Londoners have no need to travel to Baghdad, Cairo, Damascus or some other city of the Middle East in order to experience the sensation of being in the Arab world. A visit to the southernmost stretch of the Edgware Road is quite sufficient. The dozens of Arab cafZs, restaurants and shops which line the straight and otherwise dreary main road from Marble Arch to the Marylebone Flyover are thronged with customers, especially at night and especially during the summer, when thousands of Arabs come on holiday to London.
Ten years ago, a priest at the Brompton Oratory began a sermon with the words, 'At last, we are witnessing the final disintegration of old mother damnable, the Church of England.' At about the same time, Paul Johnson suggested that the cause for which Thomas More was martyred and Cardinal Newman preached was 'now in sight of victory'. Cardinal Hume, throwing his usual caution to the winds, speculated that the Elizabethan Settlement was at an end.
Tony Blair has played a blinder on Iraq, standing for the Iraqi people, with the United States, and up to the French and Germans. He has quite rightly said that after the war is over, 'there is going to have to be a discussion; indeed, a reckoning about the relations between Europe and America.'
It will not be easy. There is cold fury in America about the perfidious manner in which the axis of France and Germany behaved in recent months, siding in effect with Saddam Hussein.
We shall slaughter them all. God will barbecue their bellies in hell. We trap and beat them everywhere. I triple guarantee you, there are no American soldiers in Baghdad.' The last declaration was made while a US army Abrams tank could be clearly seen blazing away across the Tigris. Welcome to the world of Mohammed Said al-Sahaf, who until Tuesday was Iraq's minister of information.
During the war, Sahaf was by far the most high-profile member of Saddam Hussein's regime: television viewers from Tokyo to San Francisco became accustomed to him boasting how the Iraqi forces had inflicted stunning defeats on the 'mercenary lackeys of the Zionist entity'.
Tony Blair has staked much of his personal and political prestige on attempting to tame the young Syrian President, Bashar Assad. His hard work has been rewarded with embarrassment and humiliation. When the Prime Minister visited Damascus in October 2001, preaching a message of sweet reason and an end to violence, he was forced to listen in silence as Assad defended Palestinian suicide bombers and compared them to the French Resistance fighters against the Nazis: 'Resistance to liberate land is an international right that no one can deny.
The battle for Iraq is drawing to a close, but the war against terrorism has only just begun. As President George W. Bush has said since the first days after 11 September, this will be a long war, involving many terrorist organisations and many countries that support the terrorists. Saddam Hussein's Iraq was never the most threatening of those countries, even though Baghdad gave support to most of the world's leading terrorist organisations, and despite Saddam's programmes to develop weapons of mass destruction.