© Photo: REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
22 September, 2020 by Finian Cunningham
Cynics of the “historic” peace deals signed this week at the White House between Gulf Arab rulers and Israel were further emboldened in their criticism with reports that former British premier Tony Blair was a leading mediator behind the development.
U.S. President Donald Trump hailed the normalization of diplomatic ties between on the one hand the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, and on the other Israel, as the “dawn of a new era” of peace in the Middle East. Trump said the formal detente signed on the White House’s South Lawn would “change the course of history”. He may be right, for altogether different reason.
Trump added that several other Arab nations, including Saudi Arabia, would soon follow suit, thereby ending decades of Cold War between Arabs and Israelis.
The pomp and ceremony this week has only a veneer of significance. The UAE and Bahrain are the third and fourth members of the 22-member Arab League to have moved to normalize ties with Israel, following Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994. The decades-long regional stand-off stems from two wars in 1967 and 1973 and the ongoing Israeli annexation of Palestinian land.
Arab League members Syria and Lebanon remain critical of the new move to normalize ties with Israel, as do Muslim-majority nations Iran and Turkey which slammed the deal this week as a sellout of Palestinian rights. Palestinians themselves were united in denouncing the UAE and Bahrain for “stabbing in the back” their aspirations for a future independent state.
The UAE and Bahrain contend that their recognition of Israel is contingent on the Israelis halting plans for further annexation of Palestinian lands which the Trump administration has green lighted in its so-called Middle East “Vision for Peace” plan, cooked up by Trump’s ardently Zionist son-in-law Jared Kushner.
Palestinians and other critics say the push to normalize ties with Israel by the Gulf Arab states is merely legitimizing illegal occupation. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who attended the signing this week at the White House, has previously rebuffed claims that the latest Gulf Arab accords would stop future annexation.
Cynics have also pointed out that a major motive for Trump’s supposed peace deals is his desire to boost U.S. weapons sales to Arab nations, in particular the new-generation F-35 stealth fighter jet.
With a touch of Orwellian irony, the so-called new dawn of peace is more a new opening for flogging more American war machines.
But the emergence of Tony Blair as an éminence grise figure in the Arab-Israeli realignment would confirm that the whole hoopla is a sham no doubt connected to Trump’s reelection bid in less than two months. The former British prime minister was in attendance at the ceremony this week at the White House and feted as a crucial mediator in brokering Trump’s deal. One Republican pollster was quoted as saying Blair was viewed as a “rockstar” with delegates “lining up to have photos with him.”
As architect of the Iraq War, launched in 2003 along with GW Bush, the idea of Blair having anything to do with facilitating peace is a stupendous oxymoron. Arguably he should be prosecuted for war crimes.
Following Blair’s resignation as British premier in 2007, he immediately acquired a United Nations’ sinecure as Middle East Envoy, tasked with finding a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. After eight years in that post, Blair achieved absolutely nothing for the advancement of Palestinian rights.
However, what Blair did “achieve” was a reputation for using his “peace envoy” status to promote personal business interests across the region. He became a consultant for Wall Street giant JP Morgan Chase. His so-called “non-profit” think-tank Tony Blair Institute for Global Change is bankrolled by the U.S. State Department and the rulers of Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates. He counts himself as a “close friend” of Israel’s Netanyahu.
So what motivates Blair is less the peace of a region and more a lucrative piece of the action. A more suitable moniker would be “éminence grease”.
Blair’s cozy relations with Arab monarchs make him an ideal broker to smooth over public relations with seeming genteel English gravitas. In that regard, his services to Trump is about selling an illusion of peace-making which is a reprise of his facilitating role for GW Bush in selling the cause for war against Iraq.
The paradox is that in the GW Bush episode the aim was openly to launch a war. In Trump’s episode, the packaging may be wrapped in the rosy rhetoric of peace, but the content would seem to be still war. This time, war against Iran.
Blair has emerged as a keen advocate of a U.S.-led alliance to confront what he calls Iran’s “totalitarianism”.
His money-grubbing institute published a paper last year stating: “The totalitarian and divisive worldview born from the 1979 Iranian Revolution… has been a driving force of instability and violence for years.” It added: “Unless Western leaders can learn the lessons from the 1979 revolution, the threat Iran poses will continue to grow.”
Blair has also backed the Trump administration in undermining the international nuclear accord with Iran. That 2015 accord has infuriated Israel as well as the Sunni Arab regimes led by Saudi Arabia all of whom want to see it binned. Indeed, the U.S.-led anti-Iran axis of Israel and the Gulf Arab oil sheikhdoms has paved the way for formal realignment, a realignment for war against Iran, in which the historic Palestinian cause has become a mere trifle to be thrown under a bus.
Tony Blair is not about peace in the Middle East. His involvement with the Trump administration is about selling war against Iran.