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Thread: 52 Diplomats Condemn Middle East Policy

  1. #1
    lynx's Avatar .
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    Doomed to failure in the Middle East

    A letter from 52 former senior British diplomats to Tony Blair

    Tuesday April 27, 2004
    The Guardian

    Dear Prime Minister,

    We the undersigned former British ambassadors, high commissioners, governors and senior international officials, including some who have long experience of the Middle East and others whose experience is elsewhere, have watched with deepening concern the policies which you have followed on the Arab-Israel problem and Iraq, in close cooperation with the United States. Following the press conference in Washington at which you and President Bush restated these policies, we feel the time has come to make our anxieties public, in the hope that they will be addressed in parliament and will lead to a fundamental reassessment.

    The decision by the US, the EU, Russia and the UN to launch a "road map" for the settlement of the Israel/Palestine conflict raised hopes that the major powers would at last make a determined and collective effort to resolve a problem which, more than any other, has for decades poisoned relations between the west and the Islamic and Arab worlds. The legal and political principles on which such a settlement would be based were well established: President Clinton had grappled with the problem during his presidency; the ingredients needed for a settlement were well understood and informal agreements on several of them had already been achieved. But the hopes were ill-founded. Nothing effective has been done either to move the negotiations forward or to curb the violence. Britain and the other sponsors of the road map merely waited on American leadership, but waited in vain.

    Worse was to come. After all those wasted months, the international community has now been confronted with the announcement by Ariel Sharon and President Bush of new policies which are one-sided and illegal and which will cost yet more Israeli and Palestinian blood. Our dismay at this backward step is heightened by the fact that you yourself seem to have endorsed it, abandoning the principles which for nearly four decades have guided international efforts to restore peace in the Holy Land and which have been the basis for such successes as those efforts have produced.

    This abandonment of principle comes at a time when rightly or wrongly we are portrayed throughout the Arab and Muslim world as partners in an illegal and brutal occupation in Iraq.

    The conduct of the war in Iraq has made it clear that there was no effective plan for the post-Saddam settlement. All those with experience of the area predicted that the occupation of Iraq by the coalition forces would meet serious and stubborn resistance, as has proved to be the case. To describe the resistance as led by terrorists, fanatics and foreigners is neither convincing nor helpful. Policy must take account of the nature and history of Iraq, the most complex country in the region. However much Iraqis may yearn for a democratic society, the belief that one could now be created by the coalition is naive. This is the view of virtually all independent specialists on the region, both in Britain and in America. We are glad to note that you and the president have welcomed the proposals outlined by Lakhdar Brahimi. We must be ready to provide what support he requests, and to give authority to the UN to work with the Iraqis themselves, including those who are now actively resisting the occupation, to clear up the mess.

    The military actions of the coalition forces must be guided by political objectives and by the requirements of the Iraq theatre itself, not by criteria remote from them. It is not good enough to say that the use of force is a matter for local commanders. Heavy weapons unsuited to the task in hand, inflammatory language, the current confrontations in Najaf and Falluja, all these have built up rather than isolated the opposition. The Iraqis killed by coalition forces probably total 10-15,000 (it is a disgrace that the coalition forces themselves appear to have no estimate), and the number killed in the last month in Falluja alone is apparently several hundred including many civilian men, women and children. Phrases such as "We mourn each loss of life. We salute them, and their families for their bravery and their sacrifice," apparently referring only to those who have died on the coalition side, are not well judged to moderate the passions these killings arouse.

    We share your view that the British government has an interest in working as closely as possible with the US on both these related issues, and in exerting real influence as a loyal ally. We believe that the need for such influence is now a matter of the highest urgency. If that is unacceptable or unwelcome there is no case for supporting policies which are doomed to failure.

    Yours faithfully,

    Sir Graham Boyce (ambassador to Egypt 1999-2001); Sir Terence Clark (ambassador to Iraq 1985-89); Francis Cornish (ambassador to Israel 1998-2001); Sir James Craig (ambassador to Saudi Arabia 1979-84); Ivor Lucas (ambassador to Syria 1982-84); Richard Muir (ambassador to Kuwait 1999-2002); Sir Crispin Tickell (British permanent representative to the UN 1987-90); Sir Harold (Hooky) Walker (ambassador to Iraq 1990-91), and 44 others

