Monday, 21 July 2014

Tony Blair's Role as Special Envoy for the Middle East Quartet.

'Last week he was in the Middle East....He says he is "saddened and angry" by what is happening in Gaza. He says he wants to see a two state solution. Whatever you think of Iraq, we did lead in the world, he says'.
Blair is using this twentieth anniversary of his becoming Labour leader in 1994 to spin his legacy as some far seeing political visionary whose approach retains 'clarity of purpose'. Yet Blair is going to be remembered for Iraq, a war that cost billions, and creating a debt fuelled economy that crashed in 2007-8.

The attempt to use his position as Special Envoy to the Middle East Quartet to 'frame the issues' on the need for a continued global war on Islamist terrorism everywhere, as though it were one seamless totalitarian threat, shows that he remains attached to discredited 'neoconservative' ideas in foreign policy.

Even so, Blair's ideology is what unites his position on Iraq with that of Gaza. The agenda is to first support Israel in crushing Hamas the better to force Palestinian leaders into agreeing to an Israeli settlement in which the gas wealth of Gaza would be used to benefit Israel first then Palestinians.

The same idea of 'trickle down' economics was behind Blair's support for the Iraq War" invade it, get rid of the dictator, allow Iraq's oil wealth to fund the reconstruction of the nation while allowing the west to diversify its oil supply. The result was a greater war within Iraq between those vying for its oil wealth.

Likewise, in Gaza, Blair's idea as a 'man of peace' invested with the duty to create 'stability' is in advocating Israeli control over the gas according to a deal he brokered back in 2011 whereby the BG Group ( formerly British Gas ) would sell the Gazan gas reserves to Israel instead of Egypt.

First and foremost, it is as a broker of gas deals Blair makes himself useful. It is secondary whether than actually creates peace because that could only happen if Hamas were to surrender authority and control over Gaza and not as a consequence of any concession Israel could make.

When the current conflict between Israel and Hamas broke out, Blair made it clear there was no chance of peace between the two. As Blair made quite plain “[There will be] ”no trust on either side between Hamas and Israel. That is not going to happen in the immediate term and possibly ever”.

Blair essentially supports the policy of Israeli PM Netanyahu in using a military solution to eliminate Hamas in Gaza as he sees Hamas as a terrorist organisation no less than ISIS or Al Qaida and so no less fundamentally evil than in having a dictator such as Saddam Hussein in control of resources in Iraq.

Egypt, of course, is different for Blair because Sisi is a secular authoritarian and not a theocratic or ideologically fanatical dictator. One reason Blair supported the coup was that it was necessary to create 'stability' and to get the economy functioning and the fuel crisis Egypt faces solved in alliance with Israel.

To that end, Blair supports a reinvigorated Israeli-Egyptian security and energy nexus as does the US and EU states, hoping that Israeli gas could be used to help European nations avoid being overdependent upon Russia for gas and to enrich the elites in the PA so as to get them onside in the 'peace process'.

However, Blair also believes that the exploitation of Israeli gas reserves and the elimination of Hamas would benefit Russia as well. One reason Israel has been able and willing to try to finish off Hamas is that it lacks regional support following the coup in Egypt in 2013 and the Syrian conflict.

In 2014 Russia's Gazprom was set to help develop Gaza's gas field.Israel has taken a more pragmatic stance towards Russia in recent years as it discovered its own gas reserves and sought cooperation on energy projects. This is why Blair advocated that Russia and the West join forces against 'radical Islam'.

For Blair this blending of tough realpolitik and potential wealth creation through the exploitation of resources is a "progressive" foreign policy. In the short term, there may well be blood and tears, yet in the longer term there is no alternative and wealth and consumerism is the only way to overcome the past.

While Blair is routinely condemned by British politicians for joining the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 ,his thinking and the role of resources in foreign policy strategy remain close to the way Western politicians still approach geopolitical struggles across the globe. After all, he is Special Envoy for a reason.

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