The Guardian May 5, 2004


Former ambassadors condemn Blair

In what can only be regarded as a significant broadening of 
opposition to the war against Iraq, and the policy adopted by 
Bush and Blair to recognise illegal Israeli settlements on 
Palestinian territory, more than 50 former British ambassadors 
have written the following critical letter to Prime Minister 
Blair.

We the undersigned former British ambassadors, high 
commissioners, governors and senior international officials, 
including some who have long experience of the Middle East and 
others whose experience is elsewhere, have watched with deepening 
concern the policies which you have followed on the Arab-Israel 
problem and Iraq, in close co-operation with the United States. 
Following the press conference in Washington at which you and 
President Bush restated these policies, we feel the time has come 
to make our anxieties public, in the hope that they will be 
addressed in Parliament and will lead to a fundamental 
reassessment.

The decision by the USA, the EU, Russia and the UN to launch a 
"Road Map" for the settlement of the Israel/Palestine conflict 
raised hopes that the major powers would at last make a 
determined and collective effort to resolve a problem which, more 
than any other, has for decades poisoned relations between the 
West and the Islamic and Arab worlds.

But the hopes were ill-founded. Nothing effective has been done 
either to move the negotiations forward or to curb the violence. 
Britain and the other sponsors of the Road Map merely waited on 
American leadership, but waited in vain.

Worse was to come. After all those wasted months, the 
international community has now been confronted with the 
announcement by Ariel Sharon and President Bush of new policies 
which are one-sided and illegal and which will cost yet more 
Israeli and Palestinian blood.

Our dismay at this backward step is heightened by the fact that 
you yourself seem to have endorsed it, abandoning the principles 
which for nearly four decades have guided international efforts 
to restore peace in the Holy Land and which have been the basis 
for such successes as those efforts have produced. This 
abandonment of principle comes at a time when rightly or wrongly 
we are portrayed throughout the Arab and Muslim world as partners 
in an illegal and brutal occupation in Iraq.

The conduct of the war in Iraq has made it clear that there was 
no effective plan for the post-Saddam settlement.

All those with experience of the area predicted that the 
occupation of Iraq by the Coalition forces would meet serious and 
stubborn resistance, as has proved to be the case.

To describe the resistance as led by terrorists, fanatics and 
foreigners is neither convincing nor helpful.

Policy must take account of the nature and history of Iraq, the 
most complex country in the region.

The military actions of the Coalition forces must be guided by 
political objectives and by the requirements of the Iraq theatre 
itself, not by criteria remote from them.

It is not good enough to say that the use of force is a matter 
for local commanders.

Heavy weapons unsuited to the task in hand, inflammatory 
language, the current confrontations in Najaf and Falluja, all 
these have built up rather than isolated the opposition.

We share your view that the British government has an interest in 
working as closely as possible with the United States on both 
these related issues, and in exerting real influence as a loyal 
ally.

We believe that the need for such influence is now a matter of 
the highest urgency.

If that is unacceptable or unwelcome there is no case for 
supporting policies which are doomed to failure.

For list of signatories, visit BBC website: 
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-

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