Responsibility to Protect (RtoP)? As in UN Charter since 2005. Syria anyone?

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16th May 2012

I mentioned the Responsibility to Protect a few days ago but got distracted. Next morning we heard that twin suicide car-bomb attacks had killed at least 55 people and wounded 372 in Damascus.

But we live in interesting times. Since then twitterwonderland has lol-ed into Leveson hysteria at David Cameron’s hitherto mis-comprehension of the meaning of “LOL” according to the now charged with criminality Rebekah Brooks. France has a new left-wing President who brought with his instant visit to Merkel’s Germany some bad news and inclement weather. Greece is still on its in/out EU game and Ed Miliband is  talking to Tony Blair & even Peter Mandelson who is talking to Ed Balls. Elsewhere, Bosnian Serb army commander Ratko Mladic is on trial in The Hague 20 years after the start of the conflict, charged with 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including the massacre of more than 7,000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica in 1995.  And Charles Taylor at his own Hague trial says he sympathises with victims of the civil war in Sierra Leone he helped foment. That would be THIS Sierra Leone. and yet some braincell-challenged little tweeps still see Tony Blair as just as evil as Taylor, yes and even Mladic. Mladic of THIS kind of Kosovo ethnic cleansing.

WOW! Isn’t life grand?

So where was I?

Oh yes, Syria and the Right/Responsibility to Protect.

As Kofi Annan’s UN monitors come under attack and the rest of the world looks away at all its other problems why do we not care a little more about the ongoing carnage in Syria? After all, don’t we have a right, even a responsibility to protect?



UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon, UN report January 2009. That was more than 3 years ago. (See pdf file)

Syrian opposition activists’ handout picture of Juret al-Shayah district in Homs, were regime forces have reportedly shelled rebel-held neighbourhoods since the truce took effect. Photograph: -/AFP/Getty Images

“When a State nevertheless was “manifestly failing” to protect its population from the four specified crimes and violations, they confirmed that the international community was prepared to take collective action in a “timely and decisive manner” through the Security Council and in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.” Source

In the light, or rather darkness of the unfolding situation in Syria, some may wonder  –

WHY does the UN fail to ACT decisively in Syria?

Surely the R2P (RtoP) gives the UN the right AND responsibility to act in defence of the Syrian people being massacred? Sadly, yes and no, though not necessarily in that order. A little like so-called International Law, it depends.

The responsibility to protect (RtoP or R2P) is a United Nations initiative established in 2005. It consists of an emerging norm or set of principles, based on the idea that sovereignty is not a privilege, but a responsibility. RtoP focuses on preventing and halting four crimes: genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing, which it places under the generic umbrella term of Mass Atrocity Crimes.

The Responsibility to Protect has three “pillars”.

  1. A state has a responsibility to protect its population from mass atrocities.
  2. The international community has a responsibility to assist the state if it is unable to protect its population on its own.
  3. If the state fails to protect its citizens from mass atrocities and peaceful measures have failed, the international community has the responsibility to intervene through coercive measures such as economic sanctions. Military intervention is considered the last resort.

So, did you get that? If pillar 1 is missing, as in Syria, pillar 2 and then 3 are written into the UN Charter including the “last resort”. But –

In the international community RtoP is a norm, not a law. RtoP provides a framework for using tools that already exist, i.e. mediation, early warning mechanisms, economic sanctioning, and chapter VII powers, to prevent mass atrocities. Civil society organizations, States, regional organizations, and international institutions all have a role to play in the R2P process. The authority to employ the last resort and intervene militarily rests solely with United Nations Security Council and the General Assembly.

KOFI ANNAN and “History”

The world watches and waits in despair as Kofi Annan struggles to balance the fact that the UN does NOT practise what it preaches. It is like the drunkard who says in moments of sober lucidity “I’ll never touch the stuff again”, until the next time. The UN, which is meant to DO good, as well as sound good, is limited by its own shortcomings as well as by many of its membership.


Following the genocide in Rwanda and the international community’s failure to intervene, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan asked the question – “when does the international community intervene for the sake of protecting populations?” In 2000, the UN explicitly declared its reaction to Rwanda a “failure”. Then Kofi Annan said of the event – “The international community failed Rwanda and that must leave us always with a sense of bitter regret.”.

