Iraq, Iran, GB, Obama and diplomatic chess
Posted on 17 March 2009 | 10:03am
A new survey on opinion in Iraq (broadly positive and so largely ignored by the UK media) shows people feel safer and more optimistic about their future.
Eighty-five per cent describe security as good or quite good, up 23 per cent. Fifty-nine per cent say they feel safe in their neighbourhoods, up 22 per cent. They also report improved access to fuel and power. So good news at a time democracy continues to take root.
Views on the invasion remain divided, with a slight rise in opposition, and there is similar division on views of American and British troops, both their effectiveness and the desirability of them being there at all.
But what I found most interesting in the survey done for TV stations BBC, ABC and NHK, was that Iran is up there with the US as a source of concern and discontent.
Iran will be in the UK news today when Gordon Brown makes a speech in London offering the Iranians help with their civil nuclear programme. It is not the first time this has been mooted, but the change in tone and emphasis suggests to me there may be movement of some kind. It is quite a big step.
I blogged yesterday on the climate change film, The Age of Stupid, and talked about how sometimes there is more than one inconvenient truth that governments have to deal with. Gordon’s speech, and his approach to Iran, shows that once more.
He knows that whatever Britain does on climate change, it is a global problem and we have to do our bit to try to bring about a global solution. If China carries on building coal-fired power stations at the rate of one a week, then a bit of recycling instead of binning, and cycling instead of driving, is not going to save the world. We need both. So leaders like GB have to work at getting both done.
He seems to be framing his offer of help to Iran as part of the climate change challenge. But you do not have to be a Washington neocon to fear the Iranians’ military nuclear ambitions, so he is right to want to surround any support for civil nuclear power with stringent tests and conditions with regard to the enrichment of uranium.
It is said of most Prime Ministers that there comes a point where they tire of domestic politics and policy and seek to immerse themselves more in foreign policy. But this issue shows as well as any how it is impossible to separate them. Our economic future rests in large part on international co-operation to get ourselves out of the current mess. Elements of our economic, environmental and security futures are all wrapped up in the speech he is making today.
But amid the inconvenient truth, there is also a more convenient one. It is unlikely that he could or would have made the same speech, with the same hope of it having any effect on Iran, until Barack Obama became President of the US. Powershifts work in many ways, on many levels, in many different timeframes. Gordon’s words on Iran are an interesting example of that. Let’s hope it leads somewhere. Don’t be surprised if the immediate reaction of the Iranian government is either to ignore or to reject. Equally don’t be surprised if some time down the track, there is a sudden move by Iran which suggests that just maybe they’re listening more than they let on.
ps. On more trivial matters … Peggy Mitchell has very kindly posted a thank you on the EastEnders website for my words of advice on her run for election to Walford Borough Council. And David Cameron said something about the BBC yesterday. Got to hand it to him – another day, another policy free zone for the man who can’t make difficult policy decisions.