Blair thinking outside the box: Arab Spring; Libya; Israel/Pal peace; China; Energy; EU


Comment at end

Or –

9th June 2011

In the last few days the ubiquitous Tony Blair has been in Spain, China, Ukraine and Norway. Another day, another country. Some in Britain, including the Labour MP mentioned in my RELATED section at the end may have treacherously moved the earth to take THE MAN out of politics. Thankfully, taking politics out of The Man is not under the control of such political pygmies.

In the interview below by The Guardian’s Patrick Wintour Tony Blair once again shows that his finger is still on the pulse of what moves and shapes today’s – and tomorrow’s world.

(Article below is cross-posted from the Guardian)

Tony Blair issues Arab spring warning to west

Dictators must ‘change or be changed’ says ex-PM as western leaders urged to prepare wider plan for Middle East

Tony Blair has warned that the west must be prepared for a wider plan in the Middle East. Photograph: Matt Cardy/PA
Tony Blair has warned that the west must be prepared for a wider plan in the Middle East. Photograph: Matt Cardy/PA

Tony Blair warns the west today that it urgently needs a wider plan to respond to the Arab spring, including a warning to autocratic leaders across the Middle East “to change or be changed”.

His call for a clearer strategic approach comes in a new foreword to the paperback edition of his bestselling autobiography, The Journey.

The former prime minister also praises Europe, and by implication David Cameron, for showing leadership in Libya, saying it would have been inconceivable to leave Muammar Gaddafi in power.

He said that if America and Europe had done nothing, “Gaddafi would have retaken the country and suppressed the revolt with extraordinary vehemence. Many would have died.”

If he had been left in power while the west was willing to see President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt deposed, “the damage to the west’s reputation, credibility and stature would have been not just massive but potentially irreparable. That’s what I mean by saying inaction is also a decision.”

Blair does not call for immediate military intervention across the region, saying instead that “where there is the possibility of evolutionary change, we should encourage and support it. This is the case in the Gulf states.”

He hails the way in which “Europe and America came together over Libya and, though it is difficult and though the way things will turn out is uncertain, it showed leadership; and amongst the criticism, there was also – in the region – relief that leadership was shown”.

While praising European and US efforts in Libya, Blair also calls for an elected European president who would have a mandate for far-reaching reforms including collaborating on taxes. In an interview in the Times he says such an office would give Europe “strong, collective leadership and direction”. But he accepts that the idea has “no chance of being accepted at the present time”.

In his book, Blair acknowledges that the west cannot intervene across the Middle East and claims some leaders are “already embarking on a path of steady change. We should help them keep to it and support it. None of this means we do not criticise strongly the use of violence against unarmed civilians. Or that if that violence continues, we do not reserve the right then to move to outright opposition to the status quo, as has happened in Libya. But it is more sensible to do so in circumstances where the regime has excluded a path to evolutionary change. Then it is clear: the people have no choice. But if there is a process that can lead to change with stability, we should back that policy.”

He adds: “My point is simple: we need to have an active policy, be players and not spectators sitting in the stands, applauding or condemning as we watch.”

He says that the lesson for autocratic regimes the world over is to change – or be changed.

Largely in line with the policy laid out at the G8 summit of most industrialised nations in Deauville last month, he says: “We should stand ready to help with aid, debt relief and the muscle of the international financial institutions, but we should also be quietly insistent that such help won’t succeed unless proper rules and order are put in place.”

Blair, still the special envoy of the quartet in the Middle East, admits the Arab spring is going to make it harder to secure a Palestinian peace deal since Israel is less certain about the nature of the threat it faces.

The stability and predictability of Israel’s neighbours, he says, has been replaced by instability and unpredictability.

“For similar reasons, but with an opposite conclusion, the Palestinian leadership find it hard to go into negotiation with an Israeli partner they don’t trust, to make difficult compromises which will be tough to sell, in circumstances where they don’t know the regional context into which such compromises will be played.”

Blair also warns more broadly that the world has not yet adjusted to the emergence of China as a global economic giant, saying “engagement with geopolitics of the 21st-century will be unlike anything the modern world has seen. Our children in the west will be a generation growing up in a situation where virtually every fixed point of reference that my and my parents’ generation knew has changed or is changing”.

He claims energy security will become as serious an issue for the nation states as defence.

Blair says: “Currently China consumes around 10% of worldwide demand for oil. If its GDP per head carries on rising – and follows the path of similar increases in living standards in South Korea and Taiwan, say – the world output will need to double, and China’s share of demand will rise from 10% to 50%.”

He also questions the way in which the EU leaders have led the debate about its future, saying “there has been an obsession about institutional integration in itself rather than a debate about what we want to do as Europe, where the institutions should be at the service of the policy, rather than the policy at the service of institutions”.




At PMQs yesterday Labour MP Tom Watson uses parliamentary privilege (watch here) to claim that Jonathan Rees was targeting high-placed public figures including Tony Blair as well as members of the Royal Family, such as Kate Middleton (Sky News).

As I reminded Mr Watson in a tweet tonight –

blairsupporterBlair Supporter
@tom_watson – last thing bothering you was VICTIMISATION of a former PM. #TonyBlair@tonyblairoffice
And if the EU is on YOUR mind Julie has this at Twitter –
Re tomorrow’s Times front page: If the EU as an independent actor wants role on world stage it needs proper statesman not clown #TB v. Rompy
There is also his Retweet of Julie’s earlier tweet, by –
Jbroks86John Brooks
RT @JuliesThinkTank: What does it tell you if you’re sitting in room full of EU experts, someone mentions Ashton re EU influence & everyone brust into laughter?-

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Recent comments:

I am staggered by all the hate directed towards our former Prime Minister. I believe that Tony Blair made the Iraq decision in good faith and is most certainly NOT a war criminal. If anyone should be tried at the Hague it should be those in the media for totally misrepresenting the information and facts. The media are to blame for fuelling this hatred as it is purely driven by them. (UK)

The greatest and most successful leader the Labour Party has ever had with the courage to fight the Islamist terrorists who really would like to kill us all, and you never hear a good word about him. The herd of independent minds, commentators, activists etc who have never had to make a difficult decision in their lives drown out all debate with their inane chants of war crimes and blood on his hands. Defend him at every chance. I just wish more people would do it. (Glasgow, UK)
Blair was the greatest Labour Prime Minister. It is a disgrace that the party has turned away from his legacy. Shame on Ed Miliband and his so-called ‘new generation’.


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