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Sunday, 4 November, 2001, 13:31 GMT
What is Tony Blair's role?
Tony Blair's whirlwind diplomatic tour of the Middle East is not proving to be an easy one.

The Prime Minister has had to face growing Arab and Muslim disquiet over the US-led attacks on Afghanistan.

Syrian president Bashar al-Assad made a fierce attack on the bombing campaign during a joint press conference yesterday.

Mr Blair faced less criticism today when he held talks with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to discuss the war against global terrorism and the Middle East conflict.

But the BBC's Andrew Marr says the Prime Minister feels that opposition from other leaders is the price he has to pay in order to lay the groundwork for future negotiations in the Middle East.

What do you think Tony Blair's role should be? Can "shuttle diplomacy" achieve anything?

This Talking Point is now closed. Read your comments below.

I'd take Tony Blair over GW Bush any day

Brian, USA
I'd take Tony Blair over GW Bush any day. He has more intelligence and vision than any of the last five US presidents. You guys are lucky to have him. If you don't want him, we'll take him. As for your domestic problems, aren't there 60,000,000 other people in your nation who could be doing something about them? Get up off your collective butts and go out there and fix them.
Brian, USA

Tony Blair has a unique opportunity to act as a facilitator in bringing together the Palestinian Authority and Israel by helping to bring about an end to the violence and return to the negotiating table. The US has been unable, for a variety of reasons, to act impartially to move the Middle East Peace Process forward. The Prime Minister, I think, needs to continue on his current path, not as an "ambassador" of the Bush administration, but as perhaps the pre-eminent western leader with the capabilities and qualities needed to make real progress in achieving a lasting and just Middle East peace.
Elizabeth Miller, Canada

The two major state backers of terrorism in the Middle East, Iran and Syria, have both received top-level visits from the British Government in the last few weeks. To make these visits at a time when the world is supposedly uniting against terrorism sends completely the wrong signal. These states should be condemned, not courted.
Robin Stamler

Lasting peace can only come from a full and open understanding of where people really stand on these issues

Olwyn, New Zealand
Whatever the rights and wrongs of this war, I admire Tony Blair for being willing to speak publicly with leaders who clearly disagree with him. Lasting peace can only come from a full and open understanding of where people really stand on these issues. However, I would like to know more about the phrase "New World Order" which always seems to arise when America feels the need to give an Arab country a good slapping. What exactly does it mean?
Olwyn, New Zealand

I've never seen such a collection of selfish and insular comments. For those of you who think the Prime Minister ought to shut out world events and concentrate exclusively on trains and hospitals could do with a healthy dose of foresight. It's the same attitude that prevailed in the United States for the first years of the Second World War. Imagine where merry old England would be now if the United States and its Commonwealth allies had adopted the same attitude that so many of you now seem to think is prudent. Open your eyes.
James, New Zealand

Tony Blair is an effective and dynamic leader. He even leads the USA in this instance. His rhetoric and actions endorse Mr Blair as one of the finest world leaders since Churchill.
Ann, USA

Mr Blair's role should be to undo the wrongs done by the British to the Palestinians

Omar, USA
Whenever people talk about peace, they should be applauded. Mr Blair's role should be to undo the wrongs done by the British to the Palestinians, namely the Balfour Declaration. Palestinians are still victims of the 1917 actions of Lord Balfour who called for a Jewish homeland in Palestine. The Palestinians have experienced the most cruel form of occupation in the history of mankind.
Omar, USA

Tony Blair is a hypocrite. On the one hand he lauded praise on the IRA for their symbolic limited disarmament gesture, saying how pleased he was that they recognised the value of using negotiation instead of guns to settle their disputes. Why does he take the exact opposite view in handling the terrorist situation in Afghanistan, where a whole country of 20 million people is being held in fear and made to flee their homes, while the US-led military action continues to fail abysmally to even get close to Osama Bin Laden and his cohorts?

As if that is not enough to show his hypocrisy, he has just been to see Sharon and Arafat, with the same message of the value and indeed the need of round table negotiations, rather than their tit-for-tat terrorist attacks on one another. Osama Bin Laden's gripe is with the United States. By going in militarily on Bush's side, Blair has brought the UK into Bin Laden's sights, exposing the citizens to a threat they had not hitherto been under. The US may need Britain as part of a broader-based coalition to fight terrorism, but militarily Britain's contribution will count for zero in terms of effectiveness, but a great deal in terms of going shoulder to shoulder with Bush and his cowboy vigilantes.

