Exclusive: Blair reveals his vision for rooting out extremism and praises Gulf states’ leadership

In a wide-ranging interview, former British PM discusses the fight against radicalism, the state of Syria, and how the UAE is a force for good

LONDON 19th October 2017. Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair in his office in London as he is interviewed by Mina al-Oraibi, Editor in Chief of The National and London Bureau Chief Damien McElroy.  Stephen Lock for the National
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Bold new leaderships in Gulf states have created the chance for an alliance with western nations to confront radicalisation and root out extremism, former British prime minister Tony Blair says.

“There is a great opportunity to build an alliance between open-minded Muslim-majority countries and the West because we’ve got the same problem, the same challenge,” Mr Blair.

“The big change today is that there is leadership coming from the Emirates, from Saudi, from Egypt, from Jordan, Bahrain, to put forward a view that is rational and open-minded about the role of religion in society.”


Read the full exclusive interview with Tony Blair here


Mr Blair called for global recognition that groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood had penetrated educations systems worldwide and that there must be a global drive to eradicate the influence of fundamentalists.

In a wide-sweeping interview, he said the people of Syria could not accept interference by Iran, the powerful strong ally of president Bashar Al Assad, in the future running of their country.

“The events of the last six years mean that people have to feel they have a say in the running of the country,” Mr Blair said. “But if they feel the Syrian regime is just a puppet of the Iranian regime they will never feel that.

“There is no good solution in Syria now so I am in favour of whatever can practically work at this point and the powers that are exercising enormous influence are going to have to find a way out of this. So the relationship between America and Russia is extremely important.”

On his home front Mr Blair, who ran Britain for a decade after 1997, also called for a second nationwide vote as to whether the UK should leave the European Union after full details of the final Brexit deal were decided.

“We knew what we were voting against last June but we can’t possibly know until we do the deal what is the future,” he said. “It’s agreeing to a house swap before you’ve seen the other house.

“What’s important is that we don’t have a vote on the divorce until we see the terms of the new relationship. It could be an election, it could be a referendum … you have to have a final say.”