Tag Archives: Tony Blair

​Chaos theory: ISIS & Western foreign policy

A fighter of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) holds an ISIL flag and a weapon on a street in the city of Mosul, June 23, 2014.

by Dr. Roslyn Fuller – As ISIS/ISIL cuts a swathe through the Middle East, retroactively transforming Osama Bin Laden into the highbrow arm of modern Islamic terrorism, we’ve quite naturally begun the game of deciding who to blame for its existence.

In fact, Tony Blair showed admirable consistency in sticking to the doctrine of preemptive self-defense by firing off a statement that the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant had nothing to do with his policies in Iraq – the moment they made their big break into mainstream television.

This back and forth over responsibility is really at the heart of the matter, but in a far deeper way than we usually get around to discussing.

After all, a good deal of Western foreign policy post-Cold War has revolved around NATO states voluntarily assuming responsibility for issues that were, strictly-speaking, not their responsibility. Someone needs to ‘police the world’, ‘bring the bad guys to book’, exercise their ‘R2P’ (‘responsibility to protect’ – yes, we have descended into text-speak) and ‘nation-build’.

It looks good on paper.

But if you really look at how this policy has played out on the ground, you will notice that far from nation-building, this voluntary ‘assumption of responsibility’ has instead sown a level of chaos and dissension that cannot plausibly be blamed purely on ‘mistakes’ or ‘unforeseeable circumstances’.

Instead, it seems to be the old divide and conquer strategy at work and we probably have keen minds like Richard Perle and Bill Kristol of the neo-conservative think tank Project for a New American Century (PNAC) to thank for this modern take on an old classic. We will return to the thoughtful documents penned and disseminated by PNAC shortly. But first, let’s try to figure out what is really going on beyond the rhetoric when it comes to our ‘responsibilities’ around the world.

I think we can discern a few key trends.

The first trend is that Western countries do engage in what could be termed nation-building activities in a few select, small countries, provided those countries have for one reason or another really made headlines. Think of Timor L’Este (now independent after a mere 30 years of occupation); Rwanda (yes, 800,000 people were killed, but we did give them a tribunal once activists remembered to play the racism card), and Kosovo (presents a somewhat more contested narrative, but it was too close to the EU’s future borders for comfort).

Other troubled nations like Sierra Leone, Liberia and Cote d’Ivoire (another contested narrative) have certainly seen their fortunes improve in recent years, thanks in part to international peacekeeping missions and efforts to facilitate community reconciliation and post-conflict justice.

But those are, in a certain sense, ‘the lucky few’. In most other places, we have chosen to ‘take responsibility’ along more Blair-ish lines, which means that our sense of responsibility tends to come and go with astonishing rapidity. Consider the following:

Somalia

The failed state par excellence. Americans were apparently willing to ‘take responsibility’ for restoring law and order in Somalia until 19 of them were killed. That was too much ‘responsibility’ and Somalia was left minus a government and awash with weapons next to one of the greatest shipping lanes in the world. All things considered, it took Somalis a surprisingly long time to master modern piracy.

A Somali Al-Shebab fighter

Sudan, South Sudan, Chad, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo

All rocking around on the cusp of failed statehood for decades now; in the case of the DRC ever since Western countries decided to rid the world of Patrice Lumumba back in the ’60s.

Mali

Currently a respectable No. 38 on the Fund for Peace’s Failed State Index, but Taureg rebels control an impressive hunk of territory.

Ukraine and Pakistan

Both pretty nearly failed states, run along semi-feudal lines by leaders who are openly oligarchs, whether that be the ‘new money’ of Ukrainian industrialists or the ‘old money’ of tribal leadership in Pakistan.

Libya

Currently rated an uneasy No. 54 on the Failed State Index, down from a comfortable No. 111 in 2010 (on par with South Africa) before we decided to get rid of Gaddafi, only to be instantly stricken with amnesia about the country he ran for 42 years.

Yemen

Despite having the latest technology in drone strikes lavished upon it, Yemen maintains a virtually unbroken record in the top 10 failed states, currently at No. 6.

Syria

Locked in a civil war, which has seen a once secular-oriented nation become the home of armed jihadists, who were permitted to obtain their weapons and cash with remarkable ease. Apparently ‘getting rid of Assad’ was the sum total of our planning abilities on what should happen in Syria.

Egypt

Round and round she goes, and where she stops nobody knows. Spiraling somewhere.

