Thursday, April 05, 2007

Blair Rolls Back The Years

The 15 British marines and sailors held by Iran for almost two weeks have been freed. Britain didn't have to publicly apologise, so it's a bit of a climbdown by the Iranians. But on the other hand, President Ahmadinejad got to hog the spotlight and the airwaves around the world, which is exactly the sort of thing he enjoys. So let's call it a score draw.

The major personal winner of this crisis is not Ahmadinejad though, but Tony Blair. His perfectly-judged remarks today - sombre instead of triumphant, and forceful as he pointed the finger squarely at the Iranian regime for helping kill more British troops in Iraq - were a lesson in statesmanship. It was the last stretch of a sensible course that he steered throughout the whole standoff. Steadily gaining support around the world for his position while keeping the let's-go-and-get-our-boys brigade relatively onside was extremely difficult to pull off, especially without giving anything to the Iranians in the process. But Blair managed it.

He looked comfortable on the international stage soon after taking office. Kosovo, Sierra Leone, 9/11 and Afghanistan all saw Blair strutting around acting like a confident leader of a confident country. Perhaps Iraq can be partly explained by the idea all that success went to his head. His reputation has rightly never recovered, and never will.

Or maybe it will just a little. As his final weeks in office roll by, he's already reminded us of former glories with his recent deft handling of Northern Ireland. It's difficult to see Gordon Brown or David Cameron acting in such an assured manner under the pressure of a crisis like Iran. On future days like today, Blair will be missed more than anyone now imagines.

1 comment:

Elliott said...

Sorry, but - rubbish.

We don't know that Britain didn't apologise at this stage, but comments from the Iranians, as well as a little noticed statement from Beckett over the weekend, suggest she did.

In any case, Britain has been comprehensively checkmated by the Iranians, who have been in the driving seat throughout.

And the day that Blair claims the "statesmanship" prize, so will Frank Spencer!