“There is no way of defeating these people without defeating them on the ground. Airstrikes are not going to defeat ISIS,” he said in a speech in central London on Tuesday.
The former Labour PM said an air campaign alone would not destroy the extremist group, calling for more Western troops on the battlefield.
“Do not be under any doubt at all. If we want to defeat these people we are going to have to wage a proper ground war against them.”
In one of his most candid speeches about his time in office, the former prime minister admitted that he had “underestimated profoundly” the forces that had been at work in the region and which would be released by the toppling of Saddam Hussein.
Blair’s decision to take Britain into the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 remains deeply divisive, and Iraq is mired in violence. Blair is likely to be criticized in a long-delayed report on the war and its aftermath that will be published in July.
Blair, who left office in 2007, acknowledged the invading nations had underestimated the “forces of destabilization” that would emerge in Iraq after the toppling of Saddam Hussein, “whether al-Qaeda on the Sunni side or Iran and its militia on the other side.”
Blair admitted his understanding of the Middle East is “a lot deeper today” than when he was in power and said the experience had led him to call for a more evolutionary solution to regime change in the wake of the Arab spring.
He has made similar admissions of culpability before, “but these remarks, weeks before the July publication of the Chilcot report, are likely to be seen as his chief line of defence”, says The Guardian.