Parliaments the world over have attempted to emulate Westminster, the mother of modern Western democracy. Clearly, Westminster’s aura and glory have more to do with its enduring legacy as an institution than with the men and women who rotate in and out of its austere hall. Nevertheless, those men and women will, sooner or later, contribute to Westminster’s reputation. Indeed, a few weeks ago, when one of their committees released a report on the Middle East peace process, the Lords did their share to tarnish the credibility of their unelected house. Not to be outdone, the Commons have now produced their own report. A selection of its recommendations does little to honor its compilers.
On Iran: “[I]t is vital that the UK and the international community engage constructively and coherently with Iran.”
On Iraq: “[I]t is too early to provide a definitive assessment of the U.S. ‘surge’ but . . . it does not look likely to succeed.”
On the Muslim Brotherhood: “The Muslim Brotherhood is a powerful and important force in Egypt. As long as the Muslim Brotherhood expresses a commitment to the democratic process and non-violence, we recommend that the British Government should engage with it and seek to influence its members.”
On Syria: “Syria plays a significant role in most of the key areas in the Middle East and . . . this role may slowly be changing for the better . . . the European Union Association Agreement with Syria presents a powerful incentive for President Assad to remedy his country’s political behavior, particularly given Syria’s current efforts towards economic reform.”
On Lebanon and Hizballah: “Hizballah is undeniably an important element in Lebanon’s politics, although its influence, along with Iran’s and Syria’s, continues to be a malign one.” Therefore, “the Government should engage directly with moderate Hizballah Parliamentarians. The Government should continue to refuse to engage with the military wing of Hizballah.” [A largely specious distinction.]
A cursory glance at those providing evidence—Chatham House Arabists, Assad clan apologists, and other self-styled Middle East advisers—shows the overwhelming influence of people who have a proven record of NOT understanding the region, and of speaking on behalf of its worst elements. The 236-page report can be summed up as such: Betray your friends, appease your enemies, pay ransom, surrender, and, where possible and lucrative, collaborate. Not Westminster’s finest hour.