Any peace-loving person would denounce the attacks in the United States in September, as indeed do I. It was a dreadful atrocity against innocent people. But only a hypocrite like Tony Blair would not take the same view regarding the three weeks of bombing innocent people in Afghanistan, especially as the principal objective of capturing Osama Bin Laden and his followers is as elusive now, as it was from the outset.
Terrence Jones, Thailand

I think of him as Bush's pet dog. Has his country been attacked? No. Then why is so eager to fight terror? Is it really a fight against terror or a fight against Islam? It is too deep a conspiracy and I can guarantee the US and all its pets animals will lose the battle.
Abdullah Yusuf, Bangladesh

This is a very good question. What is his role? His role is the Prime Minister of the UK and as such he should be leading his Government to meet the needs of the UK population. There is a whole European Parliament set up to represent the united European countries on any major issue. Surely this is the correct forum for a collective European stance for the supposed 'war against terrorism'. Let the European Union be seen to do something for all the funding, time and resource that to date, appears to achieve nothing in return. Mr Blair should then go back to sorting out the mess in this country and dump his self-appointed world president role and stop being the lap dog to the US.
Richard Philips, London UK

After reading Richard Philips' comments, which I fully agree with my question would also be: who is footing the travel expenses here, the British taxpayer? I would say sort out the NHS and let the USA sort out its own problems it was a sad day on September 11 but why should the UK be made to pay?
Bill Pearsall, UK

I remain thankful for Mr Blair's experience, passion, and friendship

Susanna H, Tennessee, USA
As an American, I know little about the domestic social issues many of you complain of. Perhaps I would resent Mr Blair's distraction with terrorism, too. But I doubt it. For like so many in this country and elsewhere, I am afraid - not necessarily of anthrax or hijackings or bombs. Rather, I am afraid of the cultural divisiveness that threatens us all.

When Mr. Blair sat in our Congress as President Bush addressed the country, I thanked God for the bonds that continue to connect Great Britain and America. Perhaps we Americans who still look to Britain as an exemplar (however imperfect, like ourselves) of government and civilized society are foolish. And perhaps, behind the rhetoric, the Prime Minister is pursuing his own agenda. Still, I remain thankful for Mr. Blair's experience, passion, and friendship.
Susanna H, Tennessee, USA

Tony Blair is bringing dignity, eloquence, humility and charisma to this whole mess, traits that "dead or alive" Bush doesn't have. We are lucky to have him, thank you.
Kathleen Stewart, USA

Tony Blair is doing a great job. He is certainly not the American Poodle I thought he was. It is good to see Bush being upstaged by a true diplomat, if it was left to Bush; World War III? So come on Tony, if you can be that good on the world stage, then once this crisis passes then you should concentrate on us, the people who elected you.
Mark, UK

If Mr Blair and the rest of the UK hear what Americans are saying about them, they'd be prouder

Yes, you may call Mr Blair Bush's puppet, etc. but please remember what country would be there for you if the September 11 tragedy happened in the UK. Please remember that the United States gives out aid constantly, even to countries that hate us! What Mr Blair is doing is called friendship. The world seems to know nothing about that unless they are receiving aid from the U.S. If Mr Blair and the rest of the UK hear what Americans are saying about them, they'd be prouder.

The cynical comments posted so far are extremely disheartening. Do people really think that Britain can simply turn her back on global problems believing they are nothing to do with us. Of course the problems of the NHS, Railtrack, education etc. etc. must be addressed and resolved but they would be as nothing if perhaps nuclear-armed terrorists were to gain supremacy. Mr Blair is to be commended for making the effort to talk to people who have been the supporters of our bitterest enemies.
Ian, UK

So much for the hopes that the events of Sept 11th would lead to a new world order

Mike Parker, England
Let's face it if there was no oil in the Middle East the West would let the Israeli-Palestinian conflict run on until somebody won. Where is Mr Blair's concern for the Khasmiri, the Tibetans, the Kurds etc? So much for the hopes that the events of Sept 11th would lead to a new world order. Come home Tony, see that the Northern Ireland peace process reaches a satisfactory conclusion, fulfil those election promises and leave the problems of the rest of the world to Mr Bush.
Mike Parker, England

What on earth do you think Blair should do? Sit around and do nothing, while the free world lives in fear? He's assumed the PR role because the Americans have so far done a bad job of it.
Samuel Sepha, Sierra Leone

Blair's role is to help The US make Afghanistan safe for their oil pipeline (a goal of US policy long before 9/11). It is quite disgusting that the 9/11 atrocity is being used as an excuse for this.
Charles Moore, Scotland

Contrary to popular belief, Tony Blair's job is not to run the NHS, the Welfare State or Immigration Agency, that is the role of Cabinet, Ministers and departments. His role is in fact to guide and oversee the Cabinet and set Government Policy for the benefit of Britain and to act as democratically leader of the country. Recent events have shown that unrest in the middle east can directly effect British subjects and interests, Brits died at the WTC too you know and our economy will be hit if the Americans is. He is therefore making very sensible moves to improve relations in these areas and using his influence as a relatively neutral (compared to America or an Arab State) third party to attempt to calm the ongoing tragedy and potential calamity. If this works, the world will be a safer place for us all, if not we have lost nothing, but as a country will at least have tried. Surely that is Blair's job and he is fulfilling it in a way we should all support.
Peter D, UK

I may not always agree with him, but I'll hold my tongue in this time of crisis

Mark M. Newdick, US/UK
I'm not a Labour supporter, by any measure, but I stand behind my Prime Minister 100%. I may not always agree with him, but I'll hold my tongue in this time of crisis. A little bit of backbone by my fellow countrymen (at least some of the people commenting here) would be in order. And Blair's role is extremely clear┐ help other nations understand that this war on terrorism is for real, that it will be defeated, and that the stability, prosperity and future of the whole world depends on it.
Mark M. Newdick, US/UK

Blair is proving once again that UK has no place in the evolving world order unless it is seen as American by proxy. Well wake up, only countries with independent views are counted.
Yukta Mukhi, India

I had to laugh at the sarcastic comments everyone has made about Tony Blair on this page. I think he needs to strike a balance between running Britain and bring a New World Order. He needs to concentrate on Britain, which is falling apart, as well as maintaining diplomatic ties with other countries for world peace. If he were doing all this jet setting for our benefit, I would be proud of him. However, America needs to build its own ties with the Arab world to achieve peace. It has alienated Arabs by its unjust foreign policies and not us. We should support America but Tony has gone too far.
Romana, UK

Tony Blair's role is equal to Bush's in the war against terrorism. He is not America's lapdog, but its partner. He is a true leader and sees the bigger picture and the need to end terrorism. He knows that if terrorism is not stopped, civilian lives all over the world will be in danger. I've read claims of the Taleban of all the civilian deaths which are accidental. If the Taleban invaded any country, including Britain and the US, their first target would be to kill civilians as they did when they took over Afghanistan. One of their first victims when they took over was to kill an Afghan schoolgirl. These people must be fought and their terrorist way of life (which is not Islam) must be kept from spreading.

This may be a diplomatic mission, but it's purpose is to garner support for a military campaign

Mark Williams, UK
Blair must be trying to win the Nobel Prize for hypocrisy. He is running round the world saying how terrible it is that so many innocent people were killed on Sept 11, whilst arguing for support for bombing campaigns which are killing other innocent civilians, which will doubtless fuel further killings in the west. And to cap it all he then tells the Israelis and the Palestinians to stop their "cycle of violence". This may be a diplomatic mission, but it's purpose is to garner support for a military campaign that will lead to at least as many direct (bomb & bullet) and indirect (starvation & disease) civilian deaths as the WTC bombing. The Afghan people may have a barbaric "government" who have been harbouring one of the most potent terrorists, but that is no reason to kill so many civilians.

As the number of actual WTC deaths comes down (the latest estimates are considerably lower than the original figures), the Afghan death toll has risen towards the WTC figure. And yet although his camps may have been destroyed, there have been no reported successes against UBL and his network, which was the original reason for all of this killing.

I sympathise with those young Muslims who have gone to Pakistan with the intention of defending their fellow Muslims from this aggression. President Assad made a very fair comparison with the French Resistance. It reminds me of those Europeans who went to fight in the Spanish Civil War. The difference here is that this is not so much a matter of taking sides in an argument as of defending a relatively defenceless Afghan people against a far more powerful military aggressor.
Mark Williams, UK

There is something a little bit more important happening at the moment!

