Tony Blair urges British intervention against Islamic extremists around the world

The former PM believes Western 'engagement' needs to go beyond the political

Whitehall Editor

Tony Blair will call on Britain today to back “revolution” against anti-Western interests in the Middle East and beyond to combat the growing threat of radical Islam.

In a significant and controversial intervention, the former Prime Minister will suggest that, as a result of failures in Iraq and Afghanistan, governments in Europe and America have become “curiously reluctant to acknowledge” Islamic extremism.

This unwillingness to confront Islamism risks the 21st century being characterised by “conflict between people of different cultures”, he will warn.

Mr Blair will also call for Europe and America to put aside their differences with Russia and China and “co-operate” to fight what he describes as the “radicalised and politicised view of Islam” that is threatening their collective interests. Mr Blair is due to make his remarks in a speech in London. But despite carrying significance because of his role as Middle East peace envoy they are unlikely to be well received in Downing Street or Washington.

Just last week the Foreign Secretary William Hague said that Britain should “learn the lessons from history” and “cultivate influence” rather than always relying on hard power “that jars”.

But Mr Blair, whose political legacy has been tainted by his role in the US-led invasion of Iraq, is understood to be increasingly concerned by the failure of Britain and other Western countries effectively to tackle what he believes to be the growing threat of radical Islam – that combines politics with religion and opposes pluralistic societies.

While he does not specifically mention military intervention he makes clear that he believes Western “engagement” needs to go beyond the political. 

“When we look at the Middle East and beyond it to Pakistan or Iran and elsewhere, it isn’t just a vast unfathomable mess with no end in sight and no one worthy of our support,” he will say.

“It is in fact a struggle in which our own strategic interests are intimately involved; where there are indeed people we should support if only that majority were mobilised, organised and helped.

“Engagement and commitment are words easy to use. But they only count when they come at a cost. There is no engagement that doesn’t involve putting yourself out there. There is no commitment that doesn’t mean taking a risk.”

He goes on to add that the West should also be prepared to back “revolution” in countries, such as Iran, which are run by radical Islamic regimes. “Where there has been revolution, we should be on the side of those who support those principles and opposed to those who would thwart them,” he will say.

“Where there has not been revolution, we should support the steady evolution towards them [those principles].”

In a swipe at those who opposed greater military intervention in Syria Mr Blair will say the West has to “take sides” to protect its own interests. “We have to stop treating each country on the basis of whatever seems to make for the easiest life for us at any one time,” he will say.

“We have to have an approach to the region that is coherent. And above all, we have to commit. We have to engage.”

Mr Blair also implicitly criticises regimes such as those in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan – which are nominally pro-Western but often tolerate the preaching and teachings of radical Islam.

“We spend billions of dollars on security arrangements and on defence to protect ourselves against the consequences of an ideology that is being advocated in the formal and informal school systems of the very countries with whom we have security and defence relationships,” he will say.

Mr Blair will warn that unless these problems are tackled worse will come.

“The threat of this radical Islam is not abating,” he will say. “This struggle between what we may call the open-minded and the closed-minded is at the heart of whether the 21st century turns in the direction of peaceful co-existence or conflict between people of different cultures.”

A Downing Street spokesman declined to comment on Mr Blair’s speech.

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