A decade after Iraq, Blair backs regime change in Iran and Syria


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Tony Blair has spoken out in support of regime change in Iran and Syria, warning that the fight against terror is far from over 10 years on from the 11 September attacks in New York.

The former Prime Minister renewed his stark criticism of Iran, saying regime change in that country would make him "significantly more optimistic" about the prospects for the region.

Mr Blair was Prime Minister at the time of the attacks nearly 10 years ago and led Britain during the subsequent invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan with the United States as part of a "war on terror".

Speaking in an interview with The Times, Mr Blair warned of the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran and urged the international community to increase pressure on the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. "Regime change in Tehran would immediately make me significantly more optimistic about the whole of the region," he said.

Apart from the threat of its nuclear programme, Iran had been "one of the main problems" in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Syrian President had shown he was "not capable of reform", Mr Blair said. "His position is untenable. There is no process of change that leaves him intact."

Now a Middle East peace envoy, Mr Blair warned that it would take "a generation" to defeat extremism.

"While the number of extremists is small, we underestimated the numbers who share the narrative of radical Islamism and who believe they are in fundamental conflict with us who do not share it," he wrote in the Daily Mirror.

"The majority, as the Arab Spring shows, want what we want. But the minority are well organised and very determined and they are not confined to the ranks of suicide bombers.

"It will take a generation of effort at many levels including importantly to support open-minded and tolerant people of all religions to change hearts and minds and make the fanatics irrelevant."

In an op-ed for the French newspaper Le Figaro yesterday, also to mark a decade from the 11 September attacks, Barack Obama declared that the al-Qa'ida network is nearing total defeat, having failed to destroy America's "unique" leadership role in the world. "Those who attacked us on 9/11 wanted to drive a wedge between the United States and the world. They failed," he said.

"Working together, we have disrupted al-Qa'ida plots, eliminated Osama bin Laden and much of his leadership and put al-Qa'ida on the path to defeat," Mr Obama said, welcoming the Arab Spring uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa.