Blair: 'All options on Syria should remain open'

Thumb_mark-austin
Tony Blair on Syria
Tony Blair said "all options should remain open" in regard to Syria Photo: ITV News

They became known as Blair's Wars. The successful intervention in Kosovo led to what he rather grandly called a "Doctrine of the International Community".

Put simply it was about intervening to stop mass atrocities and if necessary bring down despotic, dictatorial regimes.

After Kosovo, Blair's new moral foreign policy was put to the test in Sierra Leone in 2000.

Again it was a military intervention that worked, saving the war-torn country from being overun by a bunch of hideously brutal, drug crazed gang of well armed rebels.

The triumphs in Kosovo and Sierra Leone may perhaps have emboldened Mr Blair to get involved in Iraq and Afghanistan when George W Bush came calling.

They of course have proved more controversial and more costly conflicts.

So although Mr Blair is no longer in power, the question is whether as an enthusiastic interventionist, he would now support military action in Syria.

Tony Blair with President Bashar al-Assad
Tony Blair with President Bashar al-Assad in Downing Street, 2002. Credit: REUTERS/Michael Crabtree

In an interview I put that question to him. He said that Assad cannot be allowed to continue killing people but fell short of calling for military intervention.

Though he did say "all options should remain open".

Full transcript of the interview

Mark Austin: If you were Prime Minister now, would you be looking to get involved in Syria? To intervene militarily in Syria?

Tony Blair: We have got to treat each case on its merits and with its own circumstances. So, I think Syria is again a different case but having said that we should always understand that if we are not active in this situation and we just allow it to develop in this case as Assad wants it to develop in Syria, we know what will happen.

Already thousands of people have died and many thousands more will die. So these are decisions, when you intervene, it’s always important to recognise if you intervene there will be consequences some of which are unpredictable and adverse and if you don’t the consequences actually are more predictable and probably very adverse also.

Mark Austin: You sound as if you think we should be looking to do more?

Tony Blair: I think the government is doing all it can do at this point in time but I think we should keep all the options open. In particular, what is very important is that we carry on sending a very strong message to Assad and the Syrian regime that this is not something where they can just roll over the people and then we are going to say ok lets just forget about it.

No, we will be there and be active in support of the Syrian people who want freedom and want the chance elect their government.

Mark Austin: Would you be finding it hard as a Prime Minister now not to intervene in Syria?

Tony Blair: All these situations are different and they are all tough so having been in this position, trying to take these decisions, I’m not going to second guess the guy who is taking them now.