Why the Middle East Matters – Tony Blair (Spectator-UK)
(dailyalert.org, Apr. 24, 2014)
The Middle East matters. What is presently happening there still represents the biggest threat to global security of the early 21st century.
At the root of the crisis lies a radicalized and politicized 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 destabilizing communities and even nations. And in the face of this threat we seem curiously reluctant to acknowledge it and powerless to counter it effectively.
There are four reasons why the Middle East remains of central importance.
First, it is still where a large part of the world’s energy supplies are generated, and the world’s dependence is not going to disappear any time soon.
Secondly, it is right on the doorstep of Europe. The boundary of the EU is a short distance from the Levantine coast.
Third, in the center 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.
Finally, it is in the Middle East that the future of Islam will be decided. Underneath the turmoil of the past years is one very clear and unambiguous struggle: between those with a modern view of the Middle East, one of pluralistic societies and open economies; and, on the other side, those who want to impose an ideology born out of a belief that there is one proper religion and one proper view of it, and that this view should, exclusively, determine the nature of society and the political economy. We might call this latter perspective an “Islamist” view.
For the last 40/50 years, there has been a steady stream of funding, proselytizing, organizing and promulgating coming out of the Middle East, pushing views of religion that are narrow minded and dangerous. Unfortunately, we seem blind to the enormous global impact such teaching has had and is having.
In Egypt we have to understand plainly what happened. The Muslim Brotherhood government was not simply a bad government. It was systematically taking over the traditions and institutions of the country. The revolt of 30 June 2013 was not an ordinary protest. It was the absolutely necessary rescue of a nation. We should support the new government and help.
On Iran, we should continue to make it clear, as the Obama administration is rightly doing, that they have to step back from being a nuclear threshold state. I do not favor yielding to their demands for regional influence in return for concessions on their nuclear ambitions. The Iranian government plays a deliberately destabilizing role across the region. Our goals should not include regime change. Their people will, in the end, have to find their own way to do that. However, we should, at every opportunity, push back against the use of their power to support extremism.
The writer served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1997 to 2007. Since then he has served as Middle East envoy for the Quartet.