Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Blair's speech

In full. Commentators on this have argued that Blair is taking a harder line than previously on Iran and Syria, that he has moved closer to the US position. Well, maybe Iran has changed:
Hezbollah gets their weapons from Iran. Iran are now also financing militant elements in Hamas. Iran's president has called for Israel to be "wiped off the map". (my emphasis)
In other passages, he says, 'Iran and, to a lesser extent, Syria are a constant source of de-stabilisation and reaction.' and 'Iran has supported extremist Shia [in Iraq].' That wasn't what the British government was saying 2 or 3 years ago.

I don't agree with everything in the speech: at one point he is close to equating Israeli action in Gaza to that in Lebanon. But there is an important point that is easily overlooked: 
Across the Middle East, there is a process of modernisation as well as reaction. It is unnoticed but it is there: in the UAE, in Bahrain, in Kuwait, in Qatar.
In the last few weeks, the BBC has broadcast a series, 'The New Arab World' (available on their  Documentary archive. Towards the end of Part One, about Dubai and the extraordinary development of its economy, one of their government ministers makes the striking remark: 'Change comes from the periphery.'


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