Neither Chilcot nor Brexit are a reason for Arabs to rejoice
The Chilcot report is nothing more than a gigantic ‘performance feedback form’ which took seven years to fill
Pity the Arabs, so desperate for a victory that many of us would even rush to celebrate a non-achievement, or even worse, an adversity. Two examples of this sad phenomenon emerged recently out of the United Kingdom: Brexit, where a slim majority of the British population voted to leave the European Union, and the recently announced Chilcot report findings.
Let us start with the latter, an issue that relates much more directly to us, given that it is a public inquiry into Britain’s highly-controversial role in the 2003 Iraq War.
Is it just me, or were the highly-anticipated findings not worth the wait? Frankly, the report didn’t present anything we didn’t already know. After all, we all knew - by now - that former British PM Tony Blair was pre-committed to the US military campaign, that the WMD evidence wasn’t concrete and that the UK rushed into the war.
Interestingly, Sir John Chilcot (who headed the inquiry) has not in any way expressed a view on whether military action in Iraq was legal or not; nor does his 2.5-million-word report resolve the question of whether Mr. Blair – and others responsible for the UK’s involvement – must face court action.
The Chilcot report is nothing more than a gigantic ‘performance feedback form’ that took seven years to fill; much like the government bureaucratic exercises that are often ridiculed in the classic BBC television series, “Yes, Minister”Faisal J. Abbas
At best, as pointed out by The Guardian, the inquiry has ‘left the door open’ for the former prime minister to be independently prosecuted. This, of course, will require plaintiffs coming forward, evidence that Mr. Blair did commit something illegal (which the inquiry didn’t actually present), in addition to enormous financial resources and long years of litigation.
In other words, it seems that the Chilcot report is nothing more than a gigantic ‘performance feedback form’ that took seven years to fill; much like the government bureaucratic exercises that are often ridiculed in the classic BBC television series, “Yes, Minister.”
Furthermore, unless those celebrating among us heard his words differently; the fact remains that - despite previously admitting Iraq war mistakes - Mr. Blair didn’t actually apologize for going to war. On the contrary, he’d “do it again!”
Nevertheless, it isn’t surprising that some Arabs view this as a victory. After all, some of us also considered Hezbollah winning the 2006 war against Israel a victory, despite a death toll of over 1000 Lebanese, of which the majority were civilians.
If those causalities could speak, they’d probably have a different view of who won and who lost. Similarly, neither the half a million Iraqis who have lost their lives since 2003 nor the Iraqi people living under ISIS today will consider the Chilcot report a victory of any sort.
I, of course, say this while maintaining that Saddam was a mass-murderer and a brutal dictator who had to be removed; however, the way Iraq was mismanaged following the invasion was an utter disaster. The truth is, war in any way, shape or form will never be a pleasant choice, unless the outcome is. As such, going to Iraq and failing afterwards is just as bad as deciding not to intervene militarily to stop the Assad regime masters in Syria, a choice that has led to the death of 250,000 people.
‘Brexit’ beyond immediate gains
The other case where many Arabs rushed to conclusions was in the reaction to Brexit. Almost immediately following the EU referendum on June 23, many observers concluded that Britain leaving the European Union would be a good thing for the Middle East.
The majority of those with such arguments took a very narrow-sighted view. To them, the devaluation of the pound sterling meant an immediate opportunity to invest and better trade terms, particularly once/if the UK leaves the EU single market.
It is saddening that anyone would exchange short-term financial gains for principals, collective stability and a long-term mutually beneficial relationship. Indeed, one shouldn’t forget that to many in the Arab world, the EU represented hope. It represented a much-needed real life example that warring nations could put their differences aside and work together for the benefit of their citizens.
In the Arab world, the EU represented hope. It represented a much-needed real life example that warring nations could put their differences aside and work together for the benefit of their citizensFaisal J. Abbas
With the UK outside the EU, we lost a valuable partner at the decision-making table. Indeed, the UK maintains its seats at the Security Council and NATO, however, it served as an indispensable, influential and pragmatic ally in Brussels. This doesn’t apply to a country like Holland (which we don’t have the same strong ties with) nor with countries like Estonia or Luxembourg that are almost irrelevant from a Middle Eastern perspective.
More importantly, Brexit enthusiasts among us seem to forget that they are siding with the UK Independence Party (UKIP), a political bloc that has been described as both ‘racist’ and ‘fascist.’ In fact, many UKIP supporters voted in favor of Brexit because they thought it was a way to keep Arabs and Muslims outside the UK.
Finally, with the British pound at a 30-year low, global financial firms considering to move out of London, both Scotland and Northern Ireland opting to remain in the EU (and possibly out of the UK!), no clear post-Brexit plan and none of the Leave campaign’s promises guaranteed, one has to wonder if Brexit enthusiasts seriously can’t see what is coming, or they can, but only care about their own personal gains nevertheless, in which case they can only be described as selfish ‘merchant-bankers’ (no cockney pun intended!)
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Faisal J. Abbas is the Editor-in-Chief of Al Arabiya English, he is a renowned blogger and an award-winning journalist. Faisal covered the Middle East extensively working for Future Television of Lebanon and both Al-Hayat and Asharq Al-Awsat pan-Arab dailies. He blogs for The Huffington Post since 2008, and is a recipient of many media awards and a member of the British Society of Authors, National Union of Journalists, the John Adams Society as well as an associate member of the Cambridge Union Society. He can be reached on @FaisalJAbbas on Twitter.