Anorak News | Cards On The Table

Cards On The Table

by | 27th, April 2004

‘THERE is a nice symmetry to the letter published in all today’s papers lambasting Tony Blair’s Middle East policy and signed by 52 eminent former British diplomats.

The Two Jokers

After all, 52 is the number of playing cards in a deck – and playing cards was exactly the motif used – in its hubris – by the Anglo-US coalition to enumerate the most wanted members of Saddam Hussein’s ousted regime.

In those days, it was naively assumed, that the capture of the 55 ‘cards’ (there were two jokers and, presumably, a bridge scoring card) would complete the de-Baathification of Iraq and the blossoming of a new democracy in the region.

But a year on, with Iraq in turmoil and the White House unilaterally deciding to endorse Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon’s decision to mark in a few detours and shortcuts on the ‘road map’ to peace in what used to be known as the Near East, that post-war optimism seems laughable.

And it is the worsening of the situation in the region that has prompted the 52 former ambassadors, high commissioners and governors to write.

‘We feel the time has come to make our anxieties public,’ says the letter (which is reprinted in full on the front page of the Independent), ‘in the hope that they will be addressed in Parliament and lead to a fundamental reassessment.’

The letter condemns the announcement by President Bush and Ariel Sharon that Israel was to lay claim to part of Palestinian territory as ‘one-sided’ and ‘illegal’ and said it would cost more blood, both Israeli and Palestinian.

It says that, rightly or wrongly, the occupation of Iraq is seen throughout the Arab and Muslim world as ‘illegal’ and ‘brutal’.

And it lays into Mr Blair for not using the influence of a loyal ally in Washington to bring about a change of course.

‘If that is unacceptable or unwelcome there,’ it concludes, ‘there is no case for supporting policies which are doomed to failure.’

This ‘unprecedented onslaught’ (Telegraph) cannot be shrugged off by the Government – among the signatories are three former ambassadors to Iraq, many senior former Foreign Office Arabists and even a former ambassador to the United Nations.

Oliver Miles, a former ambassador to Tripoli, explained his reasons for drafting the letter.

‘Our objective is not to damage Blair politically,’ he told the Times, ‘but to strengthen the hand of those who feel as we do. Our voice will be heard.’

And heard it is loud and clear this morning as the Guardian carries news of yet more turmoil in Iraq.

It says that vital reconstruction work has almost completely ground to a halt because of the worsening security situation, with the power network a particular concern.

‘We are at risk of moving into the summer period with the repairs not complete,’ says a senior official, ‘which means we are going to have massive demand and not very good provision.

‘So from that point of view, it is a disaster.’

One could be forgiven for thinking that it is a disaster from any point of view.’

Posted: 27th, April 2004 | In: Broadsheets Comment | TrackBack | Permalink