Supposedly, on April 16, 2004, Tony Blair talked President Bush out of bombing Al Jazeera. But the memo that records this encounter cannot be published because of security concerns. The Times articles discussing this memo also note that “the reference may well have been a joke.” If this is true then it is unclear (1) why an official memo of a high-level meeting of this kind is recording small talk jokes, and (2) why the statement is press-worthy.
During the same meeting, the U.S. and UK butted heads regarding Iraq and wider Middle East policy. “The discussion, held at the White House in April 2004, is understood to have revealed fundamental differences between the Americans and British on the Middle East peace process, the reconstruction of Iraq and the possible use of Iranian help against the insurgency.” Some of the points of disagreement included:
- Bush “angered Blair” by blocking the right of return for millions of Palestinians to land seized by Israel in 1948 as part of moving forward with the Israeli-Palestinian question;
- Blair was also angered because Bush hadn’t consulted with him regarding Bush’s private discussions with Sharon;
- Blair had to persuade Bush of the need for UN involvement in the reconstruction of Iraq.
Just how scandalous is this revelation of disagreement between the U.S. and UK? It seems to me that it should not be scandalous at all. The U.S. and UK have different ideas about how to approach these items of foreign policy. This is as it should be. But so far–and despite mounting “Anglo-American tensions” reported by the Times based on these policy differences–the U.S. and UK have remained allies in this struggle and are still mutually supportive. That is, in my opinion, laudable and comforting. I am glad for the close alliance between the U.S. and the UK and I hope it continues for a long time to come.