Tony Blair has an impressive resume. The man hoodwinked an entire nation into pushing its men and women towards death into a pre-planned war that has now precipitated chaos and destruction in the Middle East, including the deaths of two million, and the rise of IS. It is expected, then, that propaganda and spin are a mature part of his skills matrix.
This skill is usefully deployed into ensuring the reputations of unhinged, power-hungry, murdering despots are palatable to global audiences.
Of significance is how the disgraceful Iraq war’s poison courses through the Tony Blair Faith Foundation (TBFF – now renamed as the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change – henceforth “Institute”) and into the Commission for Countering Extremism (CCE).
The Institute recently published a report which establishes a framework to assess the level of “extremism” in Muslim organisations. The CCE endorsed the report condescendingly telling Muslim organisations to “carefully consider its conclusions about their divisive rhetoric and contribution to this debate.”
Shockingly, the CCE fails to direct its critical condescension to the organisation that has published the report or indeed the totalitarian blueprint it maps out.
This understandably give the Institute’s report draws on CCE lead commissioner Sara Khan’s work.
Among its references, the Institute uncritically uses the highly problematic “State of Hate” report as an example which explores the “extremist-adjacent space on the right”. It refers to the “State of Hate” report as an “analysis” that is “important” (p.16).
The “State of Hate” report perpetuates the neoconservative episteme of “radicalisation” and terrorism to portray activists groups as potential terrorists (or “salafi-Islamist extremists”).
The report’s authors refer to Sara Khan as an authoritative reference, assuming her to be the “mainstream” Muslim, with criticism of her being framed as “extremist” (p.28, 33).
Pertinently, here begins the first trace into the dark Iraq war effort.
How the CCE is knitted together with secret British government ‘black ops’
The “State of Hate” report is a regurgitation of her book, The Battle for British Islam, which was jointly authored (or more likely ghost-written) by Tony McMahon.
McMahon was exposed as having been a consultant for Breakthrough Media, a PR firm which has orchestrated a black propaganda programme to promote PREVENT in the Muslim community, in collaboration with the government’s propaganda unit, Research, Information and Communications Unit (RICU).
Richard chalk became the head of RICU in 2012. RICU “began communicating with British Muslims in a manner more reminiscent of counter-insurgency operations than a traditional public information campaign: disseminating messages through the use of subterfuge”.
Prior to his recruitment as chief propagandist at RICU, Chalk worked for the British PR firm Bell Pottinger. BP was exposed by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism as having being hired by the US Pentagon to the tune of $500 million to produce fake news and fake al-Qaeda propaganda videos and have them circulated in Iraq as part of its black ops. This was taking place up until 2011.
PR, black propaganda and lies as part of counter-insurgency operations emerged from the desolation of neocon wars and spilled onto Britain’s unsuspecting public through RICU, and now the CCE and the Institute.
This is more worrying considering the working proximity between the institute TBFF and the CCE.
In October 2018, the CCE published on its blog that Emman El-Badawy had joined its “expert group”. El-Badawy’s area of focus is “violent and nonviolent Islamist propaganda”. She also happens to be the head of research in the Co-Existence team at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change. Since writing, this, CAGE has also exposed her links to the virulently neocon Policy Exchange and Quilliam Foundation.
Blair’s calculated re-entry into the counter-extremism scene
A month prior to this, Blair made interventions into the media which increasingly seem calculated. Blair used the Times as his media platform to attack Muslim organisations such as CAGE and MEND before white knighting Sara Khan:
“There’s a big challenge within our own societies to confront these ideas and defeat them. That’s what Prevent and Sara Khan are trying to do, but the reason they’re being attacked is precisely because those people who want to propagate those ideas are trying to stigmatise anyone who challenges them as being anti-Muslim, when in fact you’re simply trying to combat extremism.”
The framing of Khan who leads an “independent” quango as a victim of stigmatisation whilst trivialising Muslim minority concerns as “attacks”, is telling. This theme was repeated in CCE’s endorsement of the Institute’s report.