Iraq and Afghanistan

I’m not even sure what the correct term for Iraq and Afghanistan, rated No. 11 and No.7 respectively on the Failed State Index, would be these days. Suffice it to see that after more than a decade of nation-building, we are having difficulty discerning progress on these construction sites, which I’m pretty sure haven’t even gone one day without a work-related accident. Of course, the already abysmal ratings were handed out before ISIS went big last week. (Interesting fact: current ISIS head Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who, unlike many detainees, truly did have a history of terrorist involvement, was captured by Americans in Iraq in 2004 but released in 2009. You had one job…)

Then there are places like Western Sahara, Transdniester and Palestine, which cannot fail because they do not even count as states. To add to our woes, the UN recently announced that there are more displaced persons today than at any time since the end of WWII.

These are a lot of open problems to have for a world hegemony so bent on nation-building and stability, especially when you consider that its citizens spend something like a trillion dollars annually on ‘defense’.

Members of a newly formed brigade of Iraqi Shiite fighters parade in military fatigues with their weapons on June 24, 2014 in the southern city of Basra as thousands of Shiite volunteers join Iraqi security forces in the fight against Sunni Jihadist militants who have taken over several northern Iraqi cities.

When you are forking over that kind of money, you like to see results, and not hear excuses about the world’s instability being ‘also’ rooted in local problems. I can see very well that organizations like ISIS are ‘also’ rooted in local problems. However, I am also fairly certain that if some alien power used its superior resources to bomb us back to the Stone Age and then failed to provide any meaningful replacement infrastructure, that our ‘local’ problems would begin to get uglier too. And the reason is that they would have destroyed the social fabric and rule of law that keeps any place running as well as it does. Create that kind of power vacuum and anything can happen. To expect ‘the locals’ to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and jolly well carry on because we have suddenly lost interest in our overwhelming ‘responsibility’ to them is little short of delusional.

The second trend that I think emerges is closely linked to the first.

It is the deliberate ripping of the social fabric within states that are still relatively stable and prosperous. That this could in any way be connected to the first trend occurred to me while reading ‘A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm’, which was written by Richard Perle for Benjamin Netanyahu back in the 1990s. Now – and I do not say this lightly – not only does this document have a title that sounds like its composer was experiencing LARP-withdrawal at the time he wrote it, the text itself resembles the creation of an eight-year-old who was subjected to a crash course on international relations followed by a heavy dose of LSD. There are sudden switches in topic, where the free associative connection is at first less-than-obvious to the sober reader.

One of these switches was an abrupt change from harping on Israel’s alleged need to pursue a no-compromises peace strategy to urging a comprehensive privatization plan on the state. According to this paper, efforts to salvage Israel’s socialist institutions were undermining the legitimacy of the State of Israel and “Israel can become self-reliant only by, in a bold stroke rather than in increments, liberalizing its economy, cutting taxes, re-legislating a free-processing zone, and selling-off public lands and enterprises — moves which will electrify and find support from a broad bipartisan spectrum of key pro-Israeli Congressional leaders, including [then-]Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich.”

Why Newt Gingrich’s support was synonymous with self-reliance was left unexplained.

However, like many things that happen on acid, ‘Securing the Realm’ has a weird strain of truth to it, because it combined, albeit clumsily, two separate ways to erode the social fabric. The first was to become much more aggressive externally and seek to crush foreign entities as oppose to negotiate with them, even when those negotiations had yielded results, most notably under the leadership of Yitzhak Rabin, assassinated just one year before ‘Securing the Realm’ was written. The second was to actually work on eroding Israel’s alleged socialism from within by selling off the same public goods, which they under no circumstances would give to Palestinians, to private bidders.

I would argue that we can see both of these strains at work around the world, in that we push aggressive, no compromises foreign policy to its limits (witness Ukraine and Syria) without much thought for the destabilization that this engenders, not to mention its quite extreme effect on our own bank balance.

We are also hard at work undermining our own prosperity. Western countries are the most prosperous on earth. We unequivocally enjoy the highest standard of living. China, India and Brazil are still a long way off the kind of lifestyle most of us are accustomed to. And enjoy that lifestyle partly because we were pretty successful at ripping other people’s wealth off them in the past and partly because we invented a brilliant economic system after WWII which centered on what Richard Perle – aka the Prince of Darkness – would probably designate ‘socialist institutions’.

Western nations may not have fully gotten the knack for doing good in the world, but there was certainly what I would term growing interest and truly altruistic concern for people in other parts of the world among ordinary Western citizens pre-9/11.

