Blair: Syria’s rebels want democracy; help arm them

Mideast envoy tells 'Times' we must take "more interventionist line" in Syria; says Iran biggest destabilizing force in region.

Quartet Mideast envoy Tony Blair 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS/Luke MacGregor)
Quartet Mideast envoy Tony Blair 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS/Luke MacGregor)
There are those amongst the Syrian rebels who want a pluralistic society and democracy coming out of all of this, and they are the "one group of people who are not being armed," Middle East envoy Tony Blair said on Saturday.
Speaking the day after US President Barack Obama decided to directly arm the rebels, the former British prime minister told The Times of London that Britain should, in his view, help the Americans to arm the Syrian rebels.
"You don’t have to send in troops, but the international community should think about installing no-fly zones. You’ve got to create the circumstances in which Assad is not able to change the balance of power within the struggle by the use of outside forces," Blair told the Times.
Sources within the Obama administration point to the president's growing interest in a limited no-fly zone based out of Jordan that would protect part of the country for rebel training and refugee assistance. But Blair suggests that the only solution to the crisis in Syria is an all-out regime change.
"People are no longer going to accept that a minority ruled the country without the say of the majority. It’s exactly the arguments we went through over Iraq," the former prime minister stated.
The White House is intending to use next week's G8 summit to seek international support for further intervention in Syria, and the Middle East peace envoy thinks it’s time for big decisions.
"On Syria, I feel very strongly we are in danger of a failure with catastrophic consequences if we’re not careful,” he says.
“This is no longer a civil war between factions within Syria. We should be taking a more interventionist line. That’s where I come from in politics. People can agree or disagree with it," Blair said in the Times interview.
The former British prime minister told the Times that his greatest concern is Iran - not only because it is trying to acquire nuclear weapons, but that it is "trying to export an ideology and an extremism right around the region."
"They continue to meddle in Iraq. It’s a hugely destabilising force. I would be 100 per cent more optimistic about the speed with which the region could change if that Iranian regime weren’t there," Blair said.
Moderate Iranian cleric Hassan Rohani took a strong lead over conservative rivals in initial vote counting on Saturday during the presidential elections, suggesting he could win the presidential election outright without a run-off.

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