May 05, 2006


Uk_map Tony Blair (right) did a major cabinet reshuffle yesterday, but too late to do him any good at the polls. In this week's British muncipal elections, Tony_blair_snarlsmile Blair's scandal-plagued "New Labour" suffered a stinging defeat, losing more than 300 city councillors and 19 city halls, and saw its share of the vote plunge to just 26%, compared to the Tories' 40% and the Liberal Democrats'' 27% -- the worst showing for Labour since the Falklands War. And the openly racist British National Party, led by slick Nick Griffin, made "big gains" at Labour's expense.

Ian_williams_5 My excellent confrere Ian Williams has a sharp-eyed post today on his Jack_straw blog, Deadline Pundit, saying that Tony Blair's firing of his foreign minister, Jack Straw (right), in the cabinet resuffle was because of Straw's too-vigorous and too-public opposition to military action against Iran, which Straw had called "completely nuts." Writes Ian:

"Under cover of yesterday's local elections, Tony Blair's cabinet reshuffle may be moving the UK closer to yet another idiotic war at the behest of George W. Bush. While some of the demotions in the cabinet shuffle were understandable because of the scandals surrounding the ministers being axed, Jack Straw, the foreign secretary had not been the focus of any headlines. That leaves the suspicion that he was axed because of the small print in what he has been telling the media. He had said that it was "inconceivable" for military operations against Iran

"If you check the ever-informative sound of silence, this is not something that the Prime Minister had been saying.

"There is a poetic justice here. One of the reasons that Blair had sacked Robin Cook as foreign secretary was to remove an obstacle to his war plans over Iraq, and his successor, poor Jack Straw is now paying a similar price. A newly appointed minister, whether Straw, in the run-up to Iraq, or his successor Margaret Becket, in the run up to Iran, is not in a position to block the wishes of a Prime Minister who is so cocky and self assured that while firing others, has overlooked the one big cabinet change that could have restored Labour to popularity--his own resignation." Read all of Ian Williams' tart analysis by clicking here.

Ewen_macaskill The Guardian's Ewen MacAskill (left), their veteran parliamentary reporter, came to the same conclusion in a column today headlined, "Iran is the Key to Jack Straw's Demotion." Writes MacAskill: "Mr Straw knew it would be difficult to win support for the military option in cabinet and that it would create even more upheaval among the membership of the already weakened Labour party.

"The problem for Mr Straw is that Tony Blair does not view Iran the same way. He regards the threat posed by Iran as the most serious in the world today, and is even more messianic on the issue than George Bush. That does not mean that a military strike will happen but Mr Blair, like Mr Bush, thinks it is a good idea to keep the option on the table, if only to keep Iran guessing.

"Downing Street phoned the Foreign Office several times to ask Mr Straw to stop being so categoric in ruling out a military strike. And the White House also phoned Downing Street to ask why Mr Straw kept saying these things. And that was before Mr Straw dismissed as "nuts" the prospect of a tactical nuclear strike on Iran, an option that Mr Bush subsequently refused to remove from the table."

But Jack Straw was not the only one of Tony Blair's so-called friends to argue against military threatrs or a military strike against Iran. A major British think-tank close fo New Labour just last week issued an extensive report, Understanding Iran: People, Politics and Power [pdf format], which argued that military action against Iran would "backfire," strengthening the reactionary regime of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and hurting the reformist and democratic elements in Iranian society, as welli as creating a new arms race and throwing kerosene on a region already ablaze. The Foreign Hugh_barnes Policy Centre boasts that it was "launched under the patronage of the British Prime Minister Tony Blair." But its report, written by the Centre's Hugh Barnes (right), a former foreign and war correspondent for the (London) Times, the New Statesman, the Financial Times, The Independent, and the BBC's World Service -- is a detailed refutation of everything Blair has been saying on Iran. After providing a dissection of the political players and power forces inside Iraq, Barnes makes a smart, sophisticated, realpolitik case against using bellicose military threats or air strikes against Iran.

Understanding_iran_1 Not only is the Bush-Blair bellicose bluster already raising Adhmadinejad's popularity, Barnes writes, but an attack would not achieve its aims:

"Military action would have two aims: firstly, to damage Iran’s nuclear-related sites – reported tobe at Bushehr, Natanz, Arak, Saghand, Ardkan, Gehine, Isfahan, Anarak and Tehran – and, secondly, to send a message that the United States is prepared to take pre-emptive action not only to prevent WMD proliferation but also to stop Iran doing other things in the region which the Bush administration finds unacceptable.

