9/11--five years on.

Author:Darwish, Adel
Position:Tony Blair, Europe, Middle East

BRITISH PRIME MINISTER Tony Blair commemorated the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks with a visit to Israel, the Palestinian Occupied Territories and Lebanon, in a bold attempt to salvage a raft from the wreckage of the American-led policy in the region. His trip was widely seen as the start of a Bill Clinton-style political exit strategy following a revolt within the ranks of his ruling Labour Party who are anxious he quits 10 Downing Street sooner, rather than later.

He only narrowly survived a political coup engineered by supporters of his rival for the Labour leadership, Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown, who has grown impatient with Blair's endless procrastinations over delivering his part of an alleged deal the two made in 1995 when plotting 'New Labour'--a modernised party designed to appeal to more voters. The supposed agreement meant they would swap leadership after "a few" years once Blair landed the Party in office. Blair celebrates 10 years at the helm in 2007.

Taking a leaf from former US President Bill Clinton's book, Blair's exit strategy seems to be to allow Brown to focus on domestic issues while he tries to pull some rabbits out of the international hat.

As the end of his term as leader approached, Bill Clinton decided to defer to Vice President Al Gore, his would-be successor in the Democratic Party, on domestic issues, according to John Podesta, Clinton's former chief of staff. Meanwhile the president focused on international policy in the Balkans and the Israeli/Palestine conflict. He almost succeeded in bringing some solution to the latter, debating with the chief protagonists right up until his last days in the White House in January 2001.

According to Podesta, Clinton devoted time and energy to finding a permanent solution to the Arab/Israeli issue because he believed that was the key to a more peaceful world. The Downing Street press machine is now touting the fact that this is a view Prime Minister Blair shares. Blair played a key role in persuading President George W Bush to back a plan for Palestinian statehood in 2002, but was disappointed by the US administration's failure to follow it through. He is the first British prime minister in decades to secure trust and admiration in Israel, where politicians, media and public grew to distrust Britain as an Arab ally. And Britain also enjoys the trust of other big players in the area such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

While cautioning against too many...

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