It’s another “major foreign policy speech,” to be followed tomorrow by a teleconference with the Baker Commission. He tries to play down the significance of this one by linking it to the address he gave in L.A. in August, in which he foolishly asserted that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the key to the region’s problems. The political scenery has changed a lot since then, though, as the Times of London notes, which makes this speech rather more important:
The first cracks in the united front over Iraq between Tony Blair and President Bush appeared last night as the Prime Minister offered Iran and Syria the prospect of dialogue over the future of Iraq and the Middle East.
The offer of dialogue would have seemed unthinkable a few months ago, but was seen as an attempt to exploit the greater readiness in Washington to talk to Iraq’s neighbours — states once named as part of the “axis of evil” by President Bush.
Thanks to kasper kasper, as always, for the vid. He caught the meat of it, having to do with Iran. Make sure you read this first so that you’re in the proper frame of mind for when he talks about the prospect of Iranian cooperation.
Update: Bush isn’t really feeling it.
Update: So utterly devastating is this article to Blair’s proposal for dialogue that I’m tempted to believe it’s disinformation. Problem is, it’s not the first report that’s placed Saif al-Adel inside Iran.
You want a “whole Middle East strategy”? You got it:
Iran is trying to form an unholy alliance with al-Qa’eda by grooming a new generation of leaders to take over from Osama bin Laden, The Daily Telegraph can reveal.
Western intelligence officials say the Iranians are determined to take advantage of bin Laden’s declining health to promote senior officials who are known to be friendly to Teheran…
[I]ntelligence officials have been most alarmed by reports from Iran that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is trying to persuade al-Qa’eda to promote a pro-Iranian activist to a senior position within its leadership.
The Iranians want Saif al-Adel, a 46-year-old former colonel in Egypt’s special forces, to be the organisation’s number three.
Al-Adel was formerly bin Laden’s head of security, and was named on the FBI’s 22 most wanted list after September 11 for his alleged involvement in terror attacks against US targets in Somalia and Africa in the 1990s. He has been living in a Revolutionary Guard guest house in Teheran since fleeing from Afghanistan in late 2001.
Here he is. Most wanted.
Update: More from the Telegraph. Remember, Sunni and Shiite fundamentalists hate each other and would never join forces against the west:
Iran has always maintained close relations with al-Qa’eda, even though the Shia Muslim state is known to have many ideological and strategic differences with the terror group’s Sunni leadership…
Iran’s attempts to forge closer links with al-Qa’eda are understood to have been ordered by President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, who believes Iran and al-Qa’eda share similar aims — destroying the influence of America and its allies in the wider Middle East. Mr Ahmedinejad is also keen to strengthen the alliance in case Iran is subjected to United Nations sanctions over its refusal to halt its nuclear enrichment programme, which many Western governments believe is being undertaken as part of a clandestine nuclear weapons programme.
If al-Qa’eda is agreeable to appointing al-Adel and other al-Qa’eda figures currently based in Iran to senior positions, the Iranians have agreed to provide training facilities and equipment.
Links between Iran and al-Qa’eda date back to the early 1990s, when bin Laden was based in Sudan. According to the US 9/11 Commission report, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards helped to train al-Qa’eda fighters, and the Iranians were suspected of helping al-Qa’eda to carry out the truck bomb attacks against an American military base in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, in June 1996 that killed 19 US servicemen…
“We are looking at a Doomsday scenario here where al-Qa’eda finally fulfils its ultimate goal of acquiring weapons of mass destruction,” said a senior Western intelligence official. “And unlike other terror groups, al-Qa’eda is perfectly willing to use them.”
This report of AQ seeking a nuclear kit seemed kind of vague and old news-ish to me when I saw it earlier today. Did the Telegraph just fill in the blanks?