The Canadian government established the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) in September 2000. In February 2001, at the third round table meeting of the ICISS in London, Gareth Evans, Mohamed Sahnoun and Michael Ignatieff suggested the phrase “responsibility to protect” as a way to avoid the “right to intervene” or “obligation to intervene” doctrines and yet keep a degree of duty to act to resolve humanitarian crises.

In December 2001, the ICISS released its report, The Responsibility to Protect. The report presented the idea that sovereignty is a responsibility and that the international community had the responsibility to prevent mass atrocities. Economic, political, and social measures were to be used along with diplomatic engagement. Military intervention, as mentioned before, was presented as a last resort. R2P included efforts to rebuild by bringing security and justice to the victim population and by finding the root cause of the mass atrocities.

The African Union pioneered the concept that the international community has a responsibility to intervene in crisis situations if the State is failing to protect its population. In the founding charter in 2005 African nations declared that the “protection of human and peoples rights” would be a principal objective of the AU and that the Union had the right “to intervene in a Member State pursuant to a decision of the Assembly in respect of grave circumstances, namely war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.” The AU also adopted the Ezulwini Consensus in 2005, which welcomed RtoP as a tool for the prevention of mass atrocities.

Forgive me if I am sceptical here, but it seems to me that mention might have been made of Tony Blair’s Doctrine of the International Community (1999) and of the Iraq intervention. In the latter case the roles such as George Bush and Tony Blair and others played in incidentally embarrassing the UN over its colossal failure to intervene in Iraq for 12 years. If an earlier intervention had been made it might have cut short Saddam’s 30 years slaughter of his own people.

The United Nations mandate

At the 2005 World Summit Member States included RtoP in the Outcome Document agreeing to Paragraphs 138 and 139. These paragraphs gave final language to the scope of RtoP. It applies to the four mass atrocities crimes only. It also identifies to whom the R2P protocol applies, i.e. nations first, regional and international communities second.

Paragraphs 138 and 139 state:

138. Each individual State has the responsibility to protect its populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. This responsibility entails the prevention of such crimes, including their incitement, through appropriate and necessary means. We accept that responsibility and will act in accordance with it. The international community should, as appropriate, encourage and help States to exercise this responsibility and support the United Nations in establishing an early warning capability.

139. The international community, through the United Nations, also has the responsibility to use appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means, in accordance with Chapters VI and VIII of the Charter, to help protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. In this context, we are prepared to take collective action, in a timely and decisive manner, through the Security Council, in accordance with the Charter, including Chapter VII, on a case-by-case basis and in cooperation with relevant regional organizations as appropriate, should peaceful means be inadequate and national authorities manifestly fail to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. We stress the need for the General Assembly to continue consideration of the responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity and its implications, bearing in mind the principles of the Charter and international law. We also intend to commit ourselves, as necessary and appropriate, to helping States build capacity to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity and to assisting those which are under stress before crises and conflicts break out.

2005 World Summit Outcome Document.

In April 2006, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) reaffirmed the provisions of paragraphs 138 and 139 in resolution (S/RES/1674). This formalized their support for the Responsibility to Protect. The next major advancement in RtoP came in January 2009, when UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released a report called Implementing the Responsibility to Protect. His report led to a debate in the General Assembly in July 2009 and the first time since 2005 that the General Assembly had come together to discuss the responsibility to protect. Ninety-four member states spoke. Most supported the R2P principle although some important concerns were voiced. They discussed how to implement RtoP in crisis situations around the world. The debate highlighted the need for regional organizations like the African Union to play a strong role in implementing RtoP; the need for stronger early warning mechanisms in the United Nations; and the need to clarify the roles UN bodies would play in implementing RtoP.

One outcome of the debate was the first RtoP resolution adopted by the General Assembly. The Resolution (A/RES/63/308) showed that the international community had not forgotten about the importance of the responsibility to protect and it committed to further address the issues involved.

