An experienced Middle East hand directs me to Tony Blair’s comments yesterday:
“I am saying that I think it is wholly unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapons capability and I think we have got to be prepared to confront them, if necessary militarily. I think there is no alternative to that if they continue to develop nuclear weapons. They need to get that message loud and clear.” . . .
“Now other people may say: ‘Come on, the consequences of taking them on are too great, you’ve got to be so very careful, you’ll simply upset everybody, you’ll destabilise it.’ I understand all of those arguments. But I wouldn’t take the risk of Iran with a nuclear weapon.”
In the postscript to his book, Blair writes: “Iran with a nuclear bomb would mean others in the region acquiring the same capability; it would dramatically alter the balance of power in the region, but also within Islam.”
Those “other people” concerned about destabilization, of course, include some in the Obama administration. Blair’s comments are significant and could potentially be persuasive with the Iran doves in the administration, including the president. Blair is, after all, the Quartet’s envoy in the Middle East, and has at times enjoyed the “lavish praise” of Obama.
As military operations in Iraq wind down and the obviously limp-wristed Iran sanctions prove to be exactly as critics predicted — wholly ineffective — Blair’s and others’ voices, both here and abroad, will certainly make the effort to focus the U.S. administration on the Iranian threat. And, with a more Republican House and Senate (majorities quite possible in both), U.S. lawmakers may turn up the heat as well. A new leadership team and crop of committee chairmen will be in a position to press Obama and his advisers, pass resolutions, and conduct debate. That all this is necessary to direct Obama to the most urgent national-security matter we face is regrettable. But if Blair is any indication, and we fervently hope he is, lawmakers, foreign leaders, and domestic hawks will make every effort to ensure that Obama does not go down in history as the president who allowed Iran to get the bomb.