A seat at the table? - Cameron must loom large on the world stage

Foreign Affairs & Security
Sunday, July 28, 2013
Ben Harris-Quinney

Read the original article at Trending Central here.

David Cameron has gently abandoned his campaign to force Syrian President Assad from office over the last month, following humiliation at the hands of the somewhat wilier international operator Vladimir Putin. It would be a missed opportunity, for Cameron, the UK and the Middle East to let things lie at that.

I wrote on Conservative Home six months ago that David Cameron’s role as an international statesman is the area in which he can he can place the biggest distance between himself and Ed Miliband, but the lack of international response to the consultation Cameron pioneered on reform to the European Union and his failure on Syria has constrained the growth of his status on the world stage.

As a recent Bow Group paper argued, the election of Rouhani in Iran provides the opportunity for a “reset” to negotiations on Iranian nuclear armament, and with peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians resuming this week after three years, yet another regime in power in Egypt and at least desire for greater stability in Syria and the Middle East in general from China and Russia, there is room and necessity for an international “round table” on the future of the Middle East. There is every reason that David Cameron is the leader that pulls it together.

A realist approach to the Middle East from the West has been concluded on in mind but not yet in practice, and a post-Bush era strategy is a long way from being defined.

Intervention didn’t work, but nor will passive mercantilism.

Cameron opened his assessment of the British and Russian discussions on Syria that the two countries were in agreement, this statement was then immediately and unceremoniously taken apart by Putin, but a colonel of truth remains: Russia and China don’t want to see a n uclear Iran, and they don’t want to see civil war in Syria or anywhere else in the Middle East that may destabilise their considerable interests. On this almost all major interested parties can agree, and yet a firm and coherent international stance that takes the Middle East with it remains elusive.

Freedom, democracy and even universal peace in the Middle East will be out of reach of any leader or summit in the immediate future, but the reset from chaos and powers talking at cross purposes to an agreement on some fundamental issues and the transition to constructive dialogue and decision making is achievable.

Politically, on the world stage, Cameron stuck his neck out most on Syria, he has the most to lose by retreating from the issue, he also is one of the few leaders with the international presence to realistically bring together the varied and competing parties.

Whilst Number 10, or Lynton Crosby, have spent the last month successfully consolidating their focus and domestic message, nothing short of a catalogue of spectacular achievements will be enough to secure a Conservative majority in 2015, to override both the challenging electoral numbers and pressing backlog of errors that will continue to disenchant the Tory and activist base.

It is likely that no Tory majority at the next election will mean the end of Cameron’s tenure, so for his leadership bold and courageous risk taking must form part of the strategy – A Chequers Middle East Peace Accords would certainly hit the mark.

Going into the next election yes there must be strong economic results, yes there must be a win on the Scottish referendum, but a significant proportion of the population will believe that these things could have happened under Miliband, without threat to public services. What almost no one will accept is that Miliband can be a great international statesmen who can have a significant impact on the destiny of the big questions in the world.

Cameron can.

If he grants a seat at the table to Russia, China, Rouhani and Assad and the Arab spring rebels alike, he may be able to keep one for himself and Britain also.

Ben Harris-Quinney is the Chairman of the Bow Group and a Contributing Editor at TrendingCentral

Media links:

Telegraph - Hague calls for "dialogue, not confrontation" in Egypt.

BBC - UK "missing opportunity" to engage with Iran.

Read the Bow Group paper on renewed engagement with Iran here.

Read the original article at Trending Central here.