Ex-PM Blair says US-UK relationship would have ‘suffered’ if Britain abandoned Iraq invasion

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. (File/AFP)
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. (File/AFP)
Short Url
Updated 13 March 2023
Follow

Ex-PM Blair says US-UK relationship would have ‘suffered’ if Britain abandoned Iraq invasion

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. (File/AFP)
  • “Our alliance depended on us doing this together,” says former leader

LONDON: The relationship between the US and UK would have suffered if Britain had not fully engaged with the invasion of Iraq, former prime minister Tony Blair has said.

In a new radio series looking back on the invasion of the Middle Eastern country in 2003, Blair spoke about Britain’s importance to the US in the lead-up to the war.

George W. Bush had told Blair that the UK did not need to the participate in the early stages of the assault on Iraq out of fear that his ally would lose a vote in Parliament on the night before the war, but Blair persisted with the invasion, the Daily Telegraph reported.

The former Labour prime minister said he viewed confronting Saddam Hussein as a matter of principle and was “sure that our alliance depended on us doing this together.”

Retired CIA operations officer and chief of Iraq operations Luis Rueda was also interviewed for the series and admitted that “we were wrong about the weapons of mass destruction.

“But I got to tell you, my personal belief, we would have invaded Iraq if Saddam Hussein had a rubber band, a paperclip, and somebody would have said, ‘Oh, he’s going to put your eye out. Let’s take him out’,” Rueda said.

Blair also said the UK’s relationship with the US has deteriorated since he was prime minister.

“When I was prime minister, there was no doubt either under President Clinton or President Bush, who the American president picked up the phone to first.

“It was the British prime minister … today we’re out of Europe and would Joe Biden pick up the phone to Rishi Sunak first? I’m not sure,” he said.


Carlos Ghosn ‘betrayed’ me, says US man who helped ex-Nissan boss flee Japan

Carlos Ghosn ‘betrayed’ me, says US man who helped ex-Nissan boss flee Japan
Updated 8 sec ago
Follow

Carlos Ghosn ‘betrayed’ me, says US man who helped ex-Nissan boss flee Japan

Carlos Ghosn ‘betrayed’ me, says US man who helped ex-Nissan boss flee Japan
  • Ex-soldier Michael Taylor, who was imprisoned with his son in Japan, claimed Trump administration also abandoned them
  • Alleges that his family’s welfare was trumped by considerations of lucrative defense contracts

CHICAGO: Michael Taylor, the former US Army Green Beret who engineered and executed the daring escape from Japan of fraud-accused former Nissan head Carlos Ghosn, says he was “betrayed” by his client. 

Taylor and his son Peter, who consulted for Ghosn on Search Engine Optimization, were both charged and convicted of aiding Ghosn’s December 2019 escape from Tokyo to Lebanon, via Istanbul, in a large music box. 

Taylor made the comments during an appearance Wednesday, Sept. 27, on the Ray Hanania Radio Show, hosted by the US Arab Radio Network and sponsored by Arab News. 

Taylor spent two years in prison while Peter served 18 months, claiming their conditions of incarceration were the equivalent of “torture.” 

Taylor claimed Ghosn never reached out to him and his son while they were in the Japanese prison. He added that he also felt betrayed by the US government and former President Donald Trump. 

 

 

“Yes. We were definitely betrayed. My poor son Peter had nothing to do with the operation itself. He wasn’t even in the country when I pulled Carlos Ghosn out of Japan. He, by coincidence, happened to be there because he had seen Carlos before doing Search Engine Optimization work for him, boosting up his good articles and pushing down the bad ones. So, yeah, we were definitely betrayed. There is no issue about that,” Taylor said when asked if Ghosn had lived up to his promises. 

“But we were also betrayed by the Trump administration, by President (Donald) Trump and (former US Secretary of State) Mike Pompeo. This was not a crime. However, if there is business involved, and major defense contractors, you know, people start finding excuses to make things happen and go along with it and have the US Attorney (General) push a little bit harder than normal, and have the State Department suck it up to the Japanese, and all the lobbyists are getting involved.  

“And none of the politicians want to step up and do anything including like your own state senators, like Elizabeth Warren and (Ed) Markey. They didn’t want to get involved. Well, you know some of the interesting aspects are that the Japanese spend $138 million a year on lobbyists inside the Beltway.” 

Ghosn, who now lives in Beirut, was arrested in Japan in 2018 on charges of underreporting income and other corporate crimes, which he has denied. Lebanon’s authorities refuse to extradite their citizens and instead have opted for a local trial that began in early September. 

But while Ghosn, a multimillionaire, has enjoyed freedom in Beirut over nearly four years, Taylor said Ghosn never contacted him either to express gratitude for his help, sympathy for the imprisonment, or to provide assistance with his mounting legal debt. 

 

 

“No ... and Peter wasn’t contacted either (by Ghosn). However, and Peter went to Lebanon, and he wasn’t contacted. Greg Kelly did reach out to us, he’s just checking on us to see how we were doing, mentally and physically, which was really, really kind of him and shows what a gentleman he is,” Taylor told Arab News when asked if Ghosn ever reached out to them during the trial or while they were imprisoned.  

