Western European News Digest
Chatham House Pronounces Sentence on Blair's Iraq 'Debacle'
The Royal Institute of International Affairs ("Chatham House"), has just issued a report, "Blair's Foreign Policy and its Possible Successor(s)," which concludes that British Prime Minister Tony Blair's first term, when Bill Clinton was U.S. President, was a success, but that "the post-9/11 decision to invade Iraq was a terrible mistake and the current debacle will have policy repercussions for many years to come"including a sharp decline in Britain's standing in the Middle East.
The report praises the 1999 Kosovo campaign as the most momentous decision of Blair's first termthe bombing campaign (against Serbia) carried out without UN Security Council approval; which was the first offensive action by NATO in its 50-year history. This showed how force could be used against a sovereign nation without the support of the UN. The report praises Blair's April 1999 speech in Chicago (on the eve of the NATO summit), where he said Britain would support intervention against a sovereign power, even without UN support.
But Iraq was a "terrible mistake." Blair's decision to offer unconditional support to Bush for the invasion of Iraqand providing diplomatic cover for itwas the defining moment of Blair's foreign policy, says RIIA. He should have stuck to "humanitarian intervention," as in the Chicago speech. By emphasizing the WMD, in cooperation with the Bush Administration, Blair blew apart the "doctrine of international community" he established in 1999, and "like Suez 50 years ago, the Iraqi debacle marks a watershed in British foreign policy that will alter the relationship with the US for many years to come."
"Blair's successor(s) will not be able to offer unconditional support for US initiatives ... and a rebalancing of UK's foreign policy between the U.S. and Europe will have to take place." The report warns that a closer relationship with Europe is required, and future U.S. presidents will likely urge it.
Regarding possible successors, Gordon Brown is a strong Atlanticist, while David Cameron prefers to ally the Tories with Euroskeptics in the EP.
Blair's best chance for a positive legacy is to put climate change higher on the international agenda, despite the U.S., advises RIIA.
Additional Documentation Exposes Blair Iraq WMD Lies
Carne Ross, the man who was the British government's chief negotiator at the UN for five years until June 2002, testified to the 2004 Butler Inquiry into whether the British government had "sexed up" Iraq's WMD, that at no time during his posting in New York did the British government "assess that Iraq's WMD (or any other capability) posed a threat to the U.K. or its interests. On the contrary, it was the commonly held view among officials dealing with Iraq that any threat had been effectively contained." He added that the U.K. delegation at the UN "would frequently argue" that regime change in Iraq "was inadvisable, primarily on the grounds that Iraq would collapse into chaos."
Ross's testimony had been suppressed until Dec. 14, when the House of Commons Select Foreign Affairs Committee released it, over the objections of the Foreign Office, as part of the evidence from a hearing the committee held on Nov. 8. Ross, who now runs his own consulting firm, told the Guardian Dec. 15, "I'd read the intelligence on WMD for four and a half years, and there's no way that it could sustain the case that the government was presenting. All of my colleagues knew that, too."
Blair Blitz Visit in Iraq
Tony Blair made a surprise visit to Iraq Dec. 17, meeting with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in the Green Zone. Blair rejected any suggestion that the sectarian conflict is the result of the U.S.-U.K. decision to invade the country. Reflecting the same psychosis that afflicts his U.S. partner, President Bush, Blair said that the challenge in Iraq is part of a wide struggle against those opposed to democracy.
Twice Blair refused to answer questions about his Middle East envoy, Lord Levy of Mill Hill, who was Blair's "bagman" in the 2005 elections, and who is also involved in the selling of seats in the House of Lords scandal.
Blair Obstruction 'Cash for Peerage' Investigation
The investigation of the "cash for peerage" scandal rocking Downing Street has been "widened to include a suspected cover-up by those around the Prime Minister, and that a prosecution source said: 'There is more than a suspicion that evidence has not been handed over, people have colluded and the police are not being helped,'" according to the London Times Dec. 18,
"'It has been noted,' the prosecution source is quoted as adding with a warning tone, 'that when the Watergate scandal forced President Nixon to resign, it was the cover-up, not the burglary, that brought him down. What these people should remember is that they are not dealing with a parliamentary inquiry; this is a criminal investigation and anyone failing to cooperate is participating in a criminal offense.'"
Britain To Regulate Japanese Banks' Hedge Fund Activities
Britain's Financial Services Agency (FSA) will impose stricter regulation on Japanese banks' investment in hedge funds, as of March, 2007, the Financial Times reported Dec. 21. The banks (presumably those operating in Britain) will have to provide the FSA with more information as to which hedge funds they are investing in, or, alternatively, set aside larger reserves. The latter stipulation would make such investments unattractive for many banks. This FSA action is prompted by what the Financial Times calls the Japanese banks' "insatiable appetite" for hedge funds, which if not curbed, could provoke a large number of bank failures.
Over the past year, many banks that can't meet the reserve requirement sold or redeemed hedge funds to the tune of $4.5 billion. The FT complains that by making it uneconomical to invest in hedge funds, the FSA is actually "robbing Japanese banks of the opportunity to learn the kind of sophisticated financial techniques they need to improve their performance."