LONDON: As the 10th and 5th anniversaries of two events that arguably defined the best and worst of Blair’s decade in power approach, the former UK prime minister is by turns reflective and defiant.
On Monday, it will have been two decades since Blair and US President George W. Bush invaded Saddam Hussein’s Iraq without a UN mandate and in defiance of some of the largest demonstrations ever seen in Britain.
When no WMD were discovered, the war was exposed as a foolish misadventure, and the West was unable to effectively counter the rise of autocrats in Russia and China, according to its many detractors.
On the other hand, Blair does not believe that Russian President Vladimir Putin gained anything by openly challenging a weakened West with his own aggression against Ukraine, which began in 2014 and culminated in a full invasion in the previous year.
Britain’s most successful Labour leader, now 69 years old, said this in an interview with AFP and other European news agencies ANSA, DPA, and EFE.
Blair pointed out that Saddam had started two wars in the region, disregarded numerous resolutions from the United Nations, and used chemical weapons against his own people.
In contrast, Ukraine is governed by a democratic government and posed no threat to its neighbors prior to Putin’s invasion.
“At least you could say we were removing a despot and trying to introduce democracy,” Blair said at the headquarters of his Tony Blair Institute for Global Change in London.
At this point, “you can argue about all the ramifications and so on.”
We should not take Putin’s propaganda seriously because his intervention in the Middle East (in Syria) was designed to support a despot and reject a democracy.
After leaving office in 2007, Blair served as an international envoy to try to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians. However, his efforts may have been hampered by the fallout from the Iraq war.
Blair has declared that he is “still very passionate” about bringing about peace in the Middle East through his institute, despite the fact that achieving such a goal may seem “pretty distant right now.”
Despite the fact that Russia will not reach a settlement in Ukraine until it admits that “aggression is wrong,” he believes the Palestinians can learn something from the uncontested high point of his presidency: peace in Northern Ireland.
After three decades of sectarian strife that claimed the lives of about 3,500 people, the parties involved in the conflict agreed to lay down their arms under the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement.
The final details of the agreement were negotiated for three days and nights between Blair, then-Irish premier Bertie Ahern, and a representative of US president Bill Clinton, who signed it on April 10, 1998.
Today, the territory’s political system is once again at a standstill.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden was originally scheduled to attend the 25th anniversary celebration of the Good Friday Agreement, but his trip was postponed after Britain and the European Union reached an agreement to regulate trade in Northern Ireland in the wake of Brexit.
Blair said, “it’s something I often say to the Palestinians: you should learn from what they did.” He was referring to the strategy shift by pro-Irish militants, from the bullet to the ballot box.
He further denied any anti-Israel bias, saying, “They shifted strategy and look at the result.” This was in reference to Israel’s approach to peace negotiations.
From 1997 until 2007, he occupied No. 10 Downing Street and presided over a period of political turmoil.
The Good Friday Agreement, which “had more or less collapsed when I came to Belfast and we had to rewrite it and agree on it,” is the one thing that everyone seems to agree on. This agreement was the only truly successful peace process in the last quarter century.