Love him or not, you've got to admire his tenacity. I'm talking about
the British prime minister who's clearly myopic when it comes to warbling fat
His finance minister doesn't want him. Members of his cabinet are openly
counting the days until he hangs up his coffee mug next May. His party
backbenchers are revolting, the trade unions can't wait for his swan song,
while, according to an ICM poll, 50 percent of the British public want their
not so beloved leader gone by the end of the year.
Just about anyone else in that position would probably feel like going
home to mother for a spot of TLC. But not Tony Blair who's jetted off to the
Middle East where according to a statement put out by Palestinian
parliamentarians and intellectuals, he's unwelcome.
"Tony Blair is persona non grata in our countries and his visit to
Ramallah is a serious provocation to the popular Palestinian sentiments,
because he comes here to wash his hands of the blood of the Lebanese in Palestinian
waters," read the statement published in the Palestinian paper Al Ayyam.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas wasn't one of them.
He got no tea and sympathy in Beirut, landing in Lebanon under tight
security Monday, after having been accused by the Hezbollah leader Hassan
Nasrallah of being "a key accomplice" of Israel during the recent
I know, we're all a sucker for an underdog, or even a lame duck
politician for that matter, but before you reach for your hankies, rest assured
Tony Blair still has a few firm friends besides George, Laura, Rupert and the
rest of his American fan club, eager to pin a presidential medal onto his loyal
To the Israelis he's a breath of fresh air. What a change from the mealy
mouthed foreign politicians, diplomats and NGOs who flew to Israel wagging
their fingers and toes over Qana Mark II, the bombing of Red Cross conveys and
cluster bombs strewn over Lebanon in large numbers in the final hours of the
Blair empathises with the pit-a-pat of innocent Israeli hearts menaced
by hostile neighbours and extremists or so it seems from an interview conducted
by Ha'aretz last Sunday.
Britain's prime minister felt so at home he confided to David Landau and
Aluf Benn that while western leaders are aware of the struggle against Islamic
extremism led by Iran, within western public opinion "there is a big
battle to be won."
Hearts and minds
Poor, misunderstood and downtrodden Mr Blair admitted that his own
domestic political difficulties were closely tied "with this ideological
battle" for British and western hearts and minds.
It's a terrible tragedy to be sure when we the ignorant people just
can't wrap our heads around the invasion and destruction of countries on the
strength of successive packs of lies.
It seems the prime minister feels disconnected from his people. That
makes sense when we remember the millions of Britons that flooded onto the
streets in protest at Mess-O-Potamia that he so cavalierly ignored.
So given that Blair isn't exactly Mr Popularity at home and abroad, with
the obvious exceptions of Tel Aviv and Washington, why does he insist on
hanging on to office by the tips of his fingers until next spring, risking his
party's re-election prospects and his country's economic stability?
Some speculate he's still searching for a glorious political legacy, but
that would require a miracle. If he hasn't achieved one in nine years, what
difference will nine months make unless of course, like the US Secretary of
State Condoleezza Rice, he's keen on helping to birth a new Middle East.
And here we may have it. He told the Israeli daily Ha'aretz that it
would be folly to ignore Iran's threats against Israel.
"When you have the president of a country as powerful as Iran say
those things, it may be very foolish of us to assume he doesn't mean
them," he said. "And when he's also trying to acquire a nuclear
weapon, then I think the warning signs are pretty clear. If we don't get
worried about that, future historians will raise a few questions about us and
about our judgment."
Eureka! Could Seymour Hersh of the New Yorker be right? Is the US
planning a pre-emptive strike on Iran's nuclear facilities later this year?
Does Blair have firm commitments with his pals across the pond he's unable to share?
Remember how former Foreign Minister Jack Straw was demoted after saying
an attack on Iran would be "nuts"? Remember Dick Cheney's warning on
MSNBC that Israel might decide to destroy Iran's nuclear plants "and let
the rest of the world worry about cleaning up the diplomatic mess
During such a tidy up where would the US and Israel be without Blair and
the fig leaf of respectability provided by his holier than thou demeanour and
his Mr Nice Guy boyish grin?
Would his likely successor, Gordon Brown, be willing to stick with the
programme? Not unless he's ready to commit political hara-kiri. On the other
hand, Blair, whose political capital is already depleted, has little to lose.
There are few situations scarier than powerful nations run by ideologues
who keep their people in the dark. We'll probably never know whether Blair has
a messianic calling, whether he's a neocon in disguise or just a good man who
got in with the wrong crowd along the way.
Linda S. Heard is a British specialist writer on
Middle East affairs. She welcomes feedback and can be contacted by email at email@example.com.