The pros and cons of a peacemaker
Tony Blair wants to be a peacemaker. Last week this newspaper's late city edition on its front page carried a story which said Blair was offering his services as a peacemaker to solve Sri Lanka's 25-year conflict.
But this week, we hear Blair having discussions with President George W. Bush and Condoleezza Rice and exploring the possibility of becoming a West Asia peace envoy for the quartet comprising the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and Russia.
The western media did not take up The Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) story and follow it up. But they went gaga over inspired leaks from Downing Street that Blair is seeking a role for himself as West Asia peace envoy. The news came as the Palestinian territory was furhter divided into a Hamastan in the Gaza Strip and Fatahstan in the West Bank.
The United States is tacitly backing him for the job which was held until April this year by former World Bank President James Wolfesohn. The job has still not come to him. It needs to be discussed by the quartet which has not reached unanimity on the job, which often went to a US diplomat.
Quartet foreign ministers may meet in Paris next week, but Russia is dragging its feet. It says its Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has a scheduling conflict and seeks a postponement of the meeting. "There is a lot of speculation about what the prime minister will do after June 27, but we are simply not going to comment," a spokeswoman at his Downing Street office said.
Blair is yet to make his desire official. But the media hype over Blair's life after Wednesday June 27 is a reaction to possible feelers from the outgoing prime minister.
The news is still more speculation than solid. And it comes at a time when Blair's popularity is probably at an all-time low.
On Thursday, the London-based Independent newspaper on its front page carried a story which probably would have dealt a parting shot for departing Blair. The story written in the first person by a lingerie magnate strips Blair down to his underwear.
Agent Provocateur cofounder Joseph Corre in the hard-hitting Page One lead says that three weeks ago, he was offered an MBE, but after accepting the offer, it pricked his conscience and on Wednesday he decided to decline the offer.
"My reason for turning down the MBE can be summed up in two words: Tony Blair," said the world famous knicker maker.
So what has Blair done to provoke Agent Provocateur? It's Iraq."I believe that the way and the methods with which Tony Blair took Britain to war in Iraq and Afghanistan alongside George Bush were dishonest. They were based on a lie. We did not enter these conflicts for moral reasons; we entered them for economic ones. That much has now become clear.
"I would have admired Tony Blair, or at least respected him, if he'd have told me that we were going to war because he thought it would be good for our economy, regardless of the human cost. I would have respected that honesty, even if I strongly disagreed with him. But instead, Mr. Blair dreamt up this thing called spin, which is effectively organised lying, to convince the British public that his reasons were just.
"The result has been that hundreds of thousands of people have now suffered intolerably. They have suffered death and torture, and they now live in hopeless situations as a direct result of Tony Blair's invasion. What is going on daily in Iraq is a tragedy. I have seen the death and the sheer human misery. I have seen pictures of whole families being blown to pieces. It is the greatest scandal of our time.
"Someone has to be held responsible for that. Someone has to stand up and hold up their hand and say sorry for the lies, and sorry for that dodgy dossier. Instead, we have had silence. The UK has become a more dangerous place, and a bigger target for terrorists. Whole communities have been alienated and still nobody from Tony Blair's government has said sorry."
Corre was forthright. So were millions of Britons who disagreed with their Prime Minister's Iraq policy. Yet the Blair government was reelected to office for the third time though with a reduced majority. The reelection was largely due to his economic performance, the credit for which should go to Chancellor Gordon Brown, who is not as charismatic as Blair.
Corre's public statement serves as an indictment on Blair's honesty and integrity. Can Anthony Charles Lynton Blair be an honest broker in the West Asia peace process?
The West Asia peace process has suffered and yielded little or no results largely because the United States failed to act as honest broker. The United States is biased to the core, especially when the White House is occupied by a Republican whose constituency comprises mostly white evangelical Christians who are zealously committed to defend Israel, no matter the Zionist state is right or wrong.
Democratic Party Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton were somewhat balanced and probably saw the injustice meted out to the Palestinians by Israel.
Blair during his premiership had not been seen as anti-Palestinian, but as pro-Israeli, especially during Israel's war with Lebanon's Hezbollah militants last year. He along with Bush refused to call for a ceasefire until it became clear for them that the Israelis were finding it difficult to defeat Hezbollah.
But on the positive side, Blair could also be sympathetic to the Palestinians because of the Cherie factor. Cherie is his wife who in June 2002 made a 'controversial' remark in favour of the Palestinians. In justifying Palestinian suicide attacks, Cherie said that young Palestinians "feel they have got no hope but to blow themselves up".
Her remarks came at a charity show in aid of Palestinian medical aid with Jordan's Queen Rania in attendance. Cherie told reporters: "As long as young people feel they have got no hope but to blow themselves up you are never going to make progress."
Cherie's comments caused a major uproar with pro-Israeli lobbies demanding an unqualified apology. A spokeswoman for Cherie said: "If any offence has been taken then Mrs Blair is sorry".
Another positive factor is that Blair is the only Western leader who publicly acknowledged that the Palestinian crisis was the core issue revolving around the so-called Islamic terrorism. Many Arab and Islamic analysts also agree with him. The Arab and Muslim anger at the West is largely due to the West's all-out support for Israel even when the Jewish state is carrying on with the building of more and more settlements in occupied land and continuing the oppression of Palestinians, demolishing their houses, grabbing their land and denying them means to livelihood, water and other essentials.
Blair has vowed to bring peace to West Asia. Besides, he is credited with bringing peace to Northern Ireland, where one-time arch enemies now run a power-sharing administration.
There is also the moral compunction factor. It was due to the past British imperialistic policies that the Palestinians are suffering today. If not for the Syche-Picot agreement of 1916 - an agreement that allowed Britain and France to colonise West Asia -- and the Balfour Declaration of 1917, which gave the green light for the European Zionists to set up a Jewish state in what was then the Ottoman province of Palestine, the Palestinian people would have had a state of their own after World War 1.
The Palestinians were not collaborators like the Ibn Saud family and Sherif Hussein of Makkah. The former became the rulers of Saudi Arabia and the latter's progeny became British-appointed stooge kings of Trans Jordan and Iraq.
In 1936, the Palestinians rebelled against the British and their rebellion was crushed brutally. The British promised them statehood, but deliberately did not honour the promise in deference to their Zionist allies.
Blair's entry will offer an opportunity for Britain to offer penance for its imperialistic sin of victimizing the Palestinians. Blair recently apologised on behalf of Britain for the slave trade. But sadly, as far as the Palestinian question is concerned, neither Britain nor Blair feels like doing so.