Blair has given an exclusive interview to the Guardian, the paper whose readers he used to define as all that was wrong with the chattering classes, and has revealed that he would not "take the risk" of allowing Iran to develop a nuclear weapon.
He has, thankfully, decided not to endorse any candidate in the Labour leadership election, but in his only interview for his forthcoming autobiography he certainly drops hints which David Miliband may very well think proves that Blair favours him.
In the interview he faces up to the charge, which I think is an unfair one, that he donated the proceeds of the book to the troops out of guilt and he addresses the belief that he didn't feel any guilt about the deaths of troops, a charge brought about because he claimed in front of Chilcot to have "no regrets".
"What people should understand is that I adore the Labour party," he says – a sentiment that will surprise many inexperienced Blair-watchers. Later he says: "As I say in my introduction, I feel the most enormous debt of gratitude to the Labour party and huge loyalty to it. I just want it to win. I want to see it win because I think that a modern progressive Labour party is better for the country than a Tory party."
If that is code for an endorsement of David Miliband in the leadership race, then Blair is not admitting to it. "I decided at the outset that I wasn't going to start endorsing people," he says. He is expected to take the same line when he is interviewed by Andrew Marr on BBC2 tonight.
"How could you possibly not feel sadness at the lives that had been lost?" Blair said this week. "How could you possibly not? But … when I use the word responsibility, I mean it in a profound way. I say in the book the term responsibility has its future as well as past tense. And that's what I feel. It's not a coincidence I am devoting a large part of my time now to the Middle East or to religious interfaith."It's somewhat irrelevant whether or not he feels regret. One can assume that as a human being he, of course, feels sad that others died because of decisions which he made. The real question is whether or not he would make those same decisions again; and Blair gives every indication that, not only would he make those decisions again, but that he would go further and take action against Iran.
This is the point about Blair which many miss. It is easy to dismiss Blair as "Bush's poodle", but I think this ignores the fact that, when it came to Saddam and Iraq, Bush was actually pushing against an open door. Blair wanted to take Saddam out.
Asked the classic judge's question — if he would have done anything differently in retrospect — he replies it is "very difficult to answer that". But he wishes he had seen earlier that 9/11 had "far deeper roots" than he thought at the time.
"The reason for that, let me explain it, is that in my view what was shocking about September 11 was that it was 3,000 people killed in one day but it would have been 300,000 if they could have done it. That's the point ... I decided at that point that you cannot take a risk on this. This is why I am afraid, in relation to Iran, that I would not take a risk of them getting nuclear weapons capability. I wouldn't take it.
"Now other people may say, come on, the consequences of taking them on are too great, you've got to be so very careful, you'll simply upset everybody, you'll destabilise it. I understand all of those arguments. But I wouldn't take the risk of Iran with a nuclear weapon."
Blair always believed in humanitarian intervention.
In a scarcely reported speech in his Sedgefield constituency, in the very earliest days of his premiership, Blair argued that we should renegotiate the Treaty Of Westphalia.
As I said at the time:
Blair never understood why many of us could agree with his arguments when it came to Kosovo and Sierra Leone, and yet oppose him when it came to Iraq.
The Treaty of Westphalia was the first time that we recognised the sovereignty of other nations and our inability to interfere in their affairs.
Blair has long argued for intervention in other nation's affairs when they are said to be mistreating their populace, so when he flies to Bush's side in Washington to reiterate these points, he will be arguing a well versed Blair discourse.
However, when he attempts to fit Iraq into his own interventionist logic, he will circumnavigate why this intervention was unpopular as opposed to his similar ventures into Kosovo and Sierra Leone.
The interventionist arguments that both Bush and Blair presented for going into Iraq were all based on events that had taken place a full decade before their proposed war, events in which both respective countries - the US and Britain - had been very slow to condemn.
Kosovo had an ongoing humanitarian crisis, which is why the world supported something being done.
The argument that Saddam had "gassed his own people" had none of the same immediacy, as this was something he had done a decade earlier, and there was no indication that he was about to do so again.Likewise, Blair's claims that the UN "shies away from rather than confronts problems" seems to betray a fundamental misunderstanding of what the UN's function is. The UN will always view war as a last resort, that is one of the basic elements of it's Charter. So Blair will attempt, once again, to refashion his political legacy by seeking to portray the Iraq war as a continuation of more noble ventures.
He will fail. For he is comparing apples to oranges.
This was because the Iraq war did not fit into the principle which he was espousing.
And, from his comments here, we can see that Blair has lost none of his zeal for military intervention. And, astonishingly, he is just as willing to assume that Iran's nuclear intentions are towards a nuclear bomb, as he was to assume that Saddam was building WMD.
But, with Blair's comments that he "wouldn't take the risk" over Iran's intentions, we can see that, deep down, he is a follower of Cheney's 1% doctrine. That's why Blair finds it so hard to apologise for Iraq; he really, really doesn't think he was wrong.
And, as we can see from his comments regarding Iran, Blair really would do it all over again.
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