Paddy Ashdown interviewed on yesterday’s Murnaghan (Sky News)

Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon
Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon

Dermot Murnaghan: Let’s talk to a former Lib Dem leader, Paddy Ashdown, good to talk to you.  So let’s take that head on, so Mr Blair, it’s not boots on the ground he said but he is still firmly interventionist, is he right to be?

Paddy Ashdown: I’m firmly interventionist because I believe unless we are prepared to intervene internationally to preserve the wider peace when it’s threatened, the world will be a much more turbulent place but I don’t believe it’s right in these circumstances in the way that Tony suggests.  I mean there are other ways you can do it and we might come on to talking about that.

Look, I’m sorry Dermot, I’m having a bit of a difficulty getting my mind round the idea that a problem that has been caused or made worse by killing many, many Arab Muslims in the Middle East is now going to be made better by killing more with Western weapons.  I just don’t think that’s the solution.

Look, let me go back I think it’s a couple of years actually or thereabouts, we were talking about Syria and I was talking on your programme and I was saying the problem is not Syria, please don’t get distracted, the problem is that we are at the beginning of a widening Sunni/Shia religious sectarian conflict that is going to be spreading across the entire Middle East, it will go to Iraq, it will go to Egypt, it will go to Libya, it will go to Mali and that’s exactly what’s happened.

This is more about the preparations, funded by the way by our so-called friends in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, to capture and unify the Sunni community, the Sunni umma, for a Jihadist cause in preparation for a widening Shia war and unless we understand that and unless we understand also, Dermot, that we have pretty limited means to influence the progress of that, then I think we are going to get every calculation wrong.  I mean let me put it to you pretty straightforward, personally I think ISIS has over-extended themselves, the next thing I think you’re going to see is ISIS being beaten back in some form or another but that does not alter the reality that in all probability what you are seeing now is the wholesale rewriting of the borders established in the Sykes-Picot Agreement and set in the Versailles Conference of 1918 of the whole Middle East in favour of a new complex of borders which reflect sectarian differences between Sunni and Shia and that’s the danger.  If that is the prelude, and I think it is, to a widening regional war – actually we think we are the targets because we always do but I think actually we may get drawn into this in some form or another but I think the targets are now not the great Satan of the West but the great heretic in Teheran.

My final point here before we talk about what should be done is this,  we need also to recognise that the Russians have a concern about this and a very legitimate one because what they are seeing in those Islamic republics of Dagestan, Chechnya threatening the cohesion of the Russian Federation is exactly the same radicalisation of the Sunni community and the real danger of this, unless we are very careful, is that we are drawn in on one side, on the side of the Sunnis, and Russia is drawn in on the other.  Then you have a regional war with the great powers engaged.  Now I don’t say we are there yet but that at all costs is what we must avoid.

Full transcript here

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