A Straw in the wind: Blair removes an obstacle to attacking Iran

Before Tony Blair could acquiesce—or join—in any U.S. strike on Iran, he would first have to move his Foreign Secretary Jack Straw who has repeatedly stressed that “There isn’t a military option.” Well, he just has. In an instant reshuffle, designed to distract attention from a pretty appalling set of local election results, Blair demoted ...

607948_Beckettsss_05.jpg
607948_Beckettsss_05.jpg

Before Tony Blair could acquiesce—or join—in any U.S. strike on Iran, he would first have to move his Foreign Secretary Jack Straw who has repeatedly stressed that “There isn’t a military option.”

Well, he just has. In an instant reshuffle, designed to distract attention from a pretty appalling set of local election results, Blair demoted Jack Straw to Leader of the House of Commons. Straw is replaced by Margaret Beckett. Beckett is the former environment minister and in that role has bashed America for its position on Kyoto. She doesn’t strike me as a hawk and she’s from the traditionally anti-American left of the party.

The appointment has taken everyone by surprise. My money would have been on Straw being succeeded by the hawkish Defense Secretary John Reid, but he was needed at the Home Office to try and rescue Labour’s tough on crime reputation. What Blair might be banking on is that Beckett has shown him impeccable loyalty—even when Blair’s position is diametrically opposed to her own, (as it is on nuclear power)—and can have no higher ambition than this post, which is almost certainly her last job, and so won’t rock the boat.

Before Tony Blair could acquiesce—or join—in any U.S. strike on Iran, he would first have to move his Foreign Secretary Jack Straw who has repeatedly stressed that “There isn’t a military option.”

Well, he just has. In an instant reshuffle, designed to distract attention from a pretty appalling set of local election results, Blair demoted Jack Straw to Leader of the House of Commons. Straw is replaced by Margaret Beckett. Beckett is the former environment minister and in that role has bashed America for its position on Kyoto. She doesn’t strike me as a hawk and she’s from the traditionally anti-American left of the party.

The appointment has taken everyone by surprise. My money would have been on Straw being succeeded by the hawkish Defense Secretary John Reid, but he was needed at the Home Office to try and rescue Labour’s tough on crime reputation. What Blair might be banking on is that Beckett has shown him impeccable loyalty—even when Blair’s position is diametrically opposed to her own, (as it is on nuclear power)—and can have no higher ambition than this post, which is almost certainly her last job, and so won’t rock the boat.

What Condi will make of her new counterpart? Beckett is famous for her caravan holidays. Condi stoically got through her trip to Blackburn, but could even the consummate diplomat stomach a caravanning holiday with the Becketts?

James Forsyth is assistant editor at Foreign Policy.

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