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Tony Blair: A Wronged Arab Ally - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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It is common knowledge among us that outgoing British Prime Minister Tony Blair was an evil when it came to the region’s affairs and waged wars on its people, from the invasion of Iraq to Palestine, Sudan, terrorism, and other significant events. The truth is that the man played a positive, yet silent, role in minimizing the damage and containing crises.

His opponents portrayed him as George Bush’s loyal lap dog, while the man played an exceptional role in reducing the US tension following the 11 September attacks. Blair also succeeded in creating another wing with the US President that counterbalances the Pentagon group, which believed that the United States had the right to have an international presence using force and political influence. I am aware that Blair flew several times to Washington in order to persuade the White House of the dangers of expanding the war on terrorism and the importance of creating an alliance with the Islamic countries instead of Washington fighting Al-Qaeda alone. Blair was also more than once willing to rejuvenate the Palestinian question, which was marginalized by the issues of terrorism and Iraq. Some Arab countries resorted to Blair in times of serious crises in order to persuade the US Administration to modify or mitigate the acute stands of Bush’s government.

Blair was certainly loyal to his friend Bush — a friendship necessitated by work requirements — but he was Bush’s best adviser on Arab affairs. I am aware that nobody can understand Blair’s history because Blair is unable to promote himself, and he was always keen not to publicly criticize Bush’s administration, regardless of the extent of disagreement between the two.

On another note, we should realize that the relationship between London and Washington is essential and strategic, and any prime minister would have done the same — be he a member of the Labor, Conservative, or Liberal Democratic parties. This was the case with John Major and the more so with Margaret Thatcher.

One of Blair’s attributes is that he is not an elusive politician like French President Jacques Chirac, for he does not evade his responsibilities. Blair admitted to the mistakes in Iraq, yet he insisted that the Iraq battle was essential and inevitable. The battle, he believes, was spoiled by the fatal mistakes of the postwar administration. He is well aware that victory can be claimed by many unlike defeat, as is the case in Iraq.

Many have judged Blair based on the Iraqi issue, but forgot, if not failed to notice, that he was the British prime minister who reached an understanding with everybody in the region the most. Unlike Washington, he did not take any extreme stands toward any Arab country. He sought to communicate with Syria at a time when Washington had a definite wish to boycott it; however, Damascus, as usual, rejected his efforts. He also tried to ease the tension with the Iranians, but Tehran was faster by announcing the [uranium] enrichment, denying the inspectors access [to nuclear plants], and antagonizing the international community.

Blair may be the product of a traditional relationship between Washington and London, but he was a leader who ruled for ten difficult years, during which he had historic stands.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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