Vol. 4 Num 327 Fri. April 30, 2004  

Blair's new predicament
A letter of collective indictment
Fifty-one ex-diplomats' letter to Blair, coming in the wake of the recent Bush-Blair summit, is as blunt as it is denunciatory. These retired gentlemen belonging to the British Foreign Service were prompted by the developments in the Mideast and Iraq to wax critical of British Prime Minister's policies for the region. The attack by the 52 diplomats, including former ambassadors to Baghdad and Tel Aviv, is being seen as unprecedented in scope and scale.

Through the letter these gentlemen have expressed their indignation at Blair for following Bush 'slavishly.' They have 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." The letter asserted that the Bush-Blair Mideast policies were "doomed to failure". The fact that many of the signatories had served in the Mideast during various times and are well aware of the intricacies of the Mideast scenario, lends credence to their criticisms.

What has sensitised them to assail their prime minister, most of all, at this point in time, is Blair's unabashed endorsement of the of Sharon's new plan for Gaza and the West Bank. The deceitfulness of this plan has prompted many analysts to characterise it as a reincarnation of the Balfour Declaration.

Without going into the contents of their letter in detail it can be said that it is not only an indictment of the British policy in Iraq and the Mideast, it also calls into question the method of operation that the coalition has employed in Iraq.

If there is a weakness in the letter it is that it does not suggest any viable alternatives to the current US-UK Mideast policies. One reason why no alternatives could be offered was perhaps because these policies, formulated on poor judgment, have complicated the situation far too much for any easy bail-out.

While one cannot but appreciate the substance of the letter one wishes that this had come sooner, so that some mid-course changes could have been effected. It may be too late now for the policy to be retrieved out of the doldrums.