POLITICS

Blair Would Still Have Voted For Strikes Against Assad Despite Subsequent Diplomatic 'Success'

24/09/2013 14:32 BST | Updated 24/09/2013 16:37 BST

Tony Blair said he would have supported US military strikes against Syria, adding that it remains vital that London and Washington "stick together" to overcome the difficulties of the Middle East.

Speaking on MSNBC on Tuesday morning, the former prime minister refused to say that Ed Miliband made a mistake in voting against British military intervention, but said he would have voted with David Cameron and the coalition, despite the subsequent advancement of diplomatic efforts and the Russian-brokered deal to remove Assad's chemical arsenal.

On the British vote, Blair said: "I was where you’d expect me to be; I think our alliance with the US is vital and frankly I thought it was important that we support President Obama."

Moves towards US and UK strikes against Syria were derailed after Parliament voted against the use of military force, a vote effectively blocked by Labour leader Ed Miliband. Subsequent to the parliamentary vote, President Obama looked to Congress to gain support for the use of strikes, manoeuvrings unlikely to have happened had the British vote been reversed.

When asked if he thought Obama should have launched the strikes, Blair demurred: "I think what the President has done is perfectly right."

When pushed on how the outcome may have been different had the UK parliament voted in favour of strikes, Blair said: "In terms of the UK parliament, I would have supported sticking with the United States; what difference that made to the debate in the US, I don’t know. What is important is to get the result now. There has been a lot of talk about the elegance of the [diplomatic] process. That doesn’t matter to me. What matters on Syria, Iran and the Middle East peace process is to get the result."

"I don’t mind how we got here as long as we manage to disarm Syria of its chemical weapons, which would be a huge plus, but then you’re still left with the essential conflict. The risk is that Syria becomes partitioned and you end up with a separate state in the eastern part, run effectively by Assad and his allies… then you’re left with a large enclave which is the property, unfortunately, of those who are more extreme. You then create for the future training grounds for extremism and terrorism and all the things we are seeing in the world right now."

"What I think we need to do is see this as one whole picture," Blair added. "There are people out in the Middle East right now who are fighting against these forces of extremism and sectarianism. We’ve got to be with them, we’ve got to help them and we’ve got to promote stability across the region, which means the UK and the US sticking together."