The authors believe that such a strategy could well backfire.

"The United Nations is unlikely to give the military action moral or political legitimacy. It seems improbable at present, given the positions of Russia and China regarding sanctions, that the P5 on the Security Council would support military action. To have maximumimpact, attacks on the nuclear sites would have to be done with the greatest amount of surprise, which would seem to rule out the possibility of a diplomatic debate in public as seen in the run-up to the 2003 Iraq conflict. A surprise attack would also increase the likely number of civilian casualties from air strikes, as there will be less time for people to move away from target areas.ny destruction of the containment structure could lead to seriousproblems of radioactive dispersal affecting not only just the IranianGulf coast, but west Gulf seaboards in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates’, according to defence analyst Paul Rogers. ‘As well as the direct human effects…these [also] comprise the world’s most substantial concentration of oil production facilities....."

"Iran could respond to military action by withdrawing from the NPT [Nuclear Proliferation Treaty[, kicking out the IAEA inspectors and resuming clandestine nuclearactivities under the justification of ‘self-defence’. Even though militaryaction could set back Iran’s plans to develop nuclear weapons by ive years or more, there would be at least two long-term problems:the diplomatic fallout would spell an end to negotiations, and UN nspectors would thus be unable to monitor weapons proliferation rom inside Iran. An attack on the 1,000 MW nuclear reactor inBushehr, once the reactor is fully fuelled and goes critical (scheduled ompletion date mid-2006) could have disastrous consequences. 'A


an attack against a prominent Islamic republic would heighten anti-American sentiment in the region. Most Iran watchers agree that military strikes would increase the popularity of the regime, and would have a powerful unifying effect, thereby increasing the government’s stability and power bases. This goes directly against the stated US objective of supporting the Iranian people against the regime. Any civilian casualties would be widely reported by Iranian media and other regional broadcasters, further damaging America’s reputation in the Middle East....

"Military action would be a highly dangerous move that could damage regional security, wouldnot prevent nuclear proliferation, would encourage acts of terrorism and would result in civilian deaths...." There's a lot more in this report, written in a language designed to convince policy makers and carefully footnoted. You can, and should, read all of it by clicking here. Will Tony Blair bother to read this contrarian report by the think-tank whose patron he is? Don't hold your breath.

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Always keep to hand the five fingers of Fraudulism

Posted by: Master Peace | Jul 16, 2006 7:29:32 PM

The IAEA has a special page for Iran, where one can read the reports oneself. US media representation has been completely in line with their previous attempts to serve the Bush administration's desire to invade Iraq.


To this day, however, they have not released the full text of the last report, and are only publishing BBC (unbalanced) excerpts of their own report.

Recently Reuter's had the guts to publish this sentence, for which, undoubtedly, the Bush administration thinks "someone must pay!"

"The IAEA has found no hard proof of any project to make atomic bombs but says that, after more than three years of probing, it still cannot confirm that Iran's intentions are entirely peaceful."

That's exactly the tack, however, used in Iraq. It is impossible for the IAEA to _prove_ there is nothing going on in Iran. To do so would require them to look at the entire country, at once, and be watching the borders, too, just in case they moved all their weapons to (insert enemy du jour).

Posted by: JS Narins | May 21, 2006 8:09:45 AM

Don't forget the gains for the Left. From (for instance) the BBC (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4977798.stm):

Respect breakthrough in East End
George Galloway
Mr Galloway's party is the official opposition in Tower Hamlets George Galloway's anti-war Respect coatlition has made significant in-roads in Tower Hamlets going from one to 11 seats.

Respect are now the second biggest group on Tower Hamlets council.

The party unseated council leader Michael Keith but Labour is the biggest party in the East London borough and with 26 seats has retained control.

Meanwhile in Newham, Respect gained a third councillor. It also won a seat in Birmingham with 55% of the vote.

'Lib Dem collapse'

The Liberal Democrats, predicted by some to be the main challengers in Tower Hamlets, had a poor night compared with their expectations, ending up with four councillors.

A spokesman for Respect said: "The collapse of the Lib Dems and limited gains for the Conservatives, who went from one to seven councillors, means Labour could still retain control of the council, despite the repudiation of its controversial housing privatisation policy."

Posted by: Meaders | May 13, 2006 12:56:03 PM

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