Jon Doody, UK
How short your memories are! Have you forgotten what happened on September 11th? This is serious stuff! The NHS can wait a little longer. Your train will have to be 10 minutes late as usual. There is something a little bit more important happening at the moment! It's embarrassing to read the "I'm alright Jack" attitude of some of my fellow countrymen. You can't just bury your heads in the sand and hope the problem will disappear. Tony Blair is doing a fantastic job. He should be thoroughly commended! And please change the record about Tony Blair being a puppet. He is working incredibly hard to protect the people of UK.
Jon Doody, UK

Jon Doody wrote " He is working incredibly hard to protect the people of UK". Really? By making us the next target? The US is a target for it's biased foreign policy. We in the UK have been more mature in our Terrorist problems. Perhaps Blair should tell Bush to handle like we did as opposed to support what US does. How about that for a World Leader? Or is Tony's attitude "If you can't beat 'em then join 'em!" For those talking about "remember 11th Sept", where were the US when IRA was planting bombs everywhere? Tony Blair would have become a World leader especially among Muslim nations if we took an active anti-terrorist stand and yet a more mature then the trigger happy one he has.
NA, United Kingdom

Tony Blair should use his good communication skills to get more Arab countries on his side so he could have more influence on the US decision-making and hopefully will be able to stop the military action before it causes even more resentment in the Arab world.
Isobel, England

We should give Tony Blair credit for internationalising this conflict and trying to talk to everyone involved. The old approach of demonising other countries and not listening to their positions because it must be propaganda anyway, has never worked because it is self-righteous. A competition of opinions and ideas is much more fertile than a competition of bombs. But even good intention won't help if he does not even dare to ask Israel to comply with UN resolutions (especially 242 and 338) and international law. If we, the West, stick to our foreign policy that international law does not apply to our "friends" but to our "enemies" we will not succeed .
Carim Clasmann, UK

I wish Tony Blair all the best for his most sincere of efforts to bring world peace

Yusuf K, UK
Tony Blair's stated political aim, which is to have a 'viable Palestinian state with guaranteed security for Israel' is worthy of an emerging world statesman. Many have been critical of Tony Blair's over enthusiastic support for Bush's campaign in Afghanistan but it needed a close ally and active supporter of America to make them realise that Tony Blair's dream for mid-east peace is what should have been pursued by America years ago. Perhaps had they done so instead of siding all the time with Israel even in times of obvious Israeli atrocities, the bombing of the World Trade Centre and countless other terrorist activities may not have taken place. I wish Tony Blair all the best for his most sincere of efforts to bring world peace.
Yusuf K, UK

Mr Blair is in a difficulty position. His action is commendable. People should credit him for trying to reach out Muslim/Arab countries and trying to be understanding their complaints, however lip-service that may sound to some. Mr Bush should have been touring the region long time ago too. Israel must be told that victimising and stealing Arab lands will make life difficulty for Mr Blair's diplomacy. Someone must tell them load and clear that they should leave the poor Arabs alone. If the root of terrorism is to be dealt with decisively, Israeli aggression must be stopped.
Kein Mills, Finland

Tony Blair role would be best described as president Bush's personal secretary. Blair goes back and forth to Middle East and get slap from Israel and Arab leaders.
J. Mill, UK

Should the UK be insular?

It's interesting how many people feel Tony Blair is neglecting domestic affairs while others comment on the insularity of places like China and elsewhere. Should the UK be insular? No, because it has a historical connection with a lot of places for obvious reasons (not least "Palestine" itself!), a lot of friends and contacts and a remarkable amount of goodwill in unexpected places. In a sense, Blair can reach parts that Americans can't or won't.

Perhaps his most important role here is to bend the ears of Bush and others and inject a little realism and balance into the US position on foreign affairs, particularly where Israel is concerned. The Israelis are perhaps right to fear the Europeans' view of their role in recent months - it is slightly more objective than the blinkered blank cheque offered by the US. If Blair can assist here, then I think he will be doing a huge load of good for an awful lot of people around the world. Railtrack, the Health Service, etc. can be handled by his Ministers. After all, a good manager is one who delegates.