Thanks to policies like those the Prince of Darkness so thoughtfully outlined for Netanyahu all those years ago, we have privatized, liberalized and cut taxes to the point that most people in Western nations are now experiencing a deterioration in their own living standards and society is increasingly divided between the haves and have-nots. We are, in other words, tearing up our own social fabric.

What that means is that the place that would have been most able to use its resources to truly stabilize and improve those parts of the globe most in need now not only refuses to do so (which was bad enough), in the future it might be unable to so do. We may, in short, be destabilizing the rest of the world, while simultaneously reducing our own capabilities to ever put it back together.

The natural consequence of being responsible in short, sharp bursts.

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‘Blair has finally gone mad’ : London mayor ridicules ex-PM over Iraq

This combo photo shows British former prime minister Tony Blair (left) and London Mayor Boris Johnson.

Tony Blair’s essay on how the Middle East should blame its own religious dynamics for its troubles – instead of Western attempts at intervention – has seen London Mayor Boris Johnson launch a scathing attack on the “unhinged” former PM.

Johnson’s strong condemnation is a reaction to the arguments made in the former British Prime Minister’s piece entitled ‘Iraq, Syria and the Middle East,’ where claims range from placing blame on the Shiite government in Iraq to the inherent religious dynamics within the Middle East region, even to Syria for allowing the recent attack on Mosul to take place from within its borders, as well as Shiite fighters from Iran – all to explain why militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/ISIS) are making such progress these days.

But perhaps the most off-the-wall remark that has sent everyone, from the British press to Blair’s former party mates, to Boris Johnson, over the edge was Blair’s claim that Britain should be thanked, not blamed, for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Lashing out at the former Prime Minister, Johnson wrote for The Telegraph on Sunday that “I have come to the conclusion that Tony Blair has finally gone mad.”

His essay “struck me as unhinged in its refusal to face facts. In discussing the disaster of modern Iraq he made assertions that are so jaw-droppingly and breathtakingly at variance with reality that he surely needs professional psychiatric help.”

Attacking also the former PM’s vague claim that Islam should act more responsibly in watching out for both Shia and Sunni extremism on its fringes (since extremism, allegedly, arises out of thin air), Johnson writes: “He said that the allied invasion of 2003 was in no way responsible for the present nightmare – in which Al-Qaeda has taken control of a huge chunk of the country and is beheading and torturing Shias, women, Christians and anyone else who falls foul of its ghastly medieval agenda. Tony Blair now believes that all this was ‘always, repeat always’ going to happen.”

Not so, Johnson believes.

An Iraqi weeps as he walks away from the ministries of justice and labour following a suicide bombing on October 25, 2009.

“The reality is that before the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, there was no Al-Qaeda presence in that country, none at all.” Despite his brutal tyranny, “Saddam did not have anything to do with the 9/11 attack and he did not possess Weapons of Mass Destruction.”

Hammering the point home about just what exactly British and American interventionism accomplished in Iraq, Johnson lays it out simply, “The truth is that we destroyed the institutions of authority in Iraq without having the foggiest idea what would come next. As one senior British general has put it to me, ‘we snipped the spinal cord’ without any plan to replace it. There are more than 100,000 dead Iraqis who would be alive today if we had not gone in and created the conditions for such a conflict, to say nothing of the troops from America, Britain and other countries who have lost their lives in the shambles.”

The London mayor makes the admission that he was among those that voted for the war in the belief that it was the right thing to do – after all, Saddam was considered a madman whose prolonged rule would only bring about a further stagnation in Iraq. But because there was no government waiting to replace him, as well as no institutions or infrastructure set up in place for after the devastation of the conflict, Johnson, like others, became disillusioned with the Bush/Blair plans.

By refusing to admit the colossal miscalculations and lack of foresight that led to Iraq’s present state a decade after invasion, “Blair is now undermining the very cause he advocates – the possibility of serious and effective intervention.”

An image uploaded on June 14, 2014 on the jihadist website Welayat Salahuddin allegedly shows militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) capturing dozens of Iraqi security forces members prior to transporting them to an unknown location in the Salaheddin province ahead of executing them.

“Yes, we helped cause the disaster in Iraq; but that does not mean we are incapable of trying to make some amends. It might be that there are specific and targeted things we could do – and, morally, perhaps should do – to help protect the people of Iraq from terrorism (to say nothing of Syria, where 100,000 people have died in the past three years),” Johnson wrote of Iraq’s neighbor, whom Blair accused of being guilty of leading his country into a war with extremist insurgents, while also accusing the West of not doing more to topple the president – the Alawite Bashar Assad, who has been fighting the same Sunni extremism plaguing Iraq for three years now.

