Now Iran Is In His Sights. Why Does Anyone Still Take Tony Blair Seriously?
Mark Seddon is the former United Nations Correspondent and New York Bureau Chief for Al-Jazeera English TV. He reported from eighteen countries during that time, including North Korea, China, Haiti, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. He has interviewed, amongst others, Ban Ki-Moon, Lech Walesa, Tony Blair, Hans Blix, Michael Foot, Mia Farrow, and George Clooney. In a journalistic career spanning over twenty years, he has been Editor of Tribune and an elected member of the UK Labour Party's National Executive Committee. He has written for most British newspapers and many magazines, including The Guardian, The Independent, The Daily Mail, The Times, The Spectator, New Statesman, Private Eye, British Journalism Review and Country Life Magazine. For a number of years he was a Diarist at the London Evening Standard, and has also reported for, amongst others, the BBC and Sky TV. He lives in Buckingham, England.
It simply beggars belief that there are some in the British media who still take the former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, even vaguely seriously. On Friday, we were treated to two ‘exclusives’ featuring Blair; on the front pages of The Times and the the Daily Mirror. All this in the same week that we learned that Blair had agreed to become a ‘godfather’ to a child of the Murdoch Empire’s own ‘Godfather’, Rupert Murdoch, and that he had helped the murderous Saif al Islam with his exam revision. Quite how both newspaper managed to keep proverbial straight faces while printing homilies from the man who took Britain into an illegal and bloody war, is anyone’s guess. Nonetheless they managed to do so, because this is Britain, a parochial and increasingly backward country.
Blair used the occasion of the 9/11 attacks on civilians in America by civilian terrorists , not to apologise for getting it so horribly wrong over those non-existent Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Nor did he apologise to the countless Iraqis who have lost family, who suffered the indignities of a botched occupation or who even now suffer crippling injuries. He didn’t apologise to the families of British servicemen or women who lost loved ones either.
Instead he offered up Iran as the ‘next great threat’, blissfully unaware that he was offering up the prospect of more death and destruction on the weekend that many Americans were commemorating their dead. But then self awareness has never been one of Tony Blair’s strong points. Not content with outdoing the most hawkish of the remaining hawks, Blair’s predilection for endless war, was rounded off in a separate interview that rejected the view that the failed war in Afghanistan and the illegal one in Iraq, had helped encourage Islamist extremism. “I hear this wherever I go in the Middle East”, says that man who quite unbelievably was made the Quartet’s Middle East representative.
Let us be quite clear, and for the benefit of The Times and the Daily Mirror, and all of those toadying hacks who spent years taking crumbs from Blair’s table; the former British Prime Minister not only knows very little about foreign affairs, he knows even less about history. His actions in Government would suggest also that he should neither be trusted nor taken remotely seriously.
Iran does not constitute any threat to the United Kingdom, whatever Blair may think or whatever that country’s blustering leader Ahmadinijad may imagine. Its influence in the region has of course grown as many of us said it would, with the defeat of Saddam Hussein’s Sunni dominated rule in Iraq. And Iran does seem bent on developing a nuclear programme that could encompass the development of nuclear weapons, much as Israel has done. However, Iran does have plenty of reasons not to like the British very much, reasons that of course Blair will largely be ignorant. For not only did the British topple the popular Iranian Nationalist Premier Mossadeq in 1953 for daring to nationalise the country’s oil industry, but successive British Government’s help prop up the Shah and his brutish regime.
Whatever action that may be taken against Iran for breaches of the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty is a matter for the United Nations, but it is worth pointing out to Blair that Iran is at least a signatory to the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty, unlike Israel. Perhaps Tony Blair might like to bring this discrepancy to the next AIPAC Conference, when he flies in to be their guest?
The Iranian regime is of course not to everyone’s tastes, including a growing number of Iranians themselves. It has brutally cracked down on demonstrators, and cannot remain immune from the popular revolts that have taken place across the Arab World. Blair’s ludicrous intervention can only help the Iranian hardliners, which is of course what some of his critics may claim. In this I suspect they are wrong, because Blair clearly hasn’t thought this one through.
By claiming that the Iraq War has had nothing to do with the growing radicalisation of some, Tony Blair is of course engaged in the usual and predictable denial game. He would have had a point had he said it wasn’t the only factor.
Given Britain’s record in the Middle East in the last century in particular it is indeed surprising that this country is not even more disliked than it is. With the honourable exception of the self interest that led to those such as the late Captain TE Lawrence being allowed to help Arabs overthrow Ottoman tyranny, just take a quick skip through the 20th century and ask yourself; “If I was an Arab Muslim, how would I feel?”
Arabs blame Britain for the Balfour Declaration and the appropriation of Palestinian land. The process is so well advanced now that barely a scattering of largely disconnected Palestinian ‘Bantustans’ remain. Throughout much of the 20th century the US and the UK used their Security Council veto repeatedly to support Israel. Both countries turned a blind eye to that country’s nuclear weapons programme. From the toppling of Mossadeq, to the invasion of Suez and the illegal war on Iraq, Britain in particular has a record to be ashamed of. It is this long and miserable record that has helped fuel resentment, and in isolated cases, terrorism.
It was astonishing poor taste even from a man who seems to rejoice in having so little in the first place to offer his faux cures this weekend as Blair did. His was an inglorious, bloody decade in power. But he has no shame, and neither do those journalists who persist in granting him the oxygen of publicity.