I wonder why we make the mistake of thinking we are some sort of world power. We are a very small island, which seems to be rapidly becoming overcrowded. Why do we think we can sort out the world's problems? I note that the rest of the countries in the European Union aren't exactly standing shoulder to shoulder with our troops. I am not saying we should do nothing but I don't understand why we need to always take the lead.
Irene, England

We in the USA appreciate his help and the help of the people of the UK

James, USA
I suppose the role of Tony Blair is the one voters in the UK will support. Many UK citizens died in the World Trade Center. Mr Blair had to do either something or nothing. We in the USA appreciate his help and the help of the people of the UK.
James, USA

Do you not think Tony Blair would rather be doing something else? Do not think he wished September 11th hadn't happened? For better or for worse, we are America's closet ally and so we should be helping her in the fight against terrorism. If this means, our PM has to carry out diplomatic sorties, then so be it.
Paul Nash, UK

Tony Blair is a world leader and is right in spearheading the attempt to dislodge the Taleban and fight world terrorism. However he also needs to show that element of his nature which is reasonable and understanding and not blindly support everything George Bush dreams of.
Ann Thracks, UK

There is a French saying which roughly translated means "the old dog must teach its pups". Blair as the most experienced European leader has taken the initiative to mentor Bush and to try to attempt to avoid an escalation in events onto a wider world stage. He has been successful up to now and I, for one, am grateful.
Patrick James, UK

Maybe, maybe just, he's doing so much because London or another city in England could be the next victim of terrorism. If 5000 were killed in London would people be whingeing about the PM rooting support all over the world. Maybe he's doing it for civilisation and not just for America.
Mark, Manchester, UK

He's acting like an errant parent on a 2-week jolly, while the kids are at home eating pot-noodle

Mark Inno, UK
The UK is falling apart at the seams, in spite of terrorist threats, and is in dire need of a leader with commonsense, the courage both to ditch market dogma and to put Britain (not the USA) first. He's acting like an errant parent on a 2-week jolly, while the kids are at home eating pot-noodle.
Mark Inno, UK

Not content with creating the Taleban in the first place, the US are now organising military instructors to create their replacements in the shape of the Northern Alliance. Perhaps Tony Blair should spend some of his time reminding the US leadership that even recent history has some important lessons that they might like to learn from.
Bruce Gilmour, Scotland

Seems to me Blair's medium term objectives are actually quite different from those of the USA, so to see Bush as a puppetmaster is quite wrong. Blair genuinely seems to believe there is an opportunity to invent some kind of third-way global community along John Lennonesque lines. I doubt Dubya digs that groove. Whether Blair is mad or not, it is surely very positive that there has been public, high level contact between Iran, Syria and the West. Jaw jaw is better than war war.
Alastair Alexander, UK

Stop winging Brits and give the poor man some support!

Chris Allen, UK
Tony Blair's migration to the world stage is vital. Stop winging Brits and give the poor man some support!
Chris Allen, UK

Tony Blair's role is to act as Britain's Prime Minister and address the concerns of its people. That should mean taking action to rescue the NHS, fight crime and help our collapsing transport system, not jetting off around the world and enjoying the limelight. Or is he simply admitting that addressing the problems of this county are beyond him?
Giles, England

America's lapdog.
Shakoor, UK

Tony Blair's role in the current crisis is more complex and multi-faceted than any of the comments thus far give justice to. The over-riding idea appears to be that he is simply President Bush's lapdog. This is so incredibly simplistic it almost defies giving credence to.

Have people got such short-term memories to have forgotten the events of September 11th? This wasn't simply an attack on the USA it was an attack on the civilised world. Blair, by taking a leading role in tackling this outrage and attempting to mobilise world support and keep people focused on the real issues at stake is doing exactly what his role is..yes, he is leading. There are many defining characteristics of that role, diplomat, supporter, enabler, ally, and stabiliser to name but few. Those who criticise his role so far are pitifully short of realistic alternatives which would counteract the forces of evil terrorism we are now up against.
Alan Dean, Scotland

What on earth is Tony Blair trying to be?

