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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 August 2006, 11:35 GMT 12:35 UK
Blair disputes Bush's global tactics
By Paul Reynolds
World Affairs Correspondent, BBC News website

Tony Blair's speech in Los Angeles about the "global fight" against "reactionary Islam" appears to represent a break with the tactics adopted by President Bush and the American neoconservatives in the "war on terror".

Tony Blair
Mr Blair's speech contained tough words for Iran and Syria

It was also a rallying cry to "moderate Islam" to assert itself.

He was not withdrawing from the battle. After all, Britain is still in Iraq and Afghanistan and is supporting Israel against Hezbollah.

But he did not mention the phrase "war on terror" at all and seemed to be trying to change the language as well as the nature of the struggle.

"We are fighting a war, but not just against terrorism but about how the world should govern itself in the early 21st Century, about global values.

"We will not win the battle against this global extremism unless we win it at the level of values as much as force, unless we show we are even-handed, fair and just in our application of those values to the world."

Soul mate

The aim remains the same - the extension of what Mr Blair called "our values".

Both he and Mr Bush still want to change the world. That incidentally became apparent right from their first meeting at a wintry Camp David in early 2001. The new president was quite surprised to find that he had a soul mate.

But Tony Blair now seems to accept that some of the approaches have been wrong. He was not repudiating the war in Iraq but was saying that not enough emphasis has been put on solving underlying problems, like the Israel/Palestine issue for one.

"Unless we re-appraise our strategy, unless we revitalise the broader global agenda on poverty, climate change, trade, and in respect of the Middle East, bend every sinew of our will to making peace between Israel and Palestine, we will not win. And this is a battle we must win," he said.

True neo-conservatives might consider that Tony Blair is going soft, especially in his call for the US not to use "unilateral action" as a "preference".

But the speech did not really indicate that he has abandoned confrontation.

He was perhaps reaching for his favourite "third way":

Hard edges

And there were some tough edges to the speech.

His support for Israel came through clearly. He identified Hezbollah as part of an "arc of extremism" and part of "reactionary Islam" which had to be beaten by "moderate Islam" in the "elemental struggle about the values that will shape our future".

"Suddenly, without warning, Hezbollah who have been continuing to operate in Southern Lebanon for two years in defiance of UN Resolution 1559, cross the UN blue line, kill eight Israeli soldiers and kidnap two more. They then fire rockets indiscriminately at the civilian population in Northern Israel," he said.

(In fact, four of the Israeli soldiers were killed in south Lebanon after crossing over in pursuit of their missing comrades).

He did not however address in detail the contradiction that some might see in this speech. How do you extend the values of moderation by pursuing war, as in Iraq, which might in itself increase the level of extremism in response?

Pointed attack

And there were strong words against two countries in the Middle East - Iran and Syria. He mentioned Iran eight times and Syria five times. Both were supporting Hezbollah, he said, and extremists in Iraq.

Iran is currently under a Security Council order to suspend uranium enrichment and this speech might be seen as preparation for Britain to take part in sanctions against Iran if it refuses to comply

"We need to make clear to Syria and Iran that there is a choice: come in to the international community and play by the same rules as the rest of us, or be confronted," he said.

His attack on Iran was especially pointed:

"Hezbollah gets their weapons from Iran. Iran are now also financing militant elements in Hamas. Iran's president has called for Israel to be 'wiped off the map'. And he's trying to acquire a nuclear weapon."

HAVE YOUR SAY
The answer is for all sections of society to denounce the extremists in their community
David Hollings, Bolton, UK

The phrase "wiped off the map" has been challenged as to whether it should be taken entirely literally, though it does express President Ahmedinejad's hostility to Israel as a state. And Mr Blair's claim that Iran is "trying to acquire a nuclear weapon" goes beyond what the International Atomic Energy Agency has reported and what Iran has said. But the thrust of his remarks is clear.

Iran is currently under a UN Security Council order to suspend uranium enrichment and this speech might be seen as preparation for Britain to take part in sanctions against Iran if it refuses to comply.

Paul.Reynolds-INTERNET@bbc.co.uk


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