Tony Blair’s opposition to an immediate ceasefire in the Lebanon war last summer precipitated his downfall. Now that he has announced the date of his departure from Downing Street, his entire Middle East record needs to be placed under an uncompromising lens.
Blair came to office with no experience of, and virtually no interest in, foreign affairs, and ended by taking this country to war five times. Blair boasts that his foreign policy was guided by the doctrine of liberal interventionism. But the war in Iraq is the antithesis of liberal intervention. It is an illegal, immoral and unnecessary war, a war undertaken on a false prospectus and without sanction from the UN.
Blair’s entire record in the Middle East is one of catastrophic failure. He used to portray Britain as a bridge between the two sides of the Atlantic. By siding with America against Europe on Iraq, however, he helped to destroy the bridge. Preserving the special relationship with America was the be all and end all of Blair’s foreign policy. He presumably supported the Bush administration over Iraq in the hope of exercising influence on its policy. Yet there is no evidence that he exercised influence on any significant policy issue. His support for the neoconservative agenda on Iraq was uncritical and unconditional.
Blair failed to understand that America’s really special relationship is with Israel, not Britain. Every time that George Bush had to choose between Blair and Ariel Sharon, he chose the latter. Blair’s special relationship with Bush was a one-way street: Blair made all the concessions and got nothing tangible in return.
American policy towards the Middle East was doomed to failure from the start, and the end result has been to saddle Britain with a share of the responsibility for this failure. The premise behind American policy was that Iraq was the main issue in Middle East politics and that regime change in Baghdad would weaken the Palestinians and force them to accept a settlement on Israel’s terms. The road to Jerusalem, it was argued, went through Baghdad. This premise was wrong. Iraq was a non-issue; it did not pose a threat to any of its neighbours, and certainly not to America or Britain. The real issue was Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories and America’s support for Israel in its savage colonial war against the Palestinian people.