Blair Calls for Regime Change in Iran and Syria

For a peace envoy, Blair has some nonpeaceful ideas.

From the Times of London: Exclusive: Ten years on, Blair says Iran is the real enemy

Tony Blair backs regime change in Iran and Syria and warns the West of a long and hard struggle to defeat terrorism and the flawed ideology that supports it. The former Prime Minister, in an interview with The Times to mark the tenth anniversary of 9/11, blames Tehran for helping to prolong the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan long after the allies’ initial victories. He suggests that the West must be ready to use force against Iran if it pursues its nuclear ambitions. “Regime change in Tehran would immediately make me significantly more optimistic about the whole of the region,” Mr Blair, who is international peace envoy for the Middle East, said.

The piece is behind a paywall, so only the first paragraph is available for free, but it does contain the key portion quoted above (but there is a lot in the quote).

First, if one’s job description includes the phrase “international peace envoy” it is rather odd to be calling for the use of force against a specific country, not to mention calling regime change in multiple countries.

Second, the amount of force needed to dislodge Iran from its nuclear ambitions continues to strike me as far, far too costly to even contemplate.  Further (and this is Foreign Policy 101):  if western states and their spokespersons are going to constantly threaten Iran in public, this only serves to incentivize them to acquire more military power.  As I have noted before:  it is not lost on the Iranians that having a nuclear weapon radically increases the general respect a state commands on the international stage.  For example:  no one talks about invading North Korea (and, indeed, rarely make calls for regime change, for that matter).

Third, while I have a normative preference for liberalization and democratization in both Syria and Iran (especially Syria of late, given the brutal way that the Assad regime has treated its population of late), the degree to which  these things can be forced is highly questionable.  Call it the Dirty Harry Rule:  a state’s (or groups of states) gotta know its/their limitations.*  I thought that Iraq and Afghanistan would have taught that lesson, but apparently it hasn’t sunk in in all quarters.  Even a case like Libya, which appears to have resulted in the overthrow of a dictator, is too incomplete to inform this discussion (not to mention very different cases than Syria or Iran).

Fourth, given the volatility in the region (the story of the Arab Spring is still being told, and the end of the tale not yet known), policies from outside the region to foment regime change could very easily create far more problems than they might solve.  Again:  isn’t Blair supposed to be a “peace envoy”?

One wonders if the logic displayed in the quote above isn’t a politician still trapped in trying to justify decisions made almost a decade ago, rather than the best policy advice looking forward.


*And yes, I am skewing old.

FILED UNDER: National Security, World Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Idiot says:

    Not every “peace envoy” is a successful as Neville Chamberlin was. At some point, it’s fair to conclude that some nations have no desire to peace and their continued course will only lead to destruction and death.

  2. ponce says:

    Iran’s tiny 2.5% of GDP military spending is dwarfed by its neighbors:

    Let’s be honest here for a sec.

    Iran is hated not because it’s going to attack anyone, but because it’s an ideological challenge to the West;’s (and Israel’s) hegemony over the Middle East.

  3. Lyn says:

    “Tony Blair backs regime change in Iran and Syria and warns the West of a long and hard struggle to defeat terrorism and the flawed ideology that supports it.”

    Mr. Blair should concentrate on removing the dangerous Muslim fanatics from his own country.
    The UK needs mass deportations now. It won’t happen though.

    Furthermore Iran has been – unfairly – a target of the West for decades. Iran has been crippled by sanctions too. It is remarkable that they continue to survive. Their country is not responsible for the quagmire that is Afghanistan. Iran actually has been supporting Afghan refugees – 1 million or more at times – ever since the Russian invasion 3 decades ago.