In Practice

Threshold for military interventions

According to the International Commission for Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) Report in 2001 (which was not adopted by national governments), any form of a military intervention initiated under the premise of responsibility to protect must fulfill the following six criteria in order to be justified as an extraordinary measure of intervention:

  1. Just Cause
  2. Right Intention
  3. Final Resort
  4. Legitimate Authority
  5. Proportional Means
  6. Reasonable Prospect


Events that have involved mass atrocities since the Cold war:


RtoP and National Sovereignty

One of the main concerns surrounding RtoP is that it infringes upon national sovereignty. This concern is rebutted by the Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in the report Implementing the Responsibility to Protect. According to the first pillar of RtoP, the state has the responsibility to protect its populations from mass atrocities and ethnic cleansing, and according to the second pillar the international community has the responsibility to help States fulfill their responsibility. Advocates of RtoP claim that only occasions where the international community will intervene on a State without its consent is when the state is either allowing mass atrocities to occur, or is committing them, in which case the State is no longer upholding its responsibilities as a sovereign. In this sense RtoP can be understood as reinforcing sovereignty. However it is not clear who makes this decision on behalf of ‘international community’. Because of this in practical terms, RtoP is perceived as a tool of western countries to justify violations of sovereignty of other countries especially in developing world, using international institutions The West controls.

Libya, 2011

On March 19, 2011, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) approved resolution 1973 which reiterated the responsibility of the Libyan authorities to protect the Libyan population. The UNSC resolution reaffirmed “that parties to armed conflicts bear the primary responsibility to take all feasible steps to ensure the protection of civilians…” It demanded “an immediate ceasefire in Libya, including an end to the current attacks against civilians, which it said might constitute ‘crimes against humanity’… It imposed a ban on all flights in the country’s airspace, a no-fly zone, and tightened sanctions on the Qadhafi regime and its supporters.” The resolution passed with 10 in favor, 0 against and 5 abstains. Two of the five permanent members of the council abstained, China and Russia. The subsequent military action by NATO resulted in mixed opinions. Detractors of the intervention believe that problems in Libya are best resolved amongst Libyans.

RtoP Scope

The scope of RtoP is often questioned. The concern is whether RtoP should apply to more than the four crimes: genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing. For example, should RtoP be used to protect civilians in peril following natural disasters? In general, the consensus is that the scope of RtoP should remain narrow and well-defined. At the General Assembly debate on RtoP in July 2009, several Member States reaffirmed the original scope of RtoP and said that broadening the applicability of RtoP could diminish its effectiveness.

In other words it was agreed to fail to agree.

Use of Military Intervention

The question of military intervention under the third pillar of RtoP remains controversial. Several states have argued that RtoP should not allow the international community to intervene militarily on States, because to do so is an infringement upon sovereignty. Others argue that this a necessary facet of RtoP, and is necessary as a last resort to stop mass atrocities. A related argument surrounds the question as to whether more specific criteria should be developed to determine when the Security Council should authorize military intervention.

Selectivity in the Security Council

Another concern surrounding RtoP is that the Security Council in the UN, when deciding to which crises RtoP applies, have been selective and biased. A veto from one of the five permanent members brings bias to the process. As an example, the UNSC did not vote to intervene in Chechnya because Russia opposed such action. This has been acknowledged as an issue of major concern, and has hindered the implementation of RtoP. Some of those involved advocate that the UNSC permanent members agree not to use their veto when proven mass atrocities are taking place.

Tony Blair’s 1999  “Doctrine of The International Community” was a valiant attempt, if ahead of its time, to put into words why the international community must learn to work and act together.


Because the “international community” (a misnomer if ever there was one) has not yet learned how to work and act together in the face of such refuseniks as Russia and China, we are where we are today. Frankly nowhere. This is not helped when international law as it is written and as it is adhered to and practised are not always the same thing.

I am on record as not supporting intervention in Syria. This is not because I wish to leave Syrians to be massacred by their own president – Assad.  It is simply that until the international community (including the Arab world, Russia & China) gets itself organised as an entity I am not up to the lifetime job of arguing the reasons that western interventionists are right and are NOT “war criminals” for trying to stop such atrocities.


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Heller Raising plumbs new heights

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9th May 2012

Heller Raising plumbs new heights

“In 2003, sorry … 1956, Britain’s prime minister took this country into an unlawful and unprofitable war in the Middle East, and misled its parliament and people about its origins and purpose.”

And so the die is cunningly cast.

At Richard Heller’s website directly under his name, there is this gem: ‘Raising world literature to new heights’

I have a soft spot for modesty. Evidently just another thing I do not share with Mr Heller.

