The Daily Telegraph – Leaders: In his speech at the Guildhall last night, Tony Blair presented the outline of his plan for a new settlement in Iraq. His proposal is largely consistent with what are expected to be the recommendations of Washington’s Iraq Study Group, headed by former Secretary of State James Baker. The Daily Telegraph
In his speech at the Guildhall last night, Tony Blair presented the outline of his plan for a new settlement in Iraq. His proposal is largely consistent with what are expected to be the recommendations of Washington’s Iraq Study Group, headed by former Secretary of State James Baker.
Both the American and the Downing Street versions of this formula are being billed as fresh, realistic responses to the dilemma of post-war Iraqi chaos. In fact, they represent a stunningly abrupt volte-face in the Anglo-American approach to the problems of the region.
Iran and Syria would be offered privileged status in resolving the future of Iraq, even though they have previously been regarded as serious obstacles to peace in the Middle East and, in the case of Iran, the most prolific sponsor of terrorism in the West as Con Coughlin reminds us today with his revelations about Teheran’s links with al-Qa’eda.
Indeed, since the Islamic revolution of 1979 and the infamous seizure of hostages at the American embassy in Teheran, Iran has been a prime enemy of America.
So grave a threat was it thought to be that Saddam Hussein’s regime was supported in the Iraq-Iran war as a bulwark against Iranian Islamic fundamentalism.
Now Saddam has been displaced by his former allies in the West, and with bizarre irony the Iranian regime that was his old nemesis may be invited in with Syria to carve up the spoils of his country.
This approach, in which two countries once branded by the Bush White House as unambiguously evil miraculously become “part of the solution”, defies any credible logic except that of ignominious desperation.
It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Washington and London are now so eager for a face-saving formula that would enable them to wash their hands of Iraq and its apparently intractable problems that they are prepared to retreat from positions which they had declared, only weeks ago, to be principled and unflinching.
Instead of delivering ultimatums to Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on his nuclear ambitions, Britain and America are to offer him an invitation to play a larger and more influential role in global politics.
Even on the optimistic assumption that Iran and Syria would be prepared to give the undertakings on nuclear development and international terrorism which George W. Bush and Mr Blair say they would demand in return, it seems wildly unlikely that the involvement of these countries could achieve any lasting stability. Syria is led by a Ba’athist Sunni regime that is quite inimical to Iran’s Shia government.
Neither country is interested in seeing a long term resolution to the Palestinian problem. The Blair-Baker proposition looks more like an exercise in appeasement than a positive alternative strategy.