For Blair and his Institute, criticism of government institutions and controversial figures is to be spun as something nefarious. CCE’s adoption of the report is fitting then, given the fact that the vast majority of figures on the CCE ‘expert group’ are in the service of the government and/or the counter-extremism policy.
As we shall see below, this theme of whitewashing states and state institutions happens to also be Blair’s day job.
An “objective” report perpetuates a polarised ‘War on Terror’ world
The authors of the Institute’s report claim that they seek to inject objectivity into the analysis of extremism (p.68). Subsequent articles will reveal this to be utter nonsense simply based on the very examples the report outlines.
However, here we need to remind ourselves of Blair’s dangerous thinking. Blair’s statements and association with CCE indicate to the report being thesis-driven – a thesis which has been consistent since the very beginning of the Iraq war.
In the neocon securitisation bible Celsius 7/7, Michael Gove lauded Tony Blair in the following words:
“We will start to bear this when we stand up and confront the ideology of this evil. Not just the methods but the ideas. When we actually have people going into the [Muslim] communities here in this country and elsewhere and saying I am sorry, we are not having any of this nonsense about it is to do with what the British are doing in Iraq and Afghanistan, or support for Israel, or support for America, or any of the rest of it. It is nonsense…” (Gove, Celsius 7/7, p.93)
This was despite the fact that Number 10 was warned as early as 2005 through a letter from Michael Jay, the Foreign Office permanent under-secretary, that foreign policy, and the Iraq war in particular, was a significant political grievance leading to resentment against the West in a similar fashion to the US.
The connection between the Iraq war and what it calls “extremism” was removed from briefing papers later handed to ministers.
PREVENT was conceived in 2002 during Blair’s reign and against the backdrop of Muslim opposition to the Iraq and Afghanistan invasions. PREVENT, even in this primitive form, was specifically charged with targeting the Muslim minority of Britain with the explicit aims of exacting power in the Muslim community by moulding a neocon-compliant Islam – in other words, silencing dissent against foreign policy at the time.
The Institute’s report therefore, should be considered as an evolved, elucidated version of PREVENT and its aims.
Blair’s more recent enunciations have not diverged from this thinking. In 2013, he commented on the Lee Rigby murder, ignoring the attacker’s context: his torture in Kenya and harassment by Mi5 in the UK.
He also ignored the attacker’s own expressed political grievances against Western interventions. To acknowledge these grievances is not to establish a justification – it is adopting an attitude that is much more conducive to solutions achieved through due process.
But for Blair, the problem was simple:
“There is a problem within Islam – from the adherents of an ideology which is a strain within Islam… I am afraid this strain is not the province of a few extremists.”
In his 2014 essay, Blair continued the theme of ignoring grievances and focussing on the cause of violence: ideology. He made clear that the violence in Syria, Iraq, “across the Middle East”, Pakistan, Nigeria, Russia and Xinjiang are primarily because of an extreme interpretation of Islam, and not, “long standing grievances”.
In short, forget centuries of European colonialism, the imposition of Eurocentric modes of governance, legal and financial systems, the war perpetrated by Western governments and the tyrannical regimes bolstered by the West against the will of the people. It all comes down to ideology. And that ideology is framed as Islam, which, fully realised, incidentally holds abusers accountable through due process for their crimes.
Blair’s relationship with despots is diffuse
This flawed formulation of the cause of political unrest and violence makes sense when one considers Blair’s close relationship with tyrants and murderous despots that require popular dissent to be quelled and their image managed.
Through Blair’s consultancy services, Tony Blair Associates, Blair has assisted tyrants of every stripe. His clients include the dictator of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, military dictator Sisi of Egypt, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, the Abu Dhabi state company Mubadala, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Government of Serbia.
In the aforementioned 2014 essay, writing in support of Sisi, he boldly declared:
“It is massively to our advantage that President Sisi succeeds. We should help him.”