Like so many of today’s opiners he is one assumption short of a private, personal opinion. He claims to speak for all of us when he says – ‘Leave us alone, Tony Blair’

This article, aka opinion piece, was published at his website by Mr Heller on 7th May. It also appeared at   He alludes to & may well bear some fond childhood memories of the 1956 days of Look Back in Anger while reminiscing his principled (then 8 year-old’s) protests against then PM Anthony Eden’s Suez plans.

But far more serious for his long-term health, Mr Heller seems to suffer from BDS –  Blair Derangement Syndrome. This condition is exemplified by an inability to see any good in a Prime Minister elected three times and who served his country – our country – as PM for 10 years; longer by far than any previous Labour prime minister. His constituents returned him as their member of parliament for 24 years. Perhaps one can safely presume from that evidence that they were reasonably satisfied.

But for Mr Heller today’s Anthony – ACL Blair – is beyond the Eden pale. I am truly spoilt for choice when considering where to start with the hell raiser’s denunciation of Tony Blair.

From the start, with the usual ‘devastating’ comparison to Sir Anthony Eden/Suez – Tony Blair/Iraq is also found lacking. Eden is somewhat forgiven by the simple fact that he had the good grace to retire to the land and the cows.

So with a raising world literature flourish and selective reading of history Mr Heller attempts to link the two Anthonys.

In fact Eden resigned from politics in 1957 after having served less than two years as PM. He retired to the countryside because his health was threatening his life. His retirement was by doctor’s orders rather than “in disgrace”.

Heller compares and contrasts what the modern-day Anthony is up to. Bristling with indignation at the effrontery of it all he culminates his Blair excoriation by also insulting the noble profession of farming: cow dung shifting is Blair’s true, due inheritance.

It is clearly utterly reprehensible that after 10 years as prime minister and two dozen as an MP Tony Blair is going where no other former British prime minister has gone.  Into business, religious understanding,  encouraging sport in the northeast, advising African governments on leadership while keeping a weather eye on variable concerns over climate change issues.  And all while still (ohGod’elpus) representing the international Quartet in the thankless search for peace between Israelis & Palestinians.

It is all too much for one mere mortal to do. And Heller is raising hell about that mere mortal having the conceit and audacity to try.

I mean it’s obvious, isn’t it? This Blair man is only working himself to a standstill for three reasons. One, to purge his conscience over his er…  “mistake”, Iraq. Two, to set up a grand array of mitigating circumstances in case one day he is brought before some court or other. Three, to make sure he has enough money in the bank to fly to the moon if that is the only place he can eventually seek retirement asylum.

So we have his business, charities, tax, advisory arrangements all lambasted as nothing other than self-serving. Even his Faith Foundation, which has brought and is still bringing together millions around the word, is for filing away under ulterior motives.

Heller’s other damning comparisons of Blair to Eden are wrong-headed and at times frankly misleading. He says that “for 20 years after Suez … He did not hawk himself round the world for money. Although a vastly more experienced diplomat than Tony Blair he was never offered any international appointment. He did not set up any foundations in his name. He did not have a spin doctor or a retinue of any kind. Above all, he abandoned any hope of a political comeback.”

As mentioned before Eden was ill after a gallstone operation which went seriously wrong. He was unable to continue in office or to fight to try to stay there. In contrast Tony Blair is in rude good health. As evidenced last night he is pulling them in in the USA – oh yes and in other parts of the world, Mr Heller, not just the appreciative US.  Much of Mr Blair’s so-called hawking is not for money, but pro-bono, as with his representation of the Quartet on Israeli/Palestinian issues.  As for charities set up in his name, why not, Mr Heller, when his name is a brand in itself? As for spin doctors, they were not invented in the 1950s. Nor too were the internet, instant news dissipation and even citizen journalism. And above all else – back to where we were, Eden was incapacitated thus never likely to even be physically able or willing to make a political comeback. Tony Blair on the other hand (was) retired at the height of his political nous, acumen & influence. Why stop there?

I am not arguing that Heller is wrong in comparing standards in political life today and 60 years ago. In fact I think he is right in this. But in my opinion, none of that drop in standards is Tony Blair’s doing. Adding up 2 & 2 – his dislike of Blair & his disapproval of the Iraq war and getting 5 – is ‘raising’ standards to a new er… what’s the word? … low.

