Tony Blair: West must fight not only ISIS, but its ideology

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Story highlights

  • Hearing his name in execution video strengthened Tony Blair's resolve to defeat ISIS, he says
  • Ex-prime minister says Obama "absolutely right" to build coalition, fight terror group
  • Blair: Aerial campaigns won't be enough; it's unclear if fight will require more troops on ground
  • West must root out "perversion" of faith taught in Middle East, Africa and Europe, he says
When Tony Blair heard British aid worker David Haines mention the former prime minister prior to his beheading, it strengthened his resolve to fight ISIS, he said Sunday.
"It makes me even more determined to take these people on and beat them," Blair said in an interview on CNN's "State of the Union."
Before his execution this month, Haines directed a message at British Prime Minister David Cameron, saying, "You entered voluntarily into a coalition with the United States against the Islamic State, just as your predecessor, Tony Blair, did, following a trend amongst our British Prime Ministers who can't find the courage to say no to the Americans."
It's not clear whether Haines' comments were voluntary or were coerced by his captors.
In his Sunday interview, Blair said he felt President Barack Obama is "absolutely right to take on ISIS and build the broadest possible coalition."
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He said, however, that aerial campaigns won't be enough and ISIS will need to be fought "on the ground," but it's unclear whether the Iraqi and Kurdish fighters already battling ISIS will be sufficient or if they'll need to be supplemented.
He did not specify who might need to provide troops, saying the plan to battle the terrorist group will "evolve over time."
Asked why some British citizens had opted to join ISIS, Blair said it wasn't just a British problem but a European one. He also emphasized that the ideology espoused by those who fight alongside ISIS is abhorrent to most Muslims.
"The broad mass of the Muslim community in the UK will be absolutely horrified and appalled by this and condemn it completely," he said. "The way these hostages are abused and subject to the grotesque form of public parade and then execution, it's just horrific. It's evil and it's totally contrary to the principles of any form of religious faith."
Britons who adhere to this ideology have been subjected to a perversion of Islam that must be stamped out not only in Britain, but in the Middle East and Africa, Blair said.
It was a familiar tack for the former prime minister, who said in an April speech that it was absurd that the United Kingdom spends billions on defense to protect itself from "the consequences of an ideology" that is being taught formally and informally in countries "with whom we have intimate security and defense relationships."
At that time, Blair suggested raising the level of international dialogue to force countries to effect changes within their own societies.
It's not solely about the horrendous death toll from "religiously inspired conflict," he said, but "quite apart from the actual loss of life, there is the loss of life opportunities for parts of the population mired in backward thinking and reactionary attitudes, especially towards girls."
In Sunday's interview, Blair said Britons were not joining ISIS because they'd been mistreated in the UK but because they'd been exposed to this radical ideology.
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"It's an ideology based in a complete perversion of the proper faith of Islam, but it is powerful. It is proselytized and preached by people in mosques and madrasas not just in countries like Pakistan and parts of the Middle East and parts of Africa, but back in parts of Britain," he said.
"How do you root this kind of teaching out and make it absolutely clear that it is completely unacceptable to teach these forms of extremism?" he asked.
Blair did not expand his remarks on Haines or offer thoughts on aid worker Alan Henning, who appeared in the video of Haines' execution, but he said ISIS' treatment of its hostages shows why it's so important to win the fight against the group.
The recent broadcast of executions demonstrates "how completely divorced from any type of proper human compassion these people are, and why it's also necessary to take them on and beat them."
Terrorist attacks span East and West, he said, citing incidents in Uganda, Kenya, Somalia, Thailand, Australia, Nigeria and Yemen, and thus require a "global response" rather than a response only from the West or the West and a few Arab states.
Even countries like Russia, China and India can find common ground with the United States on dealing with the threat, Blair said, adding that cooperating with Russia to battle extremism should not "impinge on how we view Russian attitude toward Ukraine."