Archive for the ‘Jack Straw’ Category


Straws in the wind

May 7, 2006

This is possibly the most ominous development yet in the ongoing Iran War Drum Symphony.

The Bush administration has been talking war-war and refusing to jaw-jaw. (“We are committed to diplomacy, but not if that means like, you know, actually talking to Iran.”) Despite reports from several quarters that they are already committed to a military attack, the insanity of such a move is so plain that it’s easy to hope it is all just for show. Specifically, to hope that all they really want to do is ensure that the issue comes to a head in Congress in October, so that when voters go to the polls, the thoughts uppermost in their minds will be “National Security” and the latest Muslim bogeyman. Under that rosy scenario, once the threat of a Democratic House or Senate is beaten back the war drums will subside.

In the wake of the Labour Party’s dismal showing in local races last week, Tony Blair dismissed, demoted and rearranged his Cabinet members in what’s being called a “Night of the Long Knives”. Two of the most prominent victims had become lightning rods for public discontent or sexual scandal. But no one had been clamoring for the head of the third, foreign minister Jack Straw. Unless that someone was Washington.

In an article titled The two crucial mistakes that cost Straw his job, The Guardian says that Straw didn’t help himself much by cozying up to Gordon Brown, the probable leader of any Labour insurrection against Blair. But his unforgivable sin was declaring war with Iran “inconceivable”:

Jack Straw made two crucial mistakes in his dealings with Tony Blair: one involved the prime minister’s relationship with Gordon Brown and the other Iran. Mr Straw has said repeatedly that it is “inconceivable” that there will be a military strike on Iran and last month dismissed as “nuts” a report that George Bush was keeping on the table the option of using tactical nuclear weapons against Tehran’s nuclear plants.

But Mr Blair, who sees Iran as the world’s biggest threat, does not agree with his former foreign secretary. The prime minister argues that, at the very least, nothing should be ruled out in order to keep Iran guessing. Downing Street phoned the Foreign Office several times to suggest Mr Straw stop going on the BBC Today programme and ruling it out so categorically…

His fate was sealed when the White House called Mr Blair and asked why the foreign secretary kept saying these things. In any case, Mr Straw had boxed himself in on Iran to the extent that he would have had to resign if a military strike became a reality.

(Emphasis mine.) The Washington Post concurs with that analysis.

If the hyping of the “military option” against Tehran were intended solely for the U.S. domestic market, there would have been no particular call for Washington to nudge Straw out. Americans couldn’t care less about the composition of the British Cabinet. Americans did very much care, however, when the boots hit the ground in Iraq, that the loyal, sensible Brits were there to reassure us we were doing the right thing. This smells like, as they say on the island, the decision for war has been taken.

And like the facts, the Cabinet is now being fixed around the policy.