Helen, UK
What on earth is Tony Blair trying to be? The first world president? Tony, could you do me and 59 million other people favours and stick to the failing hospitals, schools, etc in Britain. Anyway Tony, it should be a war with USA v Afghanistan that doesn't involve Britain. Mr Blair is crazy to enter war when our country hasn't been attacked.
Helen, UK

This is for Helen, UK. If the tables had been turned and UK had been so devastatingly and suddenly attacked in the way of September 11th, I believe the UK would expect support from the US. If you had to breath the ashes of someone else's loved ones every time you went outside, I am sure that you would be outraged at the small-minded selfishness of a US citizen complaining that US domestic affairs were being 'neglected'. This is a time to come together, not to stick with ones own.
Eleanor Hanning, England, living in New York

We stand shoulder to shoulder with the US, a country that has failed miserably to participate in the protection of the earth's environment. Blair cannot win this, he must support the Americans who for the first time in their history has been subjected to international terrorism and typically responds with the gun and the bomb, which is their culture. We have endured bombing in the UK from the IRA for the last 30+years with no movement from the UK government. I fear for the future, we have no idea what's going on in Afghanistan, I doubt if Bin Laden is actually in that country, all I see is everyone leaving the plan and the UK and USA made to look like fools to the international community.
Steve M, UK

I am only an ordinary citizen of this great country. Can someone please help me understand? Did were-elect Blair as PM of the UK for a second term or Foreign Secretary of the US? Are we going to be issued with American passports soon? Why cannot Bush do his own dirty propaganda work? Why are our service men and women being sent to fight a meaningless and power crazy war? Has everyone forgotten Vietnam?
Jay Narayanan, UK

Tony Blair is there for one reason only; to demonstrate that he is the best statesman this side of the Atlantic. Of course his next career move is President of the EC, to be followed by election as President of Europe. Already Blunkett, Brown and Co. are jockeying for the premiership of Britain. Blair is not so much Bush's poodle, as his rival. Hence his comments about a "new world order".
David K, UK

We should be proud of Blair

Mark, UK
We should be proud of Blair. Al-Qaeda and the Taleban need to be taken out. However if we don't address our relations with the Arab world and sort out a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian situation then these terrorist outrages will continue to happen.
Mark, UK

I have a lot of respect for Tony Blair. I didn't use to because of his seeming incompetence in the handling of our public services. But as for the war on terrorism, I don't really think bombing Afghanistan is helpful. I think there are a lot of sensible and subtle approaches and Tony Blair is providing one of them. Britain may support the bombing but it is America who is carrying it out, whilst Britain takes a more diplomatic route. This is not to say Blair is in George Bush's pocket - it is in Britain's interest to end world terrorism. George Bush is too naive to sort out the problems diplomatically and all the other world leaders are sitting on their backsides, so the world really needs someone like Tony Blair.
David E, UK

Would it be too much to hope and expect that our globe trotting Prime Minister could expend as much energy and dedication to solving the third world status of the public services in this country?
Ralph Snape, England

Tony Blair's role should be to do whatever it takes to defend free nations from terrorism

Jason Paul, USA
Tony Blair's role should be to do whatever it takes to make the world freer and to defend free nations from terrorism. He has a role in the Middle East but he has to condemn terrorism in all its forms, particularly when it affects Israel. If it is okay to attack Israel in the opinions of Egyptian and Syrian Clerics, then it is okay to kill Americans. They just can't say that because they are afraid Israel is surrounded and it needs help from Britain and the west. Hizbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad should be listed right up there with al-Qaeda.
Jason Paul, USA

It'll be interesting to see whether the Middle East falls for the spin as we did.
Joseph Parkinson, Manchester, UK

Tony Blair will add his prior achievements to the process, namely that he will press the US and the UK to capitulate to all al-Qaeda's demands, in return that they agree to a ceasefire and hand in a few weapons, but in a process that will be entirely hidden from public scrutiny. Just as he has done in Northern Ireland.
Rick Makin, UK

I seem to remember that at the end of August, Blair was looking at a scenario where his paymasters, the unions, were about to pull the plug on the Labour party, the NHS was (and still might well be) going down the pan, his Transport Minister had just stolen Railtrack from the shareholders, and his attempts to stage-manage the Labour Party conference were falling about his ears. Of course he is jumping on aircraft left, right and centre to appease the Americans. If he didn't, he'd have to stay at home and do some real work.
Paul, Scotland

Tony Blair is the 'older' and more experienced statesman of the West.

