Thursday, December 21, 2006
Iran Wrong Target for Blair?
When I compiled my top ten political columnists a few months back I did not include Anatole Kaletsky(pictured left) in my list. Today's article in The Times suggests I was wrong. His subtle analysis is convincing that Blair-Bush are totally wrong in their Middle East emphases and that Gordon Brown had better think about distancing himself from their position. He argues that the speech given by Blair in Dubai yesterday, attacking Iran, was well wide of the proper mark.
He points out that Iran's recent local elections produced a kick on the shins for the Iranian president where moderate opinion is appearing to be shifting against the extremism of Ahmadinjehad. It may elect a theocracy but Iran's democratic base is far more secure than anything struggling to function in Iraq right now. Far better therefore to target Iranian moderate opinion than alienate it with attacks. He also criticises Blair's decision to concede the SFO investigation in the interests of sustaining relations with Saudi Arabia. We understand from quoted insiders that the decision to drop the case was because the princes threatened to withhold intelligence about terrorist activity. Kaletsky makes two points in this connection:
a) That they are prepared to use such information as lever to preclude the embarrassment the exposure of their leaders' addiction to sweeteners might cause reveals how shallow is their commitment to the War on Terror.
b) Saudi Arabia is more of a threat to the west than Iran in that:
'the radicalisation of previously quiescent Muslim populations from Indonesia and Turkey to Britain, Spain and France continues to be directly funded by the Saudi money pouring into Sunni mosques and madrassas inspired by the extremist Wahhabi sect.
Evidence of Blair's misjudgement was provided by the vice president of Iraq's comment that Blair had been 'brainwashed and black-mailed' by Bush. Given the shift Blair has made from his recent endorsement of negotiating with Ira following his visit to see Bush, there may be a hint of truth in such an explanation but Kaletsky suggests he is more persuaded by the idea that it is Saudi Arabia and Israel who are nudging Bush-Blair in this direction to set up a possible Israeli strike on Iran in the New Year. If this is true than Gordon indeed needs to distance himself from Blair's turbulent foreign policy, to prepare a U turn and pretty sharpish too.
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