LONDON — Former British prime minister Tony Blair who will always be remembered as a man who took UK to war with Iraq along with US president George Bush now wants Britain to join hands with Russia in another war — that against radical Islam.
Blair has asked the UK and the US to put aside their differences with Russia over Ukraine and “co-operate” to fight a new enemy in the form of radical Islam which he felt governments in Europe and America had become “curiously reluctant to acknowledge”.
Blair, who is now an active mitigator of peace in the Middle East, called the region including Pakistan or Iran “as a vast unfathomable mess with no end in sight and no one worthy of our support”.
“An international program to eradicate religious intolerance and prejudice from school systems and informal education systems and from organisations in civic society would have a huge galvanizing effect in making unacceptable what is currently ignored or tolerated,” Blair said.
“Whatever our other differences, we should be prepared to reach out and cooperate with the East, and in particular, Russia and China. On this issue also, there is a complete identity of interest between East and West. China and Russia have exactly the same desire to defeat this ideology as do the USA and Europe. Here is a subject upon which all the principal nations of the G20 could come together, could agree to act, and could find common ground to common benefit,” he added.
Blair said that Ukraine has served to push the Middle East to the inside pages, with the carnage of Syria featuring somewhat, but the chaos of Libya, whose government we intervened to change, hardly meriting a mention. However the Middle East matters. What is presently happening there, still represents the biggest threat to global security of the early 21st century.
Blair added, “The region, including the wider area outside its conventional boundary – Pakistan, Afghanistan to the east and North Africa to the west – is in turmoil with no end in sight to the upheaval and any number of potential outcomes from the mildly optimistic to catastrophe. At the root of the crisis lies a radicalized and politicized view of Islam, an ideology that distorts and warps Islam’s true message. The threat of this radical Islam is not abating. It is growing. It is spreading across the world. It is destabilizing communities and even nations”.
Blair said there were four reasons why the Middle East remains of central importance. First it is still where a large part of the world’s energy supplies are generated. Secondly, it is right on the doorstep of Europe. Third, in the center of this maelstrom, is Israel. Its alliance with the USA, its partnership with leading countries of Europe, and the fact that it is a Western democracy, mean that its fate is never going to be a matter of indifference. “Finally and least obvious, is a reason we are curiously reluctant to admit, in part because the admission would throw up some very difficult policy choices. It is in the Middle East that the future of Islam will be decided. Wherever you look – from Iraq to Libya to Egypt to Yemen to Lebanon to Syria and then further afield to Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan – this is the essential battle”.
According to Blair, in the last 50 years, there has been a steady stream of funding, proselytizing, organizing and promulgating coming out of the Middle East, pushing views of religion that are narrow minded and dangerous.
“The the Muslim population in Europe is now over 40 million and growing. The Muslim Brotherhood and other organisations are increasingly active and they operate without much investigation or constraint. We change the regime in Libya through air power, we don’t commit forces on the ground, again the people initially respond well, but now Libya is a mess and a mess that is destabilizing everywhere around it”.
Blair added, “In Syria, we call for the regime to change, we encourage the Opposition to rise up, but then when Iran activates Hezbollah on the side of Assad, we refrain even from air intervention to give the Opposition a chance. The result is a country in disintegration, millions displaced, a death toll approximating that of Iraq, with no end in sight and huge risks to regional stability. Then there has been the so-called Arab Spring. At first we jumped in to offer our support to those on the street. We are now bemused and bewildered that it hasn’t turned out quite how we expected”. — Courtesy Times of India