Sunday 22 March 2015

Tony Blair and other leaders whose careers have been blighted by the Middle East

An interesting article in today's Independent by Patrick Cockburn compares Tony Blair with three previous British leaders whose careers were wrecked over the Middle East: Churchill, Lloyd George and Eden. 

This is inaccurate. Turkey is in the Near East not the Middle East. It was war in Turkey that caused Lloyd George to fall and caused Churchill's resignation after the Dardanelles campaign (the admirals, not Churchill, were in fact to blame for that debacle).

However, I agree with Patrick Cockburn on this.
The invasion of Iraq by the US and Britain in 2003 was in some respects a re-run of the Suez crisis, except that this time it was the US that had outrun the limits of its power. 
And this:
.....Blair complains to this day that Iranian intervention destabilises Iraq, as if it was likely that Iran would ever again accept its Iraqi neighbour being ruled by an enemy. Bush and Blair destroyed the Iraqi state and nobody has succeeded in putting it together again. The doors began to open for Islamic State.
Had the USA not prevented Britain and France seizing back the Suez canal in 1956 the history of the region would probably have been much happier and we might have been spared Gaddafi and Saddam. What bad imperialists the Americans have made compared to the British and French. 

Part of me thinks it might be time to let Iran sort out Iraq and Syria, perhaps with Vladimir Putin's help - he might be good at that. But Iran is backing the Assad regime and therefore is responsible for its barbarities. General Petraeus and the Americans think Iran more frightening than IS and, much as I wish we had never intervened in Iraq and wanted us to get out, I see no alternative to our intervening against IS.


  1. As John Foster Dulles said to Eden (years later) "why did you not go on?" There was no reason that the Suez operation could not have been successful - even American opposition (largely for public and international consumption) was only talked into a "crises" by Harold M. - for the purpose of getting Eden out. Not out of Suez ("Super Mac" could not have cared less about that - indeed he had strongly supported the operation "first in - first out" was what some people called him) out of Number Ten Downing Street - everything that Harold M. did (including the artificial "currency crises") was designed to get Eden's job.

    Paul M

    1. I know that theory. We should not have withdrawn. What a terrible mess the Americans have made of things since we quit the scene.

    2. As for the Israeli Prime Minister - everything he says is systematically misreported (the "International Community" think the world be a less stressful place if Israel did not exist - and he is in their way). However, the man is a bit like (more than a bit like) a middle aged version of Hamlet - endlessly musing about what he may or may not do (in relation to Iran and everything else). Both his father and his brother would have acted years ago (on Iran and other matters); instead he endlessly muses on things - allowing words to be taken out of context (and so on). Short version - make up your mind and then act. Israel has no friends (certainly the American Administration) You are not going to convince the outsiders Prime Minister (they will just twist your words against you - so do a Calvin Coolidge) and no one outside Israel is going to help Israel - against the Shia or the Sunni. But I am wasting my time - the Prime Minister is just going to go on MSNBC and do another hour of "To be or not to be, that is the question, whether it is nobler in the mind to endure the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or ......" Yes I know that the Prime Minister was a brave combat soldier - but in battle the enemy does not give you time for endless musing (and the corporal does not allow it in basic training). Waiting for the enemy to fire may "work" in relation to Gaza (although Hamas remain in power), waiting for a nuclear attack from Iran is just hopeless.
      Well the client President of Egypt is holding at the moment. But his wildspending economic policies make no sense - it was the same with the Emperor of Iran. Indeed it was the same with Chang in China - stupid Keynesian advice (from the both the Americans and the British). It was not corruption that brought him down - it as the actual, Western advice, policies that helped lead dto collapse. The financial opinions of some old colonial hand drinking a whiskey, whilst reading a copy of "Blackwoods" magazine, are are lot closer to the truth than what is taught in the universities.
      But to answer your specific point - no Britain should not have withdrawn from Suez, we should have attacked and brought home Nasser in a cage. Currency crises? Let the Pound float (as Rab Butler had advised years before). Nasser financed horror all over the Middle East - our loss of prestige at Suez led to fall of Iraq in 1958 and Y. in 1962, and on and on and on.