Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said during an appearance on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" Tuesday he approves of President Barack Obama's decision to launch airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria. "What we've got to do is understand this is a battle of moderation and modernity versus extremism and reactionary politics," Blair said of the militants also known as ISIS or ISIL.
"I actually think the president is right to assemble the broadest coalition and to go after these people," Blair said. "But I actually think it is a little like the Cold War, in the sense that you've got ISIS, you've got problems in Yemen, in Libya, Boko Haram in Nigeria, where they kidnapped those young girls and where they're taking over whole towns in northern Nigeria."
Blair said the biggest threat facing Europe is returning fighters from Syria. He said the conflicts in Syria and Iraq will last much longer than the current terms of Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron. "I think he’s got a great opportunity to unite the world," Blair said of Obama.
Blair has pushed in recent days for a strong response to the Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq. "But -- and this is the hard truth -- airpower alone will not suffice. They can be hemmed in, harried and to a degree contained by airpower. But they can't be defeated by it," Blair said in an essay published on his Faith Foundation charity website.
The U.S. launched its first round of airstrikes targeting the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa late Monday, killing at least 20 militants. Targets included several militant headquarters, training facilities and weapon depots.
Blair is a special envoy to the Middle East Quartet, which includes the United Nations, the U.S., the European Union and Russia. While serving as prime minister from 1997 to 2007, Blair was a strong ally of President George W. Bush. Blair supported the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on U.S. soil.
Blair's appearance on "Morning Joe" can be viewed below.