Tony Blair has clearly broken ranks with George Bush’s approach to the Middle East:
THE first cracks in the united front over Iraq between Tony Blair and President Bush appeared last night as the Prime Minister offered Iran and Syria the prospect of dialogue over the future of Iraq and the Middle East.
Mr Blair said that there could be a new “partnership” with Iran if it stopped supporting terrorism in Iraq and gave up its nuclear ambitions. Syria and Iran could choose partnership or “isolation”.
And unless they’re brilliantly acting from a “good cop, bad cop” script, Bush is prepared to let the relationship wither:
Asked about calls for dialogue with Iran and Syria to help curb violence in Iraq, Bush said there was no change in his position that Iran must first suspend uranium enrichment. “Our focus of this administration is to convince the Iranians to give up its nuclear weapons ambitions,” Bush said after a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. “That focus is based upon our strong desire for there to be peace in the Middle East. And an Iran with a nuclear weapon would be a destabilizing influence.”
By now, it should be obvious to all but the densest of doorstops that the situation in Iraq is already engulfing the region; there are, at this point, virtually no countries that are untouched, and any options now require cooperation on a number of fronts. (Well, except one. Three guesses…)
The problem with trying to rope everyone together, however, is that it assumes shared goals. It also assumes that those goals will override the profound sectarian differences between the Shi’a and Sunni. I think, though, that a cooperative solution is more likely for Israel/Palestine than it is for Iraq — countries with radically different goals… which makes the hysteria blasting from The Daily Telegraph today a tad bizarre:
Iran is seeking to take control of Osama bin Laden’s al-Qa’eda terror network by encouraging it to promote officials known to be friendly to Teheran, The Daily Telegraph can reveal.
According to recent reports received by Western intelligence agencies, the Iranians are training senior al-Qa’eda operatives in Teheran to take over the organisation when bin Laden is no longer leader.
I’m trying to wrap my mind around “friendly to Teheran”… because there’s a enormous gulf between Iran’s Shi’ite ideology, and that of bin Laden’s Sunni al Qaeda; such an “unholy alliance” (my goodness, that’s purple) is highly unlikely. The Iranians are notoriously Machiavellian, but while I can see them selling weapons to the highest bidder, this “partnership” scenario asks us to believe they’ve either been arming both sides of the Iraq sectarian conflict, or that the Sunnis will forgive and forget Iran’s support for the Shi’a militias.
Worst-case scenarios are designed to get your heart a-thumpin’ and your brain a-spinnin’, and the Telegraph is doing its level best today give you an adrenaline rush. Was that first paragraph too calm? Maybe the hyperbole in the closer hits your terror-spot:
“We are looking at a Doomsday scenario here where al-Qa’eda finally fulfils its ultimate goal of acquiring weapons of mass destruction,” said a senior Western intelligence official. “And unlike other terror groups, al-Qa’eda is perfectly willing to use them.”
Not scared enough? The Telegraph has helpfully muddied things a bit by linking in some irrelevancies, like this one to an article about the recent Iranian missile tests:
Iran has always maintained close relations with al-Qa’eda, even though the Shia Muslim state is known to have many ideological and strategic differences with the terror group’s Sunni leadership.
Dunno about you, but I expected something about those close al Qaeda relations at the other end of the link… but there was nothing. Nada. Zilch and zip.
Obviously, if the Sunnis and Shi’a were to align, there’d be wider ramifications for the world… except — if they could come together, they wouldn’t be blowing one another up in Iraq, would they?
So — why the propaganda, Telegraph? Having some trouble with your ad revenues?