Johnson asserts that unless Britain, with its great military spending and permanent seat on the UN Security Council, does not admit to its failures as well as enjoy its successes, it would be completely self-defeating for what it tries to accomplish.

When it comes to the question of why the Iraq invasion happened in the first place, the London mayor alleges that the former British leader’s whole campaign arose out of a desire to achieve personal “grandeur.”

“Somebody needs to get on to Tony Blair and tell him to put a sock in it – or at least to accept the reality of the disaster he helped to engender. Then he might be worth hearing. The truth shall set you free, Tony.”

Boris Johnson traveled to Iraq and wrote his own piece for The Spectator in May 2003, giving his thoughts on life in Iraq after Saddam Hussein.

He reminisced about how “within the space of the last half-hour, I had slunk past a ten-year-old with an AK47 over his shoulder, chewing the fat with his dad in the door of the shop” to the harrowing theme of gunfire, and his tragic near-death experience “in a city with no recognized authority” after accidentally interfering with its shopkeeper.

“It was troubling that we were preparing war against a sovereign country that had, so far, done us no direct harm,” Johnson wrote. Despite this, he stated that the disorder was rampant and it wasn’t solely at the direct hands of the US but the subsequent post-invasion turmoil.

“Weeks after the invasion, buildings are still burning, not from missiles but from the looting. Most of the shops are shut. There is glass everywhere, and rubbish all over the streets, because there are no municipal services; and there are no municipal services because civic order has broken down,” Johnson wrote, citing the concerns of one Iraqi emphatically questioning: “Where is our gas, our electricity? They just make promises!”

Power is being contested on every corner, between Shia moderates and extremists. It is being fought for by umpteen Kurdish parties, Assyrian parties, secular parties,” he added.

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Tony Blair urges British intervention against Islamic extremists around the globe

Tony Blair will call on Britain today to back “revolution” against anti-Western interests in the Middle East and beyond to combat the growing threat of radical Islam.

In a significant and controversial intervention, the former Prime Minister will suggest that, as a result of failures in Iraq and Afghanistan, governments in Europe and America have become “curiously reluctant to acknowledge” Islamic extremism.

This unwillingness to confront Islamism risks the 21st century being characterised by “conflict between people of different cultures”, he will warn.

Mr Blair will also call for Europe and America to put aside their differences with Russia and China and “co-operate” to fight what he describes as the “radicalised and politicised view of Islam” that is threatening their collective interests. Mr Blair is due to make his remarks in a speech in London. But despite carrying significance because of his role as Middle East peace envoy they are unlikely to be well received in Downing Street or Washington.

Just last week the Foreign Secretary William Hague said that Britain should “learn the lessons from history” and “cultivate influence” rather than always relying on hard power “that jars”.

But Mr Blair, whose political legacy has been tainted by his role in the US-led invasion of Iraq, is understood to be increasingly concerned by the failure of Britain and other Western countries effectively to tackle what he believes to be the growing threat of radical Islam – that combines politics with religion and opposes pluralistic societies.

While he does not specifically mention military intervention he makes clear that he believes Western “engagement” needs to go beyond the political.

“When we look at the Middle East and beyond it to Pakistan or Iran and elsewhere, it isn’t just a vast unfathomable mess with no end in sight and no one worthy of our support,” he will say.

“It is in fact a struggle in which our own strategic interests are intimately involved; where there are indeed people we should support if only that majority were mobilised, organised and helped.

“Engagement and commitment are words easy to use. But they only count when they come at a cost. There is no engagement that doesn’t involve putting yourself out there. There is no commitment that doesn’t mean taking a risk.”

He goes on to add that the West should also be prepared to back “revolution” in countries, such as Iran, which are run by radical Islamic regimes. “Where there has been revolution, we should be on the side of those who support those principles and opposed to those who would thwart them,” he will say.

“Where there has not been revolution, we should support the steady evolution towards them [those principles].”

In a swipe at those who opposed greater military intervention in Syria Mr Blair will say the West has to “take sides” to protect its own interests. “We have to stop treating each country on the basis of whatever seems to make for the easiest life for us at any one time,” he will say.

“We have to have an approach to the region that is coherent. And above all, we have to commit. We have to engage.”

Mr Blair also implicitly criticises regimes such as those in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan – which are nominally pro-Western but often tolerate the preaching and teachings of radical Islam.

