Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Tony-the-Poodle...in trouble again

Ever since he decided to lick Bush's boots and pledge allegiance to "neoconservative" Americans, Tony has become persona non-grata in most of Europe but, in the U.K. as well.

The following rebuke to the Prime Minister points to the fact that, increasingly, the Bush-Tony-Sharon trio is viewed as a roadblock in the fight against hatred:


New York Times - April 27, 2004

British Ex-Diplomats Assail Blair on Mideast by Patrick E. Tyler

LONDON, April 26 — In a rebuke of British and American policy in the Middle East, 52 former ambassadors and senior government officials signed a letter on Monday criticizing Prime Minister Tony Blair for his unflinching support for the Bush administration's approach to occupied Iraq and to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The letter, delivered to Mr. Blair's office and released to the news media, asserted that those policies were "doomed to failure."

Among those signing the letter were former ambassadors to Israel, Iraq and other Middle Eastern capitals, as well as senior British envoys to the United Nations.

They accused both governments of abandoning important principles of impartiality in the Holy Land, while engaging in poor planning and military overkill against Iraqi resistance forces in the Sunni Muslim areas west of Baghdad and in Shiite Muslim strongholds around Najaf.

"It is not good enough to say that the use of force is a matter for local commanders," the letter said, adding, "Heavy weapons unsuited to the task in hand, inflammatory language, the current confrontations in Najaf and Falluja, all these have built up rather than isolated the opposition."

In the Holy Land, the diplomats said, the decision by the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations to publish a "road map" to peace between Israelis and Palestinians had "raised hopes that the major powers would at last make a determined and collective effort to resolve a problem which, more than any other, has for decades poisoned relations between the West and the Islamic and Arab worlds."

But instead of pressing ahead, the diplomats said, "Nothing effective has been done either to move the negotiations forward or to curb the violence." They added, "Britain and the other sponsors of the road map merely waited on American leadership, but waited in vain."

A spokesman for Mr. Blair defended the government's policies as energetic in the pursuit of peace and stability. He said the letter would be studied and a reply drafted. The pointed criticism from career diplomats, all Middle East specialists, who served both Labor and Conservative prime ministers, put Mr. Blair's government immediately on the defensive at a crucial moment of Iraqi crisis and diplomacy. In recent weeks, Mr. Blair's influence in Washington has been questioned as intensely as his influence in Europe, where Britain seeks to play a bridging role.

With political sovereignty in Iraq scheduled to be turned over to an interim government in nine weeks, Britain and the United States are being forced to bolster their occupation forces to take account of the withdrawal of 2,000 soldiers from Spain, Honduras and the Dominican Republic.

A spokeswoman for the British Ministry of Defense appeared to confirm reports that as many as 2,000 more British troops might be dispatched to supplement the troops in Iraq now.

The spokeswoman said that "in light of recent events," discussions were under way "with coalition partners" on troop levels required to cope with a wave of instability that is expected to peak with the transfer of power on June 30.

The letter on Monday came as a surprise, and Mr. Blair's aides were seeking to reiterate his arguments that he believed that the Israeli-Palestinian peace plan might be enhanced by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's decision to pull forces and Israeli settlers out of the Gaza Strip.

One long-serving Middle East envoy who did not sign the letter was Sir Jeremy Greenstock, who has just returned from a six-month tour in Iraq as Mr. Blair's representative in the occupation authority. He complained that his colleagues had failed to "prescribe any alternatives" to the current policies.

"Let's have a bit of persistence in finishing this job," he said in an interview. Nonetheless, Sir Jeremy added that he, too, expressed criticism in Baghdad of some policies because he believed that the "coalition had been careless about killing civilians" and that the initial phase of the military assault on Falluja "was not handled the way it should have been."

Still, he said, there is now a "clear political process" in Iraq, based on negotiation and a more precise use of force. The former diplomats, he said, "should be more balanced" in their assessment.

The diplomats said they shared Mr. Blair's view that Britain has an interest in working closely with the United States in order to exert "real influence as a loyal ally."

But now is the time, they said, to use such influence, and if it is unwelcome in the Bush administration, then "there is no case for supporting policies which are doomed to failure."


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