Following the latest example of Blair’s shameful support for brutal regimes in the Middle East, I have sent this letter to all four members of the Quartet – Ban Ki-moon at the UN, President Obama, President Putin, and President Barroso of the EU Commission:
28 August 2014
I write as a former Minister in the Blair government in the UK from 1997-2003 and a member of the Front Bench of my party in the UK Parliament for 29 years (1974-2003) to request that you and other members of the Quartet for Middle East affairs should now urgently review the position of Tony Blair as Quartet Representative.
The third war between Israel and the Palestinians has (hopefully) just concluded, but the task of achieving a long-term and sustainable peace settlement between these two nations will be an extraordinarily sensitive and difficult one, and I wish to propose to you that Tony Blair is utterly unsuited to this task, or indeed to any other representational role in the Middle East, and should be replaced.
He is almost universally viewed, as junior partner with President Bush, as author of the disastrous invasion of Iraq in 2003, the results of which are still today being played out catastrophically across both Iraq and Syria. His reputation is thus indelibly linked with attempts to control the Middle East in accordance with Western interests, which has been the bane of the region over the last century and is fundamentally opposed to the development of free, independent, self-governing, democratic Arab States throughout the area.
In particular in the Israeli-Palestinian context Blair is seen as overwhelmingly pro-Israeli which effectively rules him out as a fair and balanced negotiator working in good faith with the confidence of both sides. His prejudice in favour of Israel was constantly displayed in the UK Parliament during previous wars, and it is perfectly clear he does not command the trust of the Palestinians at all.
In addition his Manichaean view, which he has recently expressed on many occasions, that the world is pitched into an epic struggle between Islamic fundamentalism and Western liberalism, is a fundamental misreading of the forces involved. Of course genocidal destructiveness like that being falsely perpetrated by ISIS in the name of Islam has to be opposed, but the aspirations of Muslim organisations throughout the Middle East need to be recognised and respected so long as they are pursued through peaceful means. Tony Blair has shown himself wholly ill-suited for this purpose, not least in his support for the military coup in Egypt which overthrew the democratically elected President Morsi.
A further objection to Blair’s role as Quartet Representative is his involvement in seeking to play down atrocities committed in authoritarian States in the region. The most recent example was his advice to President Nazarbeyev of Kazakhstan about how to avoid his image being tarnished by the killing by police of 15 civilian workers who were protesting about low wages. This, and other previous examples, where Blair is perceived as a spin doctor managing the fallout from a massacre or other shameful activities, are wholly incompatible with what should be an independent and impartial public role unsullied by involvement with government scandals.
Lastly, there is a serious conflict of interest between Blair’s public role on behalf of the Quartet and his extensive (and not wholly disclosed) private business dealings in the Middle East. In the Kazakhstan case his consultancy, Tony Blair Associates, was set up in the capital, Astana, in 2011 based around a multi-million pound deal to advise Kazakhstan’s leadership on good governance, which has turned out to be about minimising image impairment in the Western media for a large sum of money. This is clearly not how any responsible and respected public official should behave, let alone one in the very sensitive and exacting role of Quartet Representative in the most combustible region in the world.
For all these reasons I would request that you and your partners in the Quartet, to each of whom I am writing, urgently review the current position of Tony Blair as your Middle East Representative in the light of the evidence I have set out in this letter and, if you are persuaded, replace him by another public figure who would carry vastly greater credibility.