Tony Blair: Warmonger turned peacemaker?
Can Tony Blair follow the achievement of ‘peace' in Northern Ireland with peace in the Middle East? His retirement as PM and appointment as Middle East envoy for the ‘quartet' of the US, Russia, the EU and the UN, has been accompanied by this idea. Spin, pure spin!
First of all, there is no international community of the great and the good ready to stand as honest brokers for peace, only various imperialist powers out to defend their national interests in the area. The US has been an ally of Israel from way back in the period of the cold war, when the western imperialist bloc was confronted by the Russia imperialist bloc, with the latter using the PLO to harass their rivals in the Middle East. So the collapse of the Russian bloc brought about an important change in the balance of power in the region. The EU and UN both contain various nations with conflicting interests and alliances, but that does not mean they can stand for peace, only that they become an arena for conflicts to be played out diplomatically without for one moment ending the fighting on the ground. For example, in the EU, Britain took the opposite line to France and Germany on the invasion of Iraq in 2003; and in the 1990s Germany backed Croatia and Britain and France backed Serbia in the break up of Yugoslavia.
Secondly, Blair is not seen as any kind of neutral peace-maker. He is liked by Israel, because he is seen as being on their side, and distrusted by Palestinians for the same reason. His refusal to call for a ceasefire last year when Israel invaded Lebanon last year, and his role in the Iraq war, are reason enough for this.
In these aspects we can see a certain similarity with ‘peace-making' in Northern Ireland. The British government, under Blair or anyone else, is not a neutral observer, but defends British interests against the claims for Irish unity for instance. At the moment there is no power with a realistic immediate interest in backing violence at present - for instance as the USA did to punish Britain for taking a more independent foreign policy line - but the underlying conflicts have not gone away (see ‘Ireland: power sharing will not end imperialist conflicts' in WR 303 and ICC website).
Finally, the job of Middle East envoy is very limited and Blair's predecessor, James Wolfensohn, former President of the World bank, resigned from the post in frustration as no progress could be made. This is hardly surprising when the ‘quartet' is made up of powers with conflicting imperialist interests in the region. The brief includes Palestinian governance, economics and security. Nothing about the conflict between Israel and Palestine, so even his official mandate does not include ‘peace-making'.