Magazine article The Spectator

There's Only One Thing That Can Unite the Middle East: Tony Blair

Magazine article The Spectator

There's Only One Thing That Can Unite the Middle East: Tony Blair

Article excerpt

As if the poor Egyptians didn't have enough on their plate, into the arena marches the man to sort it all out, the world's 'Middle East Envoy', Tony Blair.

Lucky world. Give the man his due, the Middle East is a monumentally fractious, fissiparous, disputatious neck of the woods and they all seem to hate each other. But mention the name 'Blair' and suddenly Maronite and Shia, Ashkenazi and Hamas, Druze and Sunni, men with long sideburns and men with long beards are united in an hysterical cackling. It is not often this column seeks an elucidatory comment from the Hamas spokesman Mohammed Shtayyeh, but his succinct verdict on Blair - 'useless, useless, useless' - would, I suspect, find accord at all points from Essaouira to Kabul.

Tony has been divesting himself of opinions about both Syria and Egypt. On the vexed question of Syria, he said that we had to intervene, because not to intervene is a decision just like intervening is a decision, a philosophical point which he clearly believes has eluded the rest of us. He seemed mildly surprised that the Syrian civil war had occasioned even more deaths than the war he and George kicked off in Iraq - and this, it seemed, was one justification for prolonging the conflict by doling out weapons to the jihadi rebels. His logic seemed to me demented.

We should take the side of the rebels because other people are intervening on the side of Assad, seemed to be another inference. I don't understand how this makes the remotest sense. Does he think that if we hamper Assad and help the rebels fewer people will be killed? I would have thought precisely the reverse. He did not address the question of whether or not the rebels were decent, fair-minded democrats. The 'intervention' in Iraq seemed to have been predicated on the liberal evangelistic belief that given the opportunity, everybody would turn out to be sort of New Labour in their thinking, wishing for nothing more than a polite secular democracy. This was, I think we would all agree, a mistaken belief.

On Egypt, Tone was still more bizarre.

There's only one thing that can unite the M idd le Ea st : Tony B la i r Having, one supposes, supported the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak as an expression of people power and liberty, Tone now thinks it was correct of the military to stage a coup to remove the democratically elected President Morsi and his legions of bearded maniacs from the government of the country. His rationale for this apparent volte-face is that lots of people turned out to demonstrate against Morsi. Large-scale public demonstrations never seemed to make much of an impression on Blair during the time he was in office; I suspect he would have cavilled if, following the anti-Iraq war protests in Trafalgar Square, the army had locked him up in the tower and installed Clare Short in his place. …

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