In perhaps the sharpest warning about the impending danger from Iran’s nuclear program ever issued by a Western leader, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Friday that the West needed to prepare for a possible war with Iran. Tehran, he said, clearly had no plans to give up its nuclear program or adjust its development plans to suit the West, and that force may be needed to prevent the Islamist radicals who run the country from achieving their goal of building nuclear weapons, which would threaten everyone who does not think and act like them.
“Extremism can’t be managed. It has to be confronted and changed,” Blair told members of the British parliament’s Chilcot Inquiry into Britain’s role in the Iraq war. “Iran is a looming challenge. It is negative and destabilizing. It supports terrorists,” Blair said, adding that Britain needed to stand as strongly against Iran as it had against Iraq.
“I say this to you with all of the passion I possibly can; at some point the West has to get out of 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, that we have to get our head out of the sand. They disagree fundamentally with our way of life and will carry on unless met with determination and, if necessary, force,” Blair said.
Blair, who was Britain’s prime minister during the height of British involvement in the war, also told members of the panel led by Sir John Chilcot, also expressed his regret for the British soldiers who were killed as part of the international force occupying the country after the ouster of Saddam Hussein.
Blair’s comments on Iran came as the six Western powers entered a second day of talks with Iranian officials in Istanbul aimed at convincing Tehran to agree to submit its low grade uranium to a program in which it would be processed into enriched, fuel-grade uranium in another country, thus providing Iran with the nuclear fuel it claims it needs for power production, while ensuring that it did not use the uranium to develop nuclear weapons. The talks fell apart Saturday night without progress, diplomats said.
“This is not the conclusion I’d hoped for,” said EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who chaired the talks between Iran and the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany.”We’d hoped to embark on a discussion of practical ways forward and have made every effort to make that happen. I am disappointed.”
An American diplomat attending the talks said that “serious differences remained” between Iran and the west on the nuclear issue, and British foreign secretary William Hague said that “Iran’s refusal to engage, including its insistence on preconditions that were clearly unrealistic, is extremely disappointing … Until Iran recognizes the need to engage meaningfully, the pressure on it will only increase.”
Iran, for its part, said that “nothing” would prevent it from continuing with its nuclear program.