Heller is not the only one seriously perturbed by talk of a possible return to domestic politics of the former prime minister. Tony Blair is clearly the human equivalent of Marmite. When one has made up one’s mind that not only did Tony Blair support the US in Iraq for the wrong (personal) reasons, but he “lied” to do so and will likely never be held… er… “accountable” for that, it is but a small step for any highfalutin’ writer to dive to the depths of illogicality & even hatred.

Such a pity. Hatred destroys the hater, not the hated.

Meanwhile, rest assured that when Richard Heller examines his writings he always gives it an A-Star. I commend to him the joys of not passing judgement.


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Was Tony Blair “good or bad”?

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9th May 2012

Tony Blair elected PM 15 years ago: was he good or bad?

This was a very unscientific BBC “poll” (see here) but worth watching. In the video of just over two minutes passers-by were asked to place a ball in good/bad containers. Result? 50/50 – more or less.

Now, does that surprise you? It doesn’t surprise me. Not one bit.

What is noteworthy is that at least two of the three people who said he was “bad” disapproved for the wrong reasons. Wrong because they are reasons outwith the actual facts (not just because I think they were wrong.)

The first two people who spoke said they thought Tony Blair was good, “because he keeps to his policies and does it well … very firm in what he says and no one can change his opinions.” Though their companion shook her head disapprovingly.

The next to comment, a woman, said, “he started off as a very truthful man and somehow became corrupted”. [OK, that is her opinion. Though I can’t imagine where she got it from!]

Next, a man said, “he ran away from the country, didn’t want to be an MP any more, did he?” [Factually incorrect. He was forced out by Gordon Brown, Tom Watson, Chris Bryant and the rest of the treacherous curry plotters.]

A woman and her daughter decided to put one ball in good and one in bad.

At 1:19 a man, identified by tweeps as Sir Peter Bottomley (Tory MP) said “like all the rest of us a bit good, a bit bad.”

Two men in yellow work jackets both said – “fantastic” (but I don’t think they stopped to put balls in the  box.)

A young woman at 1:22 said, “I personally think that he should stand accountable for what he made our country do without our consent. Bad”. [Factually incorrect. He asked for a vote in Parliament, though he did NOT need to, and won it. That’s “our consent”, young lady.]

That wrong-headed but widely believed comment was balanced by the next speaker, a man at 1:32 who said – “Afghanistan … what he should have done.” Asked by Susana Mendonça – “what about Iraq?” he replied,  “Iraq? Yeah” The BBC reporter then tried again on that particular BBC hang-up – “You think he was right to go to Iraq?” “Yeah”, he replied, “I do, yeah.”

At 1:42, Sir Peter Bottomley put in another appearance and was asked as he picked up two balls – “Hedging  your bets?” He replied,  “No, no it’s just being fair”

The broadcasting journalist Susana Mendonça sums up with, “It’s pretty much even stevens although the bad seems to be just about winning. Clearly the man who won three elections in a row and divided the nation back then is still dividing the nation now.”

Yes, controversial and thus dividing. But at around 50% that is a far better score than many would have us believe he could achieve today.

Come on back, Tony. The country awaits.


Watch BBC video here

Tony Blair walked into Downing Street 15 years ago this week and went on to become the most successful prime minister in Labour history.

But he was a controversial figure and he still divides opinion. Susana Mendonça tested the view on the streets of Westminster with the Daily Politics mood box to ask: Tony Blair – good or bad?

Vote 2012 index

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Tony Blair has new Comms Director. Re-engagement. 15 years on. Twitter in Rapture/Catatonia

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2nd May 2012

David Singleton, News editor at Politics Home and editor of  the lobbying industry magazine Public Affairs News broke this story on Twitter this morning.

Blair to ‘re-engage’ in the UK

Tony Blair has signed up a new communications director as he prepares to “re-engage” in the UK .

Coincidentally of course, it is 15 years to the day that Tony Blair first walked into Downing Street.

Excerpt follows from PoliticsHome

The May issue of Public Affairs News magazine reveals that Mr Blair has recruited Rachel Grant, communications director at the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (Nesta), to be his top communications adviser.

Ms Grant is expected to join the Office of Tony Blair later this month. The job entails overseeing the former prime minister’s personal PR and managing communications around his extensive lobbying operations.


