President Barack Obama was "absolutely right" to build a coalition to take on the Islamic State (ISIS), former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Sunday, as there is "absolutely no choice" but to go after the insurgents.
Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have brought in about 50 countries for the coalition to go against ISIS, Blair told CNN "State of the Union" host Candy Crowley. The effort won't just control and then destroy ISIS, he said, but will "send a very strong signal to the other terrorist groups operating in the region and beyond the region that we intend to take action and intend to see it through."
But while both Great Britain and the United States have ruled out putting combat troops on the ground, Blair said he does not think that will be enough.
"You certainly need to fight groups like ISIS on the ground," said Blair. While it's possible that the local troops, which have the most immediate interest in defeating ISIS can carry on a ground offensive, he said, "leadership both in the U.S. and elsewhere will make sure that whatever is necessary to defeat ISIS is done."
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The public both in Great Britain and in the United States, though, "has a fatigue with that kind of campaign," admitted Blair, but it's obvious that ISIS isn't going away.
"The policy undergoes a process of evolution, where people realize in different situations you're having different strategies," said Blair. "There may be situations in which we are prepared to use combat force, there may be other situations in which we can support others to do that."
Meanwhile, Blair said the displays and execution of hostages at the hands of ISIS, with two Americans and one British citizen being beheaded, is "horrific, it's evil, and it's totally contrary to the principles of any form of religious faith." Further, he said he is dismayed at the amount of British citizens who are leaving to join the ISIS jihad.
"This is not unfortunately a problem just for Britain," said Blair. "Most European countries also have foreign fighters there...the broad mass, the Muslim community in the UK will be absolutely horrified and appalled by this, and condemn it completely."
But he denied that Muslims are leaving England to fight in a jihad because they're being mistreated.
"They're given the benefit of a free education, free health care, they're given all the benefits of the freedom that comes from living in a country like Britain," said Blair.
But such people are being subjected to a message that's being passed around the world, and that is being "prosthelytized" in mosques not only in the Middle East and in Africa, but also in Britain.
"One of the things that we've got to look at as a country is how do you root this kind of teaching out, and make it absolutely clear that it is completely unacceptable to teach these forms of extremism, whether in a formal school setting or an informal school setting," Blair said.
Just before British contractor David Haines was beheaded, he gave an anti-west statement under duress that mentioned Blair's name, and the former leader said that the statement just made him more determined to take on ISIS and defeat the movement.
"The hideous nature of parading someone you're about to execute and they have to make these statements, condemning the west and saying it's all the fault of the west...we've just got to realize that is simply an expression of how completely divorced from any type of proper human compassion these people are, and why it is necessary to take them on and to beat them," said Blair.
But he does not know if Iran should be part of that battle.
"I do know that there will be no question of trading off, you know, support against ISIS for a lucent attitude on Iran with nuclear weapons," said Blair. "Iran with a nuclear bomb would be a very bad idea for the region."
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