Tony Blair: Ground Troops Are Necessary To Defeat ISIS

Tony Blair
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair in Beverly Hills, California, May 3. Blair has said ground troops are necessary to defeat ISIS. Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

Tony Blair has said that Western nations will need to commit ground troops if they want to defeat the Islamic State militant group (ISIS).

"If you want to defeat these people," Blair said, speaking at a Q+A event in London hosted by Prospect magazine and the Centre on Religion and Geopolitics, "you're going to have to go and wage a proper ground war against them."

Blair said he understood that there is "a very low threshold of acceptability" among Western populations for taking casualties in war, but insisted that the forces best placed to act were those of nations like the U.S., U.K. and France.

He said that unless successful action was taken now, ISIS posed a direct threat to the West: "If we don't defeat them they are going to come and attack us here."

He said using ground troops is "not a choice between huge-scale forces… and nothing," but that other nations should follow America's example in "using not just special forces but other capabilities as well in order to make a difference on the ground."

Asked about his own intervention in Iraq, Blair said that he accepted he had "underestimated" the forces that would emerge following the toppling of Saddam Hussein, but did not accept that the war was a direct cause of the rise of ISIS.

He also rejected the argument that it is better for the West to leave unpalatable dictators in power to preserve stability. "What the Arab Spring shows you is that these countries with young populations and with these very radical forces acting within them, they're not going to accept that," he said.

Blair's intervention in Iraq is set to come in for scrutiny with the publication of the final report of the Chilcot Inquiry into the war, scheduled for July 6. Blair said he was unable to answer any direct questions on the inquiry.