In the new role, Ms Grant will help Mr Blair boost his UK profile, following critical media coverage around his overseas lobbying activities. The former prime minister has faced heavy scrutiny over Tony Blair Associates, his consultancy providing guidance for foreign governments.

A source close to Mr Blair said he was now keen to do more in the UK .

“He wants to re-engage in the UK ,” said the source. “He has things to say and he thinks it’s the right time.

“The question is how he re-enters the UK scene without re-entering domestic politics and interfering with the Labour Party. He wants to intervene where he can add value to political debate, but it will be above party politics.” (more here)

To echo my headline at the previous post-



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From Iain Martin at the ever Blair-watching Telegraph. Sign of the times(?)  – he has even taken to using my fellow Blairite John Rentoul’s ‘QTWTAIN’…  or maybe Yes.  Disgraceful!

Excerpt. Martin: ‘Could Tony Blair come back to UK politics in an elected House of Lords? That headline is not designed to be a Question to Which The Answer Is No. I really do wonder if an elected House of Lords will provide Blair with a way to get back into British politics.’



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1st May 2012

Just to show that I pay attention to my tweeting friends

More later. Obviously.

What do the voters really want? Tony Blair



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Tony Blair in the Land of The Free

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25th April 2012

I’ve been meaning to get this mainly pictorial post up for the last day or two. But I got a little tied up on Tuesday with the rest of the gang down at Twitterland.

What with James Murdoch at the Leveson Inquiry doing a job that surely made his Dad proud, while throwing the press (off the scent with) a nice piece of fresh meat for them to get their teeth into. But enough about Jeremy Hunt, the Culture Secretary to whom, as serendipity would have it, Leveson will eventually report its findings.

I think we’re in need of a political super-starry kind of smile, don’t you? Just to strengthen our resolve before 10:00am when Chief Big Daddy Mogul Rupert Murdoch gets sworn in and selects another delicacy or several to chuck at the slavering feral beasties.  So, a propos nothing in particular …

Back To The Land of The Free, Home Of The Brave

No, dear ones, not here in Britain. Our former PM has been in the USA.

While here at home the Labour party, Liberal Democrats and the strategically challenged Conservatives struggle to work out what exactly they’re for and what leadership is supposed to look and behave like, Tony Blair commands full houses on the other side of the pond.

A few pictures follow from his various events last week –

Florida - Tony Blair talks to a full house on world affairs

Picture above with thanks to @AlexSanz on Twitter And See source article here – C5 exclusive

Mr Blair’s speech on Philanthropy raised an eyebrow or two.  As though Mr No Strategy Cameron hadn’t already boobed with his plans to tax charities, here was his political hero reminding him.

Tony Blair wrote here on one of the main planks of last week’s talks, Philanthropy. Speaking at the Global Philanthropy Forum in Washington, DC he made the case for the value of innovative philanthropy.

“Former PM and current philanthropist Tony Blair #gpf2012 ” – Source & larger Instagram with thanks to Salexish

Tony Blair at World Leaders Conference, Palm Beach Atlantic University

Michael Nutter says it was a "great honor to welcome former British Prime Minister Tony Blair back to Philly"

Source – Michael A Nutter picture (above)

Pics above & below, source – Palm Beach Post




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Tony Blair on Syria. ITV interview by Mark Austin

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6th April 2012

ON SYRIA TONY BLAIR SAYS – well… not that much.

Tony Blair said "all options should remain open" in regard to Syria Photo: ITV News

If you’re a Tweep or a Facebook socialite concerned over Middle East issues you will have seen the regurgitated, all-knowing –  “Well? So what is the Middle East peace envoy doing about THIS?” 

The question is usually spat out with putrid venom, which is only to be expected given that it emanates from the depths of malodorous ignorance.  (See – Tony Blair is not the ‘envoy’ )

The mention of Mr Blair’s name raises such hackles in some quarters that he now falls into the category – damnedifhedoesdamnedifhedoesn’t.

Ever wary of being accused of “intervention” it is unusual for the former prime minister to say much overtly about domestic politics or even international politics. For that reason alone his video interview yesterday with ITV News’ Mark Austin is worthy of note.


Harking back to his 1999 Chicago “Doctrine of The International Community” Mark Austin says – “So although Mr Blair is no longer in power, the question is whether as an enthusiastic interventionist, he would now support military action in Syria.”