This statement was made after Sisi oversaw the massacre of 900 innocent civilian protestors. Till this day Sisi rules the country with a “zero-tolerance approach to dissent”, with a hitherto unseen level of torture, disappearances and extrajudicial killings.
Blair has gone on to “help” Sisi further by being his “éminence grise”. Seumas Milnes commented that for Blair, it combined both “an existential battle against Islamism and mouth-watering business opportunities in return for the kind of persuasive advocacy he provided George Bush over Iraq.”
Sisi’s “counter-terrorism” drive, which echoes Western counter-terrorism initiatives, has been used extensively to crush dissent, and forge an Islam that does not threaten his seat of power.
Recent reports regarding his clientele make further dim reading. He has been having “friendly, positive” meetings with Italy’s far-right interior minister Matteo Salvini, and lobbying for a gas pipeline on behalf of the autocratic, human-rights violating regime of Azerbaijan. In April 2018, Salvini vowed to expel thousands of Roma from Italy.
Blair’s links to Saudi Arabia should elicit a greater outcry and investigation
It has also been revealed that the Tony Blair Institute was in receipt of $12 million from Saudi Arabia, a country which has seen the crushing of dissent as Muhammad Bin Salman (MBS) consolidates his power and detains several critical scholarly voices.
In return for the money, the organisation published articles gushing over MBS and encouraging the UK to “learn from Saudi Arabia and how it has demonstrated a clear commitment to tackling the politicisation of Islam to inform policy making.”
The amorality of the Blair peaked with the killing of Arab journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The assassination took place in the office of the Saudi consul general Mohammed Al-Otaibi and in his presence.
Reports are linking the death to MBS. Shockingly, Blair refused to cut ties with the Saudi regime, whilst toeing the Saudi line and denying involvement on their behalf.
Intitute’s/TBFF’s links reveal a treasure trove of despotic regimes
Protecting and deflecting for morally bankrupt regimes is, quite clearly, Blair’s modus operandi. Picking up any article in their “co-existence” section of the Institute’s website, gives off similar vibes.
In one article, the brutal Putin acolyte Ramzan Kadyrov is chastised for highlighting the plight the Rohingya Uighur Muslims.
This is because it resulted in Muslims protesting against the Myanmar regime. For the author, it is this that threatens “peaceful religious co-existence” and exacerbates “inter-religious tensions”.
For the Institute, quite clearly, it is not the persecution of Rohingya Uighur Muslims, or the suppression of protest and dissent, but rather Kadyrov’s “anti-Myanmar outburst” and the “assertiveness of Muslims” whom stand in support of their fellow co-religionists, that is to blame.
In other words, Muslims who stand up for their rights, should expect punishment.
Blair’s Institute has been funded by the Islamophobia industry
The trend of Blair’s work is remarkably consistent: supporting despots that suppress their Muslim population; trivialising political grievances; positing ideology in particular as the cause of political violence; and focussing primarily on Islam.
Given his involvement in the Middle East Quartet, the Blair syndicate’s discussion on “extremism” very obviously omits Zionist Israel. This maybe in part explained by his blood-thirst for war in Iraq and Afghanistan, however, an analysis of his donors is also worth examining.
As already highlighted above, Arab despots are providing major streams of income. What is not so much known are financiers of the Institute.
The book Blair Inc, authored by David Hencke, Francis Beckett, and Nick Kochan, shines some much-needed spotlight on this topic in their chapter “The Big Donors”.
$100,000 came from Rupert Murdoch in 2014. During this period Blair supported former News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks around this period.
Haim Saban is a major funder of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation (now “Institute”). His Saban entertainment merged with News Corp’s Fox Children’s productions to form Fox Kids Worldwide inc. in 1996. The authors state that his political agenda is “clear and straightforward”:
“He said, ‘I’m a one issue guy and my issue is Israel’.”