“We spend billions of dollars on security arrangements and on defence to protect ourselves against the consequences of an ideology that is being advocated in the formal and informal school systems of the very countries with whom we have security and defence relationships,” he will say.

Mr Blair will warn that unless these problems are tackled worse will come.

“The threat of this radical Islam is not abating,” he will say. “This struggle between what we may call the open-minded and the closed-minded is at the heart of whether the 21st century turns in the direction of peaceful co-existence or conflict between people of different cultures.”

A Downing Street spokesman declined to comment on Mr Blair’s speech

The Independent.

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David Cameron’s religious adviser is descended from founders of the ‘terrorist’ Muslim Brotherhood

tariq-ramadan

Tariq Ramadan,

David Cameron is facing embarrassment over the close links between a Government adviser on religion and an Islamist group placed under urgent investigation.

The Prime Minister last week ordered the security services to look into the Muslim Brotherhood amid fears its leaders, exiled from Egypt, are plotting terrorist attacks from London.

He said the inquiry would establish ‘the complete picture’ of the Brotherhood including its possible involvement with ‘violent extremism’ and its ‘presence here in the UK’.

But the investigation is likely to lead to red faces in Whitehall, as a scion of the Muslim Brotherhood’s founding family is a senior ministerial adviser.

Tariq Ramadan is one of 14 members of the Foreign Office’s Advisory Group on Freedom of Religion or Belief, chaired by Tory peer Baroness Warsi. He is Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies at Oxford University, and was a member of a taskforce set up by Tony Blair after 7/7.

But Prof Ramadan, 51, is grandson of the Muslim Brotherhood’s founder Hassan al-Banna and his father Said Ramadan was a leading light.

The Swiss citizen was for several years banned from the US for ‘providing material support to a terrorist organisation’ and only let in after a long legal battle in which he argued that no link with terrorism existed.

He was kept out of France in the 1990s over supposed links to Algerian terrorists.

He lost two posts at Dutch universities for hosting a chat show on a TV channel backed by the Iranian regime and became notorious for refusing to say stoning to death should be banned outright, although calling for a moratorium.

Critics repeatedly accuse the smartly dressed, well-spoken scholar of seeming to be moderate when speaking to Western audiences but giving more extreme speeches in Arabic.

Douglas Murray, associate director of the Henry Jackson Society think-tank, said: ‘David Cameron should be deeply embarrassed by this. Tariq Ramadan is extremely loyal to his father and grandfather and he does not, by any means, speak out against the Muslim Brotherhood.’

A Foreign Office spokesman said: ‘Prof Ramadan has written and taught extensively on issues relating to Islam, and therefore has plenty of relevant experience to bring to the group.’

Prof Ramadan’s office in France declined to comment.

 

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Tony Blair backs Egypt’s government and criticises Brotherhood

Former British PM says Muslim Brotherhood was stealing Egypt’s revolution and army intervention has put it on right path

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Cairo Thursday 30 January 2014

Tony Blair said the army had intervened after the Brotherhood tried to take Egypt ‘away from its basic values of hope and progress’.

Tony Blair has given staunch backing to Egypt’s government following a meeting on Wednesday with its army leader, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi.

In a television interview on Thursday morning, Britain’s former prime minister said Mohamed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood had stolen Egypt’s revolution, and the army who deposed him last July had put the country back on the path to democracy.

“This is what I say to my colleagues in the west,” said Blair, visiting Egypt as a representative of the UN, the US, the EU and Russia in their attempts to mediate the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. “The fact is, the Muslim Brotherhood tried to take the country away from its basic values of hope and progress. The army have intervened, at the will of the people, but in order to take the country to the next stage of its development, which should be democratic. We should be supporting the new government in doing that.”

Morsi, was removed by Sisi following days of mass protests. His many critics said Morsi had authoritarian leanings and that his removal was essential to prevent Egypt from eventually turning into an autocratic theocracy.

In his television interview, Blair said : “Right here in Egypt I think it is fundamental that the new government succeeds, that we give it support in bringing in this new era for the people of Egypt. And, you know, we can debate the past and it’s probably not very fruitful to do so, but right now I think it’s important the whole of the international community gets behind the leadership here and helps.”

Blair’s comments are in keeping with his previous comments on the region. In the past,

At the time of Mubarak’s overthrow in 2011, Blair warned that his removal would lead to the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood: “They are extremely well organised and well funded whereas those people who are out on the street at the moment, many of them will be extremely well intentioned people but they’re not organised in political parties yet.”