15 June 2014
Last updated at 02:17
The invasion of Iraq – led by Mr Blair and George W Bush – has come back into focus in recent weeks.
The 2003 invasion of Iraq is not to blame for the violent insurgency now gripping the country, former UK prime minister Tony Blair has said.
Writing on his website, he said the violence was the “predictable and malign effect” of inaction in Syria.
“We have to liberate ourselves from the notion that ‘we’ have caused this,” he wrote. “We haven’t.”
He said the idea that the current crisis was a result of the toppling of Saddam Hussein in 2003 was “bizarre”.
Mr Blair said the takeover of Mosul by Sunni insurgents was planned across the Syrian border.
Shias in Iraq have been urged to take up arms against the Sunni militants
Syria is three years into a civil war in which tens of thousands of people have died and millions more have been displaced.
In August last year, a chemical attack near the capital Damascus killed hundreds of people.
In August, UK MPs rejected the idea of air strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government to deter the use of chemical weapons.
“But every time we put off action,” Mr Blair wrote, “The action we will be forced to take will be ultimately greater.”
Mr Blair said: “I understand all the reasons following Afghanistan and Iraq why public opinion was so hostile to involvement.
He said action in Syria “did not and need not be as in those military engagements”.
“Where the extremists are fighting, they have to be countered hard, with force,” he said.
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For three years we have watched Syria descend into the abyss and as it is going down, it is slowly but surely wrapping its cords around us pulling us down with it”
“This does not mean Western troops as in Iraq.
“There are masses of responses we can make short of that.
“But they need to know that wherever they’re engaged in terror, we will be hitting them.”
The Sunni insurgents, from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), regard Iraq’s Shia majority as “infidels”.
After taking Mosul late on Monday, and then Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit, the Sunni militants have pressed south into the ethnically divided Diyala province.
On Friday, they battled against Shia fighters near Muqdadiya – just 50 miles (80km) from Baghdad’s city limits.
Reinforcements from both the Iraqi army and Shia militias have arrived in the city of Samarra, where fighters loyal to ISIS are trying to enter from the north.
Mr Blair said US President Barack Obama was “right to put all options on the table in respect of Iraq, including military strikes on the extremists”.
He said the “choices are all pretty ugly, it’s true”.
“But for three years we have watched Syria descend into the abyss and, as it is going down, it is slowly but surely wrapping its cords around us pulling us down with it.”
Civil war in Syria was “having its predictable and malign effect” and there was “no doubt that a major proximate cause of the takeover of Mosul by ISIS” was the situation in the country, Mr Blair said.
“To argue otherwise is wilful.
“The operation in Mosul was planned and organised from Raqqa across the Syria border.
“The fighters were trained and battle-hardened in the Syrian war.”
Thousands of Shias are reported to have volunteered to help halt the advance of ISIS
The capital Baghdad is a tense place following the reverses for Iraqi government forces
The 2003 invasion of Iraq by British and US forces, on the pretext that it had “weapons of mass destruction”, has come back into focus as a result of the insurgency in the country.
It has been the subject of several inquiries, including the Chilcot inquiry – which began in 2009 – into the UK’s participation in military action against Saddam Hussein and its aftermath.
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It is a bizarre reading of the cauldron that is the Middle East today, to claim that but for the removal of Saddam”
Last month, the inquiry said details of the “gist” of talks between Tony Blair and former US president George Bush before the Iraq war are to be published.
Mr Blair has said he wants the Chilcot report to be published and he “resented” claims he was to blame for its slow progress.
He said he was not blocking any documents, and publication of the findings of the inquiry would allow him to “restate” the case for the invasion.
Writing on his website on Sunday, he said that, had Saddam Hussein been allowed to continue his reign in Iraq, the example of Syria suggested he would have gone on to develop weapons of mass destruction.
There would likely have been an uprising in Iraq as part of the Arab Spring risking “full blown sectarian war across the region,” he said.
“So it is a bizarre reading of the cauldron that is the Middle East today to claim that, but for the removal of Saddam, we would not have a crisis.”
And he added: “We can argue as to whether our policies at points have helped or not; and whether action or inaction is the best policy and there is a lot to be said on both sides.
“But the fundamental cause of the crisis lies within the region not outside it.”