Neal, UK
Tony Blair is the 'older' and more experienced statesman of the West. George W. Bush has been in office a short time and his inexperience is most evident. Most of Europe is biding its time as usual, Putin does not have the 'clout' he used to have and China is still very insular. Shame some friendly Arab nation hasn┐t taken the initiative. British diplomacy is more subtle than some western nations, let him try. The West has to keep all doors and options open and Tony Blair is the only sensible, senior, viable option at the moment
Neal, UK

What the Taleban and Muslim fanatics have been doing is wrong and they need to be destroyed. However, there is a great deal of ignorance in the Middle East about the West. Most people in the street have startling, and mainly very inaccurate, perceptions of us. If we are going to stop the whole of the Islamic world going up in flames we need to engage with its political leaders and try and remove the political support for the fanatics. Tony Blair is carrying out a brave and unenviable task. Its a shame that so many Islamic and European nations either do not support dialogue or pander to populist causes to avert domestic discontent from their own failings. Dialogue solved the Northern Ireland problem and will solve this problem as well.
Ben Moores, UK

Communication is said to be the most important weapon in any major crisis

Taki Anayannis, USA
Mr. Blair is gifted with the art of Diplomacy. His role is to effectively meet with other leaders and try to diffuse the current crisis. Communication is said to be the most important weapon in any major crisis/war. If that is so, then Tony Blair is perhaps the most ideal and capable person for that demanding and challenging role. As an excellent and articulate mediator, he is utterly important in providing the bridge for the much needed 'diplomatic" communication between the US and the Middle East.
Taki Anayannis, USA

"Mr Blair is expected to tell Israeli and Palestinian leaders that the violence there, whatever the justification, must stop." (BBC News) Why doesn't he tell this to the Americans and practice what he preaches with Britain!
Chris, UK

I am not sure what Tony is trying to achieve, I think he has to get the message across that either with or without these countries support, the Taleban and al-Qaeda will be destroyed. Most of the countries he is visiting have their own problems with internal politics and religious zealots - they should be grateful that the West is trying to keep a world order. If they wish to moan publicly I am sure that privately they are 100% behind the action being taken. I do wish that Blair would concentrate more on matters at home - but even though I didn't vote for him, I do think the current situation means we must get behind him and support him and our government in trying to do the right thing, i.e. ensure that there is never another Sept 11th style atrocity or worse!
Andy, UK

He should be listening to the voice of reason instead of being carried away with his own rhetoric.

Colin, UK
I do not know whether Tony Blair is on an ego trip, trying to impress George Bush, or truly believing that he is doing something for the greater good. However, he should be listening to the voice of reason instead of being carried away with his own rhetoric. (Listen to the rhetorical way he speaks, everything comes in batches of three.) His role is to listen to the will of the British public but sadly we know that Mr Blair is locked into 'Tony knows best' mode. Until he learns to listen I am afraid he will do more harm than good.
Colin, UK

Yes, what Mr. Tony Blair is doing is right - to make the Arabs understand that they need to change their thinking. Although they will not listen, they may at least think over it, which will help in this fight against terrorism
Francisco Fernandes, INDIA

Tony Blair's role should be that of US foreign secretary. He seems to be quite good at it.
Zack Pandor, UK

Blair is doing nobly and brilliantly. He is giving up so much time and effort away from his domestic responsibilities for the good of International Relations and the future of regional stability in the Middle East, not to mention the security of the West. The people he sees must respect his motives and views, and engage in dialogue. But when the cameras of the world are shining on small time politicians from Arab countries, they see it as their chance loudly broadcast angry sentiment and populist rhetoric. Blair is suffering here, because of the Nationalistic furore used by political pygmies for their own benefit. Hugely reminiscent of Milosevic, Hitler and other tyrants. These guys must act altruistically for the good of all. But is altruism politically expedient?
Peter Hunt, England

It's all a little embarrassing and has shades of colonial times when the arrogant Brit told others who was right and who was wrong. If Blair hears other opinions and learns something from them, then great. Otherwise it smacks of arrogance and hypocrisy.
Simon, UK

It seems that he is scared of public opinion

David, UK
It would be nice to think that Tony Blair's role was to be our Prime Minister. Sadly, he seems to think otherwise at the moment. It seems that he is scared of public opinion, which is not nearly so supportive of the war as he likes to make out.
David, UK

