The George and Tony show

The last time Tony Blair came to Washington, George Bush became impassioned when asked if this was the embattled Prime Minister’s last official visit. He shot back, “Don’t count him out; let me tell it to you that way. I know a man of resolve and vision and courage, and I – my attitude is ...

607676_BushBlairNews5.jpg
607676_BushBlairNews5.jpg

The last time Tony Blair came to Washington, George Bush became impassioned when asked if this was the embattled Prime Minister's last official visit. He shot back, "Don't count him out; let me tell it to you that way. I know a man of resolve and vision and courage, and I - my attitude is I want him to be here so long as I'm the president." So, there's no doubt that Blair will get a warm welcome from Bush—if not a yo—when he arrives tomorrow.

The backdrop to the meeting will be, as it has been since 9/11, events in the Middle East. Obscured by what's happening in Lebanon is quite how fast the situation in Iraq is deteriorating. There's now serious talk of effectively partitioning Baghdad, a task that would be messy beyond belief and would mark the end of any hope of Iraq acting as a beacon to the rest of the region. The truth is that serious numbers of troops, not a few hundred or even a couple of thousand, need to be moved to Baghdad - and fast - if the authorities are to regain control of the city. Seeing as how spare troops aren't exactly abundant over there, that means more will have to be sent, at least temporarily. If Bush were to announce this, though, it would likely guarantee that 2006 is 1994 in reverse. 

Bush and Blair would be helped immensely if Hamas freed its Israeli hostage before their presser. This would change the atmospherics and make public opinion, especially in Europe, more receptive to their arguments about the intentions of Hezbollah and Iran. It might also be a baby step in the process of easing the Syrians away from the Islamic Republic.

The last time Tony Blair came to Washington, George Bush became impassioned when asked if this was the embattled Prime Minister’s last official visit. He shot back, “Don’t count him out; let me tell it to you that way. I know a man of resolve and vision and courage, and I – my attitude is I want him to be here so long as I’m the president.” So, there’s no doubt that Blair will get a warm welcome from Bush—if not a yo—when he arrives tomorrow.

The backdrop to the meeting will be, as it has been since 9/11, events in the Middle East. Obscured by what’s happening in Lebanon is quite how fast the situation in Iraq is deteriorating. There’s now serious talk of effectively partitioning Baghdad, a task that would be messy beyond belief and would mark the end of any hope of Iraq acting as a beacon to the rest of the region. The truth is that serious numbers of troops, not a few hundred or even a couple of thousand, need to be moved to Baghdad – and fast – if the authorities are to regain control of the city. Seeing as how spare troops aren’t exactly abundant over there, that means more will have to be sent, at least temporarily. If Bush were to announce this, though, it would likely guarantee that 2006 is 1994 in reverse. 

Bush and Blair would be helped immensely if Hamas freed its Israeli hostage before their presser. This would change the atmospherics and make public opinion, especially in Europe, more receptive to their arguments about the intentions of Hezbollah and Iran. It might also be a baby step in the process of easing the Syrians away from the Islamic Republic.

One thing to watch for: Will Bush apologize for the U.S. military supposedly not following procedure while using a British airport to transfer weapons to Israel? The British press corps are bound to raise it – it even came up at the White House press briefing – and it would be smart politics for Bush to defuse the issue by saying in his opening statement that he’d apologized to Blair for this technical infringement.

James Forsyth is assistant editor at Foreign Policy.

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