    [Full list of signatories: Brian Barder; Paul Bergne; John Birch; David Blatherwick; Graham Boyce; Julian Bullard; Juliet Campbell; Bryan Cartledge; Terence Clark; David Colvin; Francis Cornish; James Craig; Brian Crowe; Basil Eastwood; Stephen Egerton; William Fullerton; Dick Fyjis-Walker; Marrack Goulding; John Graham; Andrew Green; Vic Henderson; Peter Hinchcliffe; Brian Hitch; Archie Lamb; David Logan; Christopher Long; Ivor Lucas; Ian McCluney; Maureen MacGlashan; Philip McLean; Christopher MacRae; Oliver Miles; Martin Morland; Keith Morris; Richard Muir; Alan Munro; Stephen Nash; Robin O'Neill; Andrew Palmer; Bill Quantrill; David Ratford; Tom Richardson; Andrew Stuart; David Tatham; Crispin Tickell; Derek Tonkin; Charles Treadwell; Hugh Tunnell; Jeremy Varcoe; Hooky Walker; Michael Weir; Alan White.]

    Source

    These are people who REALLY understand what's going on in the Middle East, yet it seems likely that they were not consulted before the Iraq conflict, or if they were their comments were ignored.

    It is unprecedented for such a group to publicly criticise the government, which surely shows how disturbed they feel by current and recent events. I cannot see how Tony Blair can continue if he fails to take at least some action in response. Perhaps David Blunkett will declare them all terrorists and have them locked up.

    Edit: forgot to "quote" original document.
    .
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  2. The Drawing Room   -   #2
    Biggles's Avatar Looking for loopholes
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    JP

    If I may be so bold,

    Dear Tone,

    The Arabs used to trust us. Thanks to you they now think we are total tossers!

    signed

    A load of people who actually know what they are talking about.

    At least that is the gist of the matter.
    Cogito cogito ergo cogito sum


  3. The Drawing Room   -   #3
    Rat Faced's Avatar Broken
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    That list of names is impressive.

    Even more impressive, in that they are from all parts of the political spectrum.

    An It Harm None, Do What You Will

  4. The Drawing Room   -   #4
    Can someone put this into context for me? How many quite frankly disagreed with this letter and how many diplomats were there to choose from? It seems some terms date back to the 1970's.

    Is this 52 out of 52 or 52/1000?

    And what is their plan other than, "I don't like yours".

    Criticism is "easy", putting forward a well thought out plan of your own is "constructive".

    In the Middle East, predictions of failure are pretty much a sure bet.
    Aren't we in the trust tree, thingey?

  5. The Drawing Room   -   #5
    lynx's Avatar .
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    Originally posted by hobbes@28 April 2004 - 01:53
    Can someone put this into context for me? How many quite frankly disagreed with this letter and how many diplomats were there to choose from? It seems some terms date back to the 1970's.
    Before the current occupiers of those positions (who can't make public comment) there are the most recent ambassadors to Egypt, Israel, Kuwait and Iraq. There is one (of those whose terms are detailed) who's term of office started in the 1970's (1979 to be precise).
    Is this 52 out of 52 or 52/1000?
    I don't think the numbers (or ratio if you prefer) is particularly significant. The fact that so many from such different political backgrounds have got together is the overwhelming point.
    And what is their plan other than, "I don't like yours".
    Would you expect them to voice concerns that everything is going well? Be realistic.
    Criticism is "easy", putting forward a well thought out plan of your own is "constructive".
    Surely it was the job of the coalition governments to put forward a well thought out plan before embarking on this fiasco. It is a little difficult to put forward a constructive plan if no-one is even prepared to listen, but there are some suggestions as to what should be done. Perhaps you find the ideas unpalatable.
    In the Middle East, predictions of failure are pretty much a sure bet.
    Maybe a good bet, but if you don't have a good plan it is a certainty.
    .
    Political correctness is based on the principle that it's possible to pick up a turd by the clean end.

  6. The Drawing Room   -   #6
    Biggles's Avatar Looking for loopholes
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    Hobbes

    As Lynx has said, the political spectrum and the fact that they are all experienced ME ambassadors is the real point.

    Whilst an ambassador to the Galapagos Islands might make pertinent points, it could be argued he doesn't know what he talking about. These people are the great and good of the Foreign Office with specific knowledge of the region spanning all poltical parties over the last 30+ years.

    The strongest counter I have seen yet from the current establishment is that these people clearly went "native" during their stay in the ME and this has coloured their opinion. This point of view has generally caused much hilarity.
    Cogito cogito ergo cogito sum


  7. The Drawing Room   -   #7
    Lynx,

    They presented little to no alternative plan. We all know the situation is troublesome in Iraq and as ever in Israel, do we need some ex-diplomats to point to the obvious?

    These guys haven't been able to accomplish anything permanent in the last 25 years, what makes me think they suddenly have a clue how to go about things?

