* Blair says 2003 Iraq invasion not root of current crisis
* Urges immediate targeted military action in Iraq
* Says West needs to do more to help moderate Syria rebels
* Blair comments likely to enrage his detractors
By Andrew Osborn
LONDON, June 15 Former British prime minister
Tony Blair said on Sunday it was "profoundly wrong" to think
that the 2003 Anglo-U.S. invasion of Iraq helped stoke the
current crisis and urged the West to take targeted military
In comments likely to anger his detractors at home and
abroad who believe his decisions to intervene militarily in Iraq
and Afghanistan made things worse, Blair told British TV that
the Iraq crisis would have happened regardless of his actions.
"You can carry on debating about whether it was right or
wrong what we did in 2003 but whatever had been done, you were
always going to have a problem of deep instability in the region
and in Iraq," Blair told Sky News.
If Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had not been toppled by U.S.
and British troops, his government would have been caught up in
the same "Arab Spring" uprisings that later shook the region and
now be embroiled in a bloody Syrian-style war, Blair said.
Blair spoke out as an offensive by insurgents that threatens
to dismember Iraq seemed to slow after days of lightning
advances as government forces regained some territory in
counter-attacks, easing pressure on the Shi'ite-led government
Blair, who heads a global political consultancy business,
said the West would be pulled into the Iraq crisis whether it
liked it or not, urging it to target Islamist extremists in Iraq
and Syria with the agreement of Arab governments in the region.
"I'm not suggesting we put ground troops in and we do a full
scale invasion as we did in Iraq or Afghanistan, but I am saying
we are going to have to take an active role in trying to shape
events in Syria and Iraq and indeed across the region," he said.
In Iraq's case, that action had to be immediate, he added,
saying the selective use of air power was one option.
As leader of Britain's Labour party, Blair won three
elections and was in office from 1997 to 2007. But the way he
handled the Iraq war and the unfounded claims he and the United
States made about the existence of weapons of mass destruction
there - their casus belli - proved to be his political undoing.
Speaking from Abu Dhabi, Blair said on Sunday that the
West's failure to take military action in Syria was one of the
main reasons the Iraq crisis had bubbled up.
In an article on his web site, he said the Syrian conflict
had given Islamist extremists a chance to rebuild and get
military experience, saying there was a risk the country could
become a more dangerous source of terror-related threats than
Afghanistan in the 1990s.
He blamed the Iraqi government's sectarianism for the crisis
too and said it had failed to use oil money to rebuild the
country. Its army was inadequate, he added, questioning whether
U.S. forces had withdrawn too soon.
The main reason the West had to intervene in Iraq and Syria
was to protect its own security, Blair told BBC TV on Sunday.
"These people, if they are allowed to grow, these extremist
groups, in the end they will pose a threat for us within our own
borders," he said.
(Editing by Giles Elgood)