Friday, 25 April 2014

Blair's Speech and the New Great Game.

Tony Blair's speech, as with everything this man utters, is a carefully calibrated public diplomacy missive better called a propaganda offensive. The timing is instructive; Blair is upgrading his profile in the Middle East because the crisis in Ukraine is set to lead to EU states searching for alternative energy sources.

It was interesting that Blair claimed the Ukraine Crisis would distract attention away from the Middle East. And why his fellow strategist and sinister operative John McTernan is 'on message' to explain just what Blair meant to those who could regard him as an important critic of Western foreign policy.

As is standard with propaganda, words and meaning must be prized apart from their conventional uses
'Libya and Syria are at the heart of Blair's argument: action started by this government but left incomplete. The passage on Syria is a direct attack on Cameron and Nick Clegg, and their inaction'.
Firstly, the Coalition government were not 'inactive' over Syria. They continually called for Assad 'to go'. Sarkozy set up the Friends of Syria group in Istanbul in 2012 to create a unified opposition with the intention of ousting Assad and installing a client state.

Secondly, Britain and France in particular were highly active in agitating for a missile strike on Syria, far more so even than a more energy independent 'post shale revolution 'USA. Their main client in the Middle East is Qatar which is in rivalry to build a pipeline from the South Pars gasfield which it shares with Iran.

Britain and France have increasingly sought to diversify the gas supply away from dependence upon Russia. One reason why Qatar's copious production of liquefied natural gas is a lucrative opportunity whereby its petrodollars from selling it get invested in the London and Paris property market and arms.
'Not a defence of liberal intervention, but a scrupulous account of the costs of doing nothing – particularly where the coalition has called for regime change. And, typically, looking at the bigger picture. The Middle East matters.. It matters because of oil and gas and our economic dependence on them'.
That statement matters. Essentially, with Russia and the US in a dangerous stand off over Ukraine, like Syria another pipeline transit route between east and west, Blair is trying to revive the idea that democratising the Middle East could provide EU states with better energy security.

Yet 'liberal intervention' was what was on offer when NATO facilitated the victory over the Gaddafi regime in Libya and what was on offer with the West's humanitarian concern over the East Ghouta gas attack in Syria. The reason no action was taken in Syria was increased concern over Al Qaida's presence.

The Libyan intervention made a bad situation worse. It enabled Gadaffi to be removed only for immediate ( and highly predictable ) squabbles over Libya's oil production capacity to divide the rebels ensuring another failed attempt at regime change backfired.

Now jihadists from Libya are known to have gone to Syria. The danger is, should Egypt fall into increased chaos, that the entire Maghreb could become a zone of carnage and bloodshed. Al Qaida affiliates are already operating in the Sinai Peninsula and fighting the Egyptian military.

As in Syria, the reality in Egypt was that the US and US tacitly accepted a military coup, even if the Muslim Brotherhood's bungling policies and attempts at institutional takeover has divided Egypt and led it even further towards economic and political collapse.

The Western Powers need to stop pretending that they can control events in the Middle East. Energy security has to be attained by decisive policies to move away from the great car economy and to find alternatives to oil and gas as well as dealing cautiously with Russia over Ukraine.

Blair's understanding on the Middle East is both simplistic and deranged. But his siren calls for radical and decisive action and drawing up of cosmic battle lines between Good and Evil remain potentially lethal if politicians and the media hail it as delivering a solution to an a looming energy security crisis.

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