Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Blair Challenges Chilcot Report

Tony Blair has been proven a liar regarding the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Following the release of the Chilcot report, Blair was left with no option but to beg the British people to understand his decision.

However, the British people are finding it harder and harder to understand.

"I had to decide. I thought of Saddam, his record and the character of his regime… and took decision with the heaviest of hearts," Blair argued. "There was no middle way. The decision had to be taken… and it was mine to take."

However, the Chilcot report's main argument is that military action was not the last resort. "Intervention may have been needed at some point but in March 2003, there was no imminent threat from Saddam Hussein" the report said.
Pic: Damien Gayle (Twitter @damiengayle)

If so, the Chilcot report has already challenged Blair's claim that there was no middle ground. By making a statement to that effect after the release of the Chilcot Report, Blair is questioning and challenging its conclusions.

Meanwhile, Blair is yet to convincingly explain how it was decided that Saddam Hussein posed a threat. This becomes even harder when the Chilcot Report's conclusion of the Iraqi 'Weapons of Mass Destruction' programme is taken into account.

Releasing the report, Sir John Chilcot said that the severity of the threat posed by Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction were “presented with a certainty that was not justified.”

Once again, Blair has to explain this point in detail, because the threat of the WMDs was used to justify the war in Iraq.

The Chilcot report also blames Blair for towing the U.S. line, failing to consider the British interests.

“The UK’s relationship with the US has proved strong enough over time to bear the weight of honest disagreement. It does not require unconditional support where our interests or judgements differ” John Chilcot said while releasing the report.

In July 2002, well over six months before the invasion of Iraq, Blair wrote to then-US President George Bush promising him that the UK would be there with him “whatever,” Chilcot said. In short, he had given assurance to the US even before conclusive proof of WMDs.

Chilcot also went on to say how Blair blamed the French government for the 'impasse' regarding getting support for military action in the UN Security Council. It seems that the British government applied undue pressure on the French by making such claims. This revelation casts a doubt on the Blair government's sincerity within the UN and outside, in forging a genuine alliance to attack Iraq.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

No Uniformity among Europe's Far-right Parties Regarding EU

The right wing anti-EU factions who want to see the European Union disintegrate received a rude shock recently, which however, largely went unnoticed.

In an interview with Russia’s RT, the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) presidential candidate Norbert Hoefner said that Austria will not leave the EU, if Turkey did not join it. His concern was the free movement of people from outside of Europe, which would have become easier if Turkey joins the bloc. Austria, Hoefner said, would contribute to create a better Europe.

A somewhat different approach was expressed by FPÖ representative Barbara Kappel in an interview with Russia’s Izvestia newspaper. She said Austria should consider greater autonomy within the EU and if the EU was not prepared to consider the concerns, Austria should hold a referendum to leave.
Pic: FPÖ

What the FPÖ envisages as a better Europe is in stark contradiction to what Angela Merkel or Francoise Hollande would envisage. Nevertheless, the FPÖ’s position is opposite to the position of the United Kingdom Independent Party and some other right wing groups. The UKIP and some other parties are not content to merely see their countries leave the EU. They want the EU to disappear too

Despite the seemingly different opinions within the FPÖ, one thing is crystal clear. The FPÖ still wants Austria to be a part of Europe and EU. There is no talk of the disintegration of the EU, given that "things do not become unbearable."

One must remember this fact clearly. Brexit was not a vote against the EU or for the dissolution of the EU. It was a vote for the strengthening of the UK. Only a minority of the British electorate, namely the supporters of ultra-rightist groups and staunch UKIP members, supports the destruction of the EU. Others, irrespective of whether they voted to remain or leave, want to see the EU remain as a viable entity.

Fears were raised on June 24 after several far right parties across Europe expressed jubilation at the result of the EU referendum in the UK and called for similar votes in their respective countries. The then UKIP leader Nigel Farage expressed belief that the EU would collapse. However, as the dust settled down and the EU leaders mustered their resolve, the threat of a sudden collapse disappeared. Furthermore, the immediate repercussions of Brexit also scared off some people, perhaps even within parties such as the FPÖ.

At this point, France, Denmark and the Netherlands hold the key to the future of EU since the far right parties in these countries are popular and are seeking referenda in their countries on the EU membership. The EU will hold off a Brexit, but it will have a hard time in dealing with a Daxit, Nexit and especially a Frexit.