Five reasons Tony Blair would make a bad Middle East envoy

Peter McDiarmid/Getty Images White House officials put out the word this week that the United States would love to make outgoing British Prime Minister Tony Blair its point man on Middle East peace. Blair would represent the “Quartet” of key Middle East players: the United States, the European Union, Russia, and the United Nations. At ...

600997_070622_blair_05.jpg
600997_070622_blair_05.jpg

Peter McDiarmid/Getty Images

White House officials put out the word this week that the United States would love to make outgoing British Prime Minister Tony Blair its point man on Middle East peace. Blair would represent the "Quartet" of key Middle East players: the United States, the European Union, Russia, and the United Nations.

At first glance, this has a lot of appeal. Blair has the confidence of the U.S. administration. He's been an eloquent voice on the need to solve the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. And he's the British leader who finally solved The Troubles in Northern Ireland.

Peter McDiarmid/Getty Images

White House officials put out the word this week that the United States would love to make outgoing British Prime Minister Tony Blair its point man on Middle East peace. Blair would represent the “Quartet” of key Middle East players: the United States, the European Union, Russia, and the United Nations.

At first glance, this has a lot of appeal. Blair has the confidence of the U.S. administration. He’s been an eloquent voice on the need to solve the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. And he’s the British leader who finally solved The Troubles in Northern Ireland.

And yet, he’s not the right man for this job (not that anyone is the right man at this point, frankly. As prominent Middle East scholar Nathan Brown has noted, the peace process is a diplomatic charade.) Here are some reasons why Blair should not get this job:

  1. Iraq. As James Blitz and Sharmila Devi observe in Friday’s Financial Times, Blair’s adamant support for the Iraq War has made him deeply unpopular in the Arab world.
  2. He’s not suited for it. The job isn’t about making inspiring speeches. It requires someone with the experience in state building and attention to mind-numbing detail that Blair lacks.
  3. EU bureaucrats don’t like him. Javier Solana, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, worries that Blair will undo his patient efforts on this front (yes, never mind that Solana has accomplished nothing).
  4. Russia doesn’t like him. Blair’s outspokenness about Russia’s energy policies and backsliding on democracy might tempt Vladimir Putin to undermine Blair.
  5. The Poodle Factor. As prime minister, Blair was unable to exert any leverage on the White House whatsoever. Now that he no longer has the resources and pressure points of a major world power, we’re supposed to believe that Blair will be able to move the Bush administration? Please.

For his own sake, Blair shouldn’t take this job, at which he is extremely likely to fail. Can you name one concrete Quartet accomplishment? He’d be better off taking up a lucrative and cushy job at Georgetown University or one of Washington’s many think tanks. And the ex-PM, a dazzling speaker, would surely command tens of thousands of dollars on the international lecture circuit. Don’t do it, Tony!

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