Saban also contributed heavily to George W. Bush’s campaign precisely because of his stances towards the Middle East. He admires Joe Lieberman who is “among the strongest backers of Israel on Capitol Hill”. In 2008, he said “the Obama administration may want to consider the fact that their relationship with their Israeli wife is more valuable than their newfound Arab mistress”.
The authors note:
“Tony Blair is publicly signed up to Saban’s view about Iran and Israel. If that were not the case, it is most unlikely that Saban would be funding his Faith Foundation…. Tony Blair would have to be very careful not even to appear to criticise the government in Tel Aviv, should he ever wish to do so.”
This seems accurate. Clinton campaign emails released by WikiLeaks in October 2016 contained messages to, from, and referencing Saban. It revealed that in 2015, he pressed Hillary Clinton and her aides on her position toward Israel.
Saban’s views attract concern. He effectively argued for a suspension of civil liberties when he called for the profiling of Muslim immigrants (he later claimed he “misspoke”). He has also previously joined with Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson on pro-Israel causes. Adelson has declared that Palestinians are “an invented people.”
Similar leanings exist with Victor Pinchuk. According to TBFF’s 2013 declared account Pinchuk donated $500,000. The £4.2billion Oligarch is the son-in-law of Ukraine’s former President and an “old friend of Blair’s”. He is, unsurprisingly “fiercely pro-Israeli”.
In April 2018, it was revealed that Pinchuk had also given one of the biggest donations to Donald Trump’s foundation during his election campaign, seemingly looking to buy influence.
Another major financier is Michael Milken (having paid $1million as of 2015). Milken’s Foundation is a financier of the Islamophobia industry. Between 2009 and 2013, the Foundation donated $555,000 to Aish HaTorah, an international Jewish Orthodox organisation that advocates pro-settlement positions. Its spokesperson is on record stating,
“I think we should kill a hundred Arabs or a thousand Arabs for every one Jew they kill… If someone from a town blows himself up and kills Jews, we should wipe out the town he’s from, kill them all.”
Aish HaTorah is also strongly linked to the virulently anti-Muslim neocon organisations such as the Clarion Fund and MEMRI, a propaganda outfit that has a director that promotes Islamophobic conspiracy theories on live TV. The Milken Foundation also funds CAMERA, an “Islamophobic watchdog organisation that bullies media outlets into producing pro-Israel coverage”.
Among other pro-Israel organisations, the Milken Foundation funds the following:
- The Friends of Israel Defence Forces, the largest international donor of Israel’s occupation forces;
- Jewish National Fund, tasked to secure the Jewish stewardship of Palestinian lands;
- Zionist Organization of America, the US branch of the World Zionist Organization, which according to The New York Times has played a key role in managing land and infrastructure in Israeli settlements.
The reciprocal expressions of love between the Institute and the CCE sharply exposes the illegitimacy of the CCE.
It is blatantly obvious that the CCE is a front institution designed to impress the image of “independence” on the topic of “extremism”, whilst moonlighting in the background for dangerous ideas of warmongering neocons that are designed to suppress dissenting voices and deflect from the critical decisions that have led the Middle East to destruction.
Examining the background and ideology of Tony Blair, the output of his Institute/TBFF, the marketing projects for despotic regimes, his organisations’ ridiculously lop-sided, anti-Muslim funding streams, it is apparent that claims of the Institute’s report to objectively contribute to discussions around “extremism” is a mere sham to continue profiteering off tyranny and misery, whilst benefiting Israel.
This should be the final nail in the coffin for the CCE.
It is for reasonable people to ensure that, being tricked into a war once may have been a major oversight in the fog of politics but being tricked into another war – a war on the minds of British citizens – must be actively resisted.
“They were plotting and Allah too was planning, and Allah is the Best of the planners.” (Qur’an, 8:30)
The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “A believer is not stung twice (by something) out of one and the same hole.” (Bukhari)