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‘Blair should be lecturing on Iraq from the dock at the International Criminal Court’

John Wight is a writer and commentator specializing in geopolitics, UK domestic politics, culture and sport.

Published time: June 20, 2014 14:41
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair (Reuters/Lucy Nicholson)

​It has been heartening to witness the backlash against former British Prime Minister Tony Blair over his attempt to deny any responsibility for the chaos and carnage that has engulfed northern and eastern Iraq in recent days.

While thousands of ISIS Sunni extremists are engaged in a determined attempt to reach Baghdad, leaving a trail of carnage in the process, Tony Blair remains resolute in claiming that there is no connection between this and the hell in which Iraq has been plunged, even more than a decade since the 2003 onset of the war which he and former US President George W Bush unleashed. As someone averred among the avalanche of Tweets sent excoriating the former prime minister over his recent denials, this is about as serious as claiming there is no connection between him having sex with his wife and the existence of his children.

Blair cuts an increasingly isolated figure, which for a man obsessed with establishing a legacy in the Churchillian mode, not even the tens of millions of pounds he’s amassed since leaving Downing Street in 2007 can ever hope to compensate. Former friends and political allies have deserted him now; and in response to his latest public appearance, more than a few have taken the opportunity to stick the boot in. Perhaps the sentiments of London Mayor Boris Johnson came closest to describing the extent to which Blair is now considered a political pariah in Britain, when he described him as “mad.”

When it comes to the region, it is time for the West – in particular, the US and the UK – to abandon their nonsensical policy of supporting the opposition in Syria and instead acknowledge that the government of Bashar al-Assad is playing a key role in stemming the flood of Sunni extremism and has been over the last three years. In fact, without the resilience of the Syrian Arab Army the region would have been plunged into even more chaos and destruction than it is at present. For three years, the Syrian government, the Syrian people, army and allies have stood against this de facto Islamic Khmer Rouge in Syria otherwise known as ISIS (ISIL), an organization and ideology so beyond the pale that its defeat and destruction is absolutely vital.

Yet, as recently as the beginning of May, the British government announced its decision to resume the provision of “non-lethal” aid to the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in the form of laptops, communications equipment, vehicles and medical supplies. Surely this has to count as an act of insanity on the part of Britain’s Foreign Secretary, William Hague, who pushed for this resumption of aid to the “moderate” Syrian opposition?

Firstly, the FSA – as a significant factor in the Syrian conflict – no longer exists. Secondly, how does atrocities committed by the FSA in Syria (most infamously the filming of the cutting open of a dead Syrian soldier and removal of his internal organs by an FSA commander in 2013, which was then posted online) qualify them as moderate in any meaningful sense? Thirdly, how would it profit the Syrian people and, with the spreading of the crisis to Iraq, the region as a whole if the current Syrian government is toppled?

It doesn’t take a genius of strategic thinking to work out that if there ever was a moderate opposition in Syria there no longer is, and that the only effective forces in the region currently able to take on these medieval extremists are the Syrian Arab Army, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and Hezbollah. Without them the entire Arab world would be dragged into hell without a way out, which is why the West must as a matter of urgency reorient its policy accordingly.

Volunteers, who have joined the Iraqi Army to fight against predominantly Sunni militants, carry weapons during a parade in the streets in Baghdad's Sadr city June 14, 2014. (Reuters/Ruben Sprich)

Another factor in this growing crisis, exposing the West’s abiding hypocrisy and venality, is the role of the Saudis as a major source of funding and support for Sunni extremism. It remains more than a coincidence that 15 of the 19 hijackers involved in the atrocity of 9/11 were Saudi citizens, and since then this vile clan has used Saudi Arabia's vast oil wealth to spread instability in Syria, Egypt, and now Iraq in service to an anti-Iranian agenda and a perverse rendering of Islam known as Wahhabism.

Saudi Arabia consistently ranks low on every international index on human rights. Indeed, so egregious is the problem that 52 members of Congress, Democrat and Republican, along with NGOs such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, sent a letter to President Obama prior to his visit to Saudi Arabia in late March/early April this year, urging him to press King Abdullah on the issue.

To be frank, Saudi Arabia is a hellhole of intolerance, state-sponsored religious extremism, injustice, the oppression of minorities and women, and corruption. Yet despite this, the West continues to foster close economic and political ties with the country. The most embarrassing evidence of the nature of this relationship came in February when Prince Charles visited the Kingdom during a tour of the Gulf in February and behaved like an idiot, performing a sword dance while dressed in traditional robes and headdress for the delectation of his hosts.

The day after his visit to Riyadh, Britain’s biggest arms firm, BAE, announced a deal to supply the Saudis with 72 Typhoon fighter jets, worth some £4.5 billion ($8 billion). Despite denials issued by the Prince's office that there was any connection between his visit and the subsequent arms deal, the fact that this was the 10th state visit to the Kingdom by the heir to the throne leaves no doubt as to the close ties that exist between the UK and a clan of Arab potentates who rule their state like a mafia crime family.

Other Gulf states such as Qatar also have blood on their hands when it comes to funding the sectarian bloodletting that has swept Syria and now Iraq, while at the same time enjoying a close economic and political relationship with the West. It reminds us that to the political classes in the US and throughout Western Europe the lives of innocent men, women, and children in Syria and Iraq take second place to economic self-interest.

This is why being lectured to about democracy and human rights by a US president or British prime minister is like being told to sit up straight by the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Finally, returning to Tony Blair, it is not so much that we mind him defending his role in Iraq. It is that he should by now be doing it from the dock at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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