    It's almost like a bankrupt investor scoffing at your portfolio. These ambassadors have been real inspirations in futility.

    Maybe Chirac should lead the rebuilding, the Arab world loves him. I think Saddam had a personal term of affection for him, if I am not mistaken.

    Why could this letter not have been sent privately? This is simply a tactic to make poor Tony look worse. If they really wanted to help, they would have gone this route. Seems to me they just wanted to make a media splash and get back in the news.

    I honestly don't give a crap, my gut reaction to the article was that it was a sensational way for a biased media source to sell more papers. Kind of like when people criticise Fox news, just a British version.

    When I really want to help, I do it privately, after all, I am a diplomat .
    Aren't we in the trust tree, thingey?

  8. The Drawing Room   -   #8
    Biggles's Avatar Looking for loopholes
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    Hobbes

    An open letter to one of the old heavyweight newspapers is something of a British tradition. It is not actually all that sensationalist. It is considered rather old school and dry by the general populace (a point JPF made in his own inimitable way). It is an accepted and honourable way for professionals to make a point about policy and direction in our rather meandering an archaic system of government.
    Cogito cogito ergo cogito sum


  9. The Drawing Room   -   #9
    Many on the list have no relation to the Middle East and there is just a single woman is present. Given the range of countries listed, I imagine 52 is a very small number of the total number of diplomats.

    Their accomplishments and experience in the Middle East leave me rather unimpressed.

    Has anything changed in the Middle East in over 25 years. No. Who was in office, the above signed.

    Do I support Tom Blair, George Bush, no.

    I just find their letter rather useless, as I pointed out above. Seems like a "hey, remember me, Harold "Hooky" Walker former Iraq ambassador?"

    If you are going to disrespect your leader in public, have a plan, if you can at all be bothered.

    Anyway, take my comments as you will, I am only human, opened and I really can't get my pulse up over this.
    Aren't we in the trust tree, thingey?

  10. The Drawing Room   -   #10
    Hobbes you have made no attempt to address the content of the letter, and have instead focused all your energies on rubbishing the authors. A typical politicians 'trick' to divert attention from the real issues.

    Originally posted by hobbes+--></div><table border='0' align='center' width='95%' cellpadding='3' cellspacing='1'><tr><td>QUOTE (hobbes)</td></tr><tr><td id='QUOTE'>They presented little to no alternative plan. [/b]


    Does that automatically make their criticism invalid?

    Originally posted by hobbes+--></div><table border='0' align='center' width='95%' cellpadding='3' cellspacing='1'><tr><td>QUOTE (hobbes)</td></tr><tr><td id='QUOTE'>Maybe Chirac should lead the rebuilding, the Arab world loves him. I think Saddam had a personal term of affection for him, if I am not mistaken.[/b]


    Relevance?

    Originally posted by hobbes
    Why could this letter not have been sent privately? This is simply a tactic to make poor Tony look worse. If they really wanted to help, they would have gone this route.
    How do you know they have not sent a private letter? By definition you wouldn&#39;t know about it.

    If you were a little more familiar with Tony Blair&#39;s style of government you would realise that a private letter from these guys wouldn&#39;t make a difference.

    Originally posted by hobbes
    Seems to me they just wanted to make a media splash and get back in the news.
    Ambassadors and diplomats making a "media splash" and trying to get back in the news? Please... you really are scraping the bottom of the barrel with that. I don&#39;t know how you view your ambassadors in the US but in the UK they are not celebrities.

    <!--QuoteBegin-hobbes
    @
    I honestly don&#39;t give a crap, my gut reaction to the article was that it was a sensational way for a biased media source to sell more papers. Kind of like when people criticise Fox news, just a British version.[/quote]

    You genuinely think that a letter from a bunch of diplomats is a good way to sell newspapers to the masses? You call that "sensational"? Comparable to Fox News?? A little advice, do not pursue a career in the mass media, you wouldn&#39;t make a penny.

    You know what I find really dissappointing Hobbes... I don&#39;t think you believe a word of what you&#39;ve just written. However, you have shattered the "fair and balanced" Hobbes portrait you&#39;ve been painting for a while now.

    No &#39;fair and balanced&#39;, honest person of any political persuasion would respond to that letter with desperate smear tactics. I suspect such an individual would respond to the content.

    edit: <!--QuoteBegin-hobbes

    Has anything changed in the Middle East in over 25 years. No. Who was in office, the above signed. [/quote]

    Ambassadors and diplomats dictate foreign policy? I thought they did what the government of the day told them to do.. ah well, you live and learn.

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