Why the Middle East Matters


Tony Blair goes after Islamism. Finally someone has the backbone to tell the truth about the havoc, violence and evil zero-sum war this ideology is waging worldwide. And once again, he upsets all the right people…..

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Tony Blair delivered the following speech at Bloomberg London HQ on Wednesday 23 April 2014

It is unsurprising that public opinion in the UK and elsewhere, resents the notion that we should engage with the politics of the Middle East and beyond. We have been through painful engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq. After 2008, we have had our own domestic anxieties following the financial crisis. And besides if we want to engage, people reasonably ask: where, how and to what purpose?

More recently, Ukraine has served to push the Middle East to the inside pages, with the carnage of Syria featuring somewhat, but the chaos of Libya, whose Government we intervened to change, hardly meriting a mention.

However the Middle East matters. What is presently happening there, still represents the biggest threat to global security of the early 21st C. The region, including the wider area outside its conventional boundary – Pakistan, Afghanistan to the east and North Africa to the west – is in turmoil with no end in sight to the upheaval and any number of potential outcomes from the mildly optimistic to catastrophe.

At the root of the crisis lies a radicalised and politicised view of Islam, an ideology that distorts and warps Islam’s true message. The threat of this radical Islam is not abating. It is growing. It is spreading across the world. It is de-stabilising communities and even nations. It is undermining the possibility of peaceful co-existence in an era of globalisation. And in the face of this threat we seem curiously reluctant to acknowledge it and powerless to counter it effectively.

In this speech I will set out how we should do this, including the recognition that on this issue, whatever our other differences, we should be prepared to reach out and cooperate with the East, and in particular, Russia and China.

The statement that the Middle East ‘matters’, is no longer uncontested. Some say after the shale revolution, the region has declined in significance for energy supplies, at least for the USA. Others say that though they accept that it continues to be a relevant and important region, there are other more pressing problems, most particularly now with Eastern Europe facing a resurgent, nationalist Russia. For the most part, a very common sentiment is that the region may be important but it is ungovernable and therefore impossible and therefore we should let it look after itself.

I would say there are four reasons why the Middle East remains of central importance and cannot be relegated to the second order.

First and most obviously, it is still where a large part of the world’s energy supplies are generated, and whatever the long term implications of the USA energy revolution, the world’s dependence on the Middle East is not going to disappear any time soon. In any event, it has a determining effect on the price of oil; and thus on the stability and working of the global economy.

Secondly, it is right on the doorstep of Europe. The boundary of the EU is a short distance from the Levantine coast. Instability here affects Europe, as does instability in North Africa, in close proximity to Spain and Italy.

Third, in the centre of this maelstrom, is Israel. Its alliance with the USA, its partnership with leading countries of Europe, and the fact that it is a Western democracy, mean that its fate is never going to be a matter of indifference. Over these past years, with considerable skill, the Israelis have also built up relationships with China and with Russia. These aren’t the same as their long standing Western alliances but they have significance. Were the Israelis to be pulled into a regional conflict, there is no realistic way that the world could or would want to shrug it off. For the moment, Israel has successfully stayed aloof from the storm around it. But the one thing the last few years has taught us (and them) is that we can expect the unexpected.

Finally and least obvious, is a reason we are curiously reluctant to admit, in part because the admission would throw up some very difficult policy choices. It is in the Middle East that the future of Islam will be decided. By this I mean the future of its relationship with politics. This is controversial because the world of politics is uncomfortable talking about religion; because some will say that really the problems are not religious but political; and even because – it is true – that the largest Muslim populations are to be found outside the region not inside it.

But I assert it nonetheless….. (Read the rest of this brilliant speech HERE)

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About Elise Ronan

#JeSuisJuif #RenegadeJew... I am, therefore I write...
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