Greg Kelly is a former Nissan executive who was convicted in 2022 for helping Ghosn contravene Japan’s pay disclosure laws, and sentenced to six months in jail, suspended for three years. 

Taylor said he still holds out hope Ghosn will live up to the terms of an undisclosed financial agreement for his services, and possibly cover his outstanding legal bills of more than $1 million. 

But Taylor said he sold the rights to his story to MGM which is preparing to make a movie with actor Sam Rockwell playing him and Javier Bardem portraying Ghosn. Whether he sees money from the movie depends on its success, he said. Both Rockwell and Bardem won Oscars for Best Supporting Actor roles in separate films — Bardem in “No Country for Old Men” (2008) and Rockwell in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” (2017). 

 

 

“Well, right now, there is an agreement in place to pay certain amounts, but that agreement is way too long. I am out of pocket $842,000 for legal fees. That is just what I have spent. I haven’t gotten that back yet. That is my first priority to get that back first,” Taylor said. 

“Yes, I did get some renumeration. However, I still have well over a million dollars outstanding in legal fees that I owe.” 

Taylor declined to detail how much Ghosn agreed to pay him: “I don’t want to go into all of the details. But if I saved you, Ray, or if I saved (attorney) Dr. (William) Cleary, and we had an agreement beforehand that if there are legal fees you’re paying for them, wouldn’t you feel responsible to pay them?” 

Ghosn described a four-part Apple+ TV series as “interesting” but also “unfortunate” for failing to tell the “whole story.” He seemed especially perturbed by the fact that during an interview in the documentary, Ghosn describes himself as “the victim,” and made no mention of the Taylors’ fate. 

 

 

“Mind you, Carlos barely did any time compared to us. My son Peter did 13-and-a-half months in solitary confinement and I did 17 months in solitary confinement. And during that time, six and one-half months, I was only allowed to take two showers. You sit on the floor. The lights are on 24 hours a day seven days a week, and nothing. You get no help. You get no nothing. And there is no heat in the wintertime. So you get frostbite on your hands and your feet. In the summertime people are constantly getting heatstroke and are being yanked out of there.” 

“The United Nations declares that 15 consecutive days or more of solitary confinement is considered torture. Seventeen months is a lot longer than 15 days. So that is definitely torture. You are allowed very little communications as well. You are only allowed four letters a month to write.” 

Taylor seemed to hold back his deepest feelings, acknowledging he remains hopeful Ghosn lives up to what he views as broken promises. 

 

“You know Ray, that’s one of those questions where I would say life has a lot of strange twists and turns and one never knows what could happen in the near future,” Taylor said when asked if he was trying to hold back harsher criticism of Ghosn for his alleged betrayal. 

Asked if he would testify in Ghosn’s defense if he were somehow forced to face charges outside of Lebanon, Taylor said: “Would you testify in Ghosn’s defense?” 

“I wouldn’t have anything to say in his defense. Remember, in his own words, he is the victim. Nobody else. He is the victim. He is the victim,” Taylor stressed. 

Taylor said that he was introduced to Ghosn by friends who suggested he help the wealthy and high-profile former Nissan CEO. He said his sister-in-law is a second cousin to Ghosn. 

Also appearing on the radio show to support Taylor’s claims of prison abuse, and to argue that Taylor was falsely charged, was Dr. William Cleary, an American who has spent more than 30 years practicing law in Japan, and who tried unsuccessfully to convince federal prosecutors that the Taylors did not commit any crimes. 

The Ray Hanania Radio Show is broadcast every Wednesday in Detroit on WNZK AM 690 radio and in Washington D.C. on WDMV AM 700 on the US Arab Radio Network.

You can listen to the radio show’s podcast by visiting ArabNews.com/rayradioshow.


Afghan embassy in India suspends operations, diplomats from government before Taliban leave

Afghan embassy in India suspends operations, diplomats from government before Taliban leave
Updated 29 September 2023
Follow

Afghan embassy in India suspends operations, diplomats from government before Taliban leave

Afghan embassy in India suspends operations, diplomats from government before Taliban leave
  • India does not recognize the Taliban government, and closed its own embassy in Kabul after the Taliban took control in 2021

NEW DELHI: The Afghan embassy in India has suspended all operations after the ambassador and other senior diplomats left the country for Europe and the United States where they gained asylum, three embassy officials said on Friday.
India does not recognize the Taliban government, and closed its own embassy in Kabul after the Taliban took control in 2021, but New Delhi had allowed the ambassador and mission staff appointed by the Western-backed government of ousted Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to issue visas and handle trade matters.
At least five Afghan diplomats have left India, the embassy officials said. The Indian government will now take over the diplomatic compound in a caretaker capacity, one of the Afghan officials said.
Asked about the matter, an Indian foreign ministry official in New Delhi said they were looking into the developments, without giving any details.
Taliban officials in Kabul were not immediately available for comment.
India is one of a dozen countries with a small mission in Kabul to facilitate trade, humanitarian aid and medical support. Bilateral trade in 2019-2020 reached $1.5 billion, but fell drastically after the Taliban government took office.
Earlier this month hundreds of Afghan college students living in India despite the expiry of their student visas staged a demonstration in New Delhi to urge the Indian government to extend their stay.


