Tuesday, 13 March 2012


The beginning of a beautiful friendship?
Putting the desperate desire for 'special relationship’ related photo opportunities to one side, there are two or three pressing issues bubbling away in the background to David Cameron's visit to the USA. He arrives today to spend a few days, he will take in a ball game, a state dinner, the much prized photo shoot on the White House lawn and no doubt some pre-meetings before the NATO summit in May.

Whether or not this puts the so called ‘special relationship’ back on track is open is open to question. The US is certainly talking the relationship up at the moment and I have no doubt that Cameron will bask in the limelight. Whats not open to question is the continuing problem of the very public slaughter in Syria, which should provoke some debate about what to do next?

Yet, despite this for some UK Prime Ministers the special relationship can work both ways, it was disastrous for John Major (who's Conservatives activists actively campaigned against Bill Clinton), pretty good for Tony Blair and George Bush at least until the quagmire of Iraq began to undermine his premiership (strangely enough he took a long time to collect his Freedom Medal). The less said about Gordon Brown’s relationship with the White House the better. Yet from where David Cameron is currently sat, the ‘White House Photo opportunity' is practically priceless.

No doubt Iran is also going to be fairly high on the agenda. Benjamin Nethanayu (the Israeli PM), was in Washington last week and there can be little doubt that there is an already existing Israeli plan to deal with the Iranian nuclear sites. How much of a role that the UK and the USA will play in the event of any conflict will also no doubt be much discussed?

The ongoing crisis in Afghanistan will also be high on the agenda, with one war unfinished, the prospect of starting another one might (you would expect) raise more than a few eyebrows. While I have serious concerns about nuclear proliferation I do think that both the US and the USA have ‘ramped up the rhetoric’ over the possibilities of Iran developing nuclear weapons for their own reasons. Certainly in mid February, Foreign Secretary William Hague was busy talking up the possibilities of a ‘new cold war’ with Iran.

The ‘special relationship’ such as it is passes through phases of warmth and uncertainty, certainly, with the mainland Europeans, from an American perspective are beginning to look decidedly flaky on Iran. The US will have a pressing need for ‘special friend' who happens to live on an unsinkable aircraft carrier (and who coincidently just happens to have leased you a pretty useful base in the India Ocean (Diego Garcia)) and may be willing to put some boots on the ground.

Historically from a ‘Brit’ perspective, it may well be all they have left – having lost the Empire, having effectively ditched the Commonwealth and almost but not entirely failed to get into the heart of Europe. If the first world War seriously damaged and undermined Britain's economic and political position in the world, then a combination of the second world war and US diplomacy (between the 1920’s and the 1950's) effectively did for Britain as a world power.

For Dave, it may well be worth the risk of an Iranian adventure, because the pictures and television footage that the media opportunity of the Prime Minister and the President (at the White House) represents is potentially an electoral goldmine. No doubt the Downing Street strategists should have identified by now that both ethnic minority and women voters are the two key groups of voters that David Cameron has simply got to win to secure a parliamentary majority in 2015 and they will also have noticed that polling tells them that both groups absolutely lionise President Obama.

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