Andy McSmith's Diary: Not even Tony Blair is sure about intervention

Our man in Westminster

The terrible pictures coming out of Kenya prompt a question that was current at the time of the Iraq war: when the main threat to Western civilisation comes from suicidal Sunni Muslim fanatics, why does the West want to overthrow Arab governments that have no connection with organisations such as al-Qai’da?

Even Tony Blair now concedes that concentrating diplomatic and military firepower on the enemy’s enemy has drawbacks. He is a longstanding supporter of military intervention in Syria, who also has implied that it would be better to intervene militarily in Iran too, rather than allow that country to develop nuclear weapons.

But in his interview with Al Jazeera this week, the old warhorse has declared that the situation has become “more complicated”. He does not know whether to believe in the good intentions of Iran’s Hassan Rouhani, but “if President Rouhani is sincere – great”, he said.

In Syria, Blair has long advocated that the West should use its command of the skies to create a safe zone for rebel forces. And he still believes that the West should do something, though he seems a lot less sure what that something ought to be.

“People see the terrible things that President Assad has done with the use of artillery and with the use of chemical weapons. But they also know now there are elements within the Syrian opposition that are extreme, linked to al-Qai’da and other terrorist groups, and who are also committing atrocities. So, this situation has become more complicated,” he said.

But he added: “The longer we let this happen, the worse the situation becomes. And I fear the bill we’ll get for Syria. The suffering of the Syrian people obviously is the paramount concern, and it’s terrible. But the bill we’ll all face for the disintegration of Syria is very heavy.”

The sorry tale of Mr Dale

An update on the scuffle that occurred outside the Labour Party conference this week, when Iain Dale, publisher of the celebrated Damian McBride memoir, tried to force an anti-nukes protester, Stuart Holmes, to get out of camera shot while the author was doing a television  interview.

Mr Holmes is a pensioner who lives rough on London streets and hitchhikes to political events to hold up his home-made placards. He is usually treated tolerantly wherever he pops up, but not content with assaulting him, Mr Dale wrote a righteous blog that same day denouncing him as an “idiot” for getting into shot during “an important interview for my author”.

Since then, Mr Dale has visited Brighton police station and been reminded that political protest is legal, whereas physical assault is not. After accepting a caution, he has done a spectacular reverse, posting a message online in which he does not merely apologise to Mr Holmes, and promise to pay for a replacement placard and make a donation to a charity of his choice, but has apologised to more or less everyone who was in Brighton that day, not forgetting Ed Miliband. Did the Labour leader even know about Mr Dale’s antics on the seafront? If he did, someone needs to tell him that Mr Dale is very, very, very sorry.

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