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Crisis? It's just another day at the office, dear
[April 28, 2006]

Crisis? It's just another day at the office, dear

(Daily Mail Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)UNPREDICTABILITY is the charm of politics. An old hand told me when I started in Fleet Street that I should give up writing about politics when I lost my sense of surprise. Not much chance of that now, however jaded and cynical one may have become.

Just weeks ago, the only big scandal in town - honours for money - did not look like rising above issues of taste with the possibility, prayed for by Labour, that the Tories would be similarly embarrassed.

Then Inspector Plod made an actual arrest; then the health service started its layoffs, then a Labour minister warned - at length - that exasperated Labour voters were switching to the BNP.

Now we have the debacle over deporting criminals, Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt being jeered by the nurses, and Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott is exposed having an affair with one of his civil servants.

The key here - except in Prescott's romantic activities - is that Labour is proving vulnerable where it has taken support for granted. The NHS always safe with Labour? Only disgruntled Tories switching to the BNP?

It is some consolation to Labour that David Cameron has been making an ass of himself with his glacier. And trying to present the Tory Party as the heir of Blairism, but with a green face, does not ring too many bells.

Voters are looking for a tough, and businesslike, Opposition to offer firm control of the clattering train. The only thing Cameron is tough about is not being tough.

The Conservatives should do well in the local elections, but only because habitual Labour voters will feel this is not the moment to register support for a scandalridden Government. However, we are at a very early stage of the Government's life. Scandals and disasters may be lived down. It is only when a Government is near a General Election that these prove fatal. The Tories should not take too much for granted. If disasters are unpredictable, so are revivals.

'THE trouble with you is that you want World War III,' observed the Foreign Secretary to the American Secretary of State.

Not, alas, Jack Straw rebuking Condoleezza Rice, but Anthony Eden reproving John Foster Dulles at Geneva as a solution was sought for strife-torn Indo-China. Some things do not change. In the case of Indo-China, American intransigence found its outlet in the doomed and bloody Vietnam war.

At least we were not involved in that. But if the U.S. were to launch a strike against Iran's nuclear plants, with our support - either moral, or allowing them to use British bases - we could face the full wrath of the Islamic world.

BLAIR is at pains not to rule out an air strike. And that is without reference to the key need for sanction by the Security Council - which would not be forthcoming - to approve an attack legitimate in international law.

You might look to the Tories for some sense in this matter, given that they were tricked into supporting the invasion of Iraq by Blair's falsehoods. But Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague takes the same line as Blair; force should not be ruled out. Have these people thought it through?

We face the threat of Iran becoming a nuclear power five years hence. What is not five years, or perhaps even five months, away is the danger of igniting a conflict which would look all too like World War III.

Iran's geographical position would mean rocketing oil prices (remember petrol rationing?) economic disaster, and chaos in the Middle East.

Terrorist attacks against Western countries involved would soar.

Westernfriendly governments in the Middle East would be, at once, endangered.

Don't give Iran excuse to help terrorists

MIDDLE East observers comment that Iran's President Ahmadinejad seems to relish Western threats.

We should not be surprised. An attack on the nuclear plants, whether it produce five, 50 or 500 casualties, would not merely strengthen his position, it would set it in concrete.

Curbing Iran's supposed, but highly improbable, readiness to hand over fully-fledged nuclear weapons to terrorists would still leave it free - and probably ready, after an attack - to help terrorists make crude 'dirty' bombs to plant in the West.

Of course, the prospect of a nuclear Iran threatening Israel is alarming.

But mutually-assured destruction is a powerful deterrent. It is not a certainty, but it is a nine-tenths probability. As for the 10 per cent, if a threat to Israel became real, imminent and specific, that country's secret service, Mossad, would know, and limited military action would be taken, as was done to destroy Iraq's new nuclear plants in the Seventies.

There may be little for our comfort in these scenarios. We can hope that a threat of economic sanctions will deter Iran. We know for certain only that an attack now by the U.S. would be a disaster.

Britain's Brigadier Alan Sharpe, who worked with the Americans in Baghdad recently, denounced gun-toting U.S. generals aping John Wayne.

More of a problem now are the would-be John Waynes in the White House.

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