Tony Blair has a huge role to play in the Middle East. Not only is Britain the bridge between the US and Europe, but it is also of course the former mandated power in the region. It is right for him to seek the creation of a viable Palestinian state, but this should not be at the expense of Israeli security. I do not envy his task in persuading Sharon of his intent, especially after having to listen to Assad saying that people who blow up discos and pizzerias are "freedom fighters".
Paul, UK

I think Mr Blair is doing the dirty work of going around asking countries for support for an unjust war waged against the Innocent people of Afghanistan. There is hardly any support, and Americans don't want to accept an egg on their face - so they use Mr Blair, who is getting used to the humiliation by the world leaders. Its not fair is it??
Sohail Khan, UK

I always thought his primary role was to make sure those of us who pay UK taxes have hospitals, schools, a reliable transport network and safety from crime.
John B, UK

John B makes a good point - Blair should protect us from crime. The most serious crime we face is international terrorism, so he is doing precisely that in any way he can. I'm not normally a fan of Blair but at the moment he is showing a lot of bottle and i'm proud of Britain in being about the only country prepared to stand up and be counted along with America.
Jon Cooper, UK

I think Tony Blair is doing more than anyone to keep this coalition together

Kevin, UK
On the surface, it merely looks as if Tony Blair is doing George W. Bush's work for him, because it unwise for him to travel to such places himself or indeed at all . Having said that, the Prime Minister has an important role to play in, as you say, laying the groundwork for future negotiations. He is an important bridge to the USA at this time and in a way that no other leader can be. Furthermore, it is self-evident that he firmly believes in the fight against terrorism. As a British PM he has every incentive to do so given the IRA atrocities over the years. I think Tony Blair is doing more than anyone to keep this coalition together and we can be rightly proud of him for the seemingly incessant efforts he is contributing.
Kevin, United Kingdom

Since when did he become USA Foreign Minister? Being Friends does not mean being a total "Yes" man to Bush.

There will be those who criticise Blair for being a US puppet but what role do those people suggest for Britain? To do nothing, when hundreds of British citizens were killed on September 11? To simply say that it didn't matter and that we should just sit back and wait for the next atrocity? To do nothing and let the Taliban gain strength from seeing their enemy divided? Blair chose to side with the US and having done so is doing his best to make sure that we win. I hope that your US readers will take to heart the knowledge of who their true allies are. Not those who buy your goods but those stand with you in adversity.
Andrew Carter, UK

Tony Blair ought to pay heed to the comments of President Bashar al-Assad, both in the Palestinian - Israeli conflict and the continued bombing of Afghanistan.
Colin, Netherlands

Should we now refer to Tony Blair as Senator Blair?

I had no idea we (UK) has become the latest state of the United States. Should we now refer to Tony Blair as Senator Blair? Have we forgotten what the US has done for the past forty years? The de-stabilising, the economic sanctions on Cuba, the help in overthrowing legitimate governments etc, etc. The list goes on and on. For God's sake what are we bombing? Afghanistan is full of rubble and children suffering.

My comments are directed to BAC of the UK. You bring up a valid point about Afghanistan and indeed it hurts to see people suffering; however, should we forget what occurred on 9/11? Unfortunately, these criminals have used an ailing country as their backyard. One that the US has in the past and present giving the most humanitarian aid to. As far as the USA placing economic sanctions on Cuba, what do you expect Americans to do, embrace such a government? I was born in Cuba and unless you know first hand what the Cuban government has done to its people, you really cannot understand. The US has not been perfect in its relations with other countries, but can you name one that has?
T. Pereira, USA

The disquiet faced appears to be based more on the Israeli goverment's lack of intention to pursue a meaningful and serious peace policy than the action in Afghanistan. The shuttle diplomacy can help to move things along. It is about time that better contacts were re-established with many Arab countries, which the UK has historic links with, even if this upsets Israeli politicians. Tony Blair is right to emphasise the need to talk.
Barry B, UK

I really don't think it's Tony Blair's place to go round raising support for a war that is, essentially, only to support America's interests. He has enough problems to sort out here in the UK, without acting as a front man for US military aggression. In fact, I've yet to understand why the UK is involved in this war at all. Indeed, why are we bombing these people anyway?
Richard Cutler, UK

See also:

01 Nov 01 | Middle East
Blair enters Mid-East fray
31 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Syria trip 'opens bridge for dialogue'
31 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Arab world gives Blair tough message
15 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Blair urges Mid-East progress

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