Tony Blair Reports to Panel on Influence of Iran

(January 21, 2011)

During testimony in his second appearance before a British investigative panel on the Iraq War, former British Prime Minister and Middle East Quartet Representative Tony Blair offered his observations of Iran's impact and influence in the Middle East region. Below is the relevant excerpt of his testimony in response to questions posed by panel member and former British diplomat Sir Roderic Lyne.

THE RT. HON. TONY BLAIR: It is a rather different regime today. People can take two views about Iran today, but I will give you my view very, very strongly indeed, because this is a looming and coming challenge. I am out in that region the whole time. I see the impact and influence of Iran everywhere. It is negative, destabilising. It is supportive of terrorist groups. It is doing everything it can to impede progress in the Middle East peace process and to facilitate a situation in which that region cannot embark on the process of modernisation it urgently needs.

This is not because we have done something. You know, at some point -- and I say this to you with all the passion I possibly can -- the West has to get out of this what I think is a wretched policy or posture of apology for believing that we are causing what the Iranians are doing or what these extremists are doing. We are not. The fact is they are doing it because they disagree fundamentally with our way of life and they will carry on doing it unless they are met with the requisite determination and if necessary force.

The fact that -- look, President Obama, not President Bush -- this is an important point -- President Obama goes in March 2009 to Cairo in the heart of Islam. He makes a speech where he says effectively "Put aside the Bush era. I am now offering the hand of friendship. You, Iran can come into partnership. You are an ancient proud civilisation. We will welcome you in."

What's the response he gets? They carry on with the terrorism. They carry on with the destabilisation. They carry on with the nuclear weapons programme. At some point we have to get our heads out of the sand and understand they are going to carry on with this. Iraq is one part of a far bigger picture and right across that region people are facing that struggle.

Source: The Iraq Inquiry, Jerusalem Post