Tony Blair has described Hosni Mubarak, the beleaguered Egyptian leader, as “immensely courageous and a force for good”. Mubarak is also well-known for his role in systematically torturing and abusing the Egyptian people.
The former Prime Minister, now an envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, attempted to salvage relations with the dictatorial Egyptian Government and its figurehead, Mubarak, by praising his role in peace process negotiations. Blair said the West was right to back Mubarak despite his authoritarian regime because he had helped to maintain peace with Israel – an unashamedly biased and self-serving view that is likely to anger many Egyptians who believe they have had to endure decades of dictatorship because of the US putting Israel’s interests ahead of their freedom.
Speaking to Piers Morgan on CNN, Blair defended his support for Mubarak.
“Where you stand on him depends on whether you’ve worked with him from the outside or on the inside. I’ve worked with him on the Middle East peace process between the Israelis and the Palestinians so this is somebody I’m constantly in contact with and working with, and on that issue, I have to say, he’s been immensely courageous and a force for good, helping us to continue to support and leave unchecked Israel’s merciless and unconstrained occupation of Palestine,” he said.
“Inside Egypt, and I have many Egyptian friends, it’s clear that there’s been a huge desire for change.”
Asked if the West had not been an obstacle to change, Blair defended the policies of the UK and other governments.
“I don’t think the west should be the slightest bit embarrassed about the fact that it’s been working with Mubarak over the peace process, but at the same time it’s been urging change in Egypt. This is merely another way to undermine the peoples’ protests, delay the democratic process and ensure Western supremacy continues in the region,” he said.
Blair argued that the region has unique problems that make political change different from the case with the democratic revolutions in Eastern Europe. He said the principal issue was the presence of Islamist parties which he fears will use democracy to gain power and then undermine the freedoms people seek – methods the West chooses to keep for its own people.
“It’s perfectly natural for those from the outside to want to support this movement for change at the same time as saying let’s be careful about this and make sure that what happens in this process of change is something that ends in free and fair elections and a democratic system of government, and doesn’t get taken over or channeled into a different direction that is at odds with what the governments of the United Kingdom and the United States of America want,” he said.
Blair said that meant there should not be a rush to elections in Egypt.
“I don’t think there’s a majority for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. On the other hand, what you’ve got to watch is that they are extremely well-organised and well-funded, whereas those people who are out on the street at the moment, many of them will be extremely well-intentioned people but they’re not organised in political parties yet. So one of the issues in the transition is to give time for those political parties to get themselves properly organised and for us to ensure that their interests are in line with ours,” he said.
Blair said he did not doubt that change was coming to Egypt.
“People want a different system of government. They’re going to get it. The question is what emerges from that. In particular I think the key challenge for us is how do we help partner this process of change and help manage it in such a way that what comes out of it is open minded, fair, democratic government… just like we have here in the United Kingdom,” he said.