Britain: 'We Keep Our Commitments'
NEW YORK – Terrorists may have been able to pressure Spain to pull their troops out of Iraq after bombing several commuter trains in Madrid last year, but British Prime Minister Tony Blair (search) will stand resolute in his commitment to the War on Terror and the mission in Iraq, many political experts said.
As Londoners got back on public transit Friday, just one day after terrorists bombed three underground trains and one bus, there was little doubt that the deadly blasts would only strengthen the resolve of the British people to defeat terrorism. The attacks killed more than 50 people and injured about 700.
"Britain's not Spain, so you needn't have any doubts about that ... we have commitments in this country, we keep our commitments," Lord Charles Powell, former adviser to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, told FOX News on Friday.
Analysts said Britons are likely to show their support for Blair, just as the American public rallied around President Bush after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks (search) that killed nearly 3,000 in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. Blair has already stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Bush in the War on Terror (search) and the war in Iraq, despite taking political heat at home and from other European countries.
"I'm not quite sure how Tony Blair could make more of a commitment to the war on terrorism," Powell said. "You'll get the same wholehearted commitment from this country as the United States normally gets."
Blair a 'Tough Cookie'
Blair scraped by in this year's election after seeing his public opinion polls slide as Britons and Europeans increased their opposition to the war in Iraq as the insurgency there continued killing coalition troops and Iraqis. Blair has also been criticized by some for being what they consider to be a "poodle" of the American president.
But with Thursday's terror attacks Blair shows no signs of backing down on the War on Terror in Iraq — or elsewhere.
"It's important ... that those engaged in terrorism realize that our determination to defend our values and our way of life is greater than their determination to cause death and destruction to innocent people and a desire to impose extremism on the world," a shaken but resolute Blair told the world on Thursday from the G-8 (search) summit in Scotland. "Whatever they do, it is our determination that they will never succeed destroying what we hold dear in this country and in other civilizations in the world."
While there's no way Blair will call for a pullout of British troops from Iraq as a result of Thursday's attacks, Fred Barnes, co-host of FOX News' "The Beltway Boys," said Blair may have to make some "adjustments."
"I think there will be pressure on him, much more than before, to break with President Bush" on Iraq, Barnes said. "I just think he's going to be in for a rough time here after the next few weeks … I think Iraq and terrorism will be very tough issues for Blair."
But he added: "I think Tony Blair's really committed, what I'm talking about is whether the rest of the political establishment in England will stay as committed as Tony Blair."
Added Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia: "Prime Minister Blair is a tough cookie, as we've all learned, and he doesn't face a re-election. I think he's going to continue to be strong, if not stronger, and he will use these bombings much like President Bush did on 9/11 events ... to rally Britain around at least the status quo."
But no matter how great that political pressure may eventually be, observers agree that Blair won't be another Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero (search). Prime Minister Zapatero pulled Spain's 1,300 troops out of Iraq after former Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar's conservative government was defeated by the Socialists in elections March 14, three days after the Madrid bombings.
"They made two mistakes: One, they blamed the wrong group initially … and then they pulled troops and made hasty decisions in regard to the Middle East," Tim Roemer, the former Democratic congressman from Indiana and member of the Sept. 11 commission, said in regards to Spain. "I don't think Britons are going to do that. I think Americans will stand firmly and resolute beside Britain … we're all in this together and I don't think that's the kind of division we want to see, and fractionalizing we want to see."
Europe Can't Escape Terror
The United Kingdom had been expecting some sort of terror attack aimed at its citizens because of its great support for the United States in the wake of Sept. 11, as well as its support of the mission in Iraq, among other things.
Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said Thursday's attacks should be a wake-up call to the rest of the world that every country needs to do what it can to quash terrorists wherever they may be. That means more countries need to help rebuild Iraq and make sure that country doesn't become a terror safe haven.
"I hope that Europe would not be as standoffish as they have over the last four years," Nelson told FOX News on Friday.
"That more and more, that Europe is going to find that they are in this, they're a lot closer to the Middle East than we are," Nelson said. "And that terror is not going to escape them, as they now know in Spain and Britain. And as a result, we would see more effort to help us in Iraq, at the very least, train the Iraqi army so that they can provide for their own security."
George Galloway (search), a member of the British Parliament's Respect Party, said Thursday that Londoners had "paid the price" for Tony Blair's decision to go to war in Iraq and Afghanistan. He called on Blair to withdraw the British troops from Iraq in order to remove people in the United Kingdom from "harm's way."
Galloway was expelled from the Labour Party due to his outspoken opposition to the war in Iraq and in May won a Labour seat running on the Respect Party ticket. He campaigned on an anti-Iraq war manifesto that appealed to the large local Muslim population. In a statement Thursday, he directly linked the terrorist attacks with British military action in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"The loss of innocent lives, whether in this country or Iraq, is precisely the result of a world that has become a less safe and peaceful place in recent years," he said.
In an interview with the BBC Thursday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (search) dismissed the notion that it was Britain's support for the war in Iraq that brought on the attacks.
"I don't think that anything is being fueled here except the fact that the terrorists are finally being confronted," she said. "They've been doing this now for a couple of decades and for a while the world, going all the way back to Beirut and going back to the attacks on the World Trade Center in 1993 or the attacks on American Embassies in 1998, this has been going on for a while. Now we're finally confronting them."
While the terrorists obviously are using the Iraq conflict as a rallying cry, Rice said the extremism that may be responsible for the London attacks is "part of a long line now of attacks that come out of an ideology of hatred that led people to fly airplanes into buildings."
"We have to deal with the circumstances that are producing this ideology of hatred and with the ideology itself, and that's the Middle East," she added. "This ideology of hatred has to be defeated. It has to be defeated by replacing it with an ideology of hope. And a free and democratic Iraq is going to be an important pillar of this new and different kind of Middle East."
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