Anorak News | With Friends Like US

With Friends Like US

by | 16th, April 2004

‘WITH friends like George Bush, you wonder that Tony Blair needs enemies.

‘He’ll have what I’m having’

And the papers are not short of advice of what the British prime minister should tell his mate when they meet later today.

Even Blairites are having to admit that the US president’s decision to endorse Israel’s plan effectively to rewrite the Middle East “road map” in their favour is a personal setback for the PM.

And Blair is expected to tell his “friend” that Britain cannot sign up to Ariel Sharon’s plan, which has already attracted the condemnation of Palestinians, the rest of the Arab world and most of Europe.

Not that that is likely to carry much weight with Bush and his neo-conservative cabal in Washington.

The Guardian reports that, although Britain was consulted in general terms before Wednesday’s announcement that Israel would be allowed to keep large parts of the occupied territories in return for withdrawal from Gaza, it doesn’t appear to have had any input into the decision.

Ed Abington, a former US consul general and now a consultant to the Palestinian Authority, said the Palestinians had made a strong plea to the British to use their influence ahead of Sharon’s visit to Washington.

“Quite clearly,” he said, “the British have no influence or didn’t even try. I suspect they have no influence.”

If Blair has no influence on a President for whom he has put his job on the line in fighting an unpopular war, one wonders if the special relationship isn’t entirely a fiction in the minds of British leaders anxious to punch above their weight on the global stage.

However, if Bush’s announcement of US support for Israel’s repudiation of many months of careful diplomacy is not bad enough, there is also the small matter of Iraq to discuss.

Former foreign secretary Robin Cook, who resigned from the Cabinet over British support for the war, is sure that the political fate of both men depends on pulling that country back from the brink.

And he tells the Independent that Blair must dispense with his normal habit of shrinking from disagreeable exchanges and spell out bluntly to Bush where he has got it wrong.

“It does not help,” he admits, “that George Bush keeps reminding us that he has got the Almighty on his side. This cramps his scope for tactical flexibility, and his statement on Iraq this week exuded the certitude of revealed religion.”

But even the Almighty must realise that the coalition’s tactics in Iraq are not working.

As Cook says, “there is no prospect of his [Bush] leading a successful reconstruction of Iraq so long as he regards large parts of its population as enemies”.

Sadly, the delusion that progress in Iraq can be achieved by military victory regardless of political cost seems to be shared by US military commanders.

And we don’t hold out much hope for Tony Blair’s ability to try to persuade them otherwise…’

Posted: 16th, April 2004 | In: Broadsheets Comment | TrackBack | Permalink