‘Difficult questions’ before Ukraine EU membership talks: Orban

‘Difficult questions’ before Ukraine EU membership talks: Orban
Updated 29 September 2023
Follow

‘Difficult questions’ before Ukraine EU membership talks: Orban

‘Difficult questions’ before Ukraine EU membership talks: Orban
  • Hungary has strained relations with Ukraine and has vowed to hold up Kyiv’s efforts toward EU and NATO integration

BUDAPEST: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Friday that the European Union would need to tackle “very long and difficult questions” before the bloc could even start accession talks with war-torn Ukraine.
Hungary has strained relations with Ukraine and has vowed to hold up Kyiv’s efforts toward EU and NATO integration.
EU members are due to decide soon whether to launch formal membership talks with Kyiv.
“I think we have very long and difficult questions to answer before we get to the point where we can even decide to start negotiations,” Orban told state radio.
“We do not know how much territory this country has, because it is still at war. We do not know how big its population is, because they are fleeing,” Orban added.
To integrate Ukraine into the bloc “without knowing its parameters would be unprecedented,” he stated.
Ukraine applied for EU membership just days after Russia’s invasion on February 24, 2022, and received candidacy status several months later in a strong signal of support from Brussels.
Orban has sought to maintain close ties with the Kremlin despite the war.
Budapest-Kyiv relations have been strained over the issue of minority rights in the Transcarpathian region of western Ukraine.
Around 200,000 ethnic Hungarians live in Ukraine, almost all in the Transcarpathia region which belonged to Hungary before World War I.


Kosovo police conduct raids in Serb-dominated north following clashes that left 4 dead on weekend

Kosovo police conduct raids in Serb-dominated north following clashes that left 4 dead on weekend
Updated 29 September 2023
Follow

Kosovo police conduct raids in Serb-dominated north following clashes that left 4 dead on weekend

Kosovo police conduct raids in Serb-dominated north following clashes that left 4 dead on weekend
  • The confrontation was one of the worst since Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008
  • Kosovo has accused Serbia of direct involvement in the clashes in Banjska

PRISTINA, Kosovo: Kosovo police on Friday raided several locations in a tense Serb-dominated area in the north of the country where weekend clashes left four people dead and further strained relations with Serbia.
Police said in a statement that they were conducting searches on five locations in three municipalities in northern Kosovo. A statement said the operation was in connection with Sunday’s shootout between Serb insurgents and Kosovo police in the village of Banjska.
The confrontation was one of the worst since Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 and Belgrade refused to recognize the split.
About 30 masked men opened fire on a police patrol near Banjska before breaking down the gates of a Serbian Orthodox monastery and barricading themselves inside with the priests and visiting pilgrims. The 12-hour shootout that followed left one police officer and three gunmen dead.
The violence further raised tensions in the Balkan region at a time when European Union and US officials have been pushing for a deal that would normalize ties between Serbia and Kosovo. A NATO bombing campaign on Serb positions in Kosovo and Serbia led to the end of their 1998-99 war. The was left some 10,000 people dead, mostly Kosovo Albanians.
Serbian media said that police on Friday raided a hospital and a restaurant in the Serb-dominated part of the town of Mitrovica, as well as locations in other towns in the area. The local Kossev news agency reported police also confiscated several vehicles.
Kosovo has accused Serbia of direct involvement in the clashes in Banjska, which Belgrade has denied. Kosovo police said they had found huge quantities of weapons and equipment that suggested the insurgents were planning a wider operation.
On Thursday, Kosovo’s interior minister, Xhelal Sveçla, told The Associated Press in an interview that Serbia operates training camps for the insurgents and that Kosovo authorities were also investigating Russia’s involvement in the violence.
There are fears in the West that Russia, acting through Serbia, may want to destabilize the Balkans and shift at least some of the attention from Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Russia has voiced support for Serbia over the clashes, blaming the West for allegedly failing to protect Kosovo Serbs.
The EU, with the backing of the US, has been brokering negotiations between the two sides. In February, Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti and Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić gave their approval to a 10-point EU plan for normalizing relations, but the two leaders have since distanced themselves from the agreement.


Military delegations of Armenia and Azerbaijan attend CIS meeting in Russia -media

Military delegations of Armenia and Azerbaijan attend CIS meeting in Russia -media
Updated 29 September 2023
Follow

Military delegations of Armenia and Azerbaijan attend CIS meeting in Russia -media

Military delegations of Armenia and Azerbaijan attend CIS meeting in Russia -media

MOSCOW: Delegations from the defense ministries of Azerbaijan and Armenia arrived in the Russian city of Tula for a meeting of the council of defense ministers of CIS states, Russian state-run news agencies reported on Friday citing the Russian defense ministry.
According to TASS news agency, the delegations of the defense ministries of Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan will take part in the meeting.
“During the meeting, they will discuss a range of issues of military and military-technical cooperation of mutual interest. There will also be an exchange of views on the current military-political situation in the world,” TASS reported.