Austin: “In an interview I put that question to him. He said that Assad cannot be allowed to continue killing people but fell short of calling for military intervention. Though he did say “all options should remain open”.

In my own humble opinion Tony Blair is actually saying nothing new here. Faced with such international threats he always says and always did say – “all options should remain open.”

But I do notice that he doesn’t mention the UN at all, at least in this section of the interview. Perhaps there is a reason for that.  (Kofi Annan:  “Syria violence must end by April 12th”)

And what of the positions on Syria of the present government and Her Majesty’s loyal opposition?

Well, we can look at HALF of the present government/coalition. The Liberal Democrats are insular and think nothing much about foreign policy except with hands-off or when it can be handled without cost. In other words, hardly EVER.

Last thing I recall on Syria from Nick Clegg was on 6th February, when he said he was “bitterly disappointed” over Russia’s & China’s UN veto.  Bless.

On 5th April the Foreign Secretary William Hague said –

“The Syrian authorities must prove to the international community and more importantly the Syrian people that they are sincere about ending the killing. If they do not, the Security Council must act to increase the pressure on the regime.”

A month earlier, on 6th March, Ed Miliband at PMQ –

Miliband: “.. that he will be making clear to [Putin] that action is necessary and that the Russian position is frankly unacceptable”.

“Action is necessary”? What kind of action, Mr Miliband?

Since then…  silence.

I am left wondering how the present leader of the Labour party would be reacting if he were in the prime minister’s seat right now.

The left, especially the New/Old I’m not Tony Blair left,  must find itself in a tricky situation. After all, not for them the interventionism which STOPS dynastic, tyrannical leaders killing their own.  Perish the thought. To be fair my assumption is that all of the parties would be supporting the stance of the present government: do nothing, make the right condemnatory noises  and hope that – THIS time – Kofi Annan & the UN can be effective.


The other notable words uttered by Mr Blair were, “I am not going to second-guess the guy who is taking them [these decisions] now”

Quite. But I am sure Mr Cameron and his cabinet will be pleased to know that if he were still in Number 10 Mr Blair would be doing as they are doing right now.

Leaving all options on the table.


Mark Austin – Interview with Tony Blair on Syria

Full transcript of the interview

Mark Austin: If you were Prime Minister now, would you be looking to get involved in Syria? To intervene militarily in Syria?

Tony Blair: We have got to treat each case on its merits and with its own circumstances. So, I think Syria is again a different case but having said that we should always understand that if we are not active in this situation and we just allow it to develop in this case as Assad wants it to develop in Syria, we know what will happen.

Already thousands of people have died and many thousands more will die. So these are decisions, when you intervene, it’s always important to recognise if you intervene there will be consequences some of which are unpredictable and adverse and if you don’t the consequences actually are more predictable and probably very adverse also.

Mark Austin: You sound as if you think we should be looking to do more?

Tony Blair: I think the government is doing all it can do at this point in time but I think we should keep all the options open. In particular, what is very important is that we carry on sending a very strong message to Assad and the Syrian regime that this is not something where they can just roll over the people and then we are going to say ok lets just forget about it.

No, we will be there and be active in support of the Syrian people who want freedom and want the chance elect their government.

Mark Austin: Would you be finding it hard as a Prime Minister now not to intervene in Syria?

Tony Blair: All these situations are different and they are all tough so having been in this position, trying to take these decisions, I’m not going to second guess the guy who is taking them now.



Dr Matthew Partridge’s excellent review of  Peter Lee’s “Blair’s Just War: Iraq and the Illusion of Morality”. Excerpt:

‘Last year NATO intervened in Libya. There is also talk about doing so again in Syria. Many of the same people who marched against the Iraq war nine years ago are now tweeting demands that Obama, who also opposed it, send more advisors to Uganda. Does Tony Blair therefore deserve an apology?’

Dr Matthew Partridge has recently completed a PhD in Economic History at the London School of Economics. He is a freelance journalist who has written for The Guardian, Times Higher Education and the websites of Prospect and New Statesman.

Independent – “Assad metes out a day of brutal violence”

Guardian – “Syria Crisis: Live Updates”

Tony Blair, said “when you intervene, it’s always important to recognise if you intervene there will be consequences”.


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