Wednesday, August 02, 2006

“Complete renaissance of our strategy”

Tony Blair gave a speech yesterday. More at the end, but that subject line comes from his remarks.


The Washington Post:
The U.S. strategy here aims to avoid a full-scale military onslaught like the one that demolished much of the nearby city of Fallujah in November 2004, flattening hundreds of homes, emptying it of people and leaving it struggling to rebuild. The senior U.S. commander in Ramadi, Army Col. Sean MacFarland, does not rule out major combat operations. But he makes it clear he sees no value in sending U.S. troops "crashing through like a bull in a china shop."

Instead, U.S. and Iraqi forces are advancing one step at a time into key locations in Ramadi's walled neighborhoods, setting up small outposts of about 100 troops each. The goal is to slowly choke off the insurgents' ability to move freely, making them easier to capture or kill. Meanwhile, Iraqi soldiers, backed by U.S. troops, are to take the lead in patrolling around the outposts, creating small zones of safety for residents that will gradually spread.

The AP:
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) — President Jalal Talabani said Wednesday that Iraqi forces will take over security in all provinces in the country by the end of the year. U.S. forces currently are responsible for security in 17 of Iraq's 18 provinces.

The optimistic statement by Talabani comes at a time when the country is reeling under intense sectarian violence, mainly involving Shiite and Sunni militias. On Tuesday, more than 70 people were killed in one of the worst days of bloodshed.
Hezbollah and Israel

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- As Israel pushed deeper into Lebanon on Wednesday, Hezbollah responded by sending a rocket farther south than ever -- in a wave of launches that killed one Israeli and wounded seven others.

Authorities counted 215 rockets slamming into northern Israel, the highest single-day tally of the three-week conflict, according to Israel Defense Forces.
The Boston Globe:
Another flier said simply: ``Flee, flee, far away. Save yourselves."
The New York Times:
Witnesses in Baalbek said that the Dar al-Hikma hospital is run by the Imam Khomeini Islamic Foundation charity. They said that four Israeli helicopters landed at the hospital late Tuesday night, and that Israeli forces bombed roads and bridges leading to the scene. News accounts put the number of dead from the airstrikes at between 12 and 19.

This morning, the ground outside the main entrance was scattered with pins from hand grenades, bullet casings and shattered glass.
The Los Angeles Times:
Israeli infantry crossed the Litani River in several spots and reached the northern edge of what Israel held as a buffer zone for 18 years until withdrawing in 2000, said Brig. Gen. Shuki Shihrur, deputy commander of the northern command. Shihrur said his forces were in control of positions along the waterway, which runs roughly parallel to the border, through air and artillery power. In some areas, he said, ground forces had sped past settled areas to reach the river and beyond in a bid to prevent Hezbollah from bringing in new fighters and arms.

The goal of the ground offensive was not to conquer towns but to work southward from the river, and north from the border, to clear out Hezbollah and weaken the group before any international peacekeeping force could be deployed in southern Lebanon, Shihrur said.

The Washington Post:
Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, a Sunni Muslim who has long worked to assert government authority in the south and disarm Hezbollah's Shiite militia, gave a telling display of the new attitude in a meeting Sunday with foreign ambassadors. Asked about his relations with Hezbollah by a female reporter clad in the scarf and long dress of a conservative Muslim, he replied that he was a good friend of the movement's leader, Hasan Nasrallah, and admired his militia's fight against Israel.

"I thank his eminence Seyyed Ali for his presence," Siniora said, using Nasrallah's familiar name and title, "and I also thank all those who are sacrificing with their lives for the independence and sovereignty of Lebanon, and I ask God to reserve a place in Heaven for all those who have lost their lives for the sake of Lebanon."

The jump in support for Hezbollah, reluctant and fleeting as it may be, has become a complicating factor in efforts to end the fighting, according to a Lebanese cabinet minister and other analysts. The United States and Israel have insisted that a cease-fire can come only as part of an overall settlement, the analysts noted, but the radical Shiite Muslim movement has what amounts to a veto by its presence in the government, its battle-proven militia and the popular standing it has earned by confronting Israeli forces for 21 days without backing down.
George Bush II

The New York Times:
The first President Bush had been tough on Israel, especially the Israeli settlements in occupied lands that Mr. Sharon had helped develop. But over tea in the Oval Office that day in March 2001 — six months before the Sept. 11 attacks tightened their bond — the new president signaled a strong predisposition to support Israel.

“He told Sharon in that first meeting that I’ll use force to protect Israel, which was kind of a shock to everybody,” said one person present, given anonymity to speak about a private conversation. “It was like, ‘Whoa, where did that come from?’ “


“The current approach simply is not leading toward a solution to the crisis, or even a winding down of the crisis,” said Richard N. Haass, who advised the first President Bush on the Middle East and worked as a senior State Department official in the current president’s first term. “There are times at which a hands-off policy can be justified. It’s not obvious to me that this is one of them.”
Tony Blair

The Financial Times:
The UK and US were on Tuesday warned by the United Nations’ second most senior official that as “the team that led on Iraq” they were poorly placed to take a leading role in diplomatic efforts on the crisis in Lebanon.

In a striking admonition of two permanent security council nations, Mark Malloch Brown, deputy secretary-general, told the Financial Times that the UK should take a back seat in dealing with the conflict, while the US should allow other countries to share the diplomatic lead. (Brown's remarks in full.)

The Times of London:
FIVE years into the War on Terror, Tony Blair called yesterday for a “complete renaissance of our strategy” to defeat militant Islam.

Speaking in Los Angeles, the Prime Minister admitted that the use of force alone had alienated Muslim opinion, and said that there was now an “arc of extremism” stretching across the Middle East and beyond. He called for an “alliance of moderation” that would combat terrorism using values as much as military might.

On a day when four British soldiers were killed by insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Prime Minister’s words were an apparent admission that the use of military force alone had failed.

His speech came amid growing Cabinet dissent and backbench unease that Britain was too readily following Washington’s lead over the Middle East. Jack Straw, the former Foreign Secretary, deliberately broke the Cabinet line last week by criticising Israel’s response as disproportionate.

The Times has learnt that the Foreign Office tried and failed to get Mr Blair to call for an immediate ceasefire in Lebanon when he saw Mr Bush last Friday. It had also failed to persuade No 10 to stop US aircraft delivering weapons to Israel from using British airports. (Blair's remarks in full.)

In 1999, Tony Blair outlined a case for international action to protect human rights. The transcript. His speech yesterday focused on similar themes: economic, political and environmental work in addition to military force. But the team that lead Iraq has lost a great deal of credibility on those points. An excerpt:
So how do we decide when and whether to intervene. I think we need to bear in mind five major considerations

First, are we sure of our case? War is an imperfect instrument for righting humanitarian distress; but armed force is sometimes the only means of dealing with dictators. Second, have we exhausted all diplomatic options? We should always give peace every chance, as we have in the case of Kosovo. Third, on the basis of a practical assessment of the situation, are there military operations we can sensibly and prudently undertake? Fourth, are we prepared for the long term? In the past we talked too much of exit strategies. But having made a commitment we cannot simply walk away once the fight is over; better to stay with moderate numbers of troops than return for repeat performances with large numbers. And finally, do we have national interests involved? The mass expulsion of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo demanded the notice of the rest of the world. But it does make a difference that this is taking place in such a combustible part of Europe.

I am not suggesting that these are absolute tests. But they are the kind of issues we need to think about in deciding in the future when and whether we will intervene.

Any new rules however will only work if we have reformed international institutions with which to apply them.

If we want a world ruled by law and by international co-operation then we have to support the UN as its central pillar. But we need to find a new way to make the UN and its Security Council work if we are not to return to the deadlock that undermined the effectiveness of the Security Council during the Cold War.
It is still possible even now to come out of this crisis with a better long-term prospect for the cause of moderation in the Middle East succeeding. But it would be absurd not to face up to the immediate damage to that cause which has been done.

We will continue to do all we can to halt the hostilities. But once that has happened, we must commit ourselves to a complete renaissance of our strategy to defeat those that threaten us. There is an arc of extremism now stretching across the Middle East and touching, with increasing definition, countries far outside that region. To defeat it will need an alliance of moderation, that paints a different future in which Muslim, Jew and Christian; Arab and Western; wealthy and developing nations can make progress in peace and harmony with each other. My argument to you today is this: we will not win the battle against this global extremism unless we win it at the level of values as much as force, unless we show we are even-handed, fair and just in our application of those values to the world.

The point is this. This is war, but of a completely unconventional kind.


Unless we re-appraise our strategy, unless we revitalise the broader global agenda on poverty, climate change, trade, and in respect of the Middle East, bend every sinew of our will to making peace between Israel and Palestine, we will not win. And this is a battle we must win.
Upon reading this, it is time that someone other than Tony Blair speaks for Tony Blair's cause. That is as much a call for George W. Bush to realize what his friend has tried to express over the years, as